Music From Torrens Road

Orchestral Works

Eric Biddington composer
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond conductor

Release Date: April 8, 2022
Catalog #: NV6420
Format: Digital
21st Century
Orchestral

New Zealand native Eric Biddington (*1953) charms with a delightful selection of neoclassical orchestral pieces on MUSIC FROM TORRENS ROAD, delighting the ear with an exuberant blend of levity, catchiness, and joie de vivre.

Biddington’s musical education was initially cut short by illness, and despite his latter resumption (and conclusion) of formal study, his music preserves exactly the refreshing kind of naturalness and indomitable verve which is all too often squashed by so-called institutions. A blessing, not just for Biddington, but especially for his listeners: These well-crafted, profoundly melodic and musical pieces prove that in order to be complex, music doesn’t have to be complicated; quite the contrary, artistic profundity and aesthetic appeal can very well go hand in hand.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
1 Classical Overture Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 6:12
2 Eat Your Brekky (and you will grow big and strong) Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 6:07
3 In Geraldine - Small Town Reflections Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 21:33
4 Sillybuggers Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 4:12
5 Cats of Hillmorton Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 11:24
6 Doctor Knows Best (for Anyone and Everyone) Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 10:14
7 Homage to Bach Eric Biddington Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Rupert Bond, conductor 5:34

Recorded May 31, June 1-2, 2021 at Reduta Hall in Olomouc, Czech Republic
Session Engineer David Pavlíček
Producer Ondřej Moťka
Editing & Mixing John Neill
Mastering Mike Clayton

Acknowledgements
Biddington gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Rupert Bond as editor of the scores and conductor of the orchestra, the talented members of the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra for their fine performances, and the skills of the sound engineers and John Neill toward the production of this recording.

“Dedicated, with all my love, to my dear wife Elizabeth Ann Biddington (1943-2020).”

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Danielle Lewis

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Eric Biddington

Composer

Eric Biddington was born in Timaru, New Zealand in 1953, and received his schooling in Timaru and Christchurch. Upon leaving school, he began part-time work as a laborer and studied at the University of Canterbury, although this was interrupted by illness in 1974. In 1979 he returned to study, laboring work, and musical composition and graduated with degrees in music, arts, and science. Despite suffering from schizophrenia and depression since his teenage years, Biddington has become a prolific and widely performed composer.

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Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra

Orchestra

The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the foremost and oldest symphony orchestras in the Czech Republic. It is based in the historical capital of Moravia, the city of Olomouc, and has been a leader of music activities in the region for the past 70 years. Its artistic development was directly influenced by distinguished figures from the Czech and international music scene.

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Rupert Bond

Conductor

Rupert Bond graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London before studying for two years as a postgraduate conductor and double bass player at the Royal Academy of Music. Later, he gained a Master’s in Music Composition at Surrey University. A career development led to his appointment as Director of Music at James Allen’s Girls’ School, London. During this period, he continued to conduct, and founded the Docklands Sinfonietta, whilst also emerging as a composer. To date, he has written over 40 works. In 1999, he was made an Associate of the Royal Academy for services to music. In 2003, he returned to full-time conducting, spending time in New Zealand and also in South West England, but since 2013 he has been based in Kent. He now regularly conducts many orchestras, including the Folkestone Symphony, Wimbledon Community Orchestra, Kingston 3AO, and Southwark Sinfonietta.

Notes

The music recorded here was written in 2020, and reflects on the interests and the shared experiences of myself and my wife Elizabeth at our home in Torrens Road in Christchurch, New Zealand. My life as a child was always spent with cats as friends and continues today much the same. Elizabeth’s experiences with feline company were less pervasive than mine, but she came to enjoy and appreciate our furry friends. My tributes to them are two pieces on this album. The tone poem Doctor Knows Best was written during the period when Elizabeth was in care in a rest home, shortly before her death on November 11, 2020.The sinfonia entitled In Geraldine is an attempt in musical terms to provide my answer to the dream posed in the short poem “Home Thoughts” by New Zealand poet Denis Glover.

