Curtis, M Orchestral Works

An enjoyable survey of a contemporary composer unafraid to write tunes

Author: 
Ivan March

Curtis, M Orchestral Works

  • Fiesta
  • Amsterdam Suite
  • Pas de Deux
  • Paths to Urbino
  • Two Pieces for Small Orchestra
  • Outward Bound

Fortunately, melody is now coming back into fashion, so this collection of the light-hearted music of the Cumbrian composer Matthew Curtis (b1959) can expect to receive a warm welcome. It opens with the scintillating concert overture, Fiesta, which has a most beguiling secondary theme; Curtis’s style is in the best traditions of Eric Coates, Haydn Wood and other British composers, about whom Andrew Lamb wrote so enthusiastically in last November’s ‘Collection’. Coates is the strongest influence, structurally, in the throbbing allegros, and in the specially English ‘tennis’ waltz (there is an engaging one in the Amsterdam Suite, which is not in the least Dutch).

Curtis can also readily create a haunting pastoral atmosphere, as in ‘Lonely City’ from the Amsterdam Suite with its winding saxophone melody (curiously reminiscent of Bizet), and there is a perky march (‘Trams and Crowds’) to round off. The ‘Pas de deux’ brings a haunting oboe melody to recall Ronald Binge’s ‘Windmill’ and the ‘Holiday Mood’ of the richly scored Paths to Urbino suite has the kind of jiggy syncopations that recall Curzon and Farnon. Its fourth movement, ‘Music of the Fields’, then brings a meltingly romantic horn solo, and the melody which follows has much in common with the cherishable central movement of Coates’s Three Elizabeths Suite, and is by no means inferior to it. Then ‘Journey’s End’ brings a deliciously jaunty Italianate (but still essentially British) tarantella, and the closing ‘Outward Bound’ makes a spirited and light-hearted finale.

I have suggested the influences of other composers, but Curtis is his own man: his scoring is particularly skilful (he writes splendidly for the horns) and his fund of invention inexhaustible. The performances are first class, the recording bright and sparkling, but the string patina suggests not too many violins (although this may be the effect of the studio recording). I would have liked more body to the violins. Highly recommendable, just the same.

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