Analysed by Robert Walton
It must be highly unusual for a three minute composition on a 78 rpm disc to actually supply music for each scene like a film soundtrack. I can’t recall such a thing.
In this case the location is Paris (familiar to the composer) when we are picked up by a limousine. One’s mind immediately turns to Gershwin whose reputation for describing big cities is well established as An American in Paris, but the opening sound of Acquaviva is more appropriate (remember New York in a Nutshell?) This is followed by a lush welcoming string passage when we are ushered courteously into a humble café. You may say this is a little over the top, but this is no ordinary restaurant. You can tell by the music and the decor. A haunting Mancini-like waltz greets us as we step down from this classy automobile and enter a warm and friendly establishment.
Now seated at a table, you know you’re in for the ultimate in French cuisine or just a drink, because right on cue the sound of an accordion joins the orchestra. We’re in Paris alright! Made to order music just like the food. Yes, they’ve thought of everything. It’s the kind of café where you can have anything you like, and you won’t get annoyed glances from the staff, even if it’s just a coffee! After more string sounds, solos from the piano, guitar and woodwind provide the perfect atmosphere. Before we know it we’re back to the accordion but not for long because our limo has arrived and awaits us. That was a quick drink! Acquaviva is again on hand to whip us away into the traffic of the French capital’s most famous thoroughfare.
In conclusion a word or two about our esteemed composer, Joseph Francis Kuhn. I have to admit I was totally ignorant of him until a little research put me right. He was an American symphonic composer, arranger and conductor known for his sweeping rhapsodies. The Paris Theatre 0rchestra was one of the many groups connected with the American Miller Company one of which was the 101 Strings. Sadly Kuhn died at the tragically young age of 37 in 1962 from a spinal cord injury. Look out for four of his other works on Guild CDs.
Catch Champs Elysees Café on “Confetti” Guild GLCD 5175
To clear up a matter brought up in this article:
The "Acquaviva piece," "Curtain Time," has engendered much confusion. Firstly, to point out, there were actually two Acquavivas involved - Anthony Acquaviva was the conductor on the recordings that appeared under his name (and he was married to the singer, Joni James, incidentally. There was a brother, Nick Acquaviva, who was a composer, and wrote a few of the selections that appear in these recordings.
However, the bulk of them - and it was not a particularly extensive discography overall, were written by Bob Haymes, who was the son of the singer, Dick Haymes. It includes this selection, "Curtain Time," as well as the very closely similar "Road Show," and the song "That's All," among a number of others.
Those written by Nick Acquaviva would include "New York in a Nutshell," "The Cavalier's Ball," and if I'm not mistaken, "Her Tears," which was extremely beautiful and should not be overlooked.
Terig Tucci, the Argentine band later who was responsible for the fairly well known "La Bamba de Vera Cruz" and "Edelma," makes an appearance in these recordings with his "Holiday in Rio."
I feel constrained to offer all these notes, as those that appear in Reuben Muziker's comprehensive volume are rather scanty and are not altogether correct.
I have just listened to this piece, and my first thought is that except for the middle ballad section, there is simply too much discontinuity in it for my comfort in listening. Bob attempts to justify it by attaching a programme to it, but the musical cohesion simply is not there for me.
The Acquaviva piece that I believe that Bob is really thinking about is "Curtain Time," of which the opening and closing bears a very remote resemblance to its preliminary flourish.
The "Mancini style waltz" referred to lasts for only a few bars, to the point that it might escape the casual listener unnoticed.
As for the ballad itself, I think of a comment that one of my fellow members in my Facebook group "Robert Farnon Appreciation Society" made of another piece, by Clive Richardson, actually; which in that case might be only partially true, but in this case it might be more appropos: "Impossibly generic without any real distinction." In short, I wouldnt' call this a bad piece, but rather, not a terribly interesting one. it must be said that this Joseph Francis Kuhn, based on what I have heard in this piece, was no Robert Farnon, Charles Williams, Peter Yorke or Felton Rapley, each of which had infinitiely more to offer the light music listener than this composer appears to offer.
To sum up, and I have stated this once before, I am simply unable to get excited over every piece that Bob Walton has turned his attention to, but we are all different and we receive different pieces of music in our own individual manner, without any right or wrong to be assumed.
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