National Ballet Orchestra, Pietro Garda
Regis RRC1286 (74’37)
If you are a lover of light music but have never seriously considered listening to ballet music, then this is the disc for you. At a super-budget price, it is chockfull of good tunes. Those of us who are familiar with this genre of music may also find something here that is not already in our CD collections. For me such a piece, with its whooping French horns, is Les Chasseresses (The Huntresses) from the ballet ‘Sylvia’ by the French composer Delibes, that had recently caught my ear on Classic FM.
Baiba Skride (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony & Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
cond. Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Orfeo C 932182A (58’43 & 58’38)
This is a release from the end of last year, which somehow eluded me but is well worth recommending. I cannot do better than quote from the back of the wrapround case that it is “In the grand tradition of the best film music: three great violin concertos – demandingly virtuosic, ravishingly orchestrated, imaginative and immediately accessible and rising above the sterile debate about ‘light’ and ‘serious’ music.”
Boris Giltburg, Piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko
Naxos 8.574151 (73:51)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote five piano concertos and they are among my all-time favourites. Here we have an eminently enjoyable release of the first two played by the much-lauded Russian born (1984) Israeli soloist, ably supported by one of this country’s finest orchestras under its Russian chief conductor.
Following their successful series of recordings of the BBC Northern Dance orchestra, Scottish Variety Orchestra and Midland Radio Orchestra, the N.D.O Project are now pleased to present their latest recording - a double CD of the erstwhile BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra which provided light music several times a week to listeners of the BBC for over thirty years. Having been involved in selecting the tracks, I could be accused of bias when I say that the 56 tracks on this album, all taken from vintage radio programmes such as 'Morning Music' and 'Melody on the Move' probably represent the finest collection of tuneful light music that you are ever likely to encounter on CD.
This is the music with which many of us grew up, good tunes composed by such talented musicians as George Melachrino, Sidney Torch, Peter Yorke, Ron Goodwin and many others. Most of the conductors who fronted this orchestra over the years are represented, in particular their founder conductor David Curry, whose arrangements of Irish traditional tunes became world famous and are included on this CD.
If you are local to Manchester, there is normally 1 copy at Johnny Roadhouse's shop
123 Oxford Road,
Tel 0161 273 1111 to check for stock on all NDO project CDs
BBC Philharmonic, John Wilson
Chandos CHAN 20036 (70.39)
This is another John Wilson winner from the label based in my home town of Colchester. Eric Francis Harrison Coates, composer, conductor and violist born Hucknall (Notts) in 1886, will need little introduction for most devotees of our kind of music. The likes of By The Sleepy Lagoon, The Dam Busters March and Calling All Workers would be recognised throughout the land.
With additional comments by Tony Clayden.
Sinfonia of London / John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5220 (59:17)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, was a child prodigy who had composed a widely performed pantomime at the age of 11 and a piano trio at 12. He seemed set for the career of a respected classical composer in Vienna, where most of his early life was centred.
Stanley Black’s version analysed by Robert Walton
It was back in the mid-1950s as a member of the New Zealand Territorial Armed Forces, I was sent to the Whangaparaoa Peninsular in the north of the North Island for a weekend’s exercise. The Army, not exactly noted for any cultural or refined qualities, surprised everyone with the playing of German composer Paul Lincke’s tune Beautiful Spring over the public address system.
Stanley Black’s version analysed by Robert Walton
It was back in the mid-1950s as a member of the New Zealand Territorial Armed Forces, I was sent to the Whangaparaoa Peninsular in the north of the North Island for a weekend’s exercise. The Army, not exactly noted for any cultural or refined qualities, surprised everyone with the playing of German composer Paul Lincke’s tune Beautiful Spring over the public address system. It perfectly reflected the glorious Saturday morning we awoke to. Mind you, some of the boys weren’t quite as enthusiastic as me. It was the performance and especially the arrangement by the Stanley Black Orchestra, which caught my ear. So military matters were the last thing on my mind.
The opening of this recording reminded me of some of the radio signature tunes heard on the BBC Light Programme in the 1940s and 50s. In fact Stanley Black conducted many of these post WW2 themes even if he didn’t actually arrange all of them himself. Thrilling trumpets act as a sort of attention-grabbing “fanfare”, followed by the melody played by trombones and woodwind. The arrangement really comes alive when the strings suddenly sweep in, buzzing below individual trumpets that come together in a harmonic block like the opening.
Now we are in pure Farnonland as a flute and pizzicato strings continue the tune, answered by muted brass. In my view this sound is the rhythmic kernel of the finest in light orchestral music. David Rose started the ball rolling in America in 1944 with Holiday for Strings, but Robert Farnon took the formula to new heights never surpassed.
Hard to keep the strings away but in this very specialized environment they are fundamental to the style. There is nothing in serious music that sounds anything like this. With brass interjections and the harp demonstrating its ability with two showy swells, unison strings continue to play the tune. Calmer sustained woodwind led to brass surrounded by pizzicato and busy arco strings.
Then a section of rich close harmony strings with the melody. Suddenly we go into four emphatic brass beats that sound like a march coming on, interspersed with a glorious short string passage. But back to the march with a touch of timpani and brought to a final halt by the brass. If by now you’re somewhat out of breath and staggered with how this average tune was transformed.... put the blame on Angela! Morley of course. Well, who else?
On Blue Decca 78 rpm (F.10351)
CHANDOS DIGITAL CHAN 20143 (77min. 20 sec.)
This excellent new release on the CHANDOS label has been created to commemorate the centenary of the Canadian- born virtuoso harmonica player Tommy Reilly [1919-2000].
The Singles Collection 1958-1962
Jasmine 2666 (79:27)
To attain greatness in our kind of music it seems helpful to have a name beginning with the letter ‘M’, like Mantovani, Miller, Melachrino or Mancini. In December 2013, in the final printed edition of the Robert Farnon Society’s magazine, I favourably reviewed a Mancini album on Dutton Vocalion. Incidentally one of about a dozen such reviews – imagine that happening today! So here now is a rare thing, a new release of light orchestral music that would have been commonplace back in the day.