The biggest story of the year so far is the news that 'Music by John Barry', a new book in praise of more than forty of his film scores, is close to publication! Sources close to the project tell us that this near 500-page book is the best work so far from the three scribes. OK, technically it's also the first, but you get the idea! You can see more details on this cunningly constructed flyer by the artist, Ruuders. Now, in view of how poorly the previous book, 'Hit and Miss: The Story of The John Barry Seven' sold, it seems highly likely that copies of this new book will be in limited supply. So, do yourself a favour and indicate your interest immediately by contacting the writers via this email link. Details of price and publication date will be sent to you as soon as possible, and anybody who then orders it is *guaranteed* a copy. In fact, if requested, at least one, maybe two of the authors will sign your copy. They might even do so even if you don't request it. :)
Another attractive release from this ever-enterprising label. Probably the main interest for our readers will be a tad under a the third of the disc devoted to the first recording of Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington's 'Twelve Melodies'. These popular songs – including It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing), Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, Mood Indigo and In a Sentimental Mood – have been arranged by the pianist using the original sheet music. So, they are quite different from the classic jazz versions.
CD Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber – Symphonic Suites
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Orchestra/Simon Lee
Here at last is this new release of what for many of us is our kind of music performed by a full orchestra. It has been a while coming as it was announced at the end of August and the release date then put back two months. Nevertheless, well worth waiting for.
Ballet Egyptien (Alexandre Clément Léon Joseph Luigini)
Ronnie Munro And His Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
Do you remember comedian Jimmy Durante at the piano, showing off his apparent familiarity with foreign names in music? It was during his recording of I’m The Guy Who Found The Lost Chord when he said he was playing Mozart’s Minuet, Have a Banana from “Carmen” and whistling the Sextet from the Luiginis, all at the same time! But it immediately alerted me to the composer Luigini, the French conductor, violinist and composer. He is remembered for just one composition Ballet Egyptien - and then only the Finale! And largely responsible for keeping Luigini’s music alive were the popular British music hall and vaudeville act in the middle of last century, Wilson, Keppel and Betty.
Wilson (born Manchester), Keppel (County Cork) and Betty Knox (Kansas). The highlight of their sand dance was a parody of postures from Egyptian tomb paintings and references to Arabic costume, following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Audiences found their routine hilarious. You can still enjoy it on Google.
The quiet tense opening of Ballet Egyptian seems to be setting the scene for a waltz, more like building up to something dramatic. There is certainly a balletic feel to the music, which continues at some length with a pleasant melody keeping the listener guessing when the climax will hit town. Even when you expect it, Luigini craftily holds it back.
At last the sound of an oboe and violin hint that this lively dance associated with this talented trio is about to start. The famous tune suddenly kicks in, courtesy the lower strings, and we’re in a world of soft-shoe shuffle on sand. It’s a gentle rhythmic tune with controlled enthusiasm. It’s best to watch it with WK & B doing their stuff on a video. By the way there’s a slight Irish touch to the dance. This is followed by a little development when the melody speeds up to reach its conclusion.
Incidentally you might be interested in that “lost chord” Durante was on about. Nothing to do with Sullivan’s The Lost Chord of 1877 which was considered as the archetypal Victorian drawing-room ballad.
Perhaps you might like to try and analyse it from Durante’s disc, which you’ll find on Google.
Chamber Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Eusibius Quartet ● Alastair Beatson Piano
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0642 [68:30]
Pre-pandemic I would have been put off reviewing this album by its title but since March 2019, with lockdown and social distancing, most of the new releases have needed to be by small groups or soloists; and with more time to listen my appreciation of these genres has been increased.
Analysed by Robert Walton
I first encountered Hal Mooney’s Orchestra on an MGM 78 of Helen Forrest singing I Wish I didn’t Love You So. Strings and voice dominated this 1947 Frank Loesser song, spoilt slightly by the shrillness which was sometimes a problem with early MGM discs.
Analysed by Robert Walton
I first encountered Hal Mooney’s Orchestra on an MGM 78 of Helen Forrest singing I Wish I didn’t Love You So. Strings and voice dominated this 1947 Frank Loesser song, spoilt slightly by the shrillness which was sometimes a problem with early MGM discs. Mooney was first noticed in the business by two of his swing tunes Swamp Fire and Rigmarole, which played the rounds of the dance bands in the mid-30s. Joining another Hal, (Kemp), Mooney became his arranger-pianist in 1937. After settling in California he scored for Bing Crosby, Haymes, Lee, Starr, Garland, Sinatra and Vaughan.
But to give you a more detailed idea of his ability for string writing, I strongly advise you to take a listen to Gemini. It’s one of the fastest light orchestral pieces I’ve ever heard, but more than that, it’s played with a perfection that only a group of the finest fiddlers could produce. No room for “dead wood” or hangers-on in this recording session! In fact it’s as if they were all chosen from the same symphony orchestra. Hence the outstanding result.
A brilliant solo flute with pizzicato strings introduces this attempt at “breaking” the world record. While muted brass interject, the strings immediately switch to arco in readiness for one of the greatest sprints in musical history. There’s no way any tortoises could violate the start but the rest all leave their blocks together! Woodwind and brass provide the necessary fills.
Then taking a leaf out of the David Rose format, suddenly and very sensibly, the orchestra takes a well-earned break. The brass play three solid chords before the strings resting on their laurels spin a gorgeous slow tune based on the frantic theme, interspersed with the oboe and flute.
We’re soon back up to speed with the main melody but this time the horn and brass echo what the strings have just been playing. It’s a staggering performance of a brilliant arrangement which I doubt could ever be achieved again. A sort of “one off” job you might say. Even the listeners are out of breath, let alone the players. It’s the kind of composition/orchestration that the British were famous for. Clearly the Americans had caught up!
Guild Light Music GLCD 5153. (Gemini is from the 1957 LP “Musical Horoscope”)
When those nice people from Decca, with an eye to business, invited the virtuosic French-American pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet to record his own personal selection for an album celebrating his 60th birthday, they might have shown even more potential sales optimism
Naxos 8.555190 [72’21”]
Our hopes fulfilled: we have not had to wait long for Vol.2 of ‘British Light Music’ and – after Addison – it looks as if the series is going to be in alphabetical order.