This second volume of British overtures is a cracker and full of vibrant charm. Much of the content has a distinctly nautical feel like William Walton’s Portsmouth Point, played decently here but without the snap that the ‘old’ Philharmonia in its heyday brought to this notoriously tricky score with its constant syncopations and kaleidoscopically fluctuating time signatures. Then there is The Boatswain’s Mate by Ethel Smyth (photographed in what Barry Humphries would call a “Hampstead lady novelist get-up”) and John Ansell’s Plymouth Ho.
Even more impressive are the tragically short-lived Walter Leigh’s heraldic Agincourt, in the same mould as Elgar’s Froissart and Walton’s Henry V incidental music, and Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie’s A Nautical Overture, bizarrely dedicated to the Duke of Coburg and Gotha, a sinister German relative of the pre-Windsor British Royal Family, whose own title was then (1895) the same.
Parry’s Overture to an Uunwritten Tragedy introduces a darker note (the “unwritten” tragedy turns out to be Shakespeare’s Othello… go figure!) My three favourite pieces are Roger Quilter’s Children’s Overture, which features a sequence of nursery rhymes, John Foulds’ Le Cabaret, inspired by a French play but sounding rather like Poulenc in the home counties, and Eric Coates’ Merrymakers Overture. Pure Ambrosia!