> Leroy Anderson Orchestral Favourites 8559125 [JQ]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975)
Orchestral Favourites

Serenata
The Syncopated Clock
The Penny Whistle Song
The Typewriter
Sarabande
Trumpeterís Lullaby
Fiddle Faddle
Forgotten Dreams
Blue Tango
Jazz Legato
Jazz Pizzicato
The Phantom Regiment
Buglerís Holiday
The Waltzing Cat
March of the Two left Feet
Promenade
Plink, Plank, Plunk!
The Girl in Satin
Sandpaper Ballet
Belle of the Ball
Sleigh Ride

Richard Hayman and his Orchestra
Recorded February Ė June, 1989
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559125 [61.28]

 


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It may come as a surprise to some, as it did to me, to learn from the notes accompanying this CD, that Leroy Anderson was an alumnus, and a distinguished one, of both the New England Conservatory and of Harvard University where his teachers included the composers, George Enesco and Walter Piston. After graduating from Harvard in 1930 Anderson was Organist and Choirmaster to the University until 1935.

Perhaps, on reflection, this upbringing is not such a surprise. Though Anderson eventually pursued a career far removed from academic or "serious" music and became the doyen of American light music composers and arrangers, it is clear from the contents of this CD that he was a consummate professional.

His involvement with light music began in 1936 when he became an arranger for Arthur Fiedlerís celebrated Boston Pops Orchestra and from then on the die was cast. Two of the items included here represent his first original compositions, namely Jazz Pizzicato (1938) and Jazz Legato (1939). Most of the remaining items in the programme were penned in the period 1945 to 1954 though one piece, March of the Two Left Feet is from 1970. Thus, we have here a collection of Anderson in his prime.

I must say I found this a delightful disc. The pieces are charming, witty and unpretentious and also nicely varied. Indeed, should one choose to do so I think it would be quite possible to listen straight through the programme without becoming bored. Indeed, this music will often give you a genuine cause to smile. Some of the pieces (The Waltzing Cat, Belle of the Ball and the ubiquitous Sleigh Ride, for instance) are very well known. There are several others which will be instantly recognizable even if one had not previously known the identity of the composer. One such is The Typewriter and, heard here in its original orchestration, it took me a couple of attempts before correctly identifying it as the title music for Radio 4ís News Quiz.

All the pieces here are thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. Particularly successful, I think, are Serenata, with its seductive Latin American lilt, the nostalgic Trumpeterís Lullaby, the infectiously busy Fiddle Faddle, and the celebrated Blue Tango, understandably one of Andersonís biggest Ďhitsí. One piece in particular betrays Andersonís "classical" training: Plink, Plank, Plunk! could only have been written by someone very familiar with the third movement of Tchaikovskyís Fourth Symphony.

Only one of the pieces here lasts over four minutes. However, all of them are full of character. Indeed, Anderson shows himself a master of the musical precis, establishing the mood of each piece within a matter of seconds and then saying what he has to say quickly and effectively. Without exception the pieces are well written, expertly orchestrated (nice use of percussion) and packed with winning tunes.

The whole programme is performed with gusto and polish by Richard Hayman and his eponymous players. This is a refreshing disc which will be self-recommending to fans of light music in general and of Leroy Anderson in particular. It is also well worth a fiver of anyoneís money, ready to be taken down from the shelves when you want to listen to music just for the sheer fun of it.
John Quinn


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