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Billy MAYERL (1902-1959) Light Music for Piano and Orchestra including:- Marigold; Four Aces Suite; Aquarium Suite; Bats in the Belfry, Fireside Fusiliers; Busybody; and Pastoral Sketches. Andrew Ball (piano) Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gary Carpenter MARCO POLO 8.223514 [73:52]

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[I suggest that this CD review is read in conjunction with the review of Marigold, the new book on the life and music of Billy Mayerl, included on this site this month.]

This album comprises 21sunny, scintillating numbers many of which will spin around in your head for days. Many were originally written as piano solos. Some have been orchestrated by the composer (which I will asterisk) but most by other arrangers/orchestrators: Fred Adlington, Ray Noble, Hubert Bath, Herman Finck, George Windeatt, Arthur Wood and Alan Nichols.

The concert opens with the work that is always associated with Billy Mayerl, the well-loved Marigold.* But the album also contains a number of other pieces that one immediately recognises even if their names might not be easily recalled, such as the jolly upbeat Bats in the Belfry, and the cheeky Fireside Fusiliers that recaptures the dizzy world of the 1920s flappers.

Marigold (1927) is the earliest piece on the CD. There are three late works from 1956: the charming Minuet by Candlelight*, the equally delightful Waltz for a Lonely Heart* and the ebullient Busybody*, a nice rounded character study of someone who is nosy and boisterous but romantically inclined too (or maybe it's a she?)

The Ace of Clubs Suite (1933) commences with 'Ace of Clubs' that has an appropriate devil-may-care, man-about-town suavity while 'Ace of Diamonds' has a sophisticated, syncopated sparkle. The well known 'Ace of Hearts' has a very appealing tune but the Slovak players seem a little uncomfortable with this one; it sounds just a bit too world weary and it just cannot compare with Billy Mayerl's own piano solo version. The 'Ace of Spades' begins with a magical Ravelian flourish (Mayerl loved Debussy and Ravel) before the tempo picks up and we have syncopations with an oriental flavour - another easily recognisable piece.

The Aquarium Suite (1937) has another well-known number, 'Fantail' - Gershwin influenced, this beautiful fish certainly is very self-aware and rather disdainful with it! Other inhabitants of Billy's aquarium are: 'Willow Moss' a nice slow engagingly romantic jazz-based piece which occasionally ripples and darts about; a decorative 'Moorish Idol' and 'Whirligig'* that's in a real jazzy whirl.

Pastoral Sketches (1928) is a three movement suite that is unusually quiet and restrained in its first movement 'A Legend', and although 'Lover's Lane' seems serenely leafy there is also hints of lovers' quarrels as well as their passion; while 'A Village Festival' contrasts carnival jollity with quieter reflective material.

A Lilly Pond is quiet and whimsical with something of an 18th century elegance about it. From A Spanish Lattice is Spain observed form a distance with much more of Mayerl. Autumn Crocus sweetly lilts and is that Eric Coates peering over the hedge? Parade of the Sandwich Men is full of cheeky Cockney frolics, with the implicit cries of barrow boys.

Although the Slovak players seem occasionally uncomfortable, this is a very commendable and enjoyable album


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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