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The Golden Age of Light Music - An Introduction
Robert FARNON Gateway To The West: Queen's Hall Light Orchestra/Robert Farnon, 1949
Sydney TORCH Going For A Ride: Sidney Torch And His Orchestra, 1950;
RODGERS and HART With A Song In My Heart: André Kostelanetz and His Orchestra, 1943
Jonny HEYKENS arr. Ron GOODWIN Heykens' Serenade: Ron Goodwin and His Orchestra, 1953
WARREN Martinique: Ray Martin and His Orchestra, 1951
Donald PHILLIPS Skyscraper Fantasy: Charles Williams and His Concert Orchestra, 1947
David ROSE Dance Of The Spanish Onion: David Rose and His Orchestra, 1944;
Harold ARLEN Johnny MERCER Out Of This World - theme from the film: Mantovani and His Orchestra, 1949
Robert BUSBY Eddie HURRAN Paris To Piccadilly: L'Orchestre Devereaux/Georges Devereaux, 1952
Charles ANCLIFFE Festive Days: London Promenade Orchestra/Walter Collins, 1946
Philip GREEN Ha'penny Breeze- theme from the film: Philip Green and His Orchestra, 1951
Morton GOULD Tropical: Morton Gould and His Orchestra, 1948
Edward WHITE Puffin' Billy: Danish State Radio Orchestra/Hubert Clifford, 1952
George MELACHRINO First Rhapsody: Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino, 1947
Frederick CHOPIN arr. Robert FARNON Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor: Kingsway SO/Camarata, 1948
Eric COATES London Bridge March: New Light Symphony Orchestra/Joseph Lewis, 1935;
Angela MORLEY Mock Turtles: Queen's Hall Light Orchestra/Robert Farnon, 1949
Edward MACDOWELL arr. Peter YORKE To A Wild Rose: Peter Yorke and His Concert Orchestra, 1948
Leroy ANDERSON Plink Plank Plunk!: Leroy Anderson and His 'Pops' Concert Orchestra, 1952
Arthur BENJAMIN arr. Percy FAITH Jamaican Rumba: Percy Faith and His Orchestra, 1952
Trevor DUNCAN Vision in Velvet: New Concert Orchestra/Jack Leon, 1950
Dolf VAN DER LINDEN Grand Canyon: Dolf Van Der Linden and His Metropole Orchestra, 1952
HART LAYMAN arr. Leon YOUNG Dancing Princess: Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra, 1953
Leo PETER Dainty Lady: Reginald King and His Light Orchestra, 1933
HAYDN WOOD Bandstand 'Frescoes' Suite New Concert Orchestra/Serge Krish, 1946; Recorded 1933-1953 The dates given refer to the release of the record and not the date of composition. GUILD GLCD 5101 [78.23]

On this introductory disc we have twenty-five classic examples of 'light music.' Let us not worry too much at this stage what we mean by this designation. Most admirers of this genre know exactly what is implied - if that is not putting the cart before the chicken's egg. However as a basic rule of thumb my personal definition of the term ‘light music’ is 'music with a distinctive tune and rhythm, often nostalgic that does not have pretensions to profundity - and is downright enjoyable and perhaps even fun!'

This CD presents a variety of different 'light' genres that fit the above definition. We have arrangements, impressions, miniature tone poems and novelty pieces. Let us look at some of these works in a little more detail.

One of the earliest recordings (1935) is by Eric Coates and is the well known London Bridge March. This is not quite as popular as Dambusters or Knightsbridge. However, Coates has done more than almost any other composer to present musical impressions of London. This march certainly deserves an airing, if for no other reason than its engaging trio section.

One of the best examples of 'topographical' music on this disc must be Robert Busby's Paris to Piccadilly; chock full of tunes and allusions to French and English melodies. It was written after the Second World War when people were once more able to travel freely to and from the Continent. It describes a trip - presumably by train, ferry and perhaps taxi from one great capital to another. From the pavement cafés to the French House in Dean Street!

A hop over the 'ditch' brings us to the Big Apple for the attractive Skyscraper Fantasy by Donald Phillips. This work opens with an expansive slow introduction before slipping into a big, romantic tune somewhat influenced by jazz. Of course, America is the land of opportunity; it has always been possible to see New York or Newfoundland as the Gateway to the West. The Canadian-born composer Robert Farnon gives us a memorable piece that has long been a favourite both here and across the pond. Once we are in the 'West', there is the Grand Canyon to visit. Dolf van der Linden presents us with a characteristically bouncy piece which seems to have little to do with scenic depiction, but delivers a memorable tune, deliciously scored.

Morton Gould is one of those composers who write music proficiently in virtually any genre. Here we have a miniature called Tropical. This is a fine piece that hurries along in a subtle manner. We are well aware that it is written by the hand of a master.

The 'big boys' get a look in too. There is a fine arrangement of Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu in C# minor by the redoubtable Robert Farnon with obbligato flute and clarinet solos by Arthur Gleghorn and Reginald Kell. I still prefer the original piano version (1835) but this does make a pleasant change.

Arthur Benjamin is a great composer who has been unjustly neglected. However he is and will always be remembered for his fantastic Jamaican Rumba. This was originally for piano and has been re-presented here courtesy of Percy Faith. Listen out for the Latin-style muted brass -fab! (But do investigate AB himself and in particular his Symphony on Marco Polo - it really is outstanding music)

All amateur pianists will have known and loved Edward MacDowell's wonderful, simple, yet very beautiful 'To a Wild Rose.' It is given first-rate treatment here by Peter Yorke.

Then there are the novelty impressions. All of these show that 'light music' does not mean sloppy craftsmanship. In fact, it implies the very opposite. The orchestration of Sidney Torch's well known Going for a Ride is masterly. This work epitomises the light music genre. David Rose - best known for that all-time, but risqué, favourite The Stripper - can always be relied on to give a good tune. Here the Dance of the Spanish Onion is at times quite brash and occasionally reflective. The great Puffin' Billy is known to generations of British folk who avidly listened to Children's Favourites on the BBC Light Programme. It has reappeared in countless adverts and television programmes and has been featured in many light music anthologies. White is also well remembered for The Runaway Rocking Horse and Paris Interlude - both fine examples of his skill and poise.

No collection of light music would be complete without something by Leroy Anderson. The piece chosen here is the chipper Plink Plank Plonk - an outing for pizzicato strings showing just how competent Anderson was as a composer and instrumentalist.

Yet the two pieces that impressed me most were two works that I had never heard before - Trevor Duncan (of ‘Doctor Finlay's Casebook’ fame) and his Vision in Velvet. This is one of those delightfully romantic pieces that makes me think of a beautiful 'date' turning up at a dinner party arrayed in all her finery.

The other 'find' is the First Rhapsody by George Melachrino. It is perhaps the most reflective piece on this CD - yet it uses the musical language and conventions of the 1940s to present its nostalgic theme. A truly lovely work that I am glad to have discovered.

A brief look at the listings of the tracks will show that many of these pieces were conducted by men who were composers as well as being competent on the rostrum. A number of names that are still 'household' raise the baton on these recording - Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani are two examples.

The programme notes are less comprehensive than for the two other volumes in the series already issued. However, with more details promised for future releases and Philip Scowcroft's 'Garlands' on Musicweb, this should not be too big a problem.

The sound quality is excellent, bearing in mind that a number of the tracks have been culled from the original 78 r.p.m. records.

As I have indicated above, this is a fine introductory album to the genre of light music. It should be bought by, or given to, anyone who expresses even the slightest interest in this tuneful and well-written music. There is no doubt in my mind that this can only lead listeners to want to explore deeper into these, by and large, hidden treasures. Let's wait eagerly for the next tranche in this potentially comprehensive and excellent series.

John France

See also Jonathon Woolf's review here

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