– Eric Biddington

Eric Biddington’s music is deceptively simple and tuneful, playable, and accessible, sometimes critiqued as naïve. Beneath the surface, however, his music has depth, subtlety, and pathos and can also be quirky, eccentric, and sardonic. One of his favorite composers is Malcolm Arnold, a prolific writer who was also accused of writing music that was either flippant or light-hearted. Both composers have the ability to compose quickly (Arnold wrote 45 minutes of music for the film “Bridge over the River Kwai” in ten days), but both endured mental health problems throughout their lives. There are hints of Vaughan Williams, Douglas Lilburn, Haydn, Mozart, Ives, and even Harry Partch in Biddington’s palette of sounds.

Biddington’s own words, inserted at the beginning of Doctor Knows Best, could be a modus operandi for all his music:

“ … For anyone and everyone …”

– Rupert Bond

My own involvement with Biddington’s music began in 2006 when I was working in Christchurch as a conductor and musician. He asked for my assistance with the tidying up of some of his music on his computer. From these early discussions, we developed an understanding, and before I returned to the United Kingdom in 2007, I conducted and recorded a series of his works with string orchestra and solo instruments such as oboe, viola, and saxophone. Since then, we kept in touch and he occasionally sent me compositions for comment in readiness for publication.

In the autumn of 2020, Biddington asked me to assist in the preparation of some saxophone trios for publication and recording. Towards the conclusion of this project in December 2020, he asked whether I would take on the preparation of “a few orchestral pieces.” He then sent ten sizeable works! Were it not for the UK lockdown, I’m not sure that I would have taken on such a large project of work, but in retrospect I’m very glad that I did, for I found these works a fascinating challenge both in their diversity and also their depth of feeling. From January through April 2021, I edited the seven pieces chosen for this album, including a little concoction of my own for the second movement of Cats of Hillmorton.

Biddington asked me for advice with regard to making an album of these works. When COVID-19 reached London in March 2020, recording sessions with British musicians were out of the question. So I approached my contacts at the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in Olomouc, Czech Republic, and they agreed to take part in the project by providing a small chamber orchestra. It was my pleasure and privilege to conduct them in May and June 2021. We are extremely grateful to them for their artistry and musicianship in bringing these works to life. It’s a salutary thought that these recordings have been made possible through cooperation across the world between three continents and four countries: New Zealand, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, and the United States.

— Rupert Bond

In this short, breezy overture, Biddington encapsulates many features of the musical past, whilst also injecting new life into a well-used genre. During its six-minute duration, it contains allusions to — amongst others — Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and even Walton. The use of modern brass instruments allows the musicians to play more challenging music than their classical forebears would have been able to.

After an arresting start, the music moves quickly to the dominant chord of G, before a business-like cadence establishes the home key of C major. The first subject is essentially a rising scale, redolent of a classical period symphony, but this simple device is elaborated by complex rhythms and modal inflections. It is immediately answered by a falling “cuckoo” motif of a 4th, which becomes very important towards the end of the overture. The theme is then elaborated, before a falling answering scale is heard as a counter balance. The second subject, played by the woodwind, suggests A minor and is a variant of this falling-scale motif, although the effect is very different through the addition of a striding bass accompaniment, giving the effect of a marching song. A development section follows, in which the rhythmic tensions engendered between the two ideas are explored. The essential ingredients of the opening music return are followed by an extended Coda which further develops the preceding material, as well as introducing more “classical” devices such as the “cuckoo” motif and also a humorous passage reminiscent of Beethoven. The overture ends with a bravura section, first announced in the trumpets, who are then joined by the horns and timpani before the rest of the orchestra cries “enough!” and brings the music to a brusque and timely conclusion.

– Rupert Bond

“…the sight of happy, smiling faces at dawn walking towards their kitchen cupboards to celebrate another New Day!”

– Eric Biddington

New Zealand children are subjected to this mantra every day of their young lives and Biddington draws on its effect in this satirical march for orchestra. Echoes of Shostakovich, Malcolm Arnold, and Percy Grainger permeate the texture of this slightly cynical musical commentary on the meaning of life.

