05 Dec

Cocktails for Two

Written by

(Johnston, Coslow)
Robert Farnon’s arrangement analysed by Robert Walton

The period of the early 1950s when Decca recorded a series of LPs by Robert Farnon’s Orchestra playing some of the top standards of the “Great American Songbook” is now considered more than ever in the 21st century a genuine Golden Era of arranging.

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(Johnston, Coslow)
Robert Farnon’s arrangement analysed by Robert Walton

The period of the early 1950s when Decca recorded a series of LPs by Robert Farnon’s Orchestra playing some of the top standards of the “Great American Songbook” is now considered more than ever in the 21st century a genuine Golden Era of arranging. Paul Weston was the first to make mood music albums but Farnon took it to another level. Music lovers and professionals alike were astounded by Farnon’s total originality when he borrowed freely from his own compositional idiom, as well as creating something completely unique. But it was much more than that. It was as if he had been waiting for the right moment to introduce his style to an unsuspecting world. Everyone else’s arrangements suddenly seemed sort of average. His gift for giving these songs a new freshness and feeling transformed them into undeniable masterpieces.

I first heard Cocktails for Two in 1946 sent up by Spike Jones and his City Slickers with vocalist Carl Grayson, although it was introduced by another Carl, Carl Brisson in the 1934 film “Murder at the Vanities”. It was also part of the repertoire of cocktail pianist Carmen Cavallaro. Like Carmen I have always preferred the tune in a Latin American tempo. However the original dotted rhythm as in the sheet music sounds perfectly fine in Farnon’s foxtrot arrangement.

So come with me to revisit an old friend, or if you’ve never heard it, allow me to be your guide while we explore the wonders and unexpected pleasures of a Farnon score. It may not be the greatest standard but after Farnon has worked on it, Cocktails for Two was converted into something really special. Duke Ellington tried to give it a face-lift as Ebony Rhapsody but the best he could manage was a jazzed-up version of Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody.

The introduction of Cocktails for Two is a gem of an orchestral flight of Farnon fancy inspired by squeezing every ounce of emotion out of the melody and leading to a beautiful climax. In just a few short bars we have been transported to another world. Did you hear the tiniest touch of a violin before entering “some secluded rendezvous?” The flute first takes up the actual tune with excellent support from the orchestra and rhythm guitar. Then the oboe solos for four bars before handing back to the flute. The first 16 bars are surprisingly straight; always a sign that Farnon has something up his sleeve but is not prepared to give up its secrets just yet.

Still comparatively straight, the bridge is occupied by a tight, lightly swinging, close harmony muted brass choir with unison lower strings and celeste. When the tune resumes, the oboe is brought in again and for the first time something stirred in the Farnon universe. Underneath, the clarinet plays a slightly discordant series of notes but even more daring is the next chord change, B flat 9,11+ (actual notes B flat, A flat, C and E). He always knows just how far he can go in “clever clever” land.

Time for a second swell. The orchestra expands its horizons into some lovely key changes with a gorgeous surge of string power terminating in a flutter of woodwind. Returning to the middle eight, this time it’s the woodwind in block harmony supported by a string descant climbing into harmonics territory. Lazy lush strings in harmony take over the tune and in a more subservient role the oboe chatters away.

Quite suddenly you get the feeling that the end is nigh as the strings begin to slow down for the woodwind who recall the opening melodic phrase. And adding icing to the cake, a tender violin repeats the same set of notes.

Cocktails for Two from
“Two Cigarettes in the Dark”
Vocalion (CDLK 4112)

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30 Nov

André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra Amore

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The charismatic Dutchman and his beloved orchestra founded 30 years ago are nowadays the nearest we get to new recordings of “our kind of music”...

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25 Nov

Bramwell Tovey new Principal Conductor BBC Concert Orchestra

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The BBC Concert Orchestra has just appointed Bramwell Tovey as its new Principal Conductor.

This is very encouraging news as he has an established reputation for his performances of Gilbert & Sullivan.

His Friday Night Is Music Night debut next week (already "in the can") includes G & S songs plus selections from the works of Franz Lehar and Richard Heuberger, sung by the excellent Ailish Tynan and Simon Betteris.

The show is entitled "Winter Wonderland" so also takes in Rimsky Korsakov's "The Snow Maiden", Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker", Waldteufel's "Skaters Waltz" and Maurice Jarre's "Doctor Zhivago". Should be a delightful programme, in the old FNIMN style, and presented by Ken Bruce.

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21 Nov

In Dulce Jubilo - London Brass

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Warner Classics 9029577021 (57.42)

Reviewed by Peter Burt

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21 Nov

Christmas With The King's Singers

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Warner Classics 9029576809 (58:13)

Reviewed by Peter Burt

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15 Nov

Tony Clayden receives Good Music Certificate from Evergreen Magazine

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Evergreen Magazine has just awarded its Good Music Certificate to the Co-Ordinator of the London Light Music Meetings Group, Tony Clayden.

