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Here's another CD to add to our ever-popular ‘British Light Music Classics’ series, again under the sprightly baton of Ronald Corp. The mixture is as before—lots of well-known melodies, the titles and composers of which we all have trouble remembering, except perhaps for Eric Coates's By the sleepy lagoon (forever associated with 'Desert Island Discs'), In a Monastery Garden, and perhaps Jamaican Rumba. Marching Strings will be familiar to all as the signature tune of 'Top of the Form'. A couple of the titles seem not to have been heard for many years, although once popular, such as The Doge's March from 'The Merchant of Venice' incidental music, and particularly the haunting Keltic Lament of John Foulds which it seems hasn't been recorded in many a long year. The CD also contains a complete performance of the Petite Suite de Concert of Coleridge-Taylor, containing the well-known Demande et Réponse ('Question and Answer').
All of the music on this album is also available as part of the specially priced box set: ‘Golden nostalgia with fidelity to a long departed but by many still cherished past. Riches indeed!’ (MusicWeb International).
The earliest composer represented is Frederick Rosse (1867–1940). Born on the island of Jersey, he was educated at Harrow and later in Leipzig, Dresden, Brussels and Vienna. He was active mostly in the London musical theatre—as singer, musical director and composer. He wrote the score for the 1895 musical comedy All Abroad, and in 1896 was chorus master for the original production of Sidney Jones’s The Geisha (recorded on), as well as creating the minor role of Takemine. It was the incidental music he later composed while musical director at various London theatres that proved most lasting. Above all there was his music for the 1905 Garrick Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice with Arthur Bourchier as Shylock and Violet Vanbrugh as Portia. The Doge’s March especially has kept his name alive.
Albert William Ketèlbey (1875–1959) was born in Aston, near Birmingham. He studied piano, organ, cello, clarinet, oboe and horn at Trinity College, London, and had an extensive career as church organist, music editor and theatre conductor. Contrary to popular belief, the name under which he became famous was—give or take the accent added to get the stress right—his own. As one of the outstanding names of British light music, he has featured regularly in this series. After Bells Across the Meadows (recorded inof this series), Sanctuary of the Heart ( ) and In a Persian Market ( ), we have here what is perhaps his very best known composition, In a Monastery Garden (1910). It was inspired by a friend’s invitation to the Franciscan Friary at Chilworth, near Guildford in Surrey. Ketèlbey admirably captured the atmosphere of the place, complete with a male chorus of monks chanting the ‘Kyrie eleison’.
Just six days younger than Ketèlbey, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912) was born in Holborn, London, the son of a doctor from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman. He studied violin and piano at The Royal College of Music and was recognized as a composer of great promise after his Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast was premiered at the college in 1898. He went on to complete a Hiawatha trilogy, as well as much other vocal, chamber and orchestral music, including a violin concerto. Besides more ambitious works, he composed lighter compositions, of which the most enduring was the Petite Suite de Concert (1910), a work that set a standard for many subsequent four-movement suites. Its grace, charm and polish are such as to merit the inclusion here of all four movements. It begins with the coquettish ‘La caprice de Nanette’ and continues with its most familiar movement, ‘Demande et réponse’, a work of Elgarian grace whose ongoing popularity led to its arrangement as a song ‘Question and Answer’. The third movement, ‘Un sonnet d’amour’ (‘A Love Sonnet’) is a lyrical serenade, while the final ‘Tarantelle frétillante’ (‘Frisky Tarantella’) provides a suitably lively conclusion.
Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877–1950) was educated at Charterhouse and in Frankfurt, before going to New College, Oxford. He later taught for a time at Winchester College but, having private means, was able to devote himself to composition and to promoting works not only by himself but also by Bax, Holst, Grainger, Quilter and others. His most widely familiar composition, Shepherd Fennel’s Dance (1911), was inspired by Thomas Hardy’s short story The Three Strangers. Composed for large orchestra, it is dedicated to Henry J Wood. Gardiner’s great-nephew is the conductor John Eliot Gardiner.
Percy Fletcher (1879–1932) was born in Derby, and played the violin, piano and organ. He became musical director for various London theatres and, as such, conducted and orchestrated the long-running Chu Chin Chow. He also orchestrated some of Coleridge-Taylor’s posthumous works, and his own light music compositions possess much the same refinement and polish. His Two Parisian Sketches (1914) have remained his most treasured compositions, especially the second movement, ‘Bal Masqué’ (recorded on volume two). Here we can enjoy its playful companion, Demoiselle Chic.
Like Percy Fletcher, Charles Ancliffe (1880–1952) also remains best known for a waltz—in his case the swirling Nights of Gladness (volume 1). Around the time of the First World War Ancliffe composed many such waltzes, as well as intermezzi and marches, several of which enjoyed renewed popularity with the fashion for ‘olde-tyme dancing’ after World War II. The waltz Smiles, then Kisses was included on volume 3, and here we have another once-popular example, Thrills (1917). Himself the son of a British army bandmaster, Ancliffe was born in Kildare, Ireland. From 1900 to 1918 he was Bandmaster of the First Battalion, South Wales Borderers, seeing much service in India.
John Herbert Foulds (1880–1939) is another of the newcomers to this series. Born in Manchester, he joined The Hallé Orchestra as an aspiring conductor under Hans Richter at the age of twenty, conducting the stage band in various opera performances. Having left the Hallé in 1906, he conducted at various opera houses abroad, as well as giving concerts for the armed forces during World War I. His major composition was the once-popular A World Requiem in commemoration of World War I. Rather more lasting is his Keltic Suite (1914), which he dedicated to his friend the actor Lewis Casson. Best known of the three movements is the second, the plaintive and imposing Keltic Lament.
Eric Coates (1886–1957) scarcely needs any introduction, since his is altogether the most distinguished name in British light music. Born in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, he was educated at The Royal Academy of Music and was an orchestral violist before injury forced him to give up playing and concentrate on composition. This series has already featured three of his marches—Calling All Workers (volume 1), Knightsbridge (volume 2) and Music Everywhere (volume 3). Here, by way of contrast, we have the gentle serenade By the sleepy lagoon (1930). Like so many of his compositions, this achieved wide familiarity as a BBC radio signature tune—in this case for the long-running Desert Island Discs. Coates composed the piece originally for small orchestra, but later produced the version for larger orchestra used here.
The clear melodic lines that typify British light music are no less apparent in the music of east-London-born Charles Williams (1893–1978). Yet he was born Isaac Cozerbreit, of central European Jewish parents. His father had used the name ‘Charles Williams’ for his own career as a concert singer, and the son formally adopted that name during World War I. He studied violin at The Royal Academy of Music and composition with Norman O’Neill, and during the 1920s played under various leading conductors as a freelance violinist. His subsequent experience as musical director in cinemas led to involvement with film scores for Gaumont–British at Lime Grove Studios. He worked on over a hundred British films, meanwhile being selected by the publisher Chappell to build its library of recorded ‘mood music’. Already this Hyperion series has featured Williams’s Devil’s Galop (volume 1) and his march Girls in Grey (volume 2). Now we hear a further two pieces whose titles admirably sum up their nature. A Quiet Stroll (1952) and the ingenious Rhythm on Rails (1956) were both used as BBC signature tunes—the former for Farming, the latter for Morning Music.
Arthur Benjamin (1893–1960) was born in Sydney, Australia, and received a general education in Brisbane before coming to London to study at The Royal College of Music under Stanford. He returned briefly to Sydney as a piano teacher but soon found he preferred the musical stimulus of London. He composed a vast range of music including operas and other vocal music, orchestral and chamber music, and film music. His taste for American and Latin American sounds was developed during travels as an adjudicator and examiner for the Associated Examining Board, and in 1938 he achieved his most popular success with his Jamaican Rumba. Composed originally for two pianos, it was later arranged for orchestra (including piano).
Frederic Curzon (1899–1973) was another stalwart of British light music and a fine craftsman. As head of the light music department of Boosey & Hawkes, he was also responsible for encouraging many younger composers. London-born, he studied violin, cello, piano and organ, became pianist in a London theatre orchestra, and by the age of twenty was conducting and composing for silent films. Later he was active as a cinema organist but concentrated increasingly on composition. This series has already featured The Boulevardier (volume 1) and March of the Bowmen (volume 2), and now we hear his wittily titled and whimsically conceived Dance of an Ostracised Imp (1940). Whatever the title means, it seems to capture the spirit of the piece admirably!
Jack Beaver (1900–1963) was, like Charles Williams, a member of the Gaumont–British Pictures composing team in the 1930s, and as such he often contributed music to British films anonymously. Born in Clapham in south London, he studied piano and composition at The Royal Academy of Music. He did much work for the BBC and between 1932 and 1947 composed music to some forty films including The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935) and The Case of the Frightened Lady (1940). For this last he provided what was considered the first ‘tabloid piano concerto’, anticipating later examples such as Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto. Beaver’s later contributions to the recorded music libraries included his Waltonesque grand march Cavalcade of Youth (1950), which achieved wide exposure when used as signature tune for the BBC radio series The Barlows of Beddington.
Fredric Bayco (1913–1970) was born in London and educated at the Brighton School of Music, The Royal Academy of Music and The Royal College of Organists, of which he became a Fellow. After war service in the RAF he became organist and director of music at Holy Trinity Church, Paddington, as well as teaching organ and musical appreciation at St Gabriel’s College, London. His best known composition is this Elizabethan Masque (1957), which early in the second Elizabethan era sought to recapture the ceremony and etiquette of the first.
Ray Martin (1918–1988) was born in Vienna where he studied violin and composition at the Academy of Music and Fine Arts before moving to England in 1937. After performing in variety as a solo violin act, he enlisted in the British Army when war broke out. Being fluent in French, German and English, he was recruited for Army intelligence, and later he became a composer, arranger and musical director with the British Forces Network in Hamburg. This led to recording contracts, for which he continued to compose under a variety of names. It was as ‘Marshall Ross’ that he composed Marching Strings (1952), a piece that became widely familiar when adopted as signature tune for the hugely popular BBC radio and television programme Top of the Form. Later Martin retired to South Africa.
Trevor Duncan (1924–2005) has already been represented in this series with the ‘March’ from his Little Suite (volume 2) and The Girl from Corsica (volume 3). He was born Leonard Charles Trebilcock in Camberwell, London, and attended Trinity College of Music for a year as an external student, but was largely self-taught. At eighteen he joined the BBC, working on sound effects, and after four years’ service in the RAF he rejoined the BBC as a sound and balance engineer. This involved working with various light orchestras, which led him to try his hand at composition. For this his BBC employment necessitated him adopting a pseudonym, and ‘Trevor Duncan’ was born. It was Ray Martin who in 1949 encouraged Duncan to offer his first two compositions to Boosey & Hawkes for their light music library. The second was High Heels, which proved his first hit number. The piece is a slightly jazzy string piece, with brass added to sound like a faint sustained organ and woodwind likewise providing colour.
Peter Hope was born in Stockport in 1930 and graduated in music at Manchester University in 1952. His reputation rests largely on his work as an orchestral arranger; but he has also composed a wide range of original music. During the 1960s this included music for libraries of ‘mood music’, among which was his Ring of Kerry suite (1965), depicting various aspects of that scenic tourist route in southern Ireland. The suite won an Ivor Novello Award in 1969 and became familiar through its use to accompany the BBC2 television test card, in the days when television transmission was a good deal less than a 24-hours-a-day business. The first movement, Jaunting Car, became especially popular.
Andrew Lamb © 2002