CD Review – Love Songs
Angela Hewitt piano
Hyperion CDA68341 [75’57]
We are constantly being encouraged to meditate during – and beyond – these still uncertain times. Researched, put together and recorded during lockdown, this album with its musical declarations of love across the centuries would be an ideal accompaniment to any such activity.
Recorded in August 2020, this is another non-orchestral release possibly brought about by the Covid lockdown – and another successful foray into our kind of music for the enterprising award-winning Somm label.
It is with profound sadness that we record the death of Vernon Anderson, who peacefully passed away on June 15th, after a period of ill health borne with great courage and dignity.
A native of Benfleet, Essex, Vernon was educated at Bearwood Royal Navy School in Berkshire and saw military service with the RAF, being stationed in the (then) British colony of Aden (now Yemen). Returning to Benfleet, he became a member of the Barking Choral Society, where he met his future wife Beryl and they married in 1971. Sadly, Beryl passed away in 2005, after having been cared for by Vernon during her terminal illness.
During the 1980s and 1990s, he worked as an Architectural Technician for the London Borough of Newham, but took early retirement. He then volunteered as a care assistant with the Alzheimer's Society and eventually became employed by that organisation.
Vernon had been a stalwart member of the Robert Farnon Society, attending almost every meeting for many years, and regularly presenting as well. He enjoyed, and had a wide knowledge of, many different musical genres, including of course Light Music, particularly that of Robert Farnon and his contemporaries. One of his great 'loves' was jazz piano and he often championed the brilliant playing of the very talented Scottish pianist Bill McGuffie.
I was always very appreciative of Vernon's assistance at RFS events, for he frequently helped me to dismantle, pack away and load the Audio-Visual equipment into my vehicle at the end of each afternoon's programme. It gave us a good opportunity to talk about music – and architecture, another of our mutual interests.
Although more recently he was no longer able to attend the London meetings at the Lancaster Hall Hotel, we kept in intermittent touch by telephone. I visited him during the summer of 2020 at his home near Ilford, just before he relocated to assisted living accommodation in Basildon. He was later hospitalised, before ultimately being moved into a nearby high-dependency nursing home, in March 2021.
Vernon was a thorough gentleman – and indeed a very gentle man. It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to know him and he will be greatly missed. On behalf of all former RFS members and LLMMG attendees, our sincere condolences are extended to his daughters Lynda and Claire and his son Keith – who, back in the 90s, also supported the Robert Farnon Society meetings at the Bonnington Hotel.
© Tony Clayden June 2021
To those who have already come across her, Bomsori Kim is recognized as one of today's most dynamic and exciting violinists. She won prizes at ten international violin competitions during the 2010s, and is a superstar in her homeland of South Korea. She was given her distinctive first name by her grandfather – it translates literally as 'sound of spring', although she was actually born in December 1989.
Magical Memories for Trumpet and Organ
Lawo Classics LWC1216 [67:50]
'This is the third album by a trio of female trumpet players – Alison Balsom and Lucienne Renaudin Vary being the others – I have had the pleasure of reviewing here. Tine Thing Helseth (born 1987) is a Norwegian soloist, who has been the recipient of critical praise across six continents and numerous awards for her musical work.
Philharmonic Concert Orchestra / Iain Sutherland
SOMM ARIADNE 5012 [78’25”]
My review of the last album by these artistes* finished with "… let us hope that Iain might have some more similar tapes in his archive", and here we are: 19 tracks recorded in Munich (June 1988) and Hanover (December 1992). Few conductors are as accomplished as the veteran Scot in the lighter orchestral music on this release.
This is a critically acclaimed album of five impeccably played pieces by a pair of princes of the piano. They are long-playing duo partners: Paul Lewis (born 1972) is from Liverpool and a recipient of a CBE for services to music, and Steven Osborne (born 1971) is Scottish and a celebrated performer of Gallic music with 29 Hyperion releases in 21 years to his credit.
