War and Peace – Light Music of the 1940s; The Golden Age of Light Music
Down The Mall - John Belton, real names Tony Lowry and Douglas Brownsmith [2:29]
Charles Shadwell and his orchestra
Stardust - Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Percy Faith [3:12]
Percy Faith and his orchestra
Footlights - Eric Coates [4:11]
Light Symphony Orchesrtra/Eric Coates
Spitfire Fugue - from the film “The First Of The Few”- William Walton [4:07]
Halle Orchestra/ William Walton; Laurance Turner (solo violin)
A Cocktail Of Happiness - Wynford Reynolds [2:56]
Wynford Reynolds and his orchestra
Girls In Grey – Charles Williams [2:35]
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Humoresque - Antonin Dvorák [2:34]
David Rose and his orchestra
“El Alamein” - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra - Albert Arlen, born Albert Aarons [7:45]
Jack Payne and his orchestra with Peggy Cochrane (piano)
On A Spring Note - Sidney Torch, real name Sidney Torchinsky [2:51]
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Sidney Torch
Boogie Woogie Moonshine from the film “Piccadilly Incident” [3:41]
Louis Levy and his ‘Music from the Movies’; Henry Bronkhurst (piano)
Voice Of Industry; March - Jack Beaver [2:45]
The New Century Orchestra/Sidney Torch
Willie The Whistler - Robert Farnon [2:14]
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Starlight Roof Waltz - George Melachrino [2:56]
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
A Matter Of Life And Death; Prelude from the film - Allan Gray, real name Josef Zmigrod [4:01]
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Olympic Games March - Ronald Hanmer [2:57]
The New Century Orchestra/Sidney Torch
The Fairy And The Fiddlers - Edward White [3:26]
New Concert Orchestra/Jay Wilbur
Bonaventure - Frederic Curzon [2:55]
New Concert Orchestra/Frederic Curzon
American Serenade - Louis Alter [4:09]
Meredith Willson and his orchestra
Marche Fantastique - Leighton Lucas [3:10]
Leighton Lucas and his orchestra
Short Overture To An Unwritten Opera - Don Gillis [4:07]
New Concert Orchestra/Rae Jenkins
Royal Cavalcade - Albert William Ketèlbey [2:42]
The Louis Voss Grand Orchestra
Lullaby Of The Bells; Piano Concerto from the film “The Phantom Of The Opera” - Edward Ward [5:55]
Mantovani and his concert orchestra featuring Guy Fletcher (piano)
rec. 1942-49
GUILD GLCD 5171 [78:50]
Still they come, like an onslaught, like the musical equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (but in a good way). The biggest Light Music catalogue around regularly plunders the vast vaults of the genre, and invariably returns with schematically interesting and enjoyable compilations. My initial weariness – I’ve reviewed so many – proves to be transient as the maestros behind the project know how to concoct things, and occasionally, just occasionally, come up with quixotic juxtapositions to keep things alert and alive.
This disc, for instance, consists of pieces recorded between 1942 and ’49. It opens in assured and breezy fashion with Down The Mall, essayed with panache by Charles Shadwell and his fine aggregation. By way of immediate contrast Percy Faith turns lush on Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust, the rich orchestration luxuriating in nuances. Into this company strides Eric Coates, still a master, who conducts his genially unbuttoned Footlights. Another leading British composer also slips in, namely Walton whose Spitfire Fugue might seem to be an odd choice for this genre, but it has film music status, and kudos for lifting the spirits. Marginal though, in my view, whether it really fits. A good opus for upping productivity levels is A Cocktail Of Happiness recorded, appropriately, on the Decca ‘Music While You Work’ label.
Charles Williams has been an assured and reassuring presence throughout many of the discs in this long series. Once again his Imperial credentials cannot be faulted; his Girls In Grey is a self-confident march with a hint of braggadocio. Those girls knew their worth. Art Tatum jazzed Dvorák’s Humoresque, but here David Rose smooches it; plenty of pizzicati for this immortal standard. The British were very good in the 40s at pocket piano concertos predicated on Rachmaninovian lines – the so-called Denham Concerto. The list is long. However El Alamein - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, is by Albert Arlen, born Albert Aarons, and commemorative of the battle, not a piece of film music. It was premiered by pianist Phil French and conductor Hugo Rignold in 1944. Brass calls, thudding percussion (imitative of shell thuds, I assume), and the Reveille, all make their appearances in a work that may be unsophisticated but packs a deeper punch when one acknowledges the circumstances of its composition. Peggy Cochrane, erstwhile violinist and here pianist, is the soloist, and Jack Payne conducts.
Once again we have an immediate contrast via the succeeding On A Spring Note by Sidney Torch(insky) which is insouciant and jaunty. Things get even more brazen when Boogie Woogie Moonshine is unveiled, film music (by Louis Levy?) that goes in for all sorts of hi-jinks including Big Band swing, Original Dixieland Jazz Band horse whinnying, Moonlight sonata counterpoint, and You are My Sunshine quotations. Weird. Louis Armstrong once recorded a song called Willie the Weeper but Robert Farnon concocted Willie The Whistler which is a noble march tune. We also have the prelude to the film music for A Matter of Life and Death written by Allan Gray, whose real name was Josef Zmigrod. The theme of the imperial march recurs however, this time in the shape of Frederic Curzon’s very Elgarian Bonaventure, with its Pomp and Circumstance affiliations. There’s a touch of Percy Grainger in Leighton Lucas’s Marche Fantastique. Meanwhile Don Gillis’s Short Overture To An Unwritten Opera could have slotted in nicely to Guild’s Lightly Classical album, recently released – it’s typically witty. We end with another pocket piano concerto, this time by Edward Ward, whose film music for “The Phantom of the Opera” is heard in a performance by pianist Guy Fletcher with the redoubtable Mantovani on the rostrum.
This well engineered selection has the usual alpha-level notes.
Jonathan Woolf
Like the musical equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse … but in a good way.