It’s an old story. Many composers write “for the drawer.” That is, they create music with no expectation of performance. And, for the most part, the drawer is where this music belongs. That’s not the case with Steve Elcock.

Primarily self-taught, Elcock has been quietly writing — and storing away — his music since the late 1960s. He also made electronic realizations of his scores, which eventually made their way to the head of Toccata Classics.

Toccata felt the music was of significant quality to merit recording — and here it is. Working outside the music world, Elcock has developed a distinctively individual style. To my ears, there are similarities with other primarily tonal 20th Century composers, such as Havergal Brian, Robert Simpson, with a trace of Sergei Prokofiev, perhaps.

This recording shows Elcock to be a masterful orchestrator, as well as an imaginative melodist. Symphony No. 3 is a large work (36 minutes) in three movements. The roiling first movement transitions into a sardonic scherzo. The final movement eventually resolves the conflict set in motion by the previous movements, but only just.

Choses renversées par le temps ou la destruction is a dark work for harpsichord and orchestra. A Bach prelude played on the harpsichord is continually interrupted by the ominous sounds of the orchestra. In time the orchestra’s sullen themes take over the work, illustrating the final movement’s title “dernier homme debout” (last man standing).

The final work is the refreshing Festive Overture. It’s one of the few works to enjoy a performance, written for a 1997 festival. The Overture reminded me of Malcolm Arnold’s music with its breezy melodies.

Paul Mann and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra sound great in this recording. Elcock has a fresh musical voice and one that should be heard. I’m glad Toccata made the investment and brought these works out of the drawer.

Steve Elcock: Orchestral Music, Volume One
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Paul Mann, conductor
Toccata Classics, TOCC 0400