and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales
present a collection of rarely heard overtures from the British Isles. Among these is Sir Frederic Cowen's Overture to The Butterfly's Ball
(1901), illustrating a popular children's poem by William Roscoe. All is vividly evoked by Cowen's pleasing melodic lines and delicate instrumental colour. It is easy to see why, in its day, the piece was a firm favourite, being played 26 times at the Proms between 1900 and 1940. Samuel Coleridge- Taylor achieved immediate success early in his career with his four-part cantata Scenes from The Song of Hiawatha
. The Overture, composed in 1899, was intended as a prelude to the complete cycle but is now rarely heard in this context. Indeed, very little of the material in this Overture comes from the other Hiawatha
pieces, the principal theme being the spiritual 'Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord'. Perhaps better known as a leading baritone of his generation, Frederic Austin was also a composer of some achievement. In his tuneful and exciting concert overture The Sea Venturers
, from 1936, he wanted to evoke 'something of the lives and character of English seamen who took peril and pleasure as it came'.
This collection of overtures ranges from the 1880s to the 1930s, and none of the eight pieces included is at all well-known today. Even the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor work, the Overture to the Song of Hiawatha, was not actually part of his once hugely popular trilogy of Hiawatha cantatas, but a separate concert work with only the briefest of thematic links to the choral pieces. Given the half-century that separates the earliest work here, Stanford's Prelude to Oedipus Tyrannus, from the most recent, Frederic Austin's concert overture The Sea Venturers, the stylistic range is wide, and the sequence offers an interesting glimpse into a rarely visited area of British music around the turn of the 20th century. Stanford's upbeat, martial piece sounds almost laughably inappropriate in the context of Sophocles' great tragedy; Sullivan's Overture to Macbeth, and Granville Bantock's The Frogs, after Aristophanes' play seem far better tuned to their subjects. But as Rumon Gamba's nicely slick performances with BBCNOW show, these are all nicely proportioned pieces; if never especially memorable, they don't deserve the total neglect they've suffered for the last three-quarters of a century. --Guardian, 23/1/14
every one of the items is a delight and they constitute one surprise after another. IRR OUTSTANDING --IRR, Feb''14