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Across the Meadow

British light music -
reviewed by

'... a wasteland of clone music.'

British Light Classics - Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Barry Wordsworth. © 2006 Warner Classics

At best, light music can be as exquisitely wrought as sixteenth century miniature portraits. Of the 34 pieces on this pair of CDs only three are worth listening to: Elgar's Chanson de Nuit, Hamilton Harty's string arrangement of The Londonderry Air and the first of Malcolm Arnold's English Dances from the second set [listen -- CD1 track 1, 1:57-2:58] . Using an A-B-A form, in just over four minutes, these composers, writing superbly for orchestra, convey emotional depths more usually found in symphonic slow movements.

At worst, light music is unspeakably awful. In that category is Albert (In a Persian Market) Ketèlby's Bells across the meadow or, as 'disgusted listener' called it, Balls across the meadow.

Between best and worst is a wasteland of clone music. For example, two train-journey pieces, Rhythm on Rails and Coronation Scott, mercifully of less than three minutes each, are difficult to tell one from the other, not, it must be said, that this reviewer can imagine anybody wanting to tell one from the other.

All this is a relic from a Britain that has changed, musically speaking, beyond recognition in the last fifty years. In came mass production of recording and out went live performance.

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Copyright © 20 March 2007 George Balcombe, London UK


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