It's always a hostage to fortune to call anything "definitive" but in many senses this new set from Nimbus is just that. Containing all the known recordings of Coates under his own baton (bar two - which the compiler is convinced are actually reissues), it also includes a generous selection of contemporary recordings by other leading musicians.
The driving force behind these CDs has been collector, and transfer engineer, Alan Bunting. It is clearly a labour of love since, to my ears, he has produced superb transfers, some reaching back into the acoustic era....and it's these that are especially valuable since, I believe, they have never previously been commercially issued.
Eric Coates was a very fine musician who had the happy knack of writing attractive and popular music. He became immensely popular and was dubbed "The Man who writes the tunes" for his unfailing melodic ability. Inevitably then he will be remembered more for "By the Sleepy Lagoon" (for decades the theme for radio's "Desert Island Discs"), "Calling all workers" for the wartime programme "Music while you work", the "Dambusters March" and the "London Suite" - especially the concluding "Knightsbridge March".
That said, from time to time he did reach toward more traditional concert hall repertory, one excellent example being the "Saxo Rhapsody", one of the comparatively few significant concert works for the saxophone. And furthermore he had many admirers in the classical field; no less than Sir Edward Elgar had a standing order with his publishers to receive any new composition from Coates as soon as it was released.
His achievement is put in excellent perspective by the eloquent and informative booklet notes from Michael Payne. Payne committed his research initially to a PhD thesis at Durham, which was then subsequently expanded into a book, "The Life & Music of Eric Coates, published by Ashgate in 2012.
If you still remain unconvinced, either by the quality or style of the music, or the technical achievement, try CD 5 track 3 if you can. True not original Coates, but a wonderful transcription of Richard Roger's "With a song in my heart". Beautiful and affectionate.... and just listen to the delicately rendered percussion! Amazingly good for an early `30's recording.
Don't hesitate for a nanosecond. Snap this one up and enjoy!