Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

VICTOR HERBERT (18.59-1924) Orchestral Music from the Musicals Babes in Toyland   The Red Mill Rasumovsky Orchestra/Keith Brion rec Bratislava Sept 1996 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559025 [56.50]

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Victor Herbert's fame rests on his musicals. I note that a number of these have been recorded complete over the last 20 years. The Naxos series has done well to include a volume honouring one of America's (immigrant Irish) most commercially successful sons.

The Babes in Toyland (1903) orchestral pot-pourri takes up three quarters of an hour on this disc. This includes a very substantial (14 minute) prelude. The music is a mix of early-Delian dreaminess (think of the Florida Suite), salon charm, hints of popular music of the time, with helpings of the lighter Berlioz and Tchaikovsky along the way. Oh, and don't forget a shamrock leaf or two thrown in for effect. All is done with the smoothest finesse. The Dancing Toymaker movement resorts, somewhat desperately, to dog barks, duck squawks and rooster calls while The Red Mill (1906) takes us into Strauss, Lanner, Millocker and Reznicek territory. The Red Mill is an agreeable bag of candies: Coney island vulgarity, stertorous marches, frilly bloomers, hour glass figures, straw boaters and striped waistcoats - in fact all the panoply of Hollywood nostalgia. The music includes a rather fine 'hesitation' dance.

Rather like the two Sousa discs in this series this would not be my chosen listening fare (hence the star marking). Naxos and the artists here have nevertheless done an excellent job. For those who are drawn to the lighter Herbert and Sousa you are very unlikely to be able to do better than this collection … and as with everything else in this series all at super-bargain price.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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