The 1930s Revisited

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The 1930s Revisited

1 The Merrymakers – Miniature Overture (Eric Coates)
HMV C 2449 1932
Fancy Dress – Suite (Cecil Armstrong Gibbs)
2 Hurly Burly
3 Dusk
4 Pageantry
Boosey & Hawkes BH 1935 1939
5 Entrance Of The Little Fauns (from the ballet "Cydalise et la chèvre-pied") (Henri Constant Gabriel Pierné, arr. Mouton)
Columbia DX 273 1931
6 Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Jerome Kern, arr. Peter Yorke)
HMV BD 723 1939
7 "Music In The Air" – Selection (Jerome Kern)
There’s A Hill Beyond A Hill, I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star, When The Spring Is In The Air, The Song Is You, I’m So Eager, In Egern On The Tegern See, We Belong Together, One More Dance.
HMV C 2561 1933
8 The Liberators – March (Charles W. Ancliffe)
HMV B 8662 1937
9 Hearts And Flowers (Theodore Moses Tobani, arr. Willoughby)
Columbia DB 690 1931
10 Forest Idyll (Esslinger)
HMV C 2451 1932
11 Windjammer Overture (John Ansell)
Boosey & Hawkes BH 1907 1937
12 Dancing Tambourine (W. C. Polla)
HMV B 5362 1927
13 Swamp Fire (Harold (Hal) Mooney)
Columbia DB 1837 1938
14 Escapada (Sid Phillips)
Decca K 849 1936
15 Knave Of Diamonds (Henry Steele)
Regal Zonophone MR 1240 1934
16 Irving Berlin Waltz Medley (Irving Berlin)
All Alone; Always; What’ll I Do?
Regal Zonophone MR 2089 1936
17 Cupid’s Parade – Fantasy (Rivelli)
Columbia DB 459 1931
18 Court Ball Dances (Hofballtanze) (Jos Lanner)
Parlophone R 1087 1931
19 "Glamorous Night" – Selection (Ivor Novello, arr. Charles Prentice)
Her Majesty Militza, Shine Through My Dreams, Fold Your Wings, When The Gipsy, Far Away In Shanty Town, Glamorous Night, Royal Wedding.
HMV C 2756 1936
20 Fata Morgana (Carl Robrecht)
Bosworth BC 1013 1937
21 Finale – Foxtrot (from "Dance Suite") (Eduard Künneke)
Telefunken E 2494 1938

Record sales during the 1930s suffered a considerable slump due to the worldwide recession, but a few artists and conductors were fortunate in having a sufficiently high profile to assure them a continued presence in recording studios. One such talent was Eric Coates (1886-1957), a successful composer of ballads in the early years of the last century, who gradually devoted all his energies to light music. He was particularly adept at writing catchy melodies that appealed as BBC signature tunes, the most famous being Knightsbridge from "London Suite" (used as the opening and closing music for "In Town Tonight"), By The Sleepy Lagoon ("Desert Island Discs") and Calling All Workers ("Music While You Work"). He often conducted his own music, and this collection opens with him extracting a lively performance of his "Merrymakers Overture" from the London Symphony Orchestra. This was probably one of the early recordings made in the new Abbey Road studios, which opened in November 1931.

Essex born Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960) preferred that people should ignore his first name. At one time he was one of Britain’s most prolific composers, but his work has been largely ignored since his death. Many of his works were songs and, although he titled his "Westmorland" Symphony "No. 3", it is believed by some students that cataloguing confusion over an earlier work means that he actually composed only two symphonies plus a major choral work "Odysseus", first performed in 1946. But he was responsible for a vast number of other compositions, both serious and light, many of them songs. Perhaps his most enduring piece was "Dusk", which comes from a suite called "Fancy Dress" (1934) – three movements (1, 3 & 4) are heard on this CD as abridged for the Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library in 1939. A second movement, "Dance Of The Mummers", was omitted.

Henri Constant Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) was highly regarded in his native Paris, where the Place Gabriel Pierné was named after him. As a young organist he was taught by César Franck and his numerous compositions (often with a religious theme) included operas, symphonic and choral works. His "Entrance Of The Little Fauns" dates from 1923: Jack Payne (on this CD) recorded it in 1931, and its enduring popularity prompted other recordings by the Boston ‘Pops’ and Sidney Torch in the late 1940s.

Jerome David Kern (1885-1945) was one of the select group of great American songwriters of the last century and, unlike some of the others (such as Berlin, Herbert, Romberg etc), he was actually born in the USA – New York City, to be precise. He is represented on this CD with music from two landmark shows. Firstly one of his most famous numbers "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", which was first heard in the 1933 musical "Roberta". The previous year "Music In The Air", boasting a cast of 89, opened on Broadway on 8 November, notching up 342 performances, helped by the big hit "The Song Is You", until it closed on 16 September 1933,

Irishman Charles W. Ancliffe (1880-1952) will forever be associated with Nights Of Gladness, (the Mantovani version on Guild GLCD 5113 does the famous waltz full justice) but he was a military bandmaster as well as a successful composer. He must have felt at home composing the march "The Liberators", perhaps making a pleasant change from the dances and novelty numbers which formed a large part of his output.

If asked to name the most familiar piece of music associated with harrowing scenes in silent films, many people would answer "Hearts And Flowers". Even if they didn’t know the title, they could probably recognise it, but naming the composer would be another matter. Credit for this famous tune belongs to Theodore Moses Tobiani (1855-1933) who also used the pseudonyms Florence Reed, Andrew Herman and Theodore Moses among many others. Although he composed over 550 works, "Hearts And Flowers" is the only one that has endured. In their sensitive version the J.H. Squire Celeste Octet reveals that there is much more to the melody than the few bars usually heard – these days often in comic situations. Tobiani was born in Hamburg, but his family took him from Germany to the USA while he was still a child. He studied the violin and seems to have worked extensively in American theatres in Philadelphia, producing over 4,500 arrangements as well as his own compositions. On the original sheet music of "Hearts and Flowers", the composer was listed as ‘Theo. M. Tobani’.

John Ansell (1874-1948) was at one time assistant conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and he was also frequently employed in London theatres. His Windjammer Overture was just one of his several popular works into which he wove familiar melodies associated with seafarers. He has already been represented on Guild CDs with Plymouth Hoe (GLCD5106) and Overture To An Irish Comedy (GLCD5107).

Carl Robrecht (1888-1961) is still remembered for his pseudo-oriental novelty Samum, even today often performed by brass bands. The Henry Hall version was included on Guild GLCD5106 and this time we feature another of his pieces in similar vein, Fata Morgana, although it has largely been forgotten and lacks the obvious comic appeal of Samum. Nevertheless it deserves to be heard again, and one wonders how many other similar works still await rediscovery. Robrecht appears to have been highly regarded in hotel band circles in Berlin between the wars, and there is reference to him using the pseudonym ‘Robby Reight’.

Eduard Künneke (1885-1953) was already respected in Germany as a composer of operas and operettas (a musical form that has virtually vanished today) with his works being performed in London – one such example was "Love’s Awakening" in 1922 at the Empire Theatre. He visited America in 1925/26 and developed an interest in jazz styles through meeting Paul Whiteman, who did so much to popularise the works of the young George Gershwin. The influences are certainly apparent in his Dance Suite. There is some resemblance to the experience of Eric Coates in England; both composers appear to have been unafraid to incorporate some modern jazz styles into their traditional light music. Today these sounds may appear dated, but this can be attributed to the fact that jazz has always been a developing form of music; what is in-style today, is definitely passé tomorrow. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that Künneke should have been able to conduct an orchestra as prestigious as the Berlin Philharmonic in this recording from 1938, at a time when the history books tell us that the political establishment in Germany did not approve of the influence of American styles in music. The Overture to his Tänzerische Suite (Dance Suite) was included on Guild GLCD5106, which prompted several requests for more from this work. As a result the movement entitled Blues (which succeeds as a stand-alone piece) was featured on GLCD5134. The complete work includes five movements (Intermezzo and Valse contain themes also included in the three others now available on Guild), and this time we close this collection with the exciting Finale – Foxtrot.

So far these notes have concentrated on some of the composers featured in this collection, but many of the orchestras and their conductors deserve their share of the praise for these fine performances.

British bandleader Jack Payne (1899-1969) started appearing on BBC radio in the mid-1920s and in 1928 he became its Director of Dance Music. After four years with the BBC he decided to leave, and concentrated on working on the hotel circuit, in addition to appearing in the film "Say It With Music" named after his signature tune. He made numerous recordings, and became the first British bandleader in late 1939 to perform for the troops in France. He returned to the BBC in 1941, resuming his previously-held position supervising dance music for five years. Later he worked as a disc jockey, and briefly returned to the conductor’s podium in 1958 for an HMV LP of orchestral music. I'm In The Mood For Love from this album is on Guild GLCD 5155.

In the middle years of the 20th century Louis Levy (1893-1957) would have been known to cinemagoers around the world – provided they paid attention to the credits. He was listed as Musical Director on countless British films, and he led a team of fine composers and arrangers that helped to establish film scoring as an important craft in its own right. As head of a music department servicing both Gaumont British and Gainsborough films, Levy was one of the most influential figures in British film music in the 1930s and 1940s. His success in films resulted in major record contracts for HMV, Columbia and Decca, and he became a regular broadcaster. Through the sheer necessity of having to produce so much music, Levy wisely employed several talented arrangers who helped to establish his style, among them Peter Yorke (1902-1966) who later adapted the powerful Levy sound for his own successful post-war concert orchestra.

