WORKS: Film music from Welcome the Queen, Things to Come, The Royal Palaces, Caesar and Cleopatra & War in the Air
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9896
The Welcome the Queen March commissioned for a 1954 Pathé newsreel and the Royal Palaces Suite for a 1966 Kenneth Clark-fronted BBC documentary are formidably accomplished occasional music of the kind that Bliss was probably capable of turning out in his sleep. His music for the 1944 film of Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra was in fact not used because of differences with the producer Gabriel Pascal: it’s heard here for the first time in a suite arranged by Giles Easterbrook and Malcolm Binney. Though undoubtedly worth salvaging, it’s something of an oddity: a haunting ‘Sea’sequence apart, it evokes Sullivan and the Palm Court, doubtless responding to the wit of the play but at the expense of its more resplendent aspects.
Bliss’s score for HG Wells’s Things to Come, by contrast, has always been recognised as a milestone in its genre. Yet between movements omitted from or shortened for the film, variant scorings and orderings of suites and publisher-induced cuts, it’s always been difficult to form a full picture of it. The sequence here, painstakingly researched and reconstructed by Philip Lane, presents over half-an-hour’s music, some of it unfamiliar and all of prime quality – as near to a ‘complete’ Things to Come as can be achieved. Stirring stuff, in performances and a recording well up to the standard of Rumon Gamba’s other British film-music discs for Chandos. Calum MacDonald