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The Hall of Fame: Volume 1
Holiday for Strings (Rose) – Morton Gould and his Orchestra
Coronation Scot – Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Serenata (Anderson) – Boston Pops Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
Portrait of a Flirt (Farnon) – Kingsway Symphony Orchestra/Robert Farnon
Mad about the Boy (Coward) – Andre Kostelanetz and his Orchestra
In Party Mood (Strachey) – West End Celebrity Orchestra/Louis Voss
Gracious Gown (Melachrino) – Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
Bubbling Over (Gardebylaten) (Olsson, Faith) – Percy Faith and his Orchestra
Vanity Fair (Collins) – London Promenade Orchestra/Anthony Collins
In a Persian Market (KetèIbey) – New Symphony Orchestra/Stanford Robinson
Vilia (Lehár) – Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Brief Interlude (Wayne) – Music by Camarata
Wooden Shoes (Herbert) – Harry Horlick and his Orchestra
My Love to You (Fletcher) – Reginald King and his Orchestra
Serenade No.1 (Ständchen) (Heykens) – Marek Weber and his Orchestra
Wedding of the Rose (Jessel) – Ron Goodwin and his Orchestra
An American in Paris (Gershwin) – David Rose and his Orchestra
Say it isn't So (Berlin) – Kingsway Symphony Orchestra/Stanley Black
Four Centuries Suite, ‘Rhythm’ (Coates) – New Symphony Orchestra/Eric Coates
Holiday Spirit (Richardson) – Queen's Light Orchestra/Robert Farnon
Outward Bound (Richardson) – Queen's Light Orchestra/Sidney Torch
London Fantasia (Richardson) – Columbia Light Symphony/Williams
rec. 1930-1954, mono.
GUILD GLCD 5120 [77:52]

 

The majority of tracks on this amply-filled disc are well worn pieces of variety orchestra music that were played on the BBC Light programme in the 1940s and 1950s. Many are familiar even if not known by name. Oddly coupled with these popular pieces are others of an earlier vintage and with more of a traditionally classical image, like Coates’ Four Centuries Suite; Ketèlbey’s In a Persian market (that mirrors the old chestnut ‘In a Monastery Garden’); and Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Out on a limb, perhaps, is Lehár’s Vilja from his operetta, ‘The Merry Widow’ dating from as early as 1905, and clearly not of this genre.

The disc includes a first commercial release of Melachrino’s Gracious Gown, a dreamy piece in slow waltz time. Information does not tell us for what or why it was written and recorded. Curious as to the source of Wooden Shoes, I assumed that the Herbert in question is Victor Herbert of The Red Mill fame. I tracked down the piece to a passage in Toymaker’s Workshop from Babes in Toyland. Unlike the Marco Polo version [8.223843] where the Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra is muddied by extraneous and eccentric animal effects, here one can hear the music nicely focused in glorious isolation. The genteel Ständchen’s Serenade No.1 has never been known by name to me yet its appealing bright, catchy rhythm is memorable, not dissimilar from the style of Jessel’s Wedding of a Rose (with prominent harmonising woodwind) that follows. Say it isn’t So is a meandering and disappointing Berlin number that lacks direction or his usual ragtime inspiration. Strachey’s In Party Mood is better remembered as the signature tune of ‘Housewives’ Choice’, or more recently as the theme for ‘The Comic Strip goes to Devon’. Disappointing is Nelson Riddle’s version of Vilja, where violas and cellos dominate the theme line with unclear focus. The soprano’s vocal theme needed a much brighter sound, possibly flute with piccolo doubling. Here the theme is muddy and Riddle’s crude decoration just doesn’t work.

The CD makes a point of featuring composer, Clive Richardson, devoting three tracks to him. The first of these tracks, Holiday Spirit, is repetitious and monotonous to the ear. Better are the other two compositions showing a fair degree of good construction, Outward Bound and London Fantasia.

The booklet gives scant information on the composers and associated orchestras: it would have helped to say where all these pieces used to feature. Maybe it is somewhat late in the day for Guild to be releasing the more familiar pieces found in this album when Ronald Corp has covered them so admirably in his British Light Music series in modern Hyperion recordings. For me, the real appeal here is to revisit the original wireless recordings as I remember them (lovingly restored by Alan Bunting), and also to put names to the composers of this music we know so well.

Raymond J Walker

 

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

 



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