(Burke; Van Heusen)
Nelson Riddle’s arrangement analysed by Robert Walton

A Debussyian pug-nosed dream starts straight in with a short simmering shimmering vision of a country-dance. Then the strings play a magnificent symphonic-like surge in the whole-tone scale that completely overwhelms me. It might be only an impressionist effect from the main tune of Polka Dots and Moonbeams but the way Riddle scores it, we are almost into Sibelius territory. After recovering from this dramatic opening, things soon settle down as we arrive at a more conventional introduction for an arrangement of this 1940 popular song that was Frank Sinatra’s first hit vocal with Tommy Dorsey. The tension disappears when we drop down to the actual key of the song (F) with the rhythm section playing in a slow foxtrot tempo.

Jimmy Van Heusen’s beautiful melody is tailor made for Riddle as he effortlessly applies his own close harmony style to it. You’ll immediately notice he pays special attention to detail. On bar 3 (“I felt a bump”...) he unexpectedly makes the strings go soft, echoing the first two bars. It’s back to the original volume on bar 5 (“Suddenly I saw”...) then soft again on bars 7 and 8. It’s an extremely subtle effect and works every time. Very few popular arrangers use this classically inspired device. The same pattern is then applied to the next 8 bars.

As the strings continue into the bridge, one doesn’t miss the woodwind or brass at all. Riddle is perfectly happy with strings only. So are we. He was born to write for them. Again he softens the whole thing halfway through. In the final 8 the same moderately loud and soft tones prevail. In a repeat of the bridge the melody is unusually carried by the lower strings. You mightn’t be aware of it but we have just changed key to G.

In the last 8 the listener luxuriates in an abundance of string sounds, but all slotted in perfectly, creating a sound as rich and ravishing as a popular song will allow. Riddle’s constant “loud and soft” routine has never been incorporated so effectively in such a setting. And more than anything else it’s all so incredibly simple: no going off on a tangent. One vital ingredient that needs mentioning though are the brilliant lyrics of Johnny Burke, not least his highly original description of the young man’s potential partner for life referred to so lovingly in the opening gambit. Incidentally listen to the lovely last chord which is a gorgeous Gmaj 9,11+.

Can be heard on
“More Strings in Stereo”
Guild GLCD 5159

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06 Apr

Light Music Matters

Written by

A new 12-part David Mellor-hosted series begins on Saturday 7th April. It is broadcast at 9 p.m. every Saturday evening.

Here's a link to the story:

http://www.classicfm.com/radio/shows-presenters/light-music-masters/

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26 Mar

With a Song in My Heart

Written by

(Rodgers, Hart)
Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

As a child I didn’t really take much notice of André Kostelanetz apart from the name. It was years later I discovered his orchestra at a New Zealand friend’s holiday cottage near Auckland.

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(Rodgers, Hart)
Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

As a child I didn’t really take much notice of André Kostelanetz apart from the name. It was years later I discovered his orchestra at a New Zealand friend’s holiday cottage near Auckland. It was the dawn of the long-playing disc and the “bach” was littered with his albums. So that was when I became aware of so-called commercial “mood” music. For me Kostelanetz was a pioneer of 20th century light music having been one of the first to take the Great American Songbook seriously and arrange it for a large combination.

Russian-born in 1901, Kostelanetz arrived in America in 1922 working temporarily as a singers’ accompanist but it was radio that launched his career with a 65-piece orchestra. His attention to detail of the technology of early recording was legendary. Apart from his arranging skills, the unique Kostelanetz sound was largely created by his choice of microphone positioning, a specially built floor for violins and a carpet for trumpets to absorb their sound so as not to drown the fiddles. I could never understand why the piano often sounded so far away.

So let’s examine one of his most famous recordings used as the signature tune for BBC Radio’s “Family Favourites”. I have always been fascinated by the introductory 13 seconds, which wasn’t included in the theme so let’s start right at the beginning. The humble celesta begins this classic Kostelanetz arrangement accompanied by quiet strings. Then something stirred in the orchestra and before we know it, after a piano and harp glissando, lower strings robustly start the tune whilst the remainder decorate in harmony. After an upward gliss, the brass takes over while unison strings sharply embellish the melody. At last, rich violins get a chance to play the tune followed by a little extension. Then we have a jazzy taster of the Kostelanetz woodwind sound, a ha’peth of harp, seven repeated muted trumpet notes and a short traditional light music intro.

A mellow old-fashioned clarinet solo with singing strings is interrupted by swinging brass and a darting flute. The woodwind continues the tune with pizzicato strings while arco strings finish the phrase. Brass, strings, horn and a solo oboe bring the piece to a close. A lovely violin solo is played, followed by a bluesy end with the strings having the final say.

In conclusion, there’s plenty of evidence that André Kostelanetz must have laid the foundations for Robert Farnon. You’ve only got to listen to a Kostelanetz score to hear for yourself how Farnon was undeniably influenced. He burrowed into the world of Kostelanetz to unearth many of the hidden facets of his music. The celesta alone was a favourite device. Of course the strings in all their various dimensions had perhaps the most enormous effect on Farnon’s psyche. The other André (Previn) considered Farnon’s string writing the finest, but we all knew that, even before Previn confirmed it. However perhaps the most unexpected feature was Kostelanetz’s merging of a dance band within all this symphonic-like framework later developed by Farnon. It’s one aspect we don’t always associate with Kostelanetz. And yet in it’s own way is as distinctive as the strings. Also we mustn’t forget Farnon’s straight woodwind flare clearly derived from the Kostelanetz model. To complete his “training” the brass too must have taught Farnon a thing or two.

One thing they had in common was that they both died on islands. Kostelanetz in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1980 and Farnon at his home on Guernsey in 2005.

Can be heard on the

very first “Golden Age

of Light Music”

Guild GLCD 5101

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18 Mar

Look For A Star

Written by

(Tony Hatch)
Analysed by Robert Walton

I first heard Look For A Star in 1964 when I was a disc jockey (Bob Lee) on Radio Caroline...

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17 Mar

Journey to Mozart

Written by

Daniel Hope (violin) : Zurich Chamber Orchestra
DG 4798376 (69:21)

No apologies for recommending another Mozart release!

This one is an imaginative album from the personable Durban born (1973) English-Irish violinist who is also musical director of the first-rate orchestra, and recently signed a new contract taking him to 2022.

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01 Mar

Benny Anderssohn ● Piano

Written by

Deutsche Grammophon 479 8143

 

I am quite an ABBA fan but had no idea of how fine a pianist Benny Anderssohn is. This is a beautiful 21-track album of songs he wrote mainly with his lyricist Bjőrn Ulvaeus but also solo.

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17 Feb

The Film Scores and Original Orchestral Music of George Martin

Written by

The Berlin Music Ensemble conducted by Craig Leon
Atlas Réalisations ARCD008 (63.00)

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16 Feb

Mozart - Piano Concertos 25 & 27 - Review

Written by

MOZART Piano Concertos 25 & 27
Piotr Anderszewski, Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Warner Classic 9029572422

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16 Feb

Serenade and Divertimentos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 - Review

Written by

LEO WEINER
Chandos CHAN 10959  
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Neeme Jarvi.

Serenade and Divertimentos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

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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.