It's always moving to hear music of the distant past sounding for the first time after years of total neglect. When that music is of some quality, and its composer another casualty of the Great War, then the experience is all the more poignant. Cecil Coles, a close friend of Gustav Holst, died near the Somme in April 1918 at the age of 29. It's taken 84 years and the persistence of Coles's daughter Catherine to rescue his music from oblivion.
Justice at last, then. This string of persuasive performances, given real shape and direction by a sympathetic Martyn Brabbins, show Coles as a craftsman of substantially more than average merit. His music knows where it's going, glows with humanity and is sensitively, imaginatively orchestrated. And Coles clearly had "range"--from the deeply felt language of the moving, impressive Fra Giacomo scena to the breezy episodes of From the Scottish Highlands. Yes, we recognise the influence of Wagner, French song-writers (in the delightful Verlaine settings, ravishingly sung by Sarah Fox), Dvorák and so on, but so what? The two extant movements of Behind the Lines display a composer determined to work on in the trenches, producing music both of gaiety and gravity.--Andrew Green