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Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975)
Orchestral Music Vol.1
Buglerís Holiday (1954) [2:41]
Blue Tango (1951) [2:58]
The First Day of Spring (1954) [3:05]
Belle of the Ball (1951) [3:00]
Governor Bradford March (1948) [2:29]
Clarinet Candy (1962) [2:59]
The Captains and the Kings (1962) [2:46]
The Golden Years (1962) [4:10]
Chicken Reel (1946) [3:07]
Fiddle-Faddle (1947) [3:43]
The Classical Jukebox (1950) [3:09]
China Doll (1951) [2:38]
Balladette (1962) [3:02]
Arietta (1962) [2:38]
Piano Concerto in C (1953) [19:29]
Catherine Moore, David McCallum, John Blackshaw (trumpets), Michael Pearce, Derek Hannigan, Jenny McLaren, Neville Graham (clarinets), Jeffrey Biegel (piano)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, 24-25 April 2006. DDD†
NAXOS 8.559313 [61:54]

 


Go on, I defy you to not enjoy this wonderful, tuneful, exuberant, fun music. 

John Williams described Anderson as "one of the great American masters of light orchestral music", but in truth he is without peer. Not even the great David Rose is quite up there with Anderson. He studied harmony with Georges Enescu and composition with Walter Piston at Harvard and was discovered by Arthur Fiedler in 1936, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Over the years there have been many recordings of Andersonís music Ė many by Anderson himself conducting a pick-up band Ė but they have almost always concentrated on the well known works. Indeed, Slatkin himself, recorded an Anderson album with the St Louis Symphony but that, too, concentrated on the popular pieces. This disk, deliciously described as Volume 1 (Hurrah!), mixes the popular with the less well known. 

The disk explodes into life with the Buglerís Holiday, the performance simply bursts out of the speakers at you. The BBC Concert Orchestra, a band which can play just about anything from Finziís Intimations of Immortality (I remember a superb performance of that work in about 1975 on BBC Radio 3, conducted by its then chief conductor Ashley Lawrence) to Charles Williamsís Devilís Galop is on top form. Indeed, Iíve never heard an orchestra enjoying itself so much. Is there another such versatile band in the world I wonder? 

Slatkin brings out the very best from the orchestra, with a wonderful swagger and perfect sense of style. He forms each miniature with care and love, making them the mini masterpieces so many of them are. 

The disk ends with Andersonís biggest concert work Ė the Piano Concerto in C. Here the style here is more serious, which might account for the mixed reception it received at its premiŤre in 1953, but enjoyable as it is it lacks that special something which makes his pops pieces so perfect. Having said that, the slow movement is simply drop dead gorgeous, with a lovely dance section in the middle, and the finale is a hoot. Anderson withdrew the work, which, with hindsight, we can see was unfair, as it is a fine piece. Itís interesting that another composer working in the light field Ė Stephen Sondheim Ė withheld his Piano Concertino, written in 1949, from public consumption, until Jonathan Sheffer discovered it and gave it its premiŤre in 2001. 

Look, you donít need me to tell you that this is essential listening for anyone with a soul and a love of a good tune. You owe it to yourself to make space in your life, and your CD collection, for such carefully wrought serious light music. 

The performances are all you could wish for, the recording excellent, the notes informative. Until a recent spate of new recordings, light music had a bad press for too many years, not being worthy of a serious music lovers attention, but just like allowing yourself that second Mars Bar, itís great to wallow in sheer delight and enjoy the guilty pleasure of a good tune.

Bob Briggs

 

 


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