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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Albert KETÈLBEY (1875-1959)
Tangled Tunes
Historical Recordings 1912-1933:

Men of England (1926)
A. W. Ketèlbey’s Concert Orchestra and Chorus. (rec. December 1929)
Tangled Tunes Parts 1 -4 (1914)
The Casino Orchestra conducted by the composer. (rec. June 1914)
In Holiday Mood: On the Promenade; Down the Stream; The Illuminated Fête (1938) Grand Orchestra conducted by Louis Voss. (rec.1938).
The Phantom Melody (1912)
Jean Schwiler (cello) with the composer at the piano. ( rec. April 1912)
My Heart Still Clings To You (1913)
Edgar Coyle (baritone) with the Columbia Studio Orchestra conducted by the composer (rec. December 1913)
Silver-Cloud (An Indian Maiden’s Song) (1915)
The Regal Orchestra conducted by the composer (rec. circa 1915)
Wildhawk (An Indian Romance) (1914)
The Regal Orchestra conducted by the composer (rec. June 1914)
A Sunday Afternoon Rêverie (1931)
The Westminster Light Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claude Ivy (rec. 1931)
Canzonetta (1912)
The Regal Orchestra conducted by the composer (rec. December 1912)
Wonga (An Oriental Intermezzo) (1916)
The Regal Orchestra conducted by the composer (rec. July 1916)
Christmas (Medley Fox Trot) (1925)
The Edison Bell Dance Orchestra directed by Henry Wood (rec. October 1925)
The Vision of Fuji-San (1930?)
The Odeon Symphony Orchestra of Paris conducted by Gustav Cloëtz (rec. circa. 1933)
Knights of the King (1930)
The Regimental Band of H.M. Royal Horseguards conducted by Lt. W.J. Dunn M.C.
(rec. October 1930)
In a Monastery Garden (1915)
A. W. Ketèlbey’s Concert Orchestra with Nellie Walker (contralto) and chorus conducted by the composer (rec. November 1927)
All recordings made in London unless otherwise stated
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110870 [64:33]


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Here’s another nostalgic slice of Edwardian romanticism recorded with all the colour and bravura of early 20th century performances. The compilation kicks off with a rather pompous patriotic choral piece, Men of England with the sopranos and contraltos in full strident voice. Knights of the King is another proud ceremonial march full of swagger and bravado in the tradition of the grand marches of Aïda, Faust and Iolanthe

In Holiday Mood displays Ketèlbey’s considerable evocative talents: ‘On the Promenade’ is a jolly march capturing glistening sea waters and hot sands with a hint of romance; ‘Down the Stream’ is a gentle pastoral picture, one can visualise breezes playing through overhead boughs as a swain rows his love downstream; and the ‘Illuminated Fête’ depicts all the fun of the fair in an exuberant waltz.

‘Rule Brittania’ segues into ‘Three Blind Mice’ and a bewilderment of many other tunes from Wagner, and 1812, to English folksong in the first of Ketèlbey’s cleverly comic Tangled Tunes. More incredible modulations and sudden gear changes occur throughout the second with Verdi and Wagner running alongside Johann Strauss and ‘Little Brown Jug’ etc. More mangled melodies from ‘John Peel’ to Rossini’s ‘William Tell’ played in outrageously comic style add up to the third Tangled Tunes and the same pattern with a Christmas twist pervade the fourth. All four are great fun.

The plaintive Phantom Melody is very well known and in this version for piano and cello one can imagine it being played in early silent cinemas to accompany scenes in which the heroine is cast out into the cold, cold snow. My Heart Still Clings to You has Edgar Coyle and an unrestrained Columbia Orchestra tugging at the heartstrings. So does the Indian Maiden’s Love Song, Silver-Cloud while Wildhawk has more familiar Indian dances and war-path music patterns familiar from countless old westerns although some of the material does not stray very far from Croydon. Wonga described as an ‘oriental intermezzo’ is something of a weird mix of darkest Africa and shaky Middle East. The Vision of Fuji-San has us journeying to the Far East for exotically busy, portentous and romantic music frequently punctuated with vibraphone, celesta, bells and gong.

A Sunday Afternoon Reverie begins with bells tolling a phrase that uncannily pre-echoes John Williams’s famous Close Encounters of the Third Kind five-note alien signal, although the rest of the piece is firmly grounded in pastoral serenity. Canzonetta in this very early, and scratchy 1912 recording is another sentimental ditty with the strings stretching their saccharine portamenti to the limit. Christmas bells introduce a distinctly twenties jazzy take on carols and Christmas and homely music.

The compilation ends with birds a-twittering in the 1927 recording of one of Ketèlbey’s most popular miniatures In a Monastery Garden with plummy contralto Nellie Walker stirring this over-ripe confection to perfection.

This fourth volume of Ketèlbey exotica is yet another beguiling, nostalgic wallow (it’s amazing how much historical material has been collected for this series). Sit back, relax and enjoy these over-ripe renditions.

Ian Lace



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