– Rupert Bond

I The Town
II Interlude I – Nightfall
III Interlude II – Daybreak
IV Sports Day

“The title of my piece comes from the poem called ‘Home Thoughts’, by NZ poet Dennis Glover and attempts to suggest what may happen in small towns”. 
– Eric Biddington

Geraldine is a small town about 80 miles south of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. It has many charms and these days is on the tourist route, noted for its green and pleasant vistas. Biddington, however, holds very mixed feelings about the place, and attempts to portray a realistic portrait of the town.

The first movement attempts to encapsulate the small-town elegance of Geraldine, with a sonata form movement that draws on the styles of Vivaldi and Mozart, although occasionally it hints at the kind of key shifts found in Dvorak’s music. Two contrasting slow movements (interludes) follow. The first contains some of his most poetic and beautiful music, with a Tchaikovskian theme on the bassoon and string accompaniments hinting at Sibelius. This movement is followed by a very short evocation of dawn, the music suggesting hope in its short oration. The last movement has something of the ebullience and wit of Charles Ives in its vivid portrayal of the town’s Sports Day, complete with pompous mayor, chaotic races, barking dogs, stalls, and a sports marshal who cannot fully control the mayhem either on or off the sports field.

The next two pieces portray different aspects of Eric Biddington’s affection and admiration of cats.

– Rupert Bond

Anyone who has owned (or been owned by) a cat will relate to this little tone poem about felis catus. The contrary nature of our whiskery friends is epitomised by their habit of wishing to go out at night, followed almost immediately by a similarly earnest desire to return, accompanied by suitable yowls. This ritual is repeated a number of times until the poor human involved is driven to distraction. This is known as “playing sillybuggers.” This piece is an affectionate attempt to depict feline behaviour in all its charming, endearing, sporadic, and outrageous manifestations.

– Rupert Bond

I Death of Straypuss with Fluff, Tutankhamen, Puki and Honey Bunch
“Straypuss was a wanderer who called here for his tucker (minced horsemeat) and he and another cat, Honeybunch, would eat their meals together… he was eventually caught by a dog, was badly injured and put to sleep by the vet in the long grass at our place.” 

– Eric Biddington

The movement is a solemn funeral pavane for Straypuss. There are echoes of the funeral march from Mahler’s First Symphony here. The other cats of the neighbourhood come to pay their respects in their own inimical way. A tam-tam is heard as his soul ascends to cat heaven, and the glockenspiel tolls 9 times, one for every cat life, but the last is a little delayed.

II Creatures of the Night (Unseen but not unheard)
A tone poem depicting the noises and disturbances of an urban landscape at night. Feral cats fighting, mating, and dogs howling. This short movement was largely written by Rupert Bond and inspired by an idea from Eric Biddington.

III Meg and Wilbur
An affectionate celebration in music of the lives and characters of two of Biddington’s favorite furry friends.

– Rupert Bond

Arguably, this is Biddington’s most serious piece to date. It is in two halves, with an angry, agitated, dark, manic, and chromatic first section, with fiendishly difficult horn and trumpet parts. There is an autobiographical background to this work which need not concern the listener, although you can draw your own conclusions to explain the obsessive ticking, and later on the approaching ambulatory sounds in the middle of the work. This builds to a musical crisis which in turn leads to a dramatic reprise of the opening material. The music becomes more hesitant and dies away, but after a moment of silent reflection, a passionate, elegiac section is played by the strings which slowly metamorphoses into a grandiose hymn of affirmation, in the glorious key of C major. This section, in contrast to the first, is full of light, with a horn melody that soars — a slow and affirmative version of earlier melodic material — followed by the woodwind. Finally, trumpets play a chorale against a bell-like background of strings and timpani.

– Rupert Bond

This is Biddington’s tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach. Its inspiration is drawn directly from Bach’s own music, including the Christmas Oratorio, St Matthew Passion, Cantatas, and the Brandenburg Concertos. Listeners can amuse themselves by trying to locate their origin. A decorative filigree of baroquian splendour is spun around these quotations, using a baroque orchestra of strings, flutes, oboes, bassoons, timpani, and three trumpets. An unusual feature of the music is the time signature of five-four: not one that was used very often by Bach.

– Rupert Bond