The Canadian composer, conductor and arranger, Robert
Farnon first came to Britain in 1944 as conductor of the Canadian Band
of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. After the war he remained in the
UK where he became a leading figure in the world of light music, initially
as a conductor and arranger of music by other people. However, it was
not long before his own music made its mark.
In fact, this CD contains the first two of his own
pieces which he recorded, Jumping Bean and Portrait of a Flirt.
However, the collection includes recordings which may well be of
even greater interest to Farnon fans. The majority of the recordings
included here (all but six of the tracks) were not recorded for Decca,
to whom Farnon was then contracted, but for Chappell and Co., the publishers
of his music. Those recordings were not sold to the public and I would
imagine that this represents not only the first CD release of these
items but also the first occasion on which they have been widely available.
It will be noted that two items are conducted by Charles Williams rather
than by Farnon himself. I infer from the producerís notes that Farnon
did not record those two pieces (at least not during this period) so
Williamsí performances were included since the pieces in question are
among Farnonís most popular compositions.
Without exception the pieces on this disc are well
crafted, colourfully orchestrated (with a propensity for "sweeping
strings") and sprucely performed by what I imagine were bands of
session musicians. The recordings themselves have transferred very well.
Several of the numbers, such as the celebrated and
ubiquitous Jumping Bean are pert and lively. However, on the
evidence of this collection at least, Farnonís forte seems to be romantic
mood music, often characterized by long string lines. A good example
of this is Ottawa Heights, one of several pieces here which have
a distinct transatlantic flavour.
There is no doubt that Farnon possesses a genuine melodic
gift (without which, of course, he would not have prospered in the genre
of light music). Pieces such as How Beautiful is Night, Sophistication
Waltz and (especially) String Time are particular examples
of his tunefulness.
I certainly do not mean to disparage these pieces when
I say that they belong very much to an earlier, more innocent age when
the term Ďpopular musicí really meant something musical. This
collection will give much pleasure and will be welcomed particularly
by Robert Farnonís many admirers. It is also well worth the attention
of other music lovers who like music which is melodic and which can
bring a smile to the face of listeners.