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Leroy Anderson (1908-1975)
Orchestral Music - Volume 5
Goldilocks (excerpts from the musical) (1958) [35:40]
Suite of Carols (version for woodwind) (1955/1959) [10:46]
Goldilocks: Lady in Waiting (1958) [3:26]
Goldilocks: Shall I take my Heart (instrumental) [1958] (2:24)
Kim Criswell (soprano); William Dazely (baritone)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, UK, 3-5 September 2007
NAXOS 8.559382 [52:16]
Experience Classicsonline


I guess that people who are not really interested in ‘light music’ in general or Leroy Anderson in particular will know at least a couple of his pieces. Surely such numbers as The Typewriter with its onomatopoeic sounds and the ubiquitous Sleigh Ride so popular at Christmas-time are well entrenched in the public collective memory? In fact, many people will know the music but be unable to name the composer. Of course, Anderson enthusiasts will have a whole catalogue of favourites that they enjoy time and time again. Personally, along with the above ‘Seasonal Piece’, I rate highly the Penny Whistle Song, the Girl in Satin and the larger but utterly superb Piano Concerto. However, I feel that even many of the cognoscenti will be unaware of the composer’s only surviving contribution to Broadway – Goldilocks.

The first thing to note is that this musical is hardly likely to be revived. There was a lot of criticism of the 1958 show at the time – with most of the ‘brickbats’ being hurled at the libretto or ‘book’. In fact, listeners must not make the same mistake as I did and assume that this work is somehow a reworking of the children’s’ tale of the Three Bears and the eponymous girl. This is not an Eric Coates-ian fantasy but a work where the two leads – a man and a woman – ‘launch barbs at each other while somehow falling in love’. There is a lovely nod to the nursery tale with a fine showtime song called ‘Who’s been sitting in My Chair?’. This is characteristically sung by Kim Criswell with all the panache expected of a Broadway singer.

Naxos have provided some eleven excerpts from this show. In some ways, this is quite different music from the short miniatures that most people associate with Anderson’s style. If the listener wants an example, play straightaway the Pirate’s Dance and hear an almost Star Wars tune!

The music gets off to a great start with a fine Overture that is in the typically Anderson style. The Lazy Moon is a charming happy tune that will remind many listeners of the composer’s better known work. In fact it was suggested that the show should have been called Lazy Moon as being more appropriate than Goldilocks! William Dazeley and Kim Criswell then sing a sentimental duet that could well stand alone – it’s called Save a Kiss. This is pure ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ music! The intermezzo Pussy Foot has the pizzazz of the Charleston – transposed to nineteen-fifties New York. The composer wears his heart on his sleeve for the lush Lady in Waiting Ballet – all the swirl of a ballroom dance night at the Waldorf Astoria! It is a superbly orchestrated piece that is well balanced and tuneful. The baritone sings a lovely show-time ballad Shall I take My Heart and Go?. This is an attractive love song - one of the musical’s highlights. The Town Maxixe is pure Leroy Anderson and swings along like a carriage and pair. I do not know the context of this piece, but to my mind it is an afternoon in a horse-drawn landau in Central Park. The mood then changes to a bluesy I never knew when which is just a pure romantic dream. The excerpts from Goldilocks conclude with the Pyramid Dance – which is meant to be an “Egyptian production number” from the second act.

Listeners should note that Anderson did not orchestrate all the music for Goldilocks – much of this was done by a certain Philip Lang – this was standard Broadway practice. However the composer did orchestrate the Overture, Pussy Foot and the Pyramid Dance.

The other major work on this CD is yet another Suite of Carols – the third of Anderson’s three fine Christmas arrangements. The first two were for brass and for strings and these have been issued on previous CDs in the cycle. The present Suite uses only the orchestral woodwind. These three Suites were originally issued on a 1955 long-playing album – but were broken up into pieces where a string carol followed one for brass and one for woodwind. Even a cursory hearing reveals just how good an orchestrator Anderson is. Six carols – some favourites- are featured in a well balanced group. They include:- Angels in Our Fields; O Sanctissima; O Come, O Come Emmanuel; O Come Little Children, Coventry Carol and Patapan. Anderson brings a classical interpretation to these tunes – Mozart is perhaps more prominent than Gershwin. Although here and there the odd ‘Leroy’ fingerprint seems to impose itself on the proceedings. A great piece that deserves to be heard as a unity. 

This fine CD concludes with two of Anderson’s own arrangements of two of his favourite numbers from Goldilocks – the Lady in Waiting Waltz and an instrumental version of Shall I take my heart? Both of these are attractive numbers – but look out for the Richard Straussian allusions in the Waltz - to Till Eulenspigel and to Der Rosenkavalier

This is a CD that all enthusiasts of Leroy Anderson will insist on having in their collections. The music is enthusiastically played. 

As noted above, most of this music is somewhat removed from the popular impression of his music. But that is quite simply what this Naxos cycle has been about – introducing the complete range of the composer’s music and not just concentrating on the pot-boilers. For this they are to be congratulated. It is a great achievement. 

John France

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

Reviews of earlier issues in the Naxos Anderson series

Volume 1:  JF; BBr
Volume 2:  JW; JF; IL
Volume 3: IL; JF
Volume 4: IL
Orchestral Favourites: JQ
Classical Juke Box: RB
Irish Rhapsody: IL

 

 


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