The tragically short life of Cecil Coles was certainly one of the greatest artistic losses of the wanton human waste perpetrated by the First World War. On the evidence of this music, Coles can be paired with Wilfred Owen and George Butterworth as one of the most significant artistic losses of this conflict.
Coles' German background is definitely reflected in the wonderful Overture, 'The Comedy of Errors'. In some ways it also reminded me of Mackenzie's similar overture, 'The Cricket on the Hearth', with its buoyant rhythmic intensity and affable use of profuse melodies. The real masterpiece on disc is the 'Fra Giacomo' ballad with an outstanding representation by Paul Whelan who sings with customary gusto. I also greatly enjoyed the Four Verlaine songs that also reveal Coles' penchant for subtle impressionism married with patriotic fervour. 'From the Scottish Highlands' is a buoyant suite with a lovely Lament that concludes the work in rambunctious fashion.
The movements from 'Behind the Lines' are also classic examples of compositions under severe emotional pressure. The blood-spattered manuscript is also reproduced in the informative notes that accompany this excellent release.
Hyperion has done English music another magnificent service to all those who love this genre. The disc is also a unique tribute to the talent of Cecil Coles, a talent robbed all too early from us.
Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech