Reviews

GLCD 5150 – The Golden Age of Light Music – String Fever

Various

To the CD in our Shop


MusicWeb International Tuesday January 5th 2010

Another in Guild’s fabulous light music series

It’s amazing to discover that this is the fiftieth issue in Guild’s fabulous light music series. I have had the great privilege of commenting on about ten of them and the quality, range and variety of their content is staggering. One of the most important aspects of the series is that, quite apart from the obvious enjoyment factor, these disks have put so many all but forgotten composers back into circulation. Yet again, this is a most enjