Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto; Othello Suite*; African Suite; Romance in G; Nonet; Ballade†; Petite Suite de Concert††; A Coleridge-Taylor: Sussex Landscape**
Elena Urioste (violin); Chineke! Orchestra/Kevin John Edusei, *Fawzi Haimor, **Roderick Cox, †Kalena Bovell, ††Anthony Parnther
Decca 485 3322 143:22 mins
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), half English, half Sierra Leonean, is a symbolic figurehead for Chineke!, the UK’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse orchestra. The composer, who won high praise from Elgar and Stanford, could have become a towering and transformative figure, but worked himself to death in Croydon aged only 37, having sold his enormously successful oratorio The Song of Hiawatha to his publisher outright for a pittance.
Chineke! here presents one of the biggest and best collections of his music yet released. At its heart is the heavenly Violin Concerto; Elena Urioste and the orchestra under Kevin John Edusei give a wonderful performance full of fiery spirit and delicacy. Several more fine conductors are represented: Kalena Bovell for the Ballade, effectively Chineke!’s signature work; and respectively Anthony Parnther and Fawzi Haimor in the Petite Suite de Concert and incidental music to Othello, while Edusei tackles the African Suite. These suites are melodically rich and unfailingly engaging – as is the early Nonet, here receiving its second recording release in eight months but fully deserving the attention. Even if Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective’s recording is the more polished, Chineke!’s – its players regrettably unnamed in the credits – can win us over with its passion and flair.
The most unusual work is by Coleridge-Taylor’s daughter, Avril: the world-premiere recording of her tone poem Sussex Landscape, which sounds much impacted by Vaughan Williams, but has an elegiac undertow all its own. Recorded sound is very good, though acoustics vary between the different locations of the performances, several of which are live.