Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Petite Suite de Concert

I just made a post yesterday, but can't resist posting again today, in honor of this blog's first follower, who is extremely knowledgeable about concert band music.  BHaynes, this is for you.

 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was perhaps the first black composer to achieve international fame.  An Englishman, he was regarded with great pride by African-Americans of the time, and made three concert tours of the United States.  His best-known work was probably the cantata Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, but the Petite Suite de Concert is still sometimes performed.

 The Petite Suite is usually heard in its orchestral setting, but Coleridge-Taylor also wrote a version for concert band.  (I have been unable to determine which version came first.)  In any case, the British HMV version by the Band of H.M. Coldstream Guards must be one of the very first recordings of a "serious" concert band composition.  It was probably recorded in 1920, and issued on a 12" record in 1921.

The record was reviewed as part of a survey of the Coldstream Guards' recordings in the November, 1924 issue of Gramophone.  "Many people know nothing more of Coleridge Taylor than this suite.  The rendering on this record is rather unequal.  The Caprice (No. 1) and the Tarantelle (No. 4) are superb; Demande et response (No. 2) drags badly toward the close, while the Sonnet d'amo'ur (No. 3) lacks distinction.  But the record is well worth having."

You can decide if the reviewer was right.  Here is HMV 1011, with Lieut. R. G. Evans conducting the Band of the Coldstream Guards.

Side one - La caprice de Nannette/Demande et response:

Side two - Un sonnet d'amour/La tarantelle fretillante:

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