Chineke! Orchestra - Coleridge-Taylor. © 2022 Universal Music Operations Ltd

CD Spotlight

Shared African Heritage

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor from Chineke! Orchestra, strongly recommended by GERALD FENECH

'... riveting stuff ...'


This generous album will be the first of many in a new partnership between Chineke! Orchestra and Decca Records. The two have joined forces to release the ensemble's music on a newly launched label, Chineke! Records, produced from recordings including several made at live concerts given in London. Based in London and comprised of exceptional musicians from across the globe, it is Europe's first majority black and ethnically diverse orchestra.

This first venture offers a compelling review of the music of British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). The programme is spread over two CDs and opens with the Othello Suite, Op 79. First published in 1909 and performed in 1911, the piece is a high-drama five-movement creation. Operatic and grand in style, with marches both funereal and military, this suite also includes lyrical intimate moments describing the intense love of Othello and Desdemona.

Listen — Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: The Willow Song (Othello Suite)
(485 3322 CD1 track 4, 0:00-0:43) ℗ 2022 Chineke! Records :

Next comes Sussex Landscape, Op 27, by the composer's daughter Avril. Indeed, Samuel had two children and both became accomplished musicians. This world premiere recording displays Avril's talents as a composer to the full, as the work is a programmatic masterpiece, and the description of the English coast and the waves crashing against the rocks, along with the constant swell of the ocean, is as vivid as it can possibly be. The oboes and flutes provide that rare sunlight parting the clouds.

Listen — Avril Coleridge-Taylor: Sussex Landscape
(485 3322 CD1 track 6, 0:00-1:00) ℗ 2022 Chineke! Records :

In July 1900, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor attended the first Pan-African Conference in London, an event that sought to emphasize the importance of a shared African heritage. This Conference, and a London performance by the Fisk Jubilee Singers performing spirituals from the American South in 1896, and a meeting with American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar in England the following year, encouraged the composer to focus his work on his African heritage.

During this period of cultural awakening Coleridge-Taylor produced the African Suite, Op 35, a series of four short but substantial movements inspired by the poetry of Dunbar, and his Ballade in A minor, Op 33. This work opens with a flourish of trills in the wind, a muscular theme of strings in unison, and accented timpani marking the strong beats. This intensity gives way to a more cinematic theme that is a wildly passionate love song. The piece keeps oscillating between these two moods and then culminates in an exciting orchestral tutti.

Listen — Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Ballade in A minor
(485 3322 CD1 track 14, 4:47-5:43) ℗ 2022 Chineke! Records :

The Petite Suite de Concert, Op 77, was the composer's most popular work in its day, and an excellent example of what would later be known as 'light music'. The Suite is filled with some very attractive melodies inspired by previous works, and there are also reflections of Robert Schumann, whose piano music Coleridge-Taylor knew well as a student.

The Violin Concerto in G minor, Op 80, was dedicated to Minnie 'Maud' Powell, an American virtuoso violinist, champion of new music and advocate for women and composers of colour. The work is light in style with a first movement that has some unusual characteristics, a pastoral and serene Andante semplice, and a rousing Rondo finale based on a dance tune.

Listen — Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Rondo (Violin Concerto in G minor)
(485 3322 CD2 track 3, 10:07-10:58) ℗ 2022 Chineke! Records :

The Romance in G, Op 39, was performed by the composer in London in 1899, and with its beautiful writing for the solo instrument, the work is full of lush harmonies and charming melodies. During the 1890s Coleridge-Taylor produced a treasure trove of chamber music, and among this is the Nonet in F minor, Op 2. Once again, the young composer's talent for orchestration shines through this brilliant work, demonstrating hints of his orchestral landscapes to come with its wide range of textures and colours.

This is riveting stuff, from one of England's most imaginative composers of the Victorian era. Performances: Memorable; Recordings: Superb; Booklet notes: Scholarly. Strongly recommended.

Copyright © 7 September 2022 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








 << Home              Next review >>