> English Serenade [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Edward ELGAR (1865 – 1934)
Serenade for Strings Op.20 (1893)
Christopher BALL (born 1936)

On a Summer Daya
Celtic Moodsb
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 – 1958)

Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934)c
William WALTON (1902 – 1983)

Two Pieces from HenryV (1945)

Fantasy on David of the White Rockd
Suite: The Quantockse
Emeral Ensemble; Roger Armstrong (fluteac/alto fluteb); Paul Arden-Taylor (oboea/cor anglaisb); Ruth Faber (harp)c; Colin Hunt (organ)d; Roger Huckle (violin)e; Matthew Bale (conductor), Christopher Ball (conductor)ab
Recorded: All Saints Church, Weston-Super-Mare, January 2002

Let it be said straightaway: this is a cleverly planned programme mixing highly popular works and four presumably recent, unrecorded pieces which receive their première recording here.

Elgar’s Serenade Op.20, Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Greensleeves and Walton’s Two Pieces from ‘Henry V’ are well known and established standards for small string ensembles and do not call for any particular comments.

Christopher Ball’s name and music are, I must admit, completely new to me. The two pieces of his recorded here clearly belong to what is generally referred to as the British pastoral school. The music obviously breathes the same air as some Delius, Vaughan Williams and Moeran, and none the worse for that. Both pieces are tuneful, beautifully nostalgic miniatures of great charm. On a Summer Day is scored for flute, oboe and strings whereas Celtic Moods opts for alto flute and cor anglais.

John Marsh’s works (also new to me) obviously share the same musical preoccupations, particularly – and appropriately – so in the very fine Fantasy on "David of the White Rock" for organ and strings based on the Welsh tune also used by Vaughan Williams in one of his late organ works. The Suite: The Quantocks, for violin and string orchestra, sometimes brings Finzi to mind.

John Marsh’s pieces as well as Christopher Ball’s might find their way into Naxos’s English Miniatures for Strings series.

This is a very attractive release well worth having for the novelties by Christopher Ball and John Marsh; and the whole programme is played with obvious enjoyment of the music. Emerald Ensemble is a comparatively young ensemble which I for one look forward to hearing again soon, especially in such attractive programmes.

My only complaint is that the insert notes are reduced to a bare minimum, and even less than that, for we are not told who Christopher Ball and John Marsh are, when they were born and when their works were written. Judging from the music, I presume that this John Marsh is a contemporary composer and has nothing to do with the composer John Marsh (1752 – 1828); but I would welcome any further information concerning his works and Christopher Ball’s.


Hubert Culot


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