American Record Guide

David Ellis was born in Liverpool in 1933 and studied at the Liverpool Institute and Royal Manchester College of Music alongside Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle, and John Ogdon. His music is reserved and fairly tonal, often with long, meditative stretches.

The Vale Royal Suite (2007) was written for an amateur string orchestra; and while it isn’t technically challenging, the writing is intelligent and evocative. The movement titles (‘A Leisurely Morning’, ‘Early Evening at Rest’) are a little cheesy, but the music is superb.

Diversions (1974) and Concert Music (1959) are more serious in mood —though still sunny—and more adventurous in tonality. There’s more polyphony and gentle dissonance. Vale Royal Suite interests me more, but there’s enough personality and humanity in the others to keep my attention most of the time. Celebration, from the 1980s, resembles Hindemith a lot and isn’t as absorbing. Other than being scored for strings, September Threnody bears no resemblance to Penderecki’s famed opus. Ellis composed it in 2011; like Celebration, it’s angular but still has Ellis’s proclivity toward calmness. Solus is a commission from 1973, and it is darker and tauter than the other pieces.

The playing and sound aren’t the final word in polish, but they’re satisfactory. Notes are in English.

—Stephen Estep