By Robert Walton
It may seem obvious but the best test for a voice, first and foremost, is the sound it produces. Nothing else. If you love the resonance a vocalist can produce, a load of gobbledygook will tell you more about the artist than all the phrasing and lyrics a wordsmith can conjure up.
Sinfonia of London | John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5263 [56’23”]
On setting out to review this release I thought it might only be of interest to those who are admirers of John Wilson and his magnificent orchestra. Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013), although I recognised the name, his music was completely unfamiliar to me. It is a small body of work including ballet, two symphonies, chamber, incidental and film music (this last qualifying him for inclusion here).
Analysed by Robert Walton
Most folk songs are the work of unknown composers or instrumentalists but because they are part of our ancient heritage many names which existed are now long forgotten.
The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Vital Julian Frey
DGG 483 8232 (82’00”)
From the master of melody comes this release featuring the long-serving principal/joint principal oboist of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Art Deco Trio
SOMMECD 0631 (71’00’)
This is an entertaining release of 19 songs by the foremost ‘cross-over’ composer, the great George Gershwin, arranged for clarinet, saxophone and piano, which (to quote the well-informed booklet notes) “combine jazz influences with the structures and textures of classical music”, and well worth investigating by light music lovers.
Onyx Brass ǀ John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5284 (67’25”)
If you are a brass enthusiast, you will enjoy this latest release from a brilliant ensemble; if you are interested in chamber music – admittedly less likely – it will appeal to you; and if you are both of the above and also among the many admirers of John Wilson, who conducts on the three longest tracks (32’48”), then acquiring this is a no-brainer.
(Ellington & Parish)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed By Robert Walton
When I first noticed the names of Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington, Sidney Torch, Charles Williams and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra all together on a record, I thought I must have been seeing things!
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.
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Chandos CHAN 20151 (78:40)
The estimable Estonian ensemble under its fellow countryman and former MD, the highly regarded veteran maestro Neeme Järvi (described by his record company as “legendary”), bring us another enjoyable classical-lite Chandos collection...
Readers may recall that, a while ago, I wrote a review of a 2-CD set issued by The NDO Project, which included a short history of the latter, and featured the BBC Midland Light and Midland Radio Orchestras.
Vienna Philharmonic ǀ Riccardo Muti
Sony (2 CD) 19439840162 (1:44:0) ; DVD 19439840179
(also on Blue-ray & 3 Vinyl)
This annual event in its 82nd year was a much different occasion than normal with the concert being performed to an empty Golden Hall of the Wiener Musikverein due to Covid-19.
Solo Piano Arrangements Of Light Music Classics, Performed By Paul Guinery.
Twenty-two tracks by – inter-alia – Geoffrey Toye , Jack Strachey Richard Addinsell, Haydn Wood, Vivian Ellis, Billy Mayerl, Madeleine Dring, Eric Coates, etc. Total playing time 78 min. 31 sec.
EM RECORDS – EMR CD 064
The name Paul Guinery might possibly 'ring a bell' to those who may recognise him as a staff announcer on BBC Radio Three and also the World Service; he still appears on-air from time-to-time as a freelance radio newsreader.
Chandos CHSA5264 (TT 64:46)
The strings of the superb Sinfonia of London, with Andrew Haveron as leader, are given a chance to shine on this, the award-winning ensemble’s fourth John Wilson conducted orchestral release on this label.
Perhaps not exactly light music as many understand it, but the following could be of interest.
While theatres remain closed to the public due to coronavirus restrictions the programmes will broadcast hit songs and performances from the world of musical theatre.
BBC Radio 2 will host three days of programming about musicals, while further shows will be broadcast on BBC One, BBC Four and iPlayer.
Radio 2 presenter and West End star Elaine Paige said: “Musicals are such a huge part of my life – as they are for so many of my friends and colleagues – so to be unable to perform or go to the theatre for most of last year was devastating to us all. Radio 2 Celebrates Musicals is a way for us all to come together, to be uplifted and sing out loud to the world’s best show tunes.”
