Eric Coates: Orchestral Works Vol 3. © 2023 Chandos Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

Subtle Colours

GERALD FENECH is impressed by another volume in John Wilson's cycle of music by Eric Coates

'... the performances are consistently joyous and exciting ...'


Eric Coates (1886-1957) studied at the Royal Academy of Music under Frederick Corder (composition) and Lionel Tertis (viola), and played in string quartets and theatre pit bands before joining symphony orchestras conducted by Thomas Beecham and Henry Wood. His experience as a player, added to the rigorous training which Coates had received at the Academy, all contributed to his skill as a composer. In 1919 he gave up the viola permanently, and from then until his death made his living as a composer and occasional conductor.

The early compositions of Coates were influenced by the music of Arthur Sullivan and Edward German, but his style evolved in step with changes in musical taste, and his later works incorporate elements derived from jazz and dance-band music. His prolific output consists almost wholly of orchestral music and songs. With the exception of one unsuccessful short ballet, he never wrote for the theatre, and only occasionally for the cinema.

John Wilson has spent many years editing all Coates' orchestral works, and this Volume 3 in the cycle is as captivating as the previous two. For this instalment Wilson combines some of the composer's large-scale works with miniatures and two marches.

The Cinderella Phantasy frames the well-known fairy-tale from Cinderella's perspective, glossing over the more brutal elements of the original, with some notably descriptive writing for the dream sequences, the ball and, of course, the happy ending.

Listen — Coates: Cinderella dresses for the ball (Cinderella Phantasy)
(CHAN 20164 track 7, 0:00-0:44) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The Three Men is to some extent autobiographical, as Coates explores his love of his native Nottinghamshire countryside, his love for London and his love of the sea.

Listen — Coates: The Man from the Sea (The Three Men)
(CHAN 20164 track 4, 0:00-0:56) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

The Three Elizabeths is a suite of portraits of three great figures in English history – Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II.

Listen — Coates: Youth of Britain (The Three Elizabeths)
(CHAN 20164 track 21, 0:00-0:50) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

Last Love is a wistful Romance written in 1939, while the much later Sweet Seventeen, a beautiful waltz, was inspired by the love of dancing harboured by both Eric and his wife Phyllis. In fact, the title refers to his first date with 'Phyl', the day before her seventeenth birthday.

Listen — Coates: Sweet Seventeen
(CHAN 20164 track 18, 4:04-4:54) ℗ 2023 Chandos Records Ltd :

Two marches complete the programme: Television March was commissioned by the BBC for the resumption of television broadcasting in 1946, while The Dam Busters was used as the main title for Michael Anderson's 1955 film and is arguably Coates' most widely known work.

As in the previous two volumes, John Wilson and his BBC Philharmonic are on top form, and the performances are consistently joyous and exciting, making this brilliant music yield all its subtle colours hidden within these superbly crafted scores. This is another stirring addition to this wonderful cycle in superb sound and eye-catching presentation. Hopefully Volume Four is just round the corner.

Copyright © 5 June 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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