English String Miniatures, Vol. 1

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English StringMiniatures



English composers have had a strong empathy for stringensembles from Elizabethan times, whether it be in the works for viol consorts,the fantasias of Purcell, theItalianate Op.6 Concerti grossi of Handel, the suites of Parry,

Elgar's Serenade and Introduction andAllegro, Holst's St. Paul's and Brook Green

suites, up to nearer our own time, with Britten's Simple Symphony and Bridge Variations and Tippett's Corelli Fantasia. The works presented here werewritten between the 1930s and 1970s, and can be viewed very much as part ofthis great tradition.


Despite his prolific choral writing, the instrumentaloutput of John Rutter (b.1945) has been comparativelysmall. This suite, based on English folksongs was published in 1973, but has beensomewhat overshadowed by his ubiquitous carols and settings of the classictexts of the Gloria and Requiem. In addition to the eponymousfolksong of each movement there are additional counter-tunes in the outer ones -I sowed the seeds of love in the first,and The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington in the Handelianfinale.


Charles Wilfrid Orr (1893-1976)was almost exclusively a composer of songs, mostly settings of A. E. Houseman.

The one exception is this CotswoldHill-Tune, published in 1939 and dedicated to Eugene Goossens.

Stylistically it is very much in homage to Delius butOrr steps out of his 'shadow' sufficiently often during the piece to reveal amore personal voice.


George Melachrino (1909-1976)was a child prodigy on the violin, and earned a living in various dance bandsof the 1930s. During the Second World War he was the British equivalent ofGlenn Miller, gaining the title 'the sentimental Sergeant-Major' as the head ofa fifty-piece orchestra. After the War, he became one of the leading recordingartists of the day with a string of best-selling albums with his Melachrino Orchestra. His training as a string player isvery much in evidence in Les jeux (The games), the first of a set of pieces forstrings relating to everyday living. The music is anything but 'everyday' withits clever marriage of skittish good fun and emotional lyricism.


Peter Dodd (b.1930) has spent much of his working life ina variety of posts in the music department of the BBC. This treatment of the traditionalIrish folk tune, The Lark in the clear Air,

was published in 1971 and catches perfectly its subject in deceptively simpleterms without ever lapsing into the routine or predictable.


The name of Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960) is thesedays associated with songs and partsongs - Song of Shadows, and Five Eyes amongst them, and Dusk, one of those handful of piecesbetter known when heard than when referred to. However, he wrote concertos and severalsymphonies (Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3

are available on Marco Polo 8.223553) in a productive career. Yet it isprobably as a miniaturist that his reputation will stand, and so his Miniature Dance Suite is particularly representativein its gentle mockery of eighteenth century and earlier models designedinitially for amateurs, but, like Holst's St Paul's Suite et al., not out of placein loftier circles.


Frank Cordell (1918-80) was one of the most highlyrespected arrangers in London afterthe War, with hundreds of discs to his name, as musical director for numerousrecording artists of the 1950s. However, he also happened to be a talentedcomposer in his own right, and showed his worth in such films as Khartoum (with a main theme rivalling Elgar) and Cromwell. From this score, he adaptedsome of the music associated with the character of King Charles I (played inthe film by Alec Guinness) for this Galliard

for strings - very much a parody of the music of the time, but in the last barsbelying its true vintage with some Warlockianchromatic harmonization.


The Short Suite

by David Lyon (b.1938) was written in 1971, and although designed primarily as'entertainment' music, nevertheless deploys various technical devices to engagethe ear at a slightly deeper level. RusticDance begins with a simple folk-like tune that quickly develops rhythmichiccups, while the Gavotte pays unblushingtribute to Prokofiev. In the cool, slightly bluesy Aria there are brief passages for solo viola and violin, while thescampering Moto perpetuo

develops two themes, the second of which effectively alternates between 3/4 and6/8.


Roy Douglas (b. 1908) has been an orchestral player,composer and orchestrator. His version of Les Sylphides,for example, is first choice for most ballet and record companies worldwide. From1947 to 1958 he was a valued assistant and friend to Ralph Vaughan Williams,about whom he wrote illuminatingly in a later book. His original works aremainly for orchestra or unusual chamber groups. This Cantilena, written in 1957, begins with a long serenely flowingtune, which is later contrasted with more 'disturbing' passages.


Philip Lane

(b.1950) wrote his Pantomime forstrings while an undergraduate in 1971. The title is used in its light-hearted,entertaining sense, and the three short movements are designed to be succinctand not to outstay their welcome.


Philip Lane




Disc: 1
1 A-Roving
2 I Have a Bonnet Trimmed with Blue
3 O, Waly Waly
4 Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron
5 A Cotswold Hill Tune
6 Les jeux
7 Irish Idyll
8 March
9 Quick Minuet
10 Graceful Dance
11 Sarabande
12 Jig
13 King Charles's Galliard
14 Rustic Dance
15 Gavotte
16 Aria
17 Moto perpetuo
18 Cantilena
19 Alla marcia
20 Andante
21 Vivace
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