Another feast of the Palm
Court awaits nostalgics. A look at the line-up
will disclose the names of café fiddlers
and recording giants of the genre – Sandler
and his Strad, Campoli and his salon effusions,
Alfredo and Mantovani. The majority are British
performers and performances but some stellar
continental names could hardly be refused.
So Ferdy Kaufman joins Edith Lorand, Marek
Weber and Barnabas Von Geczy in the roster,
all elite violinists.
One of the incidental pleasures
of a disc like this is to scan the booklet
notes and find out biographical nuggets. I
knew for instance that Alfredo was born Alfred
Gill but not that he was from New Jersey.
His cheery gypsy-ish postcards always suggest
a denizen of Bournemouth or Acton. He jumped
on the vogue for gypsy ensembles in the 1930s
disbanding his dance band in the process.
Of course we also have Ketèlbey and
his Dresden Figures, Charles Ancliffe and
a raft of dance band leaders – Jack Hylton,
Debroy Somers, Charles Prentice. Collectors
of the relatively obscure will like to note
that Walter Goehr is here in his light music
persona, adding his grit to the Poldini, alongside
Campoli and the Orchestre Raymonde.
The tunes are mostly a delight,
right from the splendid waltz that gives its
name to the disc and Mantovani’s playing of
the Harold Rawlinson piece Monsieur Tricotin.
Alfredo’s band uses an accordion and spices
the ensemble with whistling – rather winsome
all round really. Much better is the Joseph
Muscant band’s Fairies in the Moon
(ignore the title). The Campoli titles are,
to use the fiddler’s nickname, rather camp
examples of his art – xylophones and gelatinous
strings – but do listen out for the Somers
band in Drigo’s Serenade. Who is that very
fine cellist? It was a feature of bands like
this – especially J.H. Squire’s Celeste Octet
- to employ first-rate classical players and
the Somers band sounds like it had a fair
few on board.
There are novelty songs here
naturally. Campoli serves up the dreaded Teddy
Bears Picnic and Ronnie Munro dishes up
all sorts of equipment for The Cuckoo Waltz
including, for some reason, a Hawaiian guitar.
The 78s are in good nick
– with the exception of a rather dished Fibich
– and Peter Dempsey’s notes pack in a lot
of valuable detail.