Endnotes: May 2019
From Meadow to Mayfair – Stuart Millson pays tribute to the English light music tradition
The great tone-poems of English music need little introduction: Bax’s epic evocation of Cornish myth and landscape, Tintagel, and Holst’s mysterious Dorset fantasy, Egdon Heath, are just two examples of this native genre. We might add to the list depictions of urban Britain – John Ireland’s wistful A London Overture, Vaughan Williams’s darker, A London Symphony, or even the ‘Nottingham’ Symphony by, Alan Bush. But there is also a body of work within our musical tradition which, whilst not having the introspection, or stature, or timescale of the works just listed, nevertheless presents us with a faithful representation of the places and character of our country: the orchestral tradition, as developed by composers such as Eric Coates, Haydn Wood, Ernest Tomlinson and Ronald Binge – skilled miniaturists, capable of producing pen-portraits of scenes as diverse as Oxford Street, Knightsbridge, or a sleepy Arcadian stream flowing somewhere through the heart of the shires.
Often referred to as “the uncrowned king of light music”, Northamptonshire-born Eric Coates (1886-1957) is undergoing something of a revival, thanks in great part to the work of conductors such as John Wilson, Rumon Gamba and Gavin Sutherland – all of whom have produced well-engineered recordings of his music, which have succeeded in showing a greater depth and strength to a style often considered dated. Continue reading