Lyrita – Box of Delights

0 of 5 stars

London Fields
Four Characteristic Waltzes, Op.22 – Valse de la reine
Three-fours – Valse Suite, Op.71 [excerpts]
Russian Scenes
Fancy Dress – Dance Suite, Op.82
En Voyage

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Barry Wordsworth

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Simon Joly [Lutyens]

Tate recorded March 1988 in Walthamstow Town Hall and in August 1989 in Henry Wood Hall; the remainder recorded in Henry Wood Hall in August and September 1989

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2007
Duration: 72 minutes

This pleasing selection of scores adds up to an attractive collection of ‘light music’. By the look of it, only ‘Paris-Soir’ (from En Voyage) has been available before; the rest is part of the very welcome resurgence of the Lyrita catalogue. The whole of Elisabeth Lutyens’s En Voyage – the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Simon Joly – is a welcome addition to her catalogue, not least for being a ‘diversion’ from her serial music. While Lutyens (1906-83), daughter of architect Sir Edwin, may have been dismissive of her ‘lighter’ music and film scores, En Voyage (a journey in music from London to Paris via Dieppe) is an attractive four-movement suite that isn’t at all predictable and, indeed, displays a composer as a fluent writer of ‘entertaining’ music as well as one who knew how to go a little bit further in order to intrigue without alienating.

The Lutyens closes the CD. Another lady composer, Phyllis Tate (1911-85), opens it. London Fields (seemingly recorded 18 months apart and in two different London venues!) is also in four movements. ‘Spring time at Kew’ is the insouciant opener, followed by ‘The Maze at Hampton Court, a helter-skelter scherzo with xylophone prominent, a comedic turn. ‘St James’ Park’ (should be St James’s, of course!) begins with a quite lovely melody for the oboe, and the final ‘Hampstead Heath’ is the waltz-time of Bank Holiday merry-making. 1958 seems to have been a very good year!

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Valse de la reine would fit nicely into Gaité Parisienne (Rosenthal’s soufflé after Offenbach), and the two excerpts from the Suite are touching mementoes of their rime, the end of the nineteenth-century, right near the close of the Victorian era. Granville Bantock’s Russian Scenes (1898 and orchestrated the following year) is a contrasting piece of Victoriana; suitably ‘Russian’ in melodic outline and scoring; from the exuberant ‘At the Fair’ to the elegant ‘Mazurka’, speedy ‘Polka’ (rustic woodwinds to the fore), a ‘Valse’ that begins in Tchaikovsky mode before turning a little treacly and a final ‘Cossack Dance’ that has its Borodin elements.

In some respects Cecil Armstrong Gibbs’s Fancy Dress (1935) is the disc’s highlight, a deft and blossoming work that is unfailingly inventive and attractive and includes the quite lovely ‘Dusk’, a familiar movement that has long enjoyed a life of its own. Presumably what we hear here is the original scoring and that Gibbs (or somebody) effected some changes for separate publication?

The performances here are consistently fine and stylish and relayed in excellent sound – a ‘box of delights indeed!

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