Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, April 2, 2018

An excellent selection from an authoritative set

Eric Coates: Coates Conducts Coates

Nowadays North Americans have many options for sampling popular-culture based Anglophilia, but before the Internet, your best bet was to live in Canada. Even with only a few TV channels back in the 1960s you'd have Coronation Street to watch after school, and on Sunday nights in 1967 on CBC-TV, The Forsyte Saga from the BBC. It was introduced by Halcyon Days, the first movement of Eric Coates' Three Elizabeths Suite, from 1944. Halcyon days, indeed! In 2013 Nimbus released a superb 7-disc set of Coates' music conducted by the composer himself, entitled The Definitive Eric Coates. This new 2-CD set is a well-filled selection from that authoritative set.

I'll start with my only real negative: for some reason, Halcyon Days is not included here. Bad form indeed. There is only the 2nd movement from the Three Elizabeths Suite, which is entitled Springtime In Angus - Elizabeth Of Glamis, The Queen Mother. It's lovely, and it even shares the same main theme with Halcyon Days, but I still miss it. Some of the other bright spots are the intermezzo Impression of a Princess, from 1956; the gorgeous Bird Songs At Eventide in an orchestral version; and of course the valse serenade By the Sleepy Lagoon, written in 1930, which has been the theme song of BBC Radio's Desert Island Discs programme for more than 75 years. I heard it back in the late sixties fluttering into my shortwave radio via BBC's World Service. By now this has to be one of the most beloved pieces to come from Britain (though on his own episode of DID, Alfred Brendel expressed his own hate for it), and in this excellent performance from 1948, I'm sure all the Desert Island Discs fans will mentally add in their own seagull sounds. This is a fabulous way to sample the music of this great master of English Light Music. The recordings originate from the 1920s to the late 1950s, and they're beautifully re-mastered by Alan Bunting.

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