Overtures from the British Isles, Volume 2 – Music by Walton, Leigh, Bowen, Smyth, Ansell, Mackenzie, Coates, Parry, Quilter and Foulds

Reviewed on Fri 03 Jun, 2016

Walter Leigh's Agincourt (1935) conveys a sense of spectacle to suggest that he might easily have enjoyed as much success writing for the big screen as did Walton.

Rumon Gamba sees to it that Walton's Portsmouth Point (1924-25) kicks off this collection of British overtures in swaggering fashion, and it's followed by the no-holds-barred pomp of Walter Leigh's Agincourt (1935), whose sense of spectacle suggests that he might easily have enjoyed as much success writing for the big screen as did Walton (a sniper's bullet at Tobruk put paid to that). Next comes York Bowen's characteristically succulent Fantasy Overture from 1945 (listed as the sole premiere recording here), after which a maritime flavour resurfaces with a bracing sequence comprising Ethel Smyth's overture to her 1913-14 one-act comedy The Boatswain's Mate (listen out for the sly incorporation of the stirring March of the Women that she wrote for the Suffrage movement), John Ansell's breezy Plymouth Hoe (1914) and Alexander Mackenzie's wittily inventive Britannia (1894). In both Eric Coates's entrancing The Merrymakers (1923) and Parry's magnificent Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy (1894) I do find it all but impossible to dispel memories of Boult's irresistibly warm-hearted Lyrita versions, though Gamba does a lovely job with Roger Quilter's 1919 A Children's Overture (a touching medley of nursery songs and Christmas carols) and has a ball with John Foulds's roistering Le Cabaret (1921). With excellent orchestral playing and typically sumptuous Chandos sound throughout, this generously full anthology provides firm enjoyment from start to finish.
–Andrew Achenbach