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22 Jun

Butantan

By  Robert Walton
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(Guy Wood)
Analysis of the Melachrino version by
Robert Walton

Occasionally for commercial purposes, a record is released which has absolutely nothing to do with the image or style of the official artist. In the case of Vaughn Monroe, that smooth big band ballad operator, was quite happy to take a back seat while The Maharajah of Magador was sung by Ziggy Talent. It proved to be a million seller, even though the main name on the label was Monroe’s.

Another example of “fooling the listener” in the light orchestral medium was Butantan played by the Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino. While in a same genre there really wasn’t a hint of the famous Melachrino string sound about it. OK then, perhaps slightly! This very un-Melachrino-ish piece of Latin American music in rhumba tempo was released on a 78rpm disc in 1954. Maybe that’s why years later it was often spotted in piles of unwanted second- hand records. Anyway it appealed to me and I felt it was worthy of taking apart for examination. Sometimes the completely unexpected can be irresistible. The first three notes fit perfectly into this Caribbean type title.

Brass and strings provide the momentum in the opening of this composition. Did you notice at the very start, the recording engineer realizes he has a problem? The volume is too low but he quickly pulls it up to match the general level of the piece. Hard to believe this was actually released! And there was also a tempo problem when the orchestra gets too fast for the rhythm section, but eventually it corrects itself. When Butantan is repeated, plunging strings stress in no uncertain terms on the last “tan”. It’s about now one becomes aware of the orchestral Latin duvet surrounding a bed of strings.

The harpsichord begins the next phrase with lots of that forced string sound. Gradually we get back to the start with it getting softer and softer and ending in a very relaxed West Indian way.

By the mid-50s light classical items were becoming a thing of the past. There must have been pressure on Melachrino at EMI to modernize and have more Latin or novelty type things like more popular groups were churning out. Hence the emergence of pieces like Butantan.

“Butantan”
Melachrino Orchestra
“A Glorious Century of Light Music” Guild Records GLCD 5200

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Read 860 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 July 2019 08:27

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