CD Review

Not for musical snobs: three Dutton recordings


© Chris Green, March 2010


Just by coincidence I was driving back from a lecture recently when I heard on Classic FM a programme featuring the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. The Birmingham-based orchestra has appeared on many recordings issued by small independent labels. They made a fine series of recordings of British Light Music for ASV, a label now disappeared as a result of the recession, but I am pleased to say that Dutton Laboratories have taken up the flame and run with it.

British Light Music Premieres carries on where the ASV label stopped and here there is music by nine composers including the late Carey Blyton who lived for a number of years in Suffolk, and where his widow still lives. The programme opens with the charming and skilfully scored Jewel Dances by Ernest Tomlinson from the 1974 Aladdin. Tomlinson has been one of the most persuasive of advocates seeking to remedy the neglect of British music. As a composer, arranger and conductor, he deserves every recognition he gets. The jewel for me in this programme is the brief Concert Jig scored for hammered dulcimer and orchestra by Jim Cooke. The other attractive feature of the series is the excellent sleeve art work with a definite art deco look: in this case, posters advertising the treasure of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex: the De La Warr Pavilion, newly re-opened I understand (Dutton, CDLX 7190).

I can well imagine there are some musical snobs who may read this review, and for them, I would say: read no further, but if you do and decide to take any piece of advice, you may find yourself enjoying the musical nuggets on offer. I say this in the knowledge that Malcolm Arnold and William Alwyn suffered from the slings of adverse criticism when they wrote “popular” music at a time when it was considered only right to compose music that appealed to the knowledgeable few.

Anthony Collins was a first-rate composer of light music as well as conductor with many fine reviews of his recordings of Sibelius’s symphonies. Born in 1893, he died in 1963. He was a professional violist in the Municipal Orchestra of Hastings (just along the coast from Bexhill) and progressing through many other major orchestras including the LSO. He also had been a pupil of Gustav Holst. It seems that many of his scores have become lost but Dutton has been making a plea for contact from anyone who can help remedy this. John Wilson, the “star” of the August 2009 BBC Proms featuring the magic of MGM Musicals, conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra in a programme of Collins’s music, many of the pieces with a distinct Waltonian flavour. Included are extracts from a number of film scores such as Victoria the Great, Nurse Edith Cavell and The Swiss Family Robinson. Ernest Tomlinson gets credit on the CD sleeve liner for helping trace some of the music and that remains one of the biggest challenges for conductors – how to source these scores (Dutton CDLX 7162).

So to a third orchestra used by Dutton, the City of Prague Philharmonic. They featured alongside the Royal Ballet Sinfonia in a programme encompassing arrangements by Philip Lane of melodies by the Irish composer, John Field, which make up the Concertino for flute and small orchestra, as well as Lane’s own Overture on French Carols. Richard Addinsell (best known for the Warsaw Concerto) also gets remembered by another work, Harmony for false lovers, originally a piece for solo piano and now arranged for orchestra by Gavin Sutherland who conducts many of the items in this disc (Dutton CDLX 7151).

In summary: three excellent CDs, definitely not for musical snobs, but demonstrating the craft of so many fine British composers, capable of writing beautifully produced orchestral miniatures, witty, moving and well scored.