British Music for Strings, Vol. 2
Bantock: Serenade for String Orchestra ‘In the Far West’; Scenes from the Scottish Highlands; C Wilson: Suite for String Orchestra
Southwest German Chamber Orchestra, Pforzheim/Douglas Bostock
CPO 555395-2 76:47 mins
Both these late 19th century British composers were masters of escapism. Christopher Wilson, the least known today, spent much time writing incidental music helping to transport theatre audiences to the worlds of Shakespeare and Greek drama, or the exotic delights of Kismet. On a larger scale, Bantock famously liked dousing his listeners in the perfumes and mists of Celtic legends, Persia and Samarkand. Even in the mostly abstract Serenade, the album’s best and chunkiest work, he daytrips to America, quoting from ‘Yankee Doodle’ and Stephen Foster. There’s much more national colouring, though, in his spirited settings of Scottish dance tunes, played with the kind of snap and vim that suggests that the English conductor and his German orchestra were all born to wear tartan.
Placed alongside Bantock’s exuberant imaginings, the more academic niceties of Wilson’s Suite of 1901 make a smaller impression. Blending Baroque and Classical forms with a Romantic sensibility, the lightweight music always feels as if it’s purposely designed as an accompaniment to something, even if it’s just grooming the dog. Still, the playing again is agreeably lively, and the world in general is a better place for Douglas Bostock’s love of unfamiliar repertoire.