Langford Orchestral Classics
Listening to this generous and engaging collection, I cannot help but reflect again that this kind of stylish, tuneful and expertly scored light music is a very British phenomenon. In the US, where syncopation is all, the nearest you come to it is in the encores of Leroy Anderson, which are essentially (delectably) frivolous novelty pieces. The British school, although always spirited, often introduces elegance and nostalgia, and even moments of depth (though not too deep to disturb the equilibrium).
Gordon Langford had a traditional musical training at the Royal Academy of Music, and honed his skills further as a pianist with pier orchestras and touring as a trombonist in the pit of an opera company. Later he worked as a composer and arranger for the BBC, and as an orchestrator for London-produced musicals.
All this underpins the writing here, and like Eric Coates, with whom he has much in common, Langford scores for large forces in a winningly felicitous way. The opening Fanfare and Ceremonial Prelude has an Elgarian tread with an almost nobilment tune in the middle, but it is not too seriously royal.
The Trumpet Concerto, which Crispian Steele-Perkins plays with aplomb, is cheerful and lyrical, with just a hint of vulgarity. In contrast, nothing could be more stylish than the Movements for Strings, the dancing, gossamer-textured opening movement contrasting with the delicate and atmospheric Andante and pastiche Minuet. The concertante Song for all Seasons has a syncopated rhythmic flavour but a lyrical core; the First Suite of Dances is very English, with its piping opening theme and wistful Waltz, followed a gentle Tango and vivacious Gigue. Greenways is a charmingly sentimental ‘song without words’ remembering closed railway lines, while The Spirit of London (very Coatesian) is rumbustious and full of Cockney spirit.
Not surprisingly, the two items from the Colour Suite show Langford’s scoring at its most subtle and vivid. They complete a disc which is marvellously played by the BBC Concert Orchestra under a conductor, Rumon Gamba, who really identifies with this repertoire. He has already given us the best Eric Coates CD in the catalogue and this one, also from Chandos, shows how superb recording (and enough strings in the orchestra) brings this music glowingly to life. Recommended.