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Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975)
Orchestral Music: Volume 2
1. Woodbury Fanfare (1959) [0.55]
2. A Harvard Festival (1969) [6:13]
3. Forgotten Dreams (1954) [2:25]
4. Whistling Kettle (c.1966) [1:44]
5. Horse and Buggy (1951) [3:46]
6. The Waltzing Cat (1950) [2:36]
7. Home Stretch (1962) [2:48]
8. The Girl in Satin (1953) [2:19]
9. March of the Two Left Feet (1970) [2:24]
10. Waltz around the Scale (1970) [2:43]
11. Lullaby of the Drums (1970) [3:05]
12. Jazz Legato (1938) [1:45]
13. Jazz Pizzicato (1938) [1:58]
14. Song of the Bells (1953) [3:30]
15. Song of Jupiter (arr. of Handel: Semele HWV 58 ‘Where’er you walk’) (1950) [4:13]
16. Suite of Carols for String Orchestra (1955) [12:27]
Alistair Young (piano) (Forgotten Dreams); David McCallum (trumpet) (Song of Jupiter)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. The Coliseum, Town Hall, Watford, UK, 12 April 2007 (tracks 5, 6, 8, 12-14), 13 April 2007 (tracks 3, 4, 7, 16), 14 April 2007 (tracks 1, 9, 11) 3 September 2007 (track 2), 5 September 2007 (track 10). DDD
NAXOS 8.559356 [54:51]

 

Experience Classicsonline


I must admit that I tend towards being a completist when it comes to music. It probably goes back to days when I used hang over railway bridges and haunt the end of Motherwell station platforms to collect steam and diesel locomotive numbers. However, my thoughts on musical completeness are slightly different. It is not really my burning desire to ‘collect’ every work written by Bax, Beethoven or Bliss. Goodness knows, I would not want to plough my way through the myriad ‘dances’ for piano by Ludwig any more than I could settle down to address every sonata written by Scarlatti. But there is a valid reason for a ‘complete’ or ‘collected’ edition of the complete works of a poet, an author or a composer. It gives the listener, the student and the musicologist a reference on which to base their criticisms and understanding of the composer. And for this reason alone I applaud Naxos and their attempt to present all the orchestral works of Leroy Anderson.

The down-side of this approach is that there are bound to be some pieces that do not do the composer justice: there are a few works that he may have excluded from the canon. And deservedly so!

I have always enjoyed Leroy Anderson and his laid-back American style of ‘light’ music. Like most people that are ‘into’ his music, I have been brought up on the ‘greatest hits’ type of LP or CD. Several of his works are reproduced time and time again - and with justice. I think of Sleigh Ride, The Waltzing Cat, and The Typewriter etc. But there is a deal of music that has not been heard or is known only to connoisseurs. Some of this is good, some great and one or two pieces are frankly indifferent. In addition to his original pieces, Anderson was always in demand as an arranger. We are fortunate in this release to be able to hear two such works.

The present CD, in similar manner to Volume 1, includes old favourites and new discoveries. Five of the sixteen works are in fact ‘world premiere recordings.’ The first of these ‘premieres’, the Woodbury Fanfare was especially composed for the tercentenary of Woodbury, Connecticut which was the composer’s adopted hometown. It is scored for four trumpets and is effectively a festive fanfare of the sort that could have been written for, and played on, any important occasion. There is nothing here to suggest the composer’s typical style. 

A Harvard Festival could be regarded as a kind of Yankee Academic Festival Overture.  Basically Anderson takes four Harvard student songs and creates a considerable piece. And there are certainly nods to Brahms. Once again nothing here that proclaims Anderson - if anything I thought (oddly) of Malcolm Arnold in one or two places. Not perhaps one of the composer’s greatest works- even if it is well conceived and constructed.

The next ‘novelty’ is the Whistling Kettle which was written at the height of Beatlemania in 1966. It was originally a student piece for violin and viola solo and orchestra that was meant to be part of a suite called The Musical Household. I am not surprised that Leroy Anderson withdrew this work!

The last two ‘world premieres’ have the somewhat Shadows-esque entitled Waltz around the Scale and Lullaby of the Drums. The former began life as a piece for neophyte string ensemble: it was later worked up into a work for full orchestra and had the distinction of being the composer’s last original orchestral composition. It was later withdrawn – although listening some 35 years down the road it does appear to have some claim to be a part of the canon. I cannot quite decide what to say about the Lullaby – perhaps it needs the occasional airing?

Generally speaking, the novelties do tend to be missing that Anderson magic that is so obvious in the pot-boilers presented on this CD – such as the Jazz Legato, Jazz Pizzicato, Horse & Buggy and the Waltzing Cat. They need neither introduction nor commentary.

Forgotten Dreams is an attractive piece of mood music that makes use of a piano obbligato. It was originally an elementary piano piece that was worked up into a ‘symphonic’ tune that is truly romantic – a nice little discovery. Home Stretch is a romp. It is a musical description of a horse race with the runners and riders battling towards the winning post.  Great stuff!  The Girl in Satin is my favourite piece on this CD. It takes the listener a long way from Manhattan or Horse-and-Buggy country – in fact all the way to sunny Spain. After a brief flourish this music drops into a drowsy tango that is full of happy memories of an Iberian peninsula before the British Invasion of the Costa Brava! This is a truly lovely work.

The Song of the Bells is an attractive waltz where the bells have an opportunity to mark out the tune. Although typically a traditional waltz there is a bit of syncopation here to spice up the proceedings.

It goes without saying that the playing is excellent and the sound quality superb. The balance of the programme is well thought out and the sleeve-notes are informative. The only downside is that the length of the CD at 54 minutes is a wee bitty wee!

How to listen to this CD? I guess that I would tend to work through the ‘new’ works first and make a decision as to their relative worth compared to the ‘old favourites’ – which would be the next part of my exploration.  I would leave the large-scale Suite of Carols and the Song of Jupiter to the end. These last works that are perhaps atypical of Anderson. As such they need to be approached for what they are – attractive pieces full of ‘neo-classical elegance’ and devoid of the pizzazz usually associated with Anderson.

John France

see also Review by Ian Lace

 





 


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