BBC Philharmonic / John Wilson
Chandos CHAN 20148 (57:00)

This is the release we have been waiting for: some of the very best of the kind of music we love the most. It is the second instalment in a series from our friend John Wilson, of whom it has been said that what he does not know about Eric Coates' music is probably not worth knowing.

For this album John has chosen three 'major works': The Selfish Giant, inspired by an Oscar Wilde fairy tale, Enchanted Garden, originally written as a ballet about the Seven Dwarfs, and the suite Summer Days – also the name of the composer's cottage in Selsey. Then there are three shorter works: the serenade For Your Delight (it definitely is), the waltzes Wood Nymphs and Lazy Night. All these are topped and tailed by two familiar marches: London Bridge and Calling All Workers. The last-named clocked up 16,000 performances over 27 years from 1940 as the signature tune for the BBC radio programme 'Music While You Work'.

Everything is admirably performed by the BBC orchestra, recorded at MediaCityUK, Salford, Greater Manchester, in November 2019. The excellent quality of the recorded sound from this label is a given.

The CD booklet has six pages of knowledgeable notes by the classical music writer, critic and consultant Richard Bratby, and there is a charming Lowry-like London Transport poster on the front cover.

The album should be another resounding success for maestro Wilson, even if without the amount of attention given to his recent Sinfonia of London recordings. While greatly appreciating what we have here and eagerly anticipating further releases in this survey of Coates' works (due to Covid-19 likely to be a long time coming), I reckon Chandos might have given us rather more than just under an hour of music.

As a footnote: I was interested to see that the estimable Eric, who died in 1957, was recently quoted by Rob Cowan in Gramophone magazine as having declared that "wrong attitudes towards the best light music (were fostering) an insidious form of musical snobbery among listeners teaching them to despise melody".

Peter Burt 2020

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