Walter LEIGH(1905-1942) Agincourt Overture* (1937) [11:46]
Concertino for Harpsichord and String Orchestra (1934) [9:33]
Music for String Orchestra (1931-2) [6:29] A Midsummer Night's Dream Suite for small orchestra (1936): Overture,
Entry of the Mechanicals, Introduction to Act II, Intermezzo, Introduction to
Act III, Wedding March, Bergomask, Fairies' Dance, Finale [14:26] The Frogs (1936) [5:35] Jolly Roger Overture* (1933) [3:38]
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Nicholas Braithwaite
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, March 1980; *Walthamstow Town Hall, August 1975.
ADD LYRITA SRCD.289 [51:33]
This is a fair conspectus
of Lyrita’s endeavour on behalf of Walter Leigh. The Leigh
discography has been increasing, if not swelling, in the
last decade – I’m thinking in particular of Dutton’s ambitious
chamber music disc on CDLX7143 (see review) – but
going back to the LP fons has been both pleasurable
to the Concertino, by a discursive and frankly strange
route, via pianist Kathleen Long’s 78s and the first time
I heard it played on a harpsichord it came bizarrely as
a shock. In whatever form one hears it, though clearly
we’re not going to hear it much for piano these days, it
never loses its genial and Francophile charge. In the same
way that Christopher Hogwood responds so well to Martinů,
his erstwhile colleague Trevor Pinnock does the honours
with crisp zest and no little poetry. The vivacity of the
finale is never impeded in this glittering performance
but of course it’s the slow movement that most casts a
spell – beautiful as ever.
was commissioned by the BBC for George VI’s coronation. It’s
a genuine concert overture, confident, muscular, breezy
and fashioned from
Elgarian seedbed maybe a touch infiltrated by contemporary
Waltoniana. This is Imperial Englishness but one too that
relaxes gently into a diaphanous flute and harp melody which
swells into the Agincourt theme and has some classic history-minted
cadences that sing down the Ages.
The Music for
String Orchestra is the earliest here, written when
Leigh was twenty-seven in 1932. It’s a brisk six-minute
affair predicated on a neo-baroque plan of four movements
alternating slow-fast. Yet how accomplished and affecting
are those rising thirds in the opening Adagio, with their
grave and sonorous beauty. And how well Leigh judges matters
of sentiment in the Lento – expressive but not straying
beyond pertinent bounds. Two fizzing fast movements balance
the gravity with serene brio.
A Midsummer Night's
Dream Suite is an example of happy and practical
music making for a school production in Germany. Here Leigh
summons up big band Purcellian
shades, strongly evoking ceremonial pomp and stately authority,
though there are prefigurings of things like Rubbra’s Farnaby
pieces in the Bergomask. The Frogs comes from the
same year, an overture and dance of invigorating and tuneful
geniality, elegantly crafted. And finally there’s the Jolly
Roger overture deriving from the 1933 comic opera.
The cast was led by none other than George Robey and the
brief overture is suitably and commendably jaunty and light.
What’s the rest like, one wonders?
Hugo Cole’s notes
are top notch, telling us just what we want to know, and
the recording is cut from Lyrita’s finest cloth. The Dutton
chamber release and this Lyrita make the sadly short-lived
Leigh live again in immaculate style.
see also reviews
Higginson and Rob Barnett
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