Radio 2 Celebrates Musicals will run from January 29-31. The series of programmes will end on January 31 with a special show hosted by Sheridan Smith from the London Palladium. Smith said: “With so many amazing performers we’re going to hopefully bring some joy to all those at home, with the best songs to help lift the spirits in these very difficult times.” The programme will also be shown on BBC One in February.
Helen Thomas, head of Radio 2, said: “2020 left a gaping hole in the lives of musical theatre lovers with the shows being closed due to the pandemic.” She added: “I truly hope our programming will help to lift the spirits and capture the joy and elation that only these wonderful songs and performers can bring.”
image: Elaine Paige (Ian West/PA)
Capitol 602435318059 (59:43)
Here is another with a big difference: the vocals are also newly recorded in the USA by the 80-year-old singer, whose distinctive voice that can bring a tear to the eye is still strong. The orchestra is Sir Simon Rattle’s premier band, the 70-piece LSO, conducted by William Ross and recorded in January 2020 at the famous Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood.
By Robert Walton
Rawtenstall is the largest town at the centre of the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, England. With a population of 22,000, it’s situated 15 miles north of Manchester in the ancient Forest of Rossendale.
Whenever I saw genial Rawtenstall-born Ernest at the Robert Farnon Society meetings, he always gave the impression of being a country person...
Warner Classics 9029521413 (77’)
This is an album that had escaped my notice until now. Unless you are into downloads or still have a local record shop, it may be too late for Christmas listening but will provide ear balm for continuing troubled times in the New Year, albeit hopefully less troubled than when the disc was released in early November.
Mozart Records MR 31206
Following my review of the recent Peter Hope double CD set 'Through The Crystal', Steve Daniels, of Mozart Edition UK, kindly sent me a copy of this earlier CD, which was issued in 2007.
Wayne Marshall piano
Decca 28948 55333 (50:21)
John Rutter (born 1945) is a very prolific composer of mainly sacred choral works, many associated with Christmas. He has made umpteen recordings (Discogs lists 97) either as composer, conductor, arranger or producer.
Sommernachts Konzert 2020
Summer Night Concert
Valery Gergiev / Jonas Kaufmann
Sony 194397196221 (77:06)
Reckoned to be the world’s biggest annual open-air concert, the elite Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra aims for a summer occasion to match that of New Year’s Day with this annual event
Michael Morpurgo ● Olivia Colman
Decca 4851156 (64:02)
This is the first album by the whole incredibly gifted family septet of young musicians from Nottingham, two of whom – cellist Sheku and pianist Isata – already have albums on the Decca label. They have chosen Saint-Saëns’ zoological classic, a favourite for many children of all ages, including oldies like me.
The Choir of Keble College, Oxford ● Matthew Martin
CRD 3537 (63:03)
To complement our normal Festive listening from Leroy Anderson, Percy Faith, Arthur Fiedler, Mantovani, André Rieu et al, your thoughts may turn to a vocal collection of Christmas music and you might like to consider this new release from the Keble College Choir. One of the leading mixed-voice choirs in Oxford, on this album it comprises eleven sopranos, seven altos, seven tenors and eight basses, who are either choral scholars, volunteers or lay clerks.
Mozart Records Mr120120 – 58 Tracks
Total Playing Time Approx. 148 Minutes
This two-CD set has been released to coincide with the ninetieth birthday of composer Peter Hope on December 2nd 2020. It owes its title to the first track of CD 1, and comprises recordings of his compositions for Mozart Edition made between 1965 and 1980.
Coming soon from Windmill Records, The Stringbeat Years: Songs accompanied by John Barry, a 4-CD box-set comprising of 144 tracks, a 24-page booklet (replete with period photographs and comprehensive notes) and including ten bonus tracks (among them the CD debut of the first ever cover version of a John Barry instrumental composition).
