A LITTLE FALL-ISH!
Dutton Epoch CDLX7175
A breath of fresh air …
This CD was issued in 2006 but seems not to have been reviewed here previously. More’s the pity, because it’s one of the most enjoyable British light music CDs to come my way in recent years. Roderick Elms’s name will already be well enough known for his appearances on CD as solo pianist in music by Richard Addinsell, Hubert Bath and others. The music here, though, is by no means written just as a vehicle for his own performing talents. Indeed Elms appears only as soloist in the opening Concertino for Celeste and as pianist in a few other pieces.
Don’t let the CD’s somewhat gimmicky title, ‘A Little Fall-ish!’, put you off. The music belongs irrefutably to the British light music tradition. The CD title comes from the first movement of the delightful Four Seasonal Nocturnes for solo horn and orchestra, which capture aspects of the changing seasons in various countries. A breath of fresh air is above all what the CD conveys, with suggestions of Delius and Vaughan Williams in the restrained and delicate orchestration. That Elms has a fine ear for instrumental textures and colours is further demonstrated by the ‘Fandango Fantastico’ for organ and guitar, and not least by the final three-movement suite of arrangements of Bach for piano and orchestra. Altogether this is a CD of atmospheric and approachable music of real charm. Elms is very decidedly a composer worth getting to know.
LIGHT MUSIC SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
… this CD can be purchased with confidence.
A contemporary musician who is not afraid to describe his music as being part of the ‘lighter’ repertoire is Roderick Elms, now 57 years old, and a well-known figure in London orchestral circles as a keyboard player. Ten of his short pieces constitute the repertoire on a disc devoted entirely to him, in which he variously appears as piano and celeste soloist – the latter in his Concertino for celeste and small orchestra (is this a first for this instrument?). Elms’s music makes no claims for profundity or serious intellectual content (hardly possible, with 15 individual movements averaging just over four minutes each), but all of these miniatures have attractive characteristics and are very expertly orchestrated. This is, [as with Amanda Jane Fox’s piece mentioned earlier,] music which could have graced the soundtrack of those Look at Life short films, although the most substantial work is a three-movement suite for piano and orchestra taken from J. S Bach – the purpose of which escapes me. The recording quality of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Stephen Bell is very good; if musical flummery appeals to you, this CD can be purchased with confidence (Dutton Epoch CDLX7175, 1 hour 6 minutes).
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW
… committed and convincing performances …
Roderick Elms studied at the Royal Academy of Music and works primarily as a principal keyboard player and soloist for orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra. He writes pleasant and accessible music, without resource to atonality or contemporary dissonances or terseness. He is clearly influenced by both film music and light music, with both of which his own compositions share many features. These include richness and lushness of orchestral sound, tunefulness and a lightness of rhythm and touch.
This disc opens with the Concertino for Celesta, which was composed with the intent of making the general public more aware of the instrument. The charming first movement Capriccietto is rather reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold, the second movement Cantilena is more lyrical and romantic and the finaleis light and dancing – Elms himself is a powerful advocate as the soloist.
The Four Seasonal Nocturnesfollow — skilfully and characterfully evocative works, and good showpieces for Martin Owen on the solo horn. The final Nocturne, Little Horn in the Sun, is described by the composer in his excellent sleeve-notes as “an impression of sunrise”, and it is suitably atmospheric.
Cygnopations ensues, and paints a picture of a swan — as the word-play in the title would indicate — gliding smoothly over the water in Reverie, whilst the Danse is jazzier and more up-beat. The solo cor anglais is energetically played by Victoria Walpole, for whom the work was written.
Although the Chiarore del Mare — describing a translucent light seen from sea at dawn — was composed for electric violin and chamber orchestra, it is here nonetheless played with a traditional violin (Janice Graham) accompanied by the radiant string section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
A seemingly inappropriately entitled Paean follows — surprisingly joyful and lively with a virtuosic organ solo, here impressively played by Stuart Nicholson. Elegy, written at the time of the composer’s father’s death, is a moving little piece with references to the beautiful Irish folksong She moved through the Fair. The composer plays the piano solo in this, as for the following work, Gazelle.
Swans are yet again linked with the cor anglais in Il Cygnet, while Fandango Fantastico was written as a wedding present for two friends of the composer — the organist Stuart Nicholson and guitarist Victoria Green. Played by the couple here, it proves an inventive and interesting work.
