Analysed by Robert Walton
Bronislaw Kaper had much in common with Victor Young. Firstly they were both Polish, could turn their hand to any sort of music, composed many film scores and as songwriters wrote some important popular standards. Three of Young’s were Stella by Starlight, My Foolish Heart and When I Fall in Love , while Kaper’s two major contributions were On Green Dolphin Street and Invitation.
Kaper was also capable of occasionally coming up with what can only be described as a pure light orchestral gem. The 1956 movie “Forever Darling” produced exactly that - Confetti . In fact it bore an uncanny resemblance to the British mood music model of the 1940s and 50s especially that of Robert Farnon. Did Kaper quite independently conceive this composition or was he directly influenced by what was happening across the pond? Judging by his songs, Kaper was more jazz orientated than most of the veteran Hollywood composers so would have had no problem with something bop influenced. In England, the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra gave definitive performances of this kind of material but the nearest thing in America just had to be the MGM Studio Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green which recorded Confetti . (Incidentally it was played by the John Wilson Orchestra at the 2013 BBC Proms as part of “Hollywood Rhapsody”).
Time now to follow the paper trail of Confetti , and discover what, if anything, we can learn from it. For starters the $64,000 question is who arranged Confetti? Was it Conrad Salinger? The percussion section was an integral part of the orchestration playing a vital role in the soundtrack of “Forever Darling” featuring tubular bells and snare drums.
The thrilling opening clearly has ‘Hollywood’ written all over it, sounding very much like title music. For a moment it could have almost been the start of Starlight Roof Waltz by the Melachrino Orchestra. All through the drum driven military style introduction we get constant hints of what is to come. By the time the melody starts, we’ve got the general idea. It’s like eager racehorses behind the starting gate that can’t wait to get away. Shortly after we’re up and running, the Farnon influence kicks in with the first of two bursts of exciting woodwind. We have lift off! They might be fiendishly difficult but the MGM players take it all in their stride. Then the answering phrase goes into the soaring string sound of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra with three jazzy discords of American brashness before returning to the jagged tune.
And before you can say ‘David Rose’ we’re into the kind of bridge dreamt up by the London born maestro. The strings, supported by a brilliant brass section, having gone up a gear, are now ‘singing’ their hearts out. Then the brass showing you what they’re made of go soli with the ever energetic woodwind.
Just like the beginning, the orchestra gives us as much time as we need to prepare for the thrilling final chorus. Then after those soaring strings reappear for the last time, we find ourselves in the coda where the orchestra employs all sorts of delaying tactics like toying with the tune and guiding us gradually towards a show stopping last chord reminiscent of Alcan Highway .
The building blocks of Confetti have come a long circuitous route from Los Angeles (David Rose) via London (Robert Farnon) and finally coming home to Hollywood and Bronislaw Kaper. To acknowledge a multinational musical marriage created by an American, a Canadian and a Pole, let’s celebrate this meeting of minds with those tiny pieces of paper of various shapes and colours!
The MGM recording of Confetti is available on the Guild CD of the same name (GLCD 5175)[See also this page ]
It is always very interesting to compare impressions of a piece, especially when it is a first hearing, such as it was for myself. And in the final analysis, what counts at least for me is the overall impression said piece leaves, regardless of any musicological factors.
That said, I will first say that Bronislaw Kaper and Victor Young did share certain things in common; both were of Polish origin, both did contribute musical scores for many films and both enjoyed some success with popular songs that they created, whether extracted from these musical scores or conceived independently.
There, however, I feel that their similarities end, as their individual styles were quite different. Victor Young's style in general was far more sweet and mellifluous, far more soothing to the listener, whereas that of Bronislaw Kaper tended to be more restless, harmonically more experimental, reminding me in fact more of Bruce Campbell ("Cloudland," "Main Line," "Adrift," and several others) than of Robert Farnon. In addition, Victor Young created a number of exemplary light music selections which are totally independent (as far as I know) of any cinematic origins, such as "Twilight Nocturne," "Stringin' Along," "Overnight", "Travelin' Light," "Bright Lights," etc. I know of few such by Bonislaw Kaper, although this is not to say that there is a lack of such, but his individual manner it would appear did not turn in such a direction. It could also be confidently assumed that their arrangements of songs not penned by themselves would have differed widely in manner.
Listening to this selection, I was reminded of the typical British light music selection. written somewhat generically according to usual formula by one of the lesser lights of this genre, overlaid with an excess of rhythm instruments that partially clouded the picture for me. There was an occasional turn toward a more adventurous harmonic manner which brought Bruce Campbell to mind for me.
This simply demonstrates that we all hear a musical selection in quite our own manner, assuming a degree of listening experience which I will always assume, and I will additionally assume that my impressions and those of Mr. Walton's should be considered to have equal validity, as of necessity, our respective listening proclivities will differ from one another.