Adam Faith fans will experience every song he recorded with John Barry, thereby featuring – for the first time – the film versions of ‘Mix me a Person’, ‘The Time has Come’, and ‘What a Whopper’ (slightly shortened). There’s also an unique opportunity to hear the original version of ‘Ah, Poor Little Baby’, making its premiere appearance on CD.
The box-set is limited to 500 copies and is only £16.99 post-free in the UK (postage costs for elsewhere in the world to be determined when stock arrives), so don’t miss out! It will only be available direct from Windmill!
Please indicate your interest without commitment by emailing us and you’ll be contacted as soon as it becomes available.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHSA 5257 (82:55)
French composer Léo Delibes (1836-91) is entitled to be reviewed here as he was blessed with a natural gift for likeable, easily assimilated melodies: his music being described as having “charm, elegance, wit and grace”.
Decca 00028948504152 (73:21)
Having reviewed three previous albums by this orchestra and conductor – ‘Overtures, Preludes & Intermezzi’, ‘The Fellini Album’ and ‘Cherubini Miniatures’ – I have become something of a fan and welcome this new release; even although it does come into competition with John Wilson’s recent highly acclaimed versions of the two main works: Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome (also previously reviewed here).
More than fifty years ago, many recordings were made [unofficially and privately, and often off-air] – by studio technicians, orchestral players and production staff – of a BBC 'house' orchestra in Manchester.
The Original Recordings with Joseph Calleja
Decca 4850894 (48.53)
When as a long time Mantovani admirer I first joined the Robert Farnon Society, his name was hardly ever mentioned. It seemed to me that he was thought of by my fellow light music enthusiasts as being too “popular”, much as some people now think of André Rieu.
Emmanuel Pahud Flute
Orchestre National De France / Desplat
Warner Classics 0190295306878(56:22)
Regular readers will know from my review of ‘Little Women’* in February this year that I regard Alexandre Desplat as second only to the great John Williams as a composer in the world of film music. Following that earlier album, we now have this further welcome selection of his work.
Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra
SOMM ARIADNE 5009 (74:03)
This is a pleasing surprise follow-up to Great Classic Film Music (ARIADNE 5006), the virtues of which I extolled in 2019. The track selection here is noteworthy for being less hackneyed than in many of the comparable albums in the catalogue.
Andrế Previn / David Rose
Like Young & Like Blue
Sepia 1348 (78:29)
In June 1958, when distinctive pianist André Previn (“Piano Magic”) met David Rose with the 25 “Lush Strings” and rhythm section of his orchestra, they got together and produced a Billboard top 20 LP: ‘Like Young: Secret Songs for Young Lovers’. Nearly two years later there was a follow-up album, ‘Like Blue’. Both have now been released on this exceptionally well-filled stereo CD remastered by Robin Cherry.
BBC Philharmonic / John Wilson
Chandos CHAN 20148 (57:00)
This is the release we have been waiting for: some of the very best of the kind of music we love the most. It is the second instalment in a series from our friend John Wilson, of whom it has been said that what he does not know about Eric Coates’ music is probably not worth knowing.
Works for Violin and Orchestra
Reto Kuppel, violin
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra ● Marcus Bosch
Naxos 8.573993 (66:00)
This is quite a discovery: an album of melodic well-fashioned light classical music from a composer I have heard of but know nothing about, played by an orchestra and conductor whose names I have not even come across before.
By Robert Walton
Why do strings, especially those in a symphony orchestra, have such an effect on audiences, like transmitting a sublime message? Especially a composition with a lovely melody and beautiful harmonies.
CALLING ALL WORKERS!
From Serenade Radio
Date: Bank Holiday Monday 31st August
Time: 12 Noon
80 years ago, 'Music While You Work' began on the BBC.
Announced in the Radio Times as a “half hour’s music meant specially for factory workers to listen to as they work”, it soon proved a favourite with all listeners, as its familiar signature tune by Eric Coates rang out.
Hear its story presented by Brian Savin with Brian Reynolds on August Bank Holiday Monday at 12 noon on Serenade Radio.
(Van Heusen; Delange)
Reg Owen Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
One of the most underrated composers, arrangers and conductors of the 20th century European scene was Reg Owen (born George Owen Smith, (1921-1978). I first came across him as one of the original orchestrators for Ted Heath’s Music after WW2, with classics like Colonel Bogey, Blue Skies March, Sidewalks of Cuba, Cuban Crescendo (composer) and Village Fair.
Wiener Philharmoniker ● Anne-Sophie Mutter
DG 4836373 (75’00)
On Saturday 8th July 1972 I joined a packed audience in Nottingham’s Albert Hall for the opening concert of that year’s Festival given by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by André Previn. The third item on the programme was Symphony No.1 by a ‘John T Williams (born 1932)’. The review in the local newspaper said that “when two gentlemen made a conspicuous exit from the hall after the first movement, one began to fear the worst.”
UMC 5387616 (50:08 & 79:45)
In 1959, legendary record producer George Martin paid a struggling singer from Shoreditch, Matt Monro – born Terence Parsons 1930, died 1985 – £25 to demonstrate a Sinatra-ish song called You Keep Me Swinging for a proposed Peter Sellers album ‘Songs for Swinging Sellers’. But Sellers could not match the Monro take-off and Matt himself was to wind-up on the record disguised as Fred Flange.
Yo-Yo Ma (cello)
Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra, Ennio Morricone
Sony 88697562802 (55:57)
The master of “spaghetti western” movie music and much more, Ennio Morricone (born Rome 1928), was lost to us earlier this year, and for me this recently discovered album is a fitting memorial to his work that includes over 400 cinema/tv scores and more than 100 classical works, with total sales over 70 million.
Alpha ALPHA578 (54:43)
Here is a fun album combining works for French horn by top classical tunesmith W A Mozart with traditional Cuban music. It is the brainchild of British French US born, Sarah Willis, who is a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra horn section, and a presenter of TV and online classical music programmes.
World première recordings of British music for string orchestra performed at the Royal Palaces.
Including works by Curzon, Dunhill, Lee, Quilter, Rowley, Speer, O’Donnell, Thorne, Scott, etc.
The Countess Of Wessex's String Orchestra – Conductor Major David B. Hammond
The terms Military Music and Wind Band are usually synonymous. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to learn – from the comprehensive booklet notes accompanying this recent CD release – that there has been a long tradition of string playing in the British Army.
Sinfonia Of London John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5261 (60:06)
Old friends from RFS meetings and more recent admirers of his charismatic conducting will welcome this release from John Wilson. It is his third album directing the superlative Sinfonia of London that he has re-formed with a hand-picked line-up of instrumental talent led by Andrew Haveron.
It is our sad duty to record the deaths of two more former members of the Robert Farnon Society, both of which have occurred during the last few months.
John White was a regular attendee at RFS and then LLMMG meetings. By profession a Group Manager for London Underground, latterly at KingsCross Station, John passed away at West Middlesex Hospital in December 2019, having unfortunately suffered two strokes. He was a great devotee of Frank Sinatra and possessed a huge collection of recordings of the latter. He would be seen taking copious notes throughout our meetings and was always on the lookout for new CDs that interested him.
Ralph Thompson will be remembered by many for his video recordings of RFS meetings, particularly those which had taken place on special occasions. A civil engineer in professional life, Ralph had a number of interests, including photography and videography, cycling and old London buses, in addition to Light Music and record collecting. Regrettably, he had suffered kidney failure towards the end of 2019 and died during February of this year.
Another of our supporters, Peter Luck, was a friend of both John and Ralph, and we are obliged to Peter for providing this information.
Deutshe Grammophon 483 8586 (65.54)
This is a winner in the ‘crossover’ album stakes, taking its name from the 1931 Charlie Chaplin film. Georgian-born German Lisa Batiashvili is considered special even among the very many fine violinists of her generation, praised by both audiences and fellow musicians for her virtuosity and sensitivity.
By Robert Walton
Over the years I have always been aware that string man George Melachrino was an occasional singer in the dance band world but I had never heard him, let alone seen him in that role.
It is with regret that we record the death of former Robert Farnon Society member Jim Palm, on April 6th.
Many LLMMG supporters may remember Jim, who, back in the 90s, used to attend our London meetings. For several years he assisted David Ades with the editing of Journal Into Melody, to which he was also a regular contributor.
He hailed from Edgware, Middlesex [on the NW periphery of London] and in professional life worked for the BBC in the latter’s gramophone library.
Upon his retirement from the Corporation, he moved to Salisbury, where he amassed his own sizeable collection of recorded music, much of it comprising discs from the libraries of publishers such as Chappells and Boosey & Hawkes.
Jim had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Light Music, which was put to good use in the many articles he wrote for JIM and also for newspapers and periodicals in his locality.
Tony Clayden, June 2020
As my friend Graham Miles has posted two versions of a piece by Peter Yorke entitled "Fireflies" which are distinctly different by virtue of length, I will take a moment to touch on this particular subject, as it raises some very interesting questions to which there may be myriad answers.
David Snell – harp , John Dean – drums , Arthur Watts - bass
Jazz harpists are a very rare breed ! Indeed, it is difficult to think of more than a handful in the entire world, nearly all hailing from the United States.
Pre- eminent amongst this select group is our own ‘home-grown’ David Snell, a consummate musician of many talents.
It is with regret that we record the death of the conductor, composer and arranger Johnny Gregory, who died at his home in Gerrards Cross, Berkshire on April 23rd 2020, about six months short of his 96th birthday.
During his long career, he wrote the scores for fourteen films, (the last in 2000) and TV shows, and was principal conductor of the BBC Radio Orchestra between 1973 to 1974.
He made numerous recordings, both under his own name and (possibly more famously) as Chaquito.
Gregory used a number of other pseudonyms and his orchestra often appeared under the name of The Cascading Strings.
A comprehensive article about his life and work is in preparation and will be published on the LLMMG website in due course.
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
The Chappell recorded music library created quite a stir in the music business when it came into being in 1941 with a series of 78s specifically designed for the use of radio, films and especially newsreels.
Instrumentals À La Française
Franck Pourcel And His Orchestra
Sepia 1352 (74:34)
This is the real deal. I was delighted when it eventually plopped through my letter box – thank you, Postie – as the French composer, arranger and conductor, who died 20 years ago, has long been my favourite continental purveyor of our kind of music. And by all accounts he was a perfectionist but a nice guy. The delightful photo of him on the front of the booklet is an indication of the delights on the CD.
Analysed by Robert Walton
This is a song written in 1939 by a certain Siberian weather forecaster named Irving Berlin. It was inspired by a conversation between him and the British/Hungarian film producer Alexander Korda in a New York taxicab.
Andrew Haveron, Sinfonia Of London Chamber
Ensemble, Rtế Concert Orchestra, Cond. John Wilson
Chandos CHAN20135 (56’)
I referred to this concerto in my previous Korngold review (CHSA5220) last year. It was written 30 years after the young composer had been lavishly praised by Richard Strauss, and who then forsook classical music to become the toast of Hollywood...
Malmö Symphony Orchestra / Jun Märkl
Naxos 8.574033 (73:38)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) – born in Paris: a composer, organist, conductor and pianist – is best known for his Carnival of the Animals (particularly ‘The Swan’), Danse Macabre and Third ‘Organ’ Symphony, but he wrote a lot more besides.
Decca 4831591 (74:22)
Celebrated Italian conductor, Riccardo Chailly – recently named Diapson D’Or magazine ‘Artist of the Year’ – and his Milanese opera house orchestra have already twice been enthusiastically reviewed on this website: firstly, when he became musical director in 2017 (Decca 4831148) and then for their lauded 2019 Fellini album (Decca 4832869). In this latest release they turn their attention to Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), who Beethoven regarded as the greatest of his contemporaries.
By Robert Walton
One place my wife and I had always wanted to see was the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And conveniently now living in the Republic of Ireland, we were in the perfect position to visit this minor Wonder of the World.
Lucienne Renaudin Vary (trumpet)
BBC Concert Orchestra, Bill Elliott
Warner Classics 9029540710 (59’)
Here’s a discovery – thank you Classic FM – a 21-year-old French trumpeter, who is also a siffleuse, and a singer of sorts...
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Sony 19439702752 (63:38)
It may be that I am one of the few men who have willingly accompanied their woman to see the well-received film of ‘Little Women’. Several times during the showing, while not being gripped by the onscreen action (or inaction), I was particularly struck by the music...
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice
Naxos 8.574046 (79:43)
Born near Naples in 1749, Domenico Cimarosa was thought in his day the equal of Mozart and Haydn with 80 or so operas to his name, serious as well as comic.
George Shearing Quintet with String Choir
Analysed by Robert Walton
Most professional singers make it a practice to do a thorough sound and familiarization check before performing on stage, especially one that’s new to them. Dame Vera Lynn was no exception and lucky enough to have the expertise of her fastidious husband Harry Lewis who always made sure that everything was just perfect. I was her pianist in the mid-60s when the three of us entered the Stoke-on-Trent venue to give it the once over.
Sinfonia of London / John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5252 (79:05)
With lead features on him in forthcoming issues of both Gramophone and BBC Music magazines, our charismatic friend from RFS meeting days, John Wilson, is nowadays as ‘big’ in the world of classical music as he is in the kind of music we love. Here he follows his massively acclaimed album of Erich Wolfgang Korngold works (CHSA 5220) with the re-established Sinfonia of London, this time featuring compositions by French composers.
Wiener Philharmoniker ● Andris Nelsons
Sony 2CDs 19439702362 ; Sony DVD Video 19439702379
If I had a bucket list, top of it would to have been in the Vienna audience for the 81st New Year’s Day concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Naxos 8.574005 (64:50)
One of the most popular and prolific of his time, the French composer Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (1782-1871) was prominent in the 19th-century cultivation of opera containing spoken as well as sung passages (comic opera or opéra-comique).
Apparently, M. Auber was an affable character whose music reflected his personality and Parisian elegance.
Decca CD 5487980 (67’) + DVD (58')
As sure as day follows night, here is the charismatic Dutchman’s annual album selection of our kind of music to brighten the dark days of December and beyond. Needless to say, it immediately shot to the top of the Classic FM best-seller chart.
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Onyx 4212 (69:23)
This release is an addendum to Beckenham-born conductor and violinist Andrew Manze’s critically acclaimed recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ (1872-1958) nine symphonies. These would probably be a bit heavy for a lot of light music enthusiasts but the orchestral works on this album are more approachable and among the most popular ‘The Grand Old Man of English Music’ wrote.
Peter Breiner and His Orchestra
Naxos 8.574078 (70’09)
27 years ago, the Naxos label released an album called ‘Beatles Go Baroque’, which is still listed in the catalogue (8.55510) having achieved multi-platinum award status. What we have now in their Light Music series is the sequel, going one better than the original by keeping the 18th-century masterpieces largely intact, stylishly merging them with the Beatles’ enduring melodies.
(Larry Coleman, Buddy Dufault)
Axel Stordahl’s Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
Composer (of I Should Care and Day by Day), vocalist, arranger and conductor, Axel Stordahl’s main claim to fame was as musical director and advisor to Frank Sinatra during the first decade of the singer’s career. Axel is the Danish form of Absalom but even after all this time some disc jockeys still call him “Alex”. He is largely credited with bringing pop arranging into the modern era. More specifically he was a pioneer of symphonic-style backings in a popular context. Kostelanetz was the orchestra-only equivalent. Make no mistake though, Stordahl was just as capable of conventional big band arranging.
Warner Classics 0190295370060 (57’02)
If I can’t always have my favourite French horns I’ll settle for the trumpet, especially when it’s played by Alison Balsom who, although still in her early 40s, has been making CDs for 17 years and this, her first since 2016, is No.13. She has said that the making of it has been by far the most enjoyable recording experience she has had.
Aled Jones & Russell Watson
Back In Harmony
BMG 538539282 (48’41)
14 tracks including Funicula, Funiculi; Shenandoah; Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me; Night and Day; Make Me a Channel of Your Peace; The Loveliest Night of the Year; and The Lord Bless You and Keep You
This is the follow-up to the couple’s first album, ‘In Harmony’, which was last year’s biggest seller by homegrown artists in the Classic FM chart. There is no reason why this should not be equally successful. Aled believes that it is even better than the first!
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.
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.
Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra Iain Sutherland, conductor
Somm Ariadne 5006 (77:12)
I have been looking forward to this release since it was announced on the LLMMG website in February, albeit with a rather grander title. Great expectations are not always realised, but they are here.
The Film Music of Nino Rota
Filarmonica Della Scala Riccardo Chailly
Decca 483 2869 (80:50)
As a young man my first encounter with the music of Nino Rota (1911-79) was a track on a Mantovani album with pianists Rawicz and Landauer: The Legend of the Glass Mountain from the film ‘The Glass Mountain.’ This remains one of his best works.
Analysis of the Melachrino version by
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.
Decca 4834862 (51:46)
This album is aptly named for the young saxophonist who, after being in the final of the BBC Young Musician 2016, has appeared to great acclaim at The Last Night of the Proms in 2018, is now presenting a weekly programme on Radio 3; she has reached the top echelons of the best-selling chart on Classic FM with this recording...
Deutsche Grammophon 4797441(72.32)
Lang Lang is a phenomenal pianist who often plays in a flamboyantly confident style, making some critics a bit sniffy about him. He has been out of action with tendinitis in his left arm since March 2017, but is back now with this attractive album of pieces which inspired him to be a musician in the first place.
Interview with Thomas Farnon
by Dan Adams
Thomas Farnon is a film composer. He has worked with film composers as illustrious as Hans Zimmer as well as contributing music for a variety of films including The Dark Knight Rises, Churchill and Hacksaw Ridge.
Recently, Thomas has co-founded Chromium Music Group, a boutique music house and has been releasing albums of his non-film work under this label.
One More Time is a work in progress documentary which tells the story of the musicians who worked on studio sessions during the sixties and seventies. Several former members of The JB7 have taken part.
Project director Alan Boyd would very much appreciate it if you would check out the website at
and also visit, like, and share the facebook page at
Sinfonias ● Overture ● Sonatas
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Bernhard Forck (violin), Xenia Loeffler (oboe & recorder)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 90233536 (2 hrs 23 mins)
Many aficionados of great music would name J S Bach (other Bachs are available) as their favourite composer.
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
DG 4836471 (63 mins.)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47), a prolific German composer, is probably best known for his Overture and incidental music for ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ (particularly ‘Wedding March’), Italianand Scottish Symphonies, the oratorio Elijah, the overture The Hebrides (‘Fingal’s Cave’), a great Violin Concerto, and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. (He also wrote 12 string symphonies between the ages of 12 and 14!)
Arranged by Russ Case
Analysed by Robert Walton
Back in the days of 78 records some of the best numbers would have slipped through the net if it hadn’t been for the phenomenon of B sides. Many of them were so beautiful they often musically outshone the hit itself. Hence the practice of meticulously checking both sides. So I was assigned to the “Case!”
Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra
Alto ALC 1392 (79:30 mins)
Tracks incl. The Dambusters, By the Sleepy Lagoon, Coronation Scot, Sailing By, Devils’ Galop, Vanity Fair, Spitfire Prelude, Headless Horseman, Intermezzo - Escape to Happiness, and Jamaican Rumba