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One of the things swept away was light music. Although mostly consisting of inferior music, it had been popular, especially when concerts included singers of numbers from musicals such as those by Ivor Novello. When Oklahoma arrived from America, bustin' out all over Britain, followed by The Beatles, bustin' out from Liverpool, light music changed from being live to being dead.

Although being given the kiss-of-live recently by such things as these CDs of British Light Classics and, to much eyebrow raising, from former devotees of BBC Radio Three, through the medium of regular hour-long programmes of light music, there can be no doubt that light music, if not actually dead, is certainly in a sunset home. In any case, the UK commercial radio station, Classic FM, has usurped light music's former functions, and now supplies non-stop 24 hour doses of diatonic classics.

The longest item on these two discs lasts for 5 minutes 10 seconds, and the shortest for 2 minutes 23 seconds. In other words, the producers and composers aimed their light music at listeners handicapped by what psychologists call 'short attention span'.

Elgar [listen -- CD1 track 15, 1:15-2:17] and Hamilton Harty managed, on these discs, to create two examples of superb musical art, each lasting less than the allotted maximum of five minutes. Of course they did, because for centuries such skills have formed part of the stock-in-trade of accomplished composers.

In his oratorio The Creation, Haydn produced one of music's most radiant sunrises, and it lasts for a few seconds -- just about as long as the actual rising of the sun itself. Notwithstanding Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe masterpiece of dawn, or Carl Nielsen's Helios overture, or the glory of Strauss's sun rising over the mountains in his Alpine Symphony.

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Copyright © 20 March 2007 George Balcombe, London UK


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