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Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975)
The Waltzing Cat

The Syncopated Clock
The Typewriter
A Trumpeter’s Lullaby
Fiddle Faddle
Blue Tango
The Phantom Regiment
Bugler’s Holiday
The Waltzing Cat
Plink, Plank, Plunk!
Sleigh Ride
Horse and Buggy
Belle of the Ball
The Irish Washerwoman
The Last Rose of Summer
Pyramid Dance
Chicken Reel
Concerto in C for Piano and Orchestra *
Simon Tedeschi (piano) *
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Paul Mann
Recorded in February 2003, at the Iwaki Auditorium of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Southbank Centre, Melbourne
ABC CLASSICS 476 158-9 [69.04]


There is no shortage of Anderson compilations at the moment and the inquisitive can search out Frederick Fennell’s classic recordings and augment them with the Naxos set conducted by Richard Hayman or the fine RCA Slatkin/St Louis selection. Or indeed this latest entrant into the stakes, with Paul Mann conducting the Melbourne Symphony in newly minted performances containing a raft of favourites but temptingly adding a bit of ballast in the shape of the Piano Concerto.

Versatile and colourful orchestrator that he was there is seldom a drop in piquancy or ear-catching delight in the 70 odd minutes. So, yes, we get the clatter of typewriter in the first track and those naughty string glissandi to mimic the cat’s waltzing miaow. Big on playful pizzicati (a trait he shared with ace British-born, American-resident orchestrator and arranger David Rose) he animates Fiddle-Faddle with them a-plenty, before adding some big band jazz, triple-tonguing trumpets, and a modicum of hokum. His ingenuity can best be seen in Horse and Buggy, which has the luscious warmth of the Great American Songbook in its middle section. And he has the polished versatility to turn Belle of the Ball with ante-bellum ease. ABC’s compiler obviously has a wry sense of humour – sticking the raucous The Irish Washerwoman next to the maudlin The Last Rose of Summer does indeed have a kind of internal, emotional logic as the latter sobs its way, Mischa Elman-style, to its tear-stained conclusion.

Who did the Piston and Enescu-educated Anderson listen to? Try Gershwin in the Blue Tango and then indulge yourself in his big hits such as Sleigh Ride and Plink. Plank, Plunk! For greater depth the Concerto has a snappy, jazzy neo-classical stamp that hits on the Alec Templeton Bach Goes To Town, Jazz-meets-the-Classics vernacular. That fuguing drive is augmented by Rachmaninov and stentorian Tchaikovskian moments and an admixture of Francophile lightness and clarity – an attractive if not overly stunning brew. But he spins a gorgeously lyrical line in the slow movement, winningly fluent and further on some dancing vernacular with a strong cantilever of vocalised melody.

The performances are warm and sympathetic and the notes good. I’d not really thought of Anderson as the Norman Rockwell of 1950s American music, as the notes suggest – I’ll have to go and have a look.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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