CD Review – Eric Coates
Four Ways Suite / Saxo-Rhapsody
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Penny
Naxos 8.555194 [60:57]
This is a reissue of a Marco Polo CD from 1998 featuring the compositions of the man described as the "Uncrowned King of Light Music". It is probably of more interest than another similar recent release noticed here as it contains – along with By the Sleepy Lagoon (signature tune to BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs) – works less familiar to the likes of your reviewer, if not to Coates aficionados.
In his booklet notes Michael Ponder reckons that Springtime, Coates's eleventh suite, was one of his finest, but it never achieved the popularity of the others. The Four Ways Suite (North, South, East, West) takes its ideas from different parts of the world: an Italian-sounding waltz, a Chinese-sounding scherzo, and an American-sounding syncopation.
The opening movement, Northward, is the composer's first ever march, a form which he comprehensively made his own. Also, there is The Eighth Army March, dedicated in 1942 to the then General Montgomery and his 'Desert Rats', and the final item is High Flight March, which was to be his last composition before he died in 1957.
It is good to get acquainted again with The Saxo-Rhapsody, a concerto for saxophone and orchestra, that I remember quite often hearing on the wireless back in the day. It had been commissioned for the Folkestone Festival in 1936 (a very good year), and the saxophonist on this album is Kenneth Edge. Footlights Waltz, Lazy Night and Last Love complete the 14-track selection, all demonstrating the Coates gift for melody and orchestration.
The recording made in Bratislava, is brightly played by the Slovakian orchestra under the baton of Kingston-Upon-Hull born Andrew Penny MBE. Incidentally, he has also recorded a complete cycle of Malcolm Arnold symphonies for the same label.
Unfortunately, Naxos CDs are no longer budget-priced and I cannot find this one online for less than £9 plus postage.
© Peter Burt 2021