Martin Yates / Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Stanley Bate, Richard Arnell, Erik Chisholm: Orchestral Works

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AllMusic Review by James Leonard

Listeners who love British composers whose surname starts with the letter "B" may already know the symphonies of Bax, Bantock, Boughton, Brian, and possibly even those of Bainton. But the symphonies of Stanley Bate? Not bloody likely, as the Brits would say. This disc by Martin Yates and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra presents the world-premiere recording of Bate's Third Symphony, and the first recording any of his four symphonies. Written in 1940, Bate's Third is very much a product of its time, and very, very much indebted to William Walton's First Symphony of 1935. One hears the angst, fury, and pity of the early war years in this three-movement work, but more, one hears echoes of Walton. The throbbing string ostinatos and driving percussion crescendos of Bate's opening movement, his central movement's brooding wind chords and sweeping string writing, and his closing movement's monumental scoring and massive climaxes all recall similar aspects of Walton's First. Some listeners may hear this as a skilled composer working purposefully within an established tradition, but others may find Bate's Third too derivative to be interesting in its own right. The performance by Yates and the Scottish musicians is polished and passionate.

Of the remaining works, some are more interesting than Bate's Third, others less so. Richard Arnell's Prelude Black Mountain is quite brief, at less than three minutes, but very evocative, while his Robert Flaherty Impression is quite long at 21 minutes, but still cogent and convincing. The same cannot be said of Erik Chisholm's Pictures from Dante (after Doré); a too-long, too-loud Inferno followed by an even longer and louder Paradisio [sic]. Yates and the Scots again do all that can be asked of them. Dutton's digital sound is rich, ripe, and full-bodied.

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