|ARNOLD: The Roots of Heaven (Overture).
ALWYN: Suite of Scottish Dances. SARGENT: An Impression on a
Windy Day. PARKER: The Glass Slipper (Overture).
LANGLEY: The Coloured Counties. JACOB: The Barber of
Seville Goes To The Devil. JOHNSTONE: Tarn Hows (A Cumbrian
Rhapsody). LANGFORD: Two Worlds (Overture)
BENNETT: Little Suite. LYON: Joi De Vivre (Overture).
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland, cond.
ASV WHL 2116 (M) (DDD) TT: 70:11
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This delightful CD consists of world premiere recordings of "pop" works by British composers, and there are some treasures. An overture by Sir Malcolm Arnold (b. 1921) is the biggest prize here. Roots of Heaven is a 5-minute concert overture based on film music to precede the film of the same name. Premiered in London in 1958, it was played by a live orchestra just before the film, after which it was neglected for 36 years until a revival for a BBC broadcast. The film starred Errol Flynn, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard and Juliette Greco, was directed by John Huston, and is described by Leonard Maltin as, "turgid melodramatics set in Africa, with conglomerate cast philosophizing over sanctity of elephants...." Arnold's overture is typical of this composer, with whooping horns and a superb waltz interlude (beginning 2:44) that deserves to be heard. Admirers of Arnold MUST have this CD!
No one thinks of Sir Malcolm Sargent (1895-1967) as a composerbut he was before conducting became his focus. His 7-minute Impression on a Windy Day is his Opus 9 written for the visit of Sir Henry Wood to Stamford. As Sargent didn't have the work ready in time, Wood declined to conduct and suggested that the composer take over. The program notes suggest this was the beginning of Sargent's conducting career. Impression is pleasant enough and well-orchestrated, but hardly suggests Sargent would have had a major career as a composer.
David Lyon's (b. 1938) Joie de Vivre overture is adapted from an early clarinet sonata, winning a prize in composition from the Light Music Society in 1972. Alan Langford (b. 1928) is another producer/composer long associated with the BBC; his Two Worlds Overture ends with a burst of Latin American rhythms. William Alwyn (1905-1985) is well-represented in the CD catalog by many of his serious works including all five symphonies. On this CD we have we have his 1946 Suite of Scottish Dances, all based on actual Scottish tunes. Clifton Parker (1905-1989) also composed for films and, like other composers of music for the cinema, wanted to be recognized as a "serious composer." His Glass Slipper Overture was commissioned by Robert Donat for a children's operetta. Maurice Johnstone (1900-1976) is represented by one of his best-known works, Tarn Hows, a Cumbrian Rhapsody, written in 1949, the longest work on this CD (13:56)
The Coloured Counties, a serene example of the English idyll, was written by James Langley (1927-1994), another BBC music producer and a music educator as well. Richard Rodney Bennett (b. 1936) is represented by orchestrations of five songs from two song cycles for children dating from the mid-sixties. Gordon Jacob's (1895-1984) comic treatment of The Barber of Seville Goes To The Devil is certain to create smiles.
Performances are by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland. This is a full-time orchestra and plays superbly on this CD. Mike Ross-Trevor's engineering is spectacular. This is a fine CD in every way.
R.E.B. (Dec. 2000)