> LEONARD Life can be a song [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Conrad LEONARD (b.1898)
Life Can Be A Song - The Music of Conrad Leonard

Life Can Be a Song * - Conrad Leonard (1999)
A Man's Song ** - Julius E Day/Conrad Leonard (1947)
The Magic That is Music * - Conrad Leonard (1996)
I Heard a Robin Singing * - Julius E Day/Conrad Leonard (1948)
The Lone Fir Tree *** - Conrad Leonard (1968)
In The Depth of My Heart * - Ronald Frankau/Conrad Leonard (1940)
My Love is Only For You ** - Clarkson Rose/Conrad Leonard (1946)
True Devotion * - Conrad Leonard (1977)
The Clouds Are Horsemen ** - Harold Simpson/Conrad Leonard (1925)
Whispering Dreams * - Vivienne Jay/Conrad Leonard 2000)
Noonday Sun *** - Conrad Leonard (1966)
Shelagh ** - Dennis Breeze/Conrad Leonard (1964)
The Light of The Sun * - Conrad Leonard (1964)
Life Can Be a Song (reprise) * - Conrad Leonard (1999)
words/music (all published by Lawrence Wright/EMI}
Claire Rutter (soprano) *
Stephen Gadd (baritone) **
Conrad Leonard (piano) ***
David Mackie (piano) ***
Rec. details no supplied
ASC CD008 [47.38]

These Conrad Leonard songs declare a talent unabashed by sentimentality. The songs are often bluff, exhorting laughter, and hymning music and life. The style is light and ballad-like. The genre fits well into the more serious end of the music-hall manner or the lighter end of operetta. In the UK you can imagine these songs (all for voice and piano) fitting like a glove into a BBC Radio 2 playlist (once upon a 1950s time, the Light Programme).

Leonard was born in the London suburb of South Norwood on 24 October 1898. He served in the trenches with the Middlesex regiment during the Great War being demobbed in April 1919 with the rank of Second Lieutenant. Two years at the Guildhall School of Music prepared him as a professional musician engaged in the touring life of summer seaside shows and pantos. He had a ten piece orchestra in Eastbourne. London musical-theatrical life beckoned and showland became his home in the 1930s and 1940s. His work brought him into contact with Peter Dawson, Ann Ziegler, Webster Booth and Gracie Fields and latterly with Petula Clarke, Fred Astaire and Cole Porter. Composing all the while he penned in total some four hundred songs as well as many orchestral sketches. Perhaps one of these days Campion or Marco Polo will treat us to a selection of the orchestral genre pieces. Every Thursday lunchtime he can be found playing his compositions at the Plantation Centre at Squireís Garden Centre, Twickenham, UK. See also www.conradleonard.com although currently the only thing you will find there is the cover of this CD.

This Leonard collection mixes songs with pieces for the piano. The songs predominate. Life Can Be a Song (reprised in the final track) is a hymn to enjoying life ringingly done by Stephen Gadd. In much the same stream we hear the brazen heroics of The Clouds Are Horsemen -a fine noble song in the stream of John Irelandís ballad Great Things. The Light Of The Sun is a duo all exultant with a smile and a chuckle. There is a touch of Richard Rodgers here and at least equal to his lyric strengths. Shelagh is an isolated example of Leonardís distinct novelty song. It marries Sullivanís Titwillow with Molly Malone and a host of Leprechaunery. It would fit like a glove into a McCormack recital.

I Heard A Robin Singing arrives complete with melisma imitative of the song of the robin and catching, on the wing, something of Rachmaninovís Vocalise. It also sports a smartly turned out second subject. Claire Rutter gives it the full operatic treatment. Leonard reserves a romantic sensibility for the beguine style of the marvellous In The Depth Of My Heart to words by Ronald Frankau. This fine song really suits Ms Rutterís voice and is one of the highlights of this disc. There are weaker moments as well; such as the light operatic duo Only For You in a style crossing Lehár and Julian Slade style - though hearing it for the third time I have come to like it. Much more refined and yet touching is Whispering Dreams which lightly explores the edge of the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov song heritage.

The Lone Fir Tree is a piano solo; a genre piece with a soothing and sinuous oriental sway. Leonardís solos, on this showing, are more often skilfully written to provide a modest and gentle sentimental backdrop - a skill all its own fully on show in the gentle and artlessly fluent Noonday Sun and the modest True Devotion. No traces of ragtime or jazz here - rather expect something closer to a Tchaikovsky salon piece crossed with light popular romance.

These performances have the authority of the composerís accompaniment - spry and skilful at the age of 102. The notes are rather scant and I could have done with more about the context of the songs and about their history. A pity also that the words are not given though they can be heard well enough.

If you know that you like the sentimental approach and appreciate the repertoire associated with Peter Dawson or the young Julie Andrews and the musicals of Richard Rodgers and the operetta of Lehár you are very unlikely to be disappointed. There are some really lovely songs here.

Rob Barnett


£11.00 (inclusive of p&p in the UK)
cheques only
cheques made payable to ĎA Startled Chameleoní
Orders to:-
Conrad Leonard
C/o 39 Thetford Road
New Malden

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