I listened the other day to Philip Lane’s delightful Lyric Dances. These were composed in 2007 for the following year’s English Music Festival (EMF). The liner notes explain that they are orchestral versions of several songs composed for ‘upper voices.’ These [probably] included Some Rhymes of Lewis Carrol (2003) and Four Shakespeare Lyrics (1998). I do wish that Lane had been a little more forthcoming in providing a list of songs transcribed. However, it would be possible to work them out from the respective vocal scores. I have not done this.
The Dances were arranged in ‘homage’ to Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, whose ‘Little Suite’ featured orchestral arrangements of children’s songs.
The Lyric Dances were first performed on Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at Dorchester [on Thames] Abbey, in Oxfordshire during the final EMF concert. Other works included Matthew Curtis’s Festival Overture, Paul Carr’s Concerto for oboe and string orchestra and Cecilia McDowall’s ‘The Skies in their Magnificence’ which was a setting of Thomas Traherne for double choir. After the interval, the audience heard Ronald Corp’s ‘Jubilate’, the present work by Lane and David Owen Norris’s Piano Concerto in C. The Southern Sinfonia was conducted by Corp.
It is important to realise that these dances are related to each other in mood and tone. None of them are practical as ‘standalone’ pieces. The composer has suggested that that they be offered as a unit. The Lyric Dances explore several moods – from inquisitive, sombre, joyful, dramatic, to frivolous.
The first dance is a delightfully wayward tempo di valse. It is the only ‘dance’ that is named as such. In the oh-too-brief programme note written for the work’s premiere, Lane writes that the second dance began life as a setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Come Away Death.’ It is a thoughtful piece that reflects the lost love of the jester Feste from Twelfth Night. The third dance is a pastoral ‘andante’, that pitches French horn and woodwind into creating a seductive landscape.
There is a pensive beauty about the ‘adagio sostenuto’. Lane makes use of a gorgeous tune on strings and then woodwind. Magical use is made of the ‘Mark tree’ percussion instrument which provides delicate chime-like sounds, especially as rising and falling glissandi. The final dance, ‘allegro moderato’ is rhythmic in its outer section, with a few quieter moments in the ‘trio’ section.
Philp Lane’s Lyric Dances were released on Dutton Epoch CDLX 7283 in 2009. It was reviewed on MusicWeb International by Gary Higginson (12 May 2012) who commented that ‘Philip Lane…likes dances. He’s probably good fun at a party! His Cotswold Dances are well known (ASV CD WHL 2126). His Lyric Dances fall into five sections; book-ended by faster ones. The first is the only dance named - a Waltz. The fourth is an absolutely gorgeous Adagio sostenuto…’
Paul A. Snook in Fanfare (September/October 2012) noted the ‘…gently accomplished blend of the tuneful and terpsichorean in [Lane’s] Lyric Dances Strangely I could find no review of this CD in The Gramophone magazine.