> Robert Farnon - Orchestral Music [JQ]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert FARNON (b. 1917):
Orchestral Music

1. Jumping Bean*
2. A Star is Born**
3. Portrait of a Flirt*
4. Journey into Melody**
5. Willie the Whistler***
6. Melody Fair
7. Canadian Caravan***
8. Ottawa Heights
9. Mountain Grandeur
10. Gateway to the West
11. Huckle-Buckle
12. How beautiful is Night
13. State Occasion
14. Taj Mahal
15. High Street
16. Sophistication Waltz
17. Manhattan Playboy
18. String Time
19. In a Calm
20. Peanut Polka
Queens Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon
*Kingsway Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon
**Robert Farnon and his orchestra
***Queens Hall Light Orchestra
conducted by Charles Williams
Recorded: 8 September 1948 (tracks 1 and 3); 7 February 1949 (tracks 2 and 4); 1946 (tracks 5 and 7); 1947 (tracks 8, 9, 13-15, 18, 19); 1949 (tracks 10 and 17); 18 May 1949 (track 12); 1950 (tracks 6, 16 and 20); 10 May 1950 (track 11)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110849 [51.35]

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.

John Quinn

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