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Paul LEWIS (b.1943)
Harpscape
Postcards from Paris [13:52]
Decospherics - Four Jazz Age Dances [12:08]
Musings on a Maori Lullaby - Variations on Hine e Hine [14:12]
Saturday Night Jazz Suite [11:09]
Gabriella Dall'Olio (harp)
rec. Quiet Money Studios¸ Hastings, UK, 2014
EM RECORDS EMRCD048 [54:27]

Paul Lewis, composer of film, television and concert music, was born into a musical family in Brighton. Seeing the Olivier Shakespeare films was for him a formative childhood experience but even so he avoided all formal training. He chose instead to enter music publishing at fifteen. His orchestral works have been recorded as production library music. Later he was to become Assistant Musical Adviser to ABC Television. Soon he was composing music for TV dramas and over 150 series. You have almost certainly heard his music by way of Antiques Roadshow, Westward TV's opening music (A Devon Overture) and even SpongeBob SquarePants. His voluminous and seemingly unerringly apt television output has included The Prisoner of Zenda and Swallows and Amazons Forever!

He has written considerable quantities of light music to his name including a work in the line-up of composers on the EM Records set Now Comes Beauty (Norfolk Suite). The Heritage and Landscape orchestral disc was one he had all to himself. There is also a disc of Harmonica music on Campion. Other of his CDs have included his soundtrack for the 1972 HTV series Arthur of the Britons on Silva Screen.

April 2017 saw his Seaside Concerto for "Mighty Wurlitzer" and orchestra, a celebration of the vintage seaside music that Lewis heard in his Sussex youth. He keeps up and tends New Zealand connections such as the vivid portrait and mood painting of Musings on a Maori Lullaby - Variations on Hine e Hine. Here the writing is more noble and far less gawky than in the Decospherics. It has more in common with the succulence, gorgeous glissandi and poise of Postcards from Paris. Understandably the Saturday Night Jazz Suite shares the playfulness of Decospherics. However, the Blues for Harpo, with its equivocal atmosphere and harmonics, impresses and yields more each time it is played. Postcards from Paris, across three movements, celebrates the nobility and beauty of the harp. By contrast Decospherics - Four Jazz Age Dances has a more popular caste and if it does occasionally have the fragrance of "The Good Old Days" and music-hall then no harm is done. It's rather affecting that the third piece, Cocktail Blues hums with sounds that will remind you of Django Reinhardt.

Paul Lewis is by self confession in love with the harp. His first TV score, we are told, was written when he was twenty. It was scored for flute, oboe, harp and accordion and contained an extensive harp part. The highly skilled and assuredly sympathetic Gabriella Dall'Olio is Head of Harp Studies and Harp Chamber Music, at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London.

The recording is right up-close and personal. As such it makes the most of the instrument's resonance and enchantment. The booklet, in English only, is unerringly placed and detailed. The only demerit is that we are never given any idea of when these pieces were written. They probably date from between 1997 and 2008 when Lewis was working with harpist Elizabeth Jane Baldry.
 
Luscious music and light on the palate. It has been recorded in a lush acoustic while Gabriella Dall'Olio's enchanting artistry sets the seal on the project.

Rob Barnett
 
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

 

 




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