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Albert KETÈLBEY (1875-1959)
Tangled tunes

Men of England (A Short Patriotic Ode)
In Holiday Mood
Tangled Tunes Parts 1-4
The Phantom Melody *
My Heart Still Clings To You
A Sunday Afternoon Reverie
The Vision of Fuji-San
Knights of England
In a Monastery Garden +
Jean Schwiller (cello) and the composer (piano) *
Nellie Walker (contralto) +
Orchestras conducted by Albert Ketèlbey, Louis Voss, Claude Ivy, Harry Wood, Gustave Cloëtz and Lt W.J. Dunn
Recorded in London and Paris, 1912-33
NAXOS 8.110870 [64.33]


Though it’s not noted as such on the booklet cover this is actually the fourth volume in Naxos’s Ketèlbey series. It’s a collection I’ve found enormously engaging and it’s especially good to have the disparate recordings collated in one authoritative collection, with well researched notes by Tom McCanna and good quality originals used. The present disc is a bit of a curate’s egg. We have yet another rousing recording of In a Monastery Garden sung by a Ketèlbey stalwart, the pocket battleship contralto Nellie Walker. But we also have Tangled Tunes – in four parts (i.e. on two 78s) – which consists of well known melodies stitched together in ways either brassy or windy and which won’t pay much repeated listening. It may have been another matter in June 1914 however when the composer recorded them with the Casino Orchestra.

The disc actually opens with Men of England to words by Thomas Campbell (text printed in the booklet) a stirring and patriotic effusion sung by a hand picked vocal ensemble and the composer’s own grand-sounding Concert Orchestra in January 1929. McCanna speculates that one of the sopranos was none other than Lillian Stiles-Allen, now best known for her singing in Serenade to Music but a significant adornment to British musical life of the time – and a distinguished teacher after her retirement from the concert stage. The three movement In Holiday Mood (recorded quite late in 1938 for Bosworth) has caught the Eric Coates bug in its jaunty opener, On the Promenade and when we delve back to 1912 – one of the incidental pleasures of a series such as this is the delving back and forth in time the discs engage in – we reach the composer himself and cellist Jean Schwiller in The Phantom Melody. This is van Biene territory and none the worse for it – and the recording is strikingly fine. You simply would not recognise this as a 1912 recording. Edgar Coyle turns up to do a spot of balladeering in My Heart Still Clings To You (Yeuch as Tom Lehrer would have said) and we have more of Ketèlbey’s stay-at-home exotica in the shape of Silver-Cloud, Wildhawk and Wonga (An Oriental Intermezzo). Whether writing of tepee, sake or potentate he was reassuringly the same. The best of such foreign jaunts is The Vision of Fuji-San with its evocative orchestral build up of detail and Knights of the King shows us the fine fanfaring and ceremonial side of his outlook with a splendid march section.

The cover states these recordings were made between 1912 and 1933 but they also claim that In a Holiday Mood was set down in 1938 so let’s plump for the latter date. This is less essential Ketèlbey, with some pot-pourri and potboilers, but there’s quite enough to keep addicts encouraged – and grateful.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Ian Lace



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