07 Nov

A Song for Christmas

Written by

Mantovani and his Orchestra
Eloquence 4840268

Your reviewer was surprised and delighted to find this release listed by the enterprising Australian classical label. It contains the two best albums of Christmas music ever recorded by a non-American light orchestra.

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03 Nov

North by Northwest

Written by

(Bernard Herrmann)
Main Title analysed by Robert Walton

One of the most memorable tension-ridden moments in cinema history has got to be the nail-biting sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when Cary Grant was chased by a crop-dusting aeroplane on prairie wasteland. There was no music during this segment and apart from sudden spurts of sound from the aeroplane, silence reigned. If you’ve never seen the film I urge you to...

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NORTH BY NORTHWEST
(Bernard Herrmann)
Main Title analysed by Robert Walton

One of the most memorable tension-ridden moments in cinema history has got to be the nail-biting sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when Cary Grant was chased by a crop-dusting aeroplane on prairie wasteland. There was no music during this segment and apart from sudden spurts of sound from the aeroplane, silence reigned. If you’ve never seen the film I urge you to.

However it’s the opening of the film I’d like to concentrate on. Although originally Spanish (there is a school of thought that says it’s of South American origin), the “fandango” became one of the main dances of Portugal in alternating 3/4 and 6/8 time, danced to the accompaniment of singing, castanets and guitar. Originating in the 18th century, it’s similar in rhythm to the bolero but different in style as it is designed to be danced. Basically it’s an exuberant courtship dance of Moorish origin and survives to this day as a folk dance in Spain, Portugal, southern France and Latin America. The fandango was first used by Gluck in his ballet Don Juan (1761), then by Mozart in The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Rimsky-Korsakov in his Caprice Espagnol (1887).

In my view, the fandango was never used to such great effect as in the opening of the 1959 film North by Northwest. The main title music is a ‘kaleidoscopic orchestral fandango designed to kick-start the exciting routine’. Saul Bass’ opening design intersecting horizontal and oblique lines, melts into a Washington cityscape with a ‘crazy dance about to take place between Cary Grant and the world’. Bernard Herrmann employs it for no other reason, than its propulsive rhythm, reminding one of Fred Astaire. The movie is sometimes called a comedy-thriller with reference perhaps to the springy rhythm and harsh brilliance of the orchestral sonority.

The dance is a recurrent musical symbol continuing behind Grant’s crazy-drunk drive along the cliff edge and ending up in a three-car pile-up. Then we hear a crestfallen, grotesquely scored version of the dance, especially at the time of Townsend’s assassination.

The most elaborately choreographed scene is the pursuit and the fight to the death on top of the National Monument on Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. At this point the dance assumes an appropriately black-veiled character in the scoring, but as the pace quickens it energizes the ending in its brazen and glittering main title guise. When Grant is first shown Eva Marie Saint’s table in the train’s restaurant car, “lift” music in piped form is being played. Gradually though it reverts to Herrmann’s background score with a telling clarinet solo. But we mustn’t forget another burst of dance, which completes the picture as the train carrying Grant and Saint disappears into the tunnel.

The fandango will never be quite the same again!

Original Motion Picture Scores
Brandenburgische Philharmonie Potsdam
Capriccio 10 469

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19 Oct

Renaud Capuçon : Cinema

Written by

Renaud Capuçon (violin) ● Brussels Philharmonic,
Stėphane Denève
Erato 190295633936 (76:17)

Having already established that nowadays new recordings of ’our kind of music’ are almost as rare as the proverbial hens’ teeth, it makes this album all the more welcome.

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26 Sep

Ciao, Ciao Bambina (Modugno)

Written by

Percy Faith arrangement analysed
by Robert Walton

Back in 1963 somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, I was the pianist on the Greek liner Lakonia with a quartet consisting of Norman Coker (leader and drummer), David Williams (double bass) and Mike Elliott (tenor saxophone). He was constantly extolling the virtues of the great jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (which he pronounced “Coil-marn Harkins”).

