I had never heard Eric Coates's Holborn (March) until I received the new Dutton CD of music by this great British composer. Coates wrote a great deal of music referring directly or indirectly to the Metropolis. Everyone knows the ubiquitous Knightsbridge March from the popular London Suite. Less well known, but equally good is the London Again Suite with its moving elegy ‘Langham Place’ and ‘Oxford Street’ March.
The valse ‘Evening in Town’ from the Meadow to Mayfair Suite, The March London Bridge, and ‘Man about Town’ from the Three Men Suite further highlight the composer’s love of the Capital City.
The Holborn March was the only work that the composer wrote in 1950 – it was completed by April. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was commissioned by the Holborn Borough Council to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its civic charter. It was first performed that year in a radio broadcast on 24th June.
Lewis Foreman regards this work as a pendant to the London Suites and perhaps this is true. Interestingly it does not carry the same critical acclaim as the earlier works. Geoffrey Self writes that it “is a feeble work, well meriting its neglect.” He further insists that 'rarely had his [Coates] melodic muse fobbed him off with such a leaden trio tune.' I suppose that the excuse for this was that the composer was quite ill at the time and had possibly lost his touch.
However, I must beg to differ: I really enjoyed the work. It maynot have the presence and vitality of some of his earlier music, but it is totally enjoyable and is a great addition to the stock of music about London. It is important to have this piece in the public domain. Well done Dutton.