Showtime - 25 Years of BBC Concert Orchestra Favourites
William WALTON Crown Imperial [6:26]
Various (Compiled and arr. Sidney Torch) Les Petites Valses Parisiennes [8:03]
Georges BIZET Farandole from ‘L’Arlésienne Suite no.2’ [3:19]
Kenneth J. ALFORD The Two Imps [3:39]
Alasdair Malloy and Stephen Whibley (soloists)
Traditional (arr. Robert Farnon) A La Claire Fontaine [8:00]
Ron GOODWIN Aces High from the film ‘Battle of Britain’ [3:46]
Cole PORTER (arr. Stanley Black) I Love Paris from the musical ‘Can-Can’ [3:29]
Miklós RÓZSA (arr. Roderick Dunk) Main Titles & Love Theme from the film ‘Ben-Hur’ [4:56]
Richard HAYMAN ‘Pops’ Hoedown [14:24] Various (arr. Gordon Langford)
Eric COATES Calling All Workers [3:14]
BBC Concert Orchestra/Roderick Dunk
rec. The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, 29-30 September 2009
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7242 [64:41]

The BBC Concert Orchestra has been around for far longer than the last 25 years. The quarter century being celebrated in fact goes back to the foundation in 1984 of the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Supporters’ Club. The orchestra has always catered to the BBC’s needs for a jack of light trades. Its realm has been BBC Radio 2 or the Light Programme of distant yore. It can be relied on to turn out to provide a reliable and sheeny accompaniment to the celebrity popular singer or MOR star. It can be pulled in film music spectaculars and has been a regular for Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night. It has done service as the orchestra for broadcast Broadway shows, for incidental music for radio and TV, for stately home summer evening concerts on the lawn, for the cross-over greats and a myriad other lighter events. If it no longer has much to pick up in the way of serious studio concerts taped for future broadcast as in the days of Matinee Musicale on Radio 3 it finds itself in demand for revivals on CD of rare British music. Mind you if you look back beyond say 1990 you will find the Radio Times regularly studded with their programmes of Bax, Harty, Addinsell, Arnold, Alwyn, Bantock, Bennett, Blezard and so many others.

This very varied anthology swims in light music waters. Quintessentially potpourri works such as Les Petites Valses Parisiennes (Pigalle (Ulmer) – Mon Coeur est pour toi (Silesu) – La Ronde (Straus) – La Seine (Lafarge) – Domino (Ferrari) – Where is Your Heart (Auric) – Sous les Ponts de Paris (Scotto)) and the final and affectionate Showtime Carousel (arr Gordon Langford) Showtime Carousel: Carousel Waltz (Rodgers; Hammerstein II) – Oliver (Bart) – Sunrise, Sunset (Bock; Harnick) – Hello, Dolly! (Herman) – Goodbye, Dolly Gray (Barnes; Cobb) – I’m a Brass Band (Coleman; Fields) – How Are Things in Glocca Morra? (Lane; Harburg) – Charlie Girl (Heneker; Taylor) – People (Styne; Merrill) – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Sherman; Sherman) – Tonight (Bernstein; Sondheim)) take us into populist sentimental fun. Much the same can be said of the Alford The Two Imps which with its two xylophone soloists has a touch of Parisian Edwardian absurd about it – not to mention reminding is the two musical char ladies in a famous Two Ronnies sketch. It also reminded me of thast startling little piece Characteristic Piece - Nocturnal Amusement by of all people Nikos Skalkottas. Robert Farnon has been both conductor of the BBCCO and a provider of its repertoire over the years. His slow expansively singing A la Claire Fontaine has featured often in the Concert Orchestra’s concerts stretching back into the days of Stanford Robinson and especially of Ashley Lawrence. Its birdsong and Delian Paradise Garden mien merges with the long curves of Shenandoah. Film music is also one of the BBCCO specialities as you will know from their work with visiting Hollywood composers and also with XXXXXX as series of four seminal British cinema music revival programmes conducted and introduced by Carl Davis. Ron Goodwin’s Aces High is an almost too affectionate parody of the Nazi concert band with blazing polished brass and tinkling stahlspielen. Goodwin’s was the score that won out over Walton’s for The Battle of Britain. Strangely enough there are aspects of this score that echo that blazing masterpiece of the cinema: Addison’s march for A Bridge To Far. Cole Porter’s I Love Paris is given a drippingly luxurious treatment by Stanley Black complete with dozen’s of Steiner-like national tune quotes so that the listener knows exactly which country we are in. Rozsa has featured often in the BBCCO concerts (Hungarian Serenade, Piano Concerto, Sinfonia Concertante, That Hamilton Woman, Thief of Baghdad) dating way back to 1974 when Ashley Lawrence gave the UK premiere of Tripartita. It is therefore no surprise t encounter them giving the golden-sheaves-piled-high treatment to the Main Titles and Love Theme of Ben-Hur. The Richard Hayman ‘Pops’ Hoe-Down takes us into zinging zany duck quacking swannee whistle nonsense territory. Hayman it will be remembered has been behind probably hundreds of Marco Polo and Naxos light music compendia.

You might well find this mix irresistible whether as a guilty pleasure or a delight without any guilt at all.

Rob Barnett