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Boult conducts Coates; Boult conducts Marches
Eric COATES (1886-1957)

The Merrymakers Overture (1923) [4:40]
Summer Days Suite (1919) [11:35]
From Meadow to Mayfair Suite (1931) [8:19]
The Three Elizabeths Suite - March Queen Elizabeth (1944) [5:12]
The Three Bears - Phantasy (1927) [9:44]
March The Dambusters (1954) [4:02]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)

Children’s March Over the Hills and far away (1918, 1928) [3:55]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1924)

Marche Caprice (1890) [3:23]
William WALTON (1902-1983)

Hamlet: Funeral March (1947) [4:44]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

The Wasps: March past of the kitchen utensils (1909) [3:04]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868) (arranged by Benjamin Britten) Soirées Musicales: March (1936) [1:28]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)

Suite in E flat Op.28 No.1: March (1909) [3:00]
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Boult
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Boult
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 9 November, 6 December 1976 (Coates); 15 August, 19 September, 13 November 1976 (other items). ADD
LYRITA SRCD.246 [63.08]

The life-span of Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983) took in a staggering range of audio history. His earliest recordings were made using the acoustic process. Not surprisingly Gramophone magazine selected Boult for their first published discography in 1978. His final sessions were made in digital and he died in the year of the launch of the compact disc. It is well known that the BBC’s rigid retirement rules resulted in his being shown the door long before his worth as a conductor began to wane. Record companies too were sometimes unsympathetic and when approached by Lyrita’s Richard Itter he was happy to record a very extensive range of neglected British music even if, rather like his pupils Vernon Handley and Douglas Bostock, the result was that he became increasingly seen as a British music specialist. The span of music he recorded for Lyrita was remarkable. It included short orchestral pieces by Finzi, Bridge, Butterworth, Howells as well as major symphonic pieces such as the Moeran Symphony in G minor – the latter in a recording and performance that has not been excelled.

When Boult recorded Coates it was nevertheless a surprise in many quarters. He had recorded English marches before – notably for World Record Club – but Coates in general was seen as outside his fach; more for Kilbey and Groves. Still marches and Coates are linked and it is Coates’ march The Dambusters that in this CD links the content of two LPs issued by Lyrita in the during the period 1976-1981. They are:-

SRCS-71 Sir Adrian Boult Conducts Marches: Rossini/Britten, Holst/Jacob, Grainger, Walton, Howells, Stanford, Parry, Coates, Vaughan Williams LPO, NPO; and
SRCS-107 Coates The Merrymakers Overture; Summer Days Suite; The Three Bears (Phantasy for Orchestra); From Meadow to Mayfair Suite - In the Country & Evening in Town; The Three Elizabeths Suite - March 'Queen Elizabeth'/Boult, NPO.

On the present CD we have everything from SRCS-107 and all but the Howells, Stanford, and Parry from SRCS-71; the missing items will find their place in future single composer compilations. The Dambusters March was on SRCS-71 and provides the nexus between the two collections. Boult’s eightieth birthday was in 1969 and he raised a few bristling eyebrows by including the Coates march in the special concert given to mark the birthday.

Of the Coates all but The Dam Busters are with the New Philharmonia. We start with a notably vivacious Merrymakers Overture with some memorable work from the woodwind. Summer Days is an early three part suite with a heavily Lehár-indebted finale and an affecting saunter. In a Country Lane, the first movement, is redolent of German followed by On the Edge of the Lake which partakes on the one hand of a Graingerian sentimentality combined with a Grieg-Dvořák innocence. We get two movements only from the three movement suite From Meadow to Mayfair. In the Country is warm and gently swinging. Evening in Town has that busy-grand bustle so typical of Coates in his London suite finales but shot through with the romance of the ballroom. I am very partial to the Elizabeth of Glamis movement from The Three Elizabeths. For whatever reason Boult chose to give us only the finale which includes one of Coates’ most whoozy Toy Town style marches – OK there’s a sort of Elgarian trio but gorgeous trumpet playing aside this is not one of Coates’ finest moments – for that I send you back in this collection to The Merrymakers Overture. The Dam Busters march is done faithfully and with no punches pulled. This is jaunty and crashingly heroic with brass calling out their hearts.

In the Lyrita catalogue this collection joins another Coates disc - this time all-Coates - with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth in The Three Men suite, Dancing Night; Two Symphonic Rhapsodies; Idyll: Summer Afternoon; The Enchanted Garden; Concert Valse: Footlights; the Rhythm (20th Century) movement the Suite: Four Centuries and the March: London Bridge.

With the Coates pieces covered we turn to the Grainger Children’s March - chortling outdoor stuff. It is here heard ‘dished up’ for full orchestra. Boult turns the piece in with considerable tautness and alacrity of execution. The stuttering gong and side drum at the very end add up to a confidently enigmatic sign-off. Boult was not known for his Delius and he turns in a rather rigid Marche Caprice – more march and less caprice. It is very early Delius. The Walton funeral march from the film music for Hamlet has a steady gait and frankly this is not the most angst-ridden version. For that you need to turn to the composer on EMI Classics. On the other hand Boult knew his RVW and had already recorded the suite from The Wasps for EMI. The march, with its satirical air and crashing emphasis, is much more sympathetic to the Boult temperament. On the other hand I did not expect much of the Rossini/Britten march but in fact it positively bubbles and effervesces. There’s even the occasional echo of Arnold. With the finale to Holst’s Suite in E flat we are again back to Boult heartland. This is the version for full orchestra made by Gordon Jacob from the Holst original for military band. It goes with a proper swing. I was able to compare this movement with the Nicholas Braithwaite version of the whole suite on SRCD 210. In fact the differences are slight with a shade more character in the playing for Boult than the Braithwaite.

This CD might well prompt you to try other Boult-Lyrita collections:-

SRCD.220 Boult conducts Parry

SRCD.222 Boult conducts Holst

SRCD.231 Boult conducts Bax

Boult’s Coates and Boult’s marches. Surprises in both and stacks of character.

Rob Barnett


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