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Golden Age of Light Music series:
Four Decades of Light Music – Volume 1: 1920s & 1930s

The 1920s

Northwards (COATES) – Regal Cinema Orchestra/Emanuel Starkey [3:56]
Flapperette (GREER) – Nat Shilkret & his Orchestra [3:17]
Estudiantina Waltz (WALDTEUFEL) – London Palladium Orchestra/Horace Sheldon [3:57]
Pearl o’ Mine - Lyrical Melody (FLETCHER) – Plaza Theatre Orchestra/Frank Tours [2:44]
Laughing Marionette (COLLINS) – Debroy Somers Band [2:42]
Martial Moments – London Coliseum Orchestra/Alfred Dove [5:26]
In A Clock Store (ORTH) – New Light Symphony Orchestra [4:17]
The Selfish Giant (COATES) – Julian Fuhs’ Symphony Orchestra [7:36]
Lustspiel - Overture (BÉLA, arr. LOTTER) – Athenaeum Light Orchestra [3:07]
The 1930s

Frog King’s Parade (KRONBERGER; MARRIOTT) – West End Celeb. Orchestra [2:48]
Lullaby of the Leaves (PETKERE) – Reginald King’s Orchestra [3:04]
Parade of the Tin Soldiers (JESSEL) – New Light Symphony Orchestra [2:46]
Blues (KÜNNEKE) – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Eduard Künneke [5:35]
In a Merry Mood (HARINGER) – Barnabas Von Geczy & his Orchestra [2:49]
Dancing Clock (EWING) – Orchestre Raymonde [2:50]
"Sunny Side Up" – film selection (DE SYLVA/BROWN/HENDERSON) – Scala Salon Orchestra [5:50]
Raindrops - Pizzicati for Strings (T. DE LA RIVIERA) – Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra/Sir Dan Godfrey [3:13]
Teddy Bears’ Picnic (BRATTON) – Commodore Grand Orchestra/Joseph Muscant [2:59]
Monckton Melodies (MONCKTON) – BBC Theatre Orchestra/Stanford Robinson [8:23]
rec. London, Bournemouth, England; Berlin, Germany, 1921-38. ADD
GUILD GLCD 5134 [78:21]

This welcome addition to the Guild series has been issued alongside a second companion disc of the 1940s and 1950s. The appeal in this disc is the fresh Quickstep rhythm that gave the Charleston and Foxtrot. Examples of both are found embedded in various tunes on this disc.

I fully endorse the principles adopted by David Ades and Alan Bunting in selecting records for transcribing: an early Coates recording of The Selfish Giant was abandoned in favour of this better quality Fuhs’ recording. Likewise, acoustic recordings have been dropped, despite any historic interest, for electric recordings post-1925 when use of conventional instruments and the better frequency ranges began to be possible.

Eric Coates had many facets to his musical style yet to many is best remembered for his rousing marches. Here we are not disappointed with the opening Northwards, a stirring unrelenting march, superbly played by the Regal Cinema Orchestra under Emanuel Starkey involving difficult brass with repetitious triplets at speed. Another Coates piece, The Selfish Giant was a popular spas orchestra item, long for its type, but very enjoyable.

Flapperette by Greer is one of those homely pieces with its bustling, cheery theme depicting domestic bliss surrounding an Afternoon Tea. It has a familiarity of the old Light Programme’s ‘Housewives’ Choice’.

A rather heavy rendering of Waldteufel’s Estudiantina Waltz, is delivered by an early London Palladium Orchestra before it gathered its polish under Richard Crean’s direction. I find this Horace Sheldon version lacking in the delicacy and subtlety it would have received from a Viennese orchestra. Sheldon’s performance is heavy and muddied. Good brass maybe, but the first strings are thin and scratchy, and the bass/euphonium is overpowering. On some of these pieces we come across that characteristic slur made by the first violins and typical of the period: it is something either liked or disliked.

I came across Béla’s Lustspiel Overture, in name only, a few years ago. It is also known as his Comedy Overture. Béla came to England in 1874 and then in 1875 toured conducting concerts of his music including this piece. It became a favourite yet never having heard it I have always wondered what it was like. Many arrangements had been published and it was widely played by our salon orchestras. I find it utterly charming.

A sprightly, snappy Charleston number, Laughing Marionette, is sure to get your feet a-tapping. With Bunting’s restoration the Debroy Band sounds superb. A raw recording (found on You Tube) reminds one how brittle and poor the equalisation of the original was. Thin trumpets are just too piercing. The Guild track allows one to appreciate the lush ebb and flow that puts energy into the notes. A not unpleasant euphonium holds the rhythm while the trumpets and saxophones promote a 1920s feel.

All the thrill of the circus or steam-organ fairground can be pictured in the well-known opening to the medley, Martial Moments. Amongst the stirring melodies is Colonel Bogey; it appears amongst other American marches one cannot put a name to, probably by Sousa, This crisp recording with the large forces of the Coliseum benefits from a brilliance added by the piccolo.

An amusing diversion is provided by the 1894 German descriptive fantasie, In A Clock Store by Charles Orth. This is a wonderfully evocative children’s piece that would sit well in the soundtrack of a Disney film. Its piano arrangement can be found on the internet but it gives little clue as to the atmosphere that the imaginative clock-simulated percussion of the New Light Symphony Orchestra provides with their numerous bells and ratchet mechanisms. Another clock piece, Dancing Clock has more melody and appeal for repeated listening in a pleasantly-shaped piece with choppy overtones.

Two more children’s favourites are the well known Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Parade of the Tin Soldiers by Jessel. The latter was a firm childhood favourite of mine and it is very much as I remembered it yet with the improvement of modern sound engineering.

An excellent find by Ades and Bunting is the Monckton Melodies, which are taken from a wide number of Monckton’s shows which ran in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Why many of these charming tunes have never received a modern recording I find hard to understand. Miss Gibbs, Girls of Gottenberg, Quaker Girl and Dancing Mistress are provided alongside the better known Arcadians in this nicely organised medley by Stanford Robinson.

Of the 1930s pieces, I was reminded of the glorious melodies of the show, Sunny Side Up, which originally featured Janet Gaynor, Marjorie White and Charles Farrell. It opened just a few days before the 1930s began, yet its music’s popularity spread from New York around the world through the 1930s and 1940s. Many of its numbers with their lasting charm will be well known to us all.

This disc contains much to delight those mentally tuned-in to 'easy listening' mode. Using technical CD mastery achieves much more than the nostalgia of winding up the gramophone and playing a 78 record just purchased from the local Wireless shop. One could add that the Guild series has ‘a living presence’ in that requests from the public who write in are taken seriously and sometimes rare discs are unearthed and offered for consideration.

Raymond J Walker



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