October 2005

Coates - London Again
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; John Wilson, conductor
Avie AV2070
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***

The chief reason we’ve been offered so little of Eric Coates’s music since his death in 1957 is that no one conducts it as effectively as the composer did himself. Three of his compatriots -- Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Charles Groves, and Sir Charles Mackerras -- came close, and barely more than a dozen years ago the virtually unknown Malcolm Nabarro, recording on the ASV label, came closest of all with his Nottingham-based East of England Orchestra.

On this new Avie release, John Wilson, with the same orchestra as Groves, offers an imaginatively chosen concert-length program: the waltz Footlights, the Television March, the phantasies The Selfish Giant and Cinderella, and three tripartite suites: The Three Men, London Again, and Summer Days. (It may be noted that the opening "Oxford Street" March in London Again is a more strict-tempo treatment of the free-wheeling march tune in the melodically abundant Cinderella.) If Wilson is not quite a match for the other conductors mentioned above in realizing the brio and bonhomie of this splendid music, he does show a substantial feeling for the idiom, and there is no gainsaying the advantage of up-to-date sound.

This is a good companion piece to the first of Nabarro's ASV recordings [WHL 2053], which has the London Suite as its capstone. Sonics aside, Coates’s own recordings, now available from Naxos and Conifer, remain incomparable and indispensable.