Lyrita – Walter Leigh

0 of 5 stars

Overture: AgincourtConcertino for Harpsichord and String Orchestra
Music for String Orchestra
The Frogs – Overture & Dance
Jolly Roger – Overture
A Midsummer Nights Dream – Suite

Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Nicholas Braithwaite

Agincourt and Jolly Roger recorded August 1975 in Walthamstow Town Hall, London; the rest recorded March 1980 in Kingsway Hall, London

Reviewed by: Jimmy Hughes

Reviewed: November 2007
Duration: 52 minutes



Walter Leigh was born in 1905 and killed during fighting near Tobruk in 1942. His music is tuneful, tastefully scored, skilfully written, and deserves to be better known.

The disc begins with the stirring concert overture Agincourt, taken from a Lyrita LP entitled “Overtures” (SRCS. 95). This work, composed for the coronation of King George VI, finds Leigh writing a big opulent piece full of Elgarian swagger. This CD contains another of Leigh’s overtures – Jolly Roger – recorded at the same time as Agincourt, but released on an LP called “More Lyrita Lollipops” (SRCS. 99). Jolly Roger was the name of an early 1930s Pantomime that ran for about six months at London’s Savoy theatre and starred the “Prime Minster of Mirth”, George Robey. Leigh wrote the music, and the overture is a brilliant, jolly and tumultuous affair.

The other works included here were all part of a Lyrita LP devoted toLeigh’s music that was released in the early 1980s (SRCS. 126). Probably the best-known work is the delightful Concertino for Harpsichord and String Orchestra, played in this recording by Trevor Pinnock. As the unusual choice of forces would suggest, the work exudes a delicate neo-classical ambience, yet at the same time sounds wholly British. Leigh wrote quite a lot of music for amateur or semi-professional players, and it is a testimony to his skill as a composer that he often makes technically simple music seem more challenging than it actually is.

The Incidental Music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was composed for an open-air school performance given in Weimar during 1936. Like Warlock’s Capriol suite, the music fuses elements of baroque with the 20th-century. If you ever caught it on the radio without knowing who had written it or when, it would probably intrigue no end. The combination of harpsichord continuo, courtly French manner, and modern shifts of harmony and rhythm combine to create music that sounds both old and contemporary at the same time.

Music for Strings lasts six-and-a-half minutes, and is cast in four movements, a couple lasting less than a minute. Yet it’s a surprisingly deep and concentrated work, despite its brevity, with a slight Holstian ambience. The Overture and Dance from “The Frogs” is beautifully scored. The Overture exudes a delicate, almost bittersweet, melancholy, while the Dance provides a high-spirited finale to a fascinating and very enjoyable CD.

The analogue recordings have come up very well, sounding rich and spacious yet immediate and clear. In this respect the CD sounds better than the LP, which I never felt was one of Lyrita’s very best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content