Overtures from the British Isles (CD)

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BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rumon Gamba

Rumon Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales present a collection of rarely heard overtures from the British Isles. Among these is Sir Frederic Cowen’s Overture to The Butterfly’s Ball (1901), illustrating a popular children’s poem byWilliam Roscoe. All is vividly evoked by Cowen’s pleasing melodic lines and delicate instrumental colour. It is easy to see why, in its day, the piece was a firm favourite, being played 26 times at the Proms between 1900 and 1940. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor achieved immediate success early in his career with his four-part cantata Scenes from The Song of Hiawatha. The Overture, composed in 1899, was intended as a prelude to the complete cycle but is now rarely heard in this context. Indeed, very little of the material in this Overture comes from the other Hiawatha pieces, the principal theme being the spiritual ‘Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord’. Perhaps better known as a leading baritone of his generation, Frederic Austin was also a composer of some achievement. In his tuneful and exciting concert overture The Sea Venturers, from 1936, he wanted to evoke ‘something of the lives and character of English seamen who… took peril and pleasure as it came’.