The disc concludes with Back to Bach, based on the opening of Bach’s 29thcantata, the Sinfonia from Cantata 156 and the Fugue la Gigue. Whereas the first two movements are basically Bach arrangements for orchestra and piano, in the final movement, Gigue, Elms gives a freer rein to his imagination.
On the whole this is attractive, unashamedly light, tonal and romantic music. Well-orchestrated, but ephemeral and eclectic, it has little substance, meaning or intent further than that — merely to please the ear. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Elms’ close colleague, Stephen Bell, in committed and convincing performances.
… pure pleasure …
Having for twenty years taken the annual chore of selecting music for the Christmas Carol Concert in one of the UK’s largest concert halls, I soon discovered the lamentable lack of suitable ‘symphonic’ material.
I would have welcomed these highly attractive original works and carol settings from the multi-talented British musician, Roderick Elms, his carols dressed in trendy orchestral colours. The short brassy Fanfare da Festa gives the disc its lift-off and from therein it is pure pleasure, the Joyful Company of Singers mixing sophistication with the vigour many of the carols require. I hope Bach and other composers not credited in the heading will not be offended, as Elms is the main ingredient, even turning Sleepers Awake into a jazzy little number. I particularly enjoy his large-scale and red-blooded Wassail Down the Wind, three festive drinking songs scored for organ and orchestra, and among his other original works Festive Frolic just strays into ‘crossover’ music. Stephen Bell, well-known in this field of music, directs a highly responsive Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the sound quality is very good. Something a little different for Christmas.
… the mood is as reverent as you could want.
Roderick Elms, the noted British pianist, organist, and composer whose arrangements are heard here, isn’t shy about working swooning harmonies and show-bizzy licks into such holiday classics as ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and (from another neck of the Christmas woods) ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. But not one of them collapses under its own harmonic weight. The timeless melodies are embroidered, but never distorted. And there’s a coherence to the writing that doesn’t force you to dig through layers of stylistic strata to get to the heart of the music.
‘Away in a Manger’ may sport a “lushy-gushy” beginning, but when the choir enters the mood is as reverent as you could want. Most affecting are Elms’s take on the ‘Cherry Tree Carol’ and his instrumental arrangements of Bach’s ‘Wachet auf’ and ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ with a pair of French horns “singing” the melody lines in those celestial chorales. The other orchestral interludes are happy and bright.
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
Review by Greenfield, November/December 2009
Beautifully played and sung …
Roderick Elms’ Christmas music ranges from charming and witty arrangements of well-loved traditional carols to new setlings and festive orchestral pieces written for the season.
The selection on this CD represents some of his most popular works, together with a few new ones.
Beautifully played and sung by the RPO and the Joyful Company of Singers this gives a slightly different take on the inevitable Christmas releases. An enjoyable CD though I suspect most people will already have their own Christmas selections sorted out.
LIGHT MUSIC SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
…. the quality of this CD far exceeds its price.
The collection gets its title from a piece composed by Roderick Elms who arranged most of the music contained in this collection. The piece is not a Christmas work per se, but fits well in the collection. The principal ensembles who perform the music are the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Stephen Bell and a group called The Joyful Company of Singers. Most of the music is familiar Christmas music, drawn from the English carol tradition. An overture of sorts “Fanfare da Festa” begins the CD and makes listeners anticipate the beautiful music that will follow. A rendition of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” performed by tenor Mark Wilde and the chorus leads us from Advent to Christmas. We then hear three carols familiar to British audiences (“Gabriel’s Message, “Rocking” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory set to tune most Americans would associate with “Angels We Have Heard On High”). “The Cherry Tree Carol” and “Away In A Manger” sound similar to John Rutter/Cambridge Singers renditions and are performed with the same beauty and attention to detail. “Wassail Down The Wind” is almost an organ and orchestra fantasia of well known Yuletide music The liner notes mention that Elms wanted to make sure that the organ, an instrument that often accompanies Christmas music gets some attention of its own. The collection concludes with a number of Christmas carols and holiday music and concludes with its one secular piece, “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.”Like many Naxos recordings, the quality of this CD far exceeds its price. The music is performed well and it’s interesting to listen to with it’s at times traditional and other times original arrangements. I know I’ll be enjoying it this Christmas and more than likely will for years to come.
A Nice Collection of Christmas Music, December 6, 2007
Between them they give us a rousing Christmas party …
a huge, joyful noise indeed.
Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
… charming and witty arrangements.
Roderick Elms writes and arranges lovely stuff …
… this CD can be purchased with confidence.
A contemporary musician who is not afraid to describe his music as being part of the ‘lighter’ repertoire is Roderick Elms, now 57 years old, and a well-known figure in London orchestral circles as a keyboard player. Ten of his short pieces constitute the repertoire on a disc devoted entirely to him, in which he variously appears as piano and celeste soloist – the latter in his Concertino for celeste and small orchestra (is this a first for this instrument?). Elms’s music makes no claims for profundity or serious intellectual content (hardly possible, with 15 individual movements averaging just over four minutes each), but all of these miniatures have attractive characteristics and are very expertly orchestrated. This is music which could have graced the soundtrack of those Look at Life short films, although the most substantial work is a three-movement suite for piano and orchestra taken from J. S Bach — the purpose of which escapes me. The recording quality of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Stephen Bell is very good; if musical flummery appeals to you, this CD can be purchased with confidence (Dutton Epoch CDLX7175, 1 hour 6 minutes).
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW
… well worth getting to know …
Some five years ago I offered favourable comments on a previous CD of music by Roderick Elms, whose name will be well known 10 light music enthusiasts for appearances as piano soloist on radio and light music CDs. Whereas that earlier CD, entitled ‘A Little Fallish!’, in part used the full weight of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the pieces here are exclusively played by smaller instrumental combinations. They range from the six-movement Moody Moves suite for piano and five wind instruments to the Twelve Astrological Preludes for solo piano (Elms himself) and Carillon Festivo and Carillon da Festa for solo organ (Stuart Nicholson). As a curiosity, II Cygnet and Fandango Fantastico both appeared on the previous CD — the former in a different instrumentation, the latter in a different recording by the same performers on guitar and organ.
For all that Elms uses smaller forces here, his ear for sonic effect manages a reassuringly full, warm body of sound. He’s refreshingly keen to investigate the possibilities of different combinations of instruments. His compositional style matches the titles of the pieces – quirkily modern but altogether agreeably so. What perhaps endears his music above all is that he’s rarely stuck for a good tune. Moody Moves, for instance, has a couple of particularly winning movements in the graceful ‘Retro Romance’ and the final ‘Saucy Saltarello’. Of the Twelve Astrological Preludes I especially enjoyed the bouncy ‘Leo’ and energetic concluding ‘Sagittarius’. As I wrote previously, Elms is a composer of light music well worth getting to know.
LIGHT MUSIC SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
It is a long time since I heard such an entertaining and varied programme … Warmly recommended.
We are all familiar with the name of Roderick Elms through his work as a distinguished pianist and organist on many recordings and of course appearances over the years on the BBC particularly with the BBC Concert Orchestra on programmes such as Friday Night is Music Night. His music covers many styles and ranges in diversity from solo instrumental to symphonic compositions. I am always reluctant to categorise music but would say his music sits very happily in the company of Richard Rodney Bennett or Philip Lane, his light music is just that, light with a bit extra! Readers will no doubt have heard his very entertaining Christmas disc entitled Festive Frolic with the RPO on the Naxos label, or A Little Fall-ish!, recordings of some of his instrumental music from the Dutton stable. It is Roderick Elms’ instrumental music we are concerned with here with this latest disk from the enterprising Herald label.
Moody Moves, the title piece, is a 6 movement sextet for piano and winds and is for me an enchanting work with such titles as Amorous Antiphon, Retro Romance, Funky Fugato, and the piece ends with a Saucy Saltarello! Think of Britten’s Simple Symphony and you will get the idea. The pianist is Joanna Smith, with the excellent Aurora Ensemble a young, gifted group formed in 1996, whom our local music society had the pleasure of hearing a couple of years ago.
The distinguished saxophonist Kyle Horch appears in two pieces for saxophone and piano again with Joanna Smith, these being originally written for cor anglais but translate superbly to the sax as transcribed by Kyle.
Roderick Elms himself appears at the piano for the other main work on the CD here appearing complete for the first time Twelve Astrological Preludes for piano. Interestingly the work started life as just one short piece Aquarius, but at the suggestion of a BBC producer, Roderick wrote the other eleven to create a suite, albeit over a period of two years! The character and style of each prelude alludes to certain traits of its birth sign and even more interesting is that the composer adopts an Elgarian mode by adding to that sign the initials of a friend born under the same! This must lead to interesting discussions within the Elms’ household!
There are as you might expect works for organ on the record played on the organ of Brentwood Cathedral by Stuart Nicholson, what you would not expect is that two of the pieces also feature the guitar, played by Victoria Green. Such an unlikely combination you might think — a large organ and guitar? Yet such is the skill of the writing and performing they are quite simply amazing, delightful music, Fandango Frivolo and Fandango Fantastico are the pieces and the solo organ pieces are Carillon de Festa and Carillon Festivo.
It is a long time since I heard such an entertaining and varied programme with many pleasant surprises along the way. Warmly recommended.
SOIREE MUSICALES • BBC CONCERT OROCHESTRA CLUB MAGAZINE
THE GENTLE ART OF PERCY WHITLOCK
…will not be disappointed. …
Of this clutch of organ CDs, this is the most intriguing: a fully digitized re-release of a cassette which first appeared in 1985, recorded by Roderick Elms on the Bryceson organ in Rugby School Chapel. With that organ no longer in existence, there are two additional pieces (Sortie and Fantasie Choral No. 2) recorded 24 years later on the organ of Brentwood Cathedral. For his fans, this is a true Whitlock-fest. His Six Hymn-Preludes received their premier recording on the original cassette, and these form the centrepiece of an attractive programme which also includes the Five Short Pieces. Fans of Percy Whitlock’s organ music will not be disappointed.
RSCM CHURCH MUSIC QUARTERLY
A beautiful CD …
In 1986, during a holiday in England, I discovered the music of Percy Whitlock (1903-1946). It was a real eye-opener (in this case an ear-opener!). Rarely had I heard such melodious and harmoniously heart-warming music. Even in England at that time, there was little of his music available in recordings. I had the choice of a musicassette with a number of short pieces, played by a certain Roderick Elms, and an LP from Robert Gower with the two Fantasy Chorals, part of the Sonata in C minor and some individual shorter works. My interest had been awoken and in the 90’s, when the Percy Whitlock Trust was set up and more information became available, I acquired more knowledge of this particular composer. This resulted in a composer profile that spread over four articles, published in 1996 by the Orgelvriend.
Later the complete organ works were recorded by Graham Barber on three Priory CD’s that I can still warmly recommend. The recordings of Roderick Elms from 1985 were reissued last year on CD through Herald. Because the original cassette contained less than an hour of music, says Elms, two more pieces were recorded in the Roman catholic-Catholic cathedral in Brentwood, where since 1991 there has been an organ by Alfred Hunter dating from 1881 and extended by Percy Daniel & Co. of Clevedon. The original recording was made on the previous organ in the chapel of Rugby School (Thomas Elliot, 1823, expansions by William Hill, 1855, and Bryceson, 1872, and rebuilt in 1910 by Hill, Norman & Beard). Roderick Elms, nowadays particularly active as a pianist and arranger, chose at that time three collections of shorter works of Whitlock: The Six Hymn Preludes, the Three Reflections and the well-known Five Short Pieces of which only the Folk Tune appears regularly in the Dutch organ concert programme’s. The Six Hymn Preludes (‘Darwall’s 148th’, ‘Song 13’, ‘Deo Gracias’, ‘St Denio’, ‘Werde munter’ and ‘King’s Lynn’) are jewels with sometimes Bach-like features (‘Song 13’, ‘St Denio’). The Three Reflections (‘After an Old French Air’, ‘Pazienza’ and ‘Dolcezza’) are intimate character pieces which create a melancholy atmosphere. Once you have heard these, the title of this CD (The Gentle Art or Percy Whitlock) falls naturally into place.
In the Five Short Pieces (Allegretto, Folk Tune, Andante Tranquillo, Scherzo, Paean) Elms gives model performances. The instrument sounds very fine in this repertoire. It is inconceivable that after the recordings, this organ “fell into a state of disrepair” and in the mid-’90s was replaced with an organ by Kenneth Jones & Associates.
The CD opens with the lively Sortie from 1934 of which, for me, the performance of Dr. Francis Jackson on a cassette from York cannot be totally forgotten, and concludes with the little more of the listener demanding Fantasy Choral No. 2, both played in Brentwood.
The booklet notes have been written by Whitlock’s biographer Malcolm Riley and the booklet also includes the specifications of the organs.
A beautiful CD that brings the work of the talented Whitlock to public attention.
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