The first joint recipients of this honour were the late David Ades and Alan Bunting, who did so much to keep Light Music alive.

Sadly, both men died relatively soon afterwards, and Alan’s family were left with a huge collection of recorded material, including CDs and on vinyl.

Alan had painstakingly digitally remastered much of the latter over a number of years for reissue on several different labels, including the highly–acclaimed Guild series.

Not only did Londoner Tony ‘gallop to the rescue’ by purchasing and retrieving them all from Alan’s home in Scotland, but he had already established the LLMMG – which had come into being after the Robert Farnon Society, led for many years by David Ades – ceased operations at the end of 2013.

The new group, which holds meetings twice-yearly in Central London, has recently held its eighth event. With its links to a number of other music websites and organisations, including the Light Music Society, it continues to promote the genre and helps to avoid the potential disappearance of probably thousands of once–familiar tunes.

A semi-retired recording and sound engineer, Tony is one of a small band of dedicated enthusiasts who recognise the value and worth of Light Music and he has amassed many musical contacts and friends during a long, interesting and varied career.

Tony, we thank you for filling a huge musical void and wish you well, as you continue to make historic and tuneful melodies available to the general public.

Angeline Wilcox, Editor
EVERGREEN MAGAZINE
WINTER EDITION
NOVEMBER 2017

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08 Nov

Silver Voice: Opera Arias Played by Flute and Orchestra

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By Peter Burt
Katherine Bryan; Orchestra of Opera North / Bramwell Tovey
Chandos 5211 (65:07)

Katherine Bryan was educated at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester and became principal flute of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2003, a position to which she was appointed at the age of 21.

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06 Nov

Cornish Rhapsody

Written by

(Hubert Bath)
Analysed by Robert Walton

In the 1940s there was an outpouring of potted pieces for piano and orchestra written specifically for British films. These include The Dream of Olwen (Charles Williams) from “While I Live”, The Legend of the Glass Mountain (Nino Rota) from “The Glass Mountain” and just for a change the real Rachmaninov for “Brief Encounter” borrowed from the Second Piano Concerto. It was Steve Race who cleverly coined the phrase “the Denham Concertos” after the film studio that often featured such works on their soundtracks.

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(Hubert Bath)
Analysed by Robert Walton

In the 1940s there was an outpouring of potted pieces for piano and orchestra written specifically for British films. These include The Dream of Olwen (Charles Williams) from “While I Live”, The Legend of the Glass Mountain (Nino Rota) from “The Glass Mountain” and just for a change the real Rachmaninov for “Brief Encounter” borrowed from the Second Piano Concerto. It was Steve Race who cleverly coined the phrase “the Denham Concertos” after the film studio that often featured such works on their soundtracks.

But there were three really outstanding Rachmaninov-inspired works for piano and orchestra, two from movie soundtracks. The most popular was Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto from the 1941 film “Dangerous Moonlight”. Then there was Clive Richardson’s independent composition London Fantasia (1945), a brilliant depiction of the Battle of Britain. The third, Hubert Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody from the film “Love Story” (1944) was another World War 2 composition that caught the public’s imagination mostly because of the music. It’s the story of a concert pianist, played by Margaret Lockwood, who learning she had an incurable illness, moved to Cornwall.

Apart from the title Cornish Rhapsody that gives away its location, two other connections with the piece have a distinct English west country association. The composer’s surname reminds you of the famous Roman city but his birthplace was actually Barnstaple in neighbouring Devon.

The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer with pianist Harriet Cohen goes straight into the main tune. Then everything changes with sudden dramatic chords followed by a rippling run from Cohen who continues the theme. Back comes the orchestra until a solo violin produces a brief tender moment supported by an oboe, horn, and sustained double basses.

Now Cohen sensitively plays the melody on her own; the first time we hear it clearly. After the orchestra creeps in, she acts as decorator until a distinct break occurs. Heading for the heights, she goes into solo mode including some bird-like chirps in the treble (Messiaen would have approved). Then she gets heavy-handed working up a bit of a lather before quietly welcoming the orchestra back with some gentle highly technical pianistics. Thunderous percussion precedes the orchestra that spells out the tune in the strongest of terms. Cohen again joins up with some thrilling playing for some musical tennis, tossing the tune around with the orchestra. From there it’s all go to the end, building up to a colossal climax and giving the glorious main melody its final outing with soloist and orchestra coming together for a magnificent finale. That performance is guaranteed to make any audience applaud rapturously.

And that’s exactly the feeling I used to get each time I heard Cornish Rhapsody all those years ago. For me it was the best of the film piano and orchestra compositions probably because it was a simple tune yet at the same time so dramatic.

“The Composer Conducts” (Vol. 2)
“The Golden Age of Light Music”
Guild (GLCD 5178)

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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.