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Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975)
Blue Tango - Symphonic Pops

The Syncopated Clock
The Typewriter
A Trumpeter’s Lullaby
Fiddle Faddle
Blue Tango
The Phantom Regiment
Bugler’s Holiday
The Waltzing Cat
Sleigh Ride

Belle of the Ball
Forgotten Dreams

Sandpaper Ballet
Jazz Pizzicato
The Penny-Whistle Song
The Girl in Satin
Home Stretch
The Golden Year

WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln/Pinchas Steinberg
Recorded WDR Studio Stolberger Strasse, Köln, November and December 1988
CAPRICCIO SACD 71 021 [56.09]

This must be at least the third Leroy Anderson disc I’ve listened to in a matter of months – not that I’m complaining. If ever there was a master of the genre it was Anderson and even if it would be nice to hear the Violin Concerto or the Piano Concerto in C rather more than we do, that’s still no reason to spurn the light miniatures and pops that so wonderfully evoke both time and place.

The source here is Cologne with the WDR Rundfunkorchester under Pinchas Steinberg, a versatile conductor. The recordings are not new and I assume they derive from radio broadcasts as they were made in 1988 and are now released in SACD format – though I’ve only listened on a standard set up. The programme is pretty standard Anderson and the only question is how blue the clarinets are in The Syncopated Clock (answer; quite blue enough for my liking) and how aerial and nostalgic is the flute solo in Forgotten Dreams (splendidly). Does the Sandpaper Ballet work or is it generic – in this performance it works well with its soft shoe shimmy nicely approximated. One of the highlights here – indeed one of my favourite pieces of Andersonia – is the Sarabande where he alternates nobility and saucy wit and where the strings’ earnestness is hilariously undercut by the battery of insolently puckish percussion. Maybe – just maybe – we could get more incision once in a while; possibly Jazz Pizzicato could dig a shade harder. But there’s filmic grace to the violins’ line in The Waltzing Cat (and a nice bark and feline spit at the end). There’s also a pretty good spatial balance in The Penny-Whistle Song where the trumpets sound properly back o’ town. We end with the effulgent and well-orchestrated nostalgia of The Golden Year.

The notes are perfectly serviceable. The cover booklet has – wait for it – a couple, silhouetted and tangoing whilst lit by the blue ocean and sky. Look carefully and you’ll see she’s just on the edge, held against him; one false move and over she goes. It’s noir-ish, with just a hint of Philip Marlowe. And you just know he wouldn’t do it.

Jonathan Woolf


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