Marek Weber (1888-1964) was born in the Ukraine, developing his career mainly in Germany, then moving on to London to escape the Nazis, before living briefly in Switzerland then emigrating in 1937 to the USA. A prolific recording artist in the early 1930s, his orchestra tended to specialise in show selections and novelty pieces — The Nightingale’s Morning Greeting on Guild GLCD5106 and Squirrel Dance on GLCD 5116 being two examples. Forest Idyll continues the theme, and the clarity in this 1932 recording is quite remarkable.

‘Clarity’ is also a most appropriate adjective to describe Dancing Tambourine. Strictly speaking, it should be placed in a collection of 1920s recordings, but this novelty number remained very popular throughout the 1930s and was still a favourite in the late 1940s when Morton Gould (1913-1996) arranged it for the symphony-size Robin Hood Dell Orchestra, thereby transforming a relatively minor work into an enduring light orchestral favourite. Gould’s version is on Guild GLCD5102, but the Jack Hylton recording here was made soon after the work was published. Jack Hylton (1892-1965) fronted one of the most successful British Dance Bands, making hit records for HMV and Decca during two decades. Later he became a successful impresario working in the theatre and commercial television. At the time Dancing Tambourine was recorded (16 September 1927) his arranger was Leighton Lucas, and other famous musicians in the band included Jack Jackson, Lew Davis, E.O. Pogson, Billy Ternent and violinists Hugo Rignold and Harry Berly.

Another dance band ‘great’ was Benjamin Baruch Ambrose (1896-1971) – known as Bert Ambrose or, more usually, just Ambrose. He always surrounded himself with the best musicians, and in Sid Phillips (1907-1973) he had not only a top clarinet player, but also a gifted arranger and composer, as evidenced by Escapada.

Knave Of Diamonds features a virtuoso performance by pianist Louis Mordish, but it did not appeal to the writer in the April 1934 issue of The Gramophone. Reviewing Regal Zonophone MR 1240, "Peppering" said: "Rustle Of Spring and Knave of Diamonds is a great disappointment. Sinding’s Rustle of Spring is not suited to a large orchestra of this kind and the pianist in Knave of Diamonds makes his piano sound exactly like a pianola of the worst type. I hereby register my strong disapproval." Maybe "Peppering" needed to change the needle in his soundbox! Those involved must have been most upset: Louis Mordish (1908-1996) was a distinguished cinema organist, pianist, Musical Director and prolific composer. Although he played piano in many different ensembles during his long career, radio listeners in Britain will recall broadcasts by Louis Mordish and his Players for programmes such as "Morning Music" and "Music While You Work". He was also heard regularly on the cinema organ and continued to give occasional recitals until shortly before he died. Russian-born Joseph Muscant (1899-1983) is credited with making the Commodore Grand Orchestra into one of the finest ensembles playing light music at that time. It was formed when the Hammersmith cinema opened on 14 September 1929, and soon became popular throughout Britain thanks to its regular BBC radio broadcasts. In case you are wondering about Rustle Of Spring, it has already been included on Guild GLCD5122.

Our final comments concern Court Ball Dances from 1931 featuring the Orchestra Mascotte. It is worth while listening carefully to this amazing performance because of the number of different instruments heard. Clearly some of the musicians must have been proficient on more than one instrument, but who exactly were they? ‘Orchestra Mascotte’ is a name coined by Parlophone records in Britain, Australia and New Zealand for a talented ensemble originally based in Vienna known as the Wiener Boheme-Orchester. This is the name on the labels of their Odéon 78s issued in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, while in France and Belgium they were called Le Grand Orchestre Bohémien (or Le Grand Orchestre Bohémien de Vienne). In Italy they became Orchestra Tipica Viennese on Odéon and Parlophone, while in Spain and Argentina their assumed identity was Orquesta Los Bohemios Vieneses on Odéon and EMI discs. In the Netherlands their Odéon 78s were credited as Wiener Walzer Orkest, and on the other side of the world in Japan they were released on Maniac and Nihon-Columbia as Vienna Boheme-Orchestra. With such confusion over its name, it is hardly surprising that the conductors were also rather shadowy figures. However there is no doubt that Dajos Bela (1897-1978) and Otto Dobrindt (1886-1963) played important roles, although it seems that the various names used for the original orchestra were possibly later adopted by record companies for other ensembles. Such is the delight – and frustration – of record collecting!

David Ades

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