|ERIC COATES: Cinderella. The Selfish
Giant. The Three Bears. Miniature Suite. London
Suite. Joyous Youth. The Dam Busters.
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba, cond.
CHANDOS 9869 (F) (DDD) TT: 79:27
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON Coates (1886-1957), a British gentleman through and through, was a gentle, soft-spoken man who wouldn't compose music until properly dressed including tie and Harris Tweed coat. As a violist in Sir Thomas Beecham's first orchestra, later principal in Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra, he gained much experience in orchestral sound. His works include more than 160 ballad songs, numerous waltzes and marches (although he said the waltzes were not intended for dancing, the marches not for marching), orchestral suites and fantasies, plus many other short pieces. There are a number of fine performances already on CD. Ever since its issue in 1986 I've treasured EMI's Classics for Pleasure 2-CD set (CFPD 4456) with various orchestras mostly conducted by Sir Charles Groves who was a close friend of the composer; this mid-priced set is still listed in the catalog and well worth owning. ASV has several Coates disks the most valuable of which contains the ballet suite The Jester at the Wedding and the delightful Four Centuries Suite, played by the "East of England Orchestra" conducted by Malcolm Nabarro (WHL 2075); this is the only CD I know of that contains these two major works.
The well-filled (79:27) Chandos CD, called "The Symphonic Eric Coates," is superb in every way, ending with the rousing Dam Busters march, written in 1954 for a British film of the same name. These performances are competitive with any others, superior to most, with the BBC Philharmonic playing music very familiar to them - and the music is more impressive when played by a full-sized ensemble. Chandos' engineering is state-of-the-art. Let us hope this is a continuing series, with Volume II offering Jester at the Wedding and Four Centuries. If you have a sincere interest in Coates' music, try to find a double-CD Conifer set that contains more than twenty favorites in recordings made from 1926-1940, including many conducted by the composer (CDHD 211/212).
R.E.B. (August 2002)