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Percy Faith arrangement analysed
by Robert Walton

Back in 1963 somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, I was the pianist on the Greek liner Lakonia with a quartet consisting of Norman Coker (leader and drummer), David Williams (double bass) and Mike Elliott (tenor saxophone). He was constantly extolling the virtues of the great jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (which he pronounced “Coil-marn Harkins”).

Norman came from West Africa, David from Trinidad and Mike from Jamaica. Four years later Mike was a member of the million selling rhythm-and-blues octet The Foundations. One of the pieces we played on the cruise was Ciao, Ciao Bambina (Piove) that I immediately took to. It was Domenico Modugno’s follow-up to his first big hit Volare. To this day I love it. Somehow it had passed me by when first released. Years later I discovered the Percy Faith version, so hence this analysis.

There’s no doubt Percy Faith is a master of the simple arrangement, which a brief 4 bar intro shows all too clearly. A series of hushed triplets lead smoothly into this relaxed Italian-type foxtrot and continues under the melody. A glockenspiel adds its colours to the now warm close-harmony strings, by which time you’re completely caught up in the dream-like atmosphere. This is then repeated.

Then the strings strike skywards building up to, or to be exact leading down to the next section, which is not the bridge. Why? Because there isn’t one! The violins now in their element sing out with the lower strings supporting from beneath. They continue (minus lower strings) with piano decorations. After an obvious pause, the lower strings take over the tune. The violins supported by the rest of the orchestra, then bring this delightful ditty via some pretty chords and harp help to a positive end with an unexpectedly gentle detached bump.

This is one of the simplest arrangements I know but craftsman Faith handles it as no one else could, giving the song the ultimate treatment. He always does full justice to the tune he’s working on. Whatever it requires he gives it just the right amount - nothing more and nothing less. He never employed effects just for the sake of them. Percy Faith is a restrained decorator and before he even puts pencil to paper he knows exactly how it will sound, always with the listener in mind. As ever he is conducting the very best musicians.

In the 1950s Percy Faith had a special affinity with Latin American rhythms which proved very popular, but when I was announcing on Radio 390, his 1960s albums of some of the finest standards were also given a great deal of airplay.

“Ciao, Ciao Bambina” Percy Faith
Golden Age of Light Music Guild (GLCD 5218)

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13 Sep

The MGM Sound & Hollywood Melodies

Written by

The Conrad Salinger Orchestra
Georgie Stoll conducts the MGM Studio Orchestra
Sepia 1333 (73:32)

Congratulations to Sepia’s Richard Tay for giving us a rarity these days: a release very much “our kind of music’’, which – up to its sad demise almost five years ago – would have been one of many similar releases reviewed in the Robert Farnon Society’s printed Journal Into Melody.

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02 Sep

Bernstein - Broadway to Hollywood

Written by

Candide – Overture On The Waterfront – Symphonic Suite Fancy Free – complete ballet
West Side Story – Symphonic Dances On The Town –Two Dance Episodes.
Hanover Philharmonie – conductor Iain Sutherland.

SOMM ARIADNE 5002

Possessed of a prodigious talent, Leonard Bernstein arguably became one of the most significant – and indeed famous – American musical figures of the mid/late twentieth century...

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01 Sep

Joly Braga Santos

Written by

Joly Braga Santos - Orchestral MusicOrchestral Music Naxos 8.573903 Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Alvaro Cassuto. Symphonic Overtures 1 & 2; Pastoral; Romance; Symphonic Prelude; Intermezzo; Viver ou Morrer Prelude; Piano Concerto. Imagine a delicious cross between...

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01 Sep

British Light Music at the British Home

Written by

On Sunday 24th February 2019 the Mark FitzGerald Orchestra is holding its annual fundraising concert in aid of the British Home.

Venue:
Concert Hall,
The British Home,
Crown Lane
London SW16 3JB

Time: 3.00pm

Tickets: £7.00 [Concessions £5.00] to include tea and coffee.

Booking: 020-8670 8261 or www.britishhome.org.uk Seating is limited- early booking is advised.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.