It’s always enjoyable to review an Anderson disc and especially
so in the Naxos/Slatkin cycle or corpus, as I suppose we should
call it. This one however causes me some problems. Unlike the
earlier volumes in this series – I’ve reviewed the first three
but not volume 4 – this one moves away from sparkling miniatures
to give us a big-sized work, Goldilocks.
Actually what is
gives us is a series of excerpts from Goldilocks, his
1965 Broadway show. It’s true that this is, as the notes aver,
one of the most overlooked aspects of Anderson’s art but the
corollary is that it makes for patchy listening. It was a work
that had a rather tortuous gestation – endless rewrites and
the usual Broadway problems. Anderson apparently remained unflustered
even as the first male lead Ben Gazzara withdrew swiftly to
be followed almost immediately by Barry Sullivan – the notes
say, perfectly deadpan, he ‘couldn’t sing’ – and finally Don
Ameche, who could. Elaine Stritch took the female lead throughout
the run and she and Ameche recorded a substantial chunk of the
show on LP. It’s noticeable that the Naxos selection is very
much more compact so it gives one ‘highlights’ or at worst a
rather partial view of the score, which here has eleven tracks.
It’s a peppy score, enjoyable and engaging, with a Gershwinesque
patina and plenty of Broadway bravado and panache, not least
in the Overture which was orchestrated by D Ross. There are
characterful dances, engaging waltzes in particular – and world
premiere recordings of some movements into the bargain. Criswell
and Dazeley don’t have a great deal of singing to do but do
what they do well – Dazeley’s accent sounds convincingly American
to me but I’m no expert on the matter. There are also a couple
of concert arrangements of two of the numbers – finely realised.
We also have the
Suite of Carols in its version for woodwind, written in 1955.
There are six compact movements, tinged with hearth and baroque
tints. An air of benevolent warmth hangs over the cycle, warmly
textured, and generously spun; enjoyable to listen to.
One certainly can’t
fault the production standards, booklet annotation or the performances.
As ever they’re top notch. The programme didn’t grab me as much
as previous volumes and that is a direct result of the truncated
score and also the feeling that it’s not really top drawer Anderson.
Still, admirers of the composer will know better than I how
rare this material is and will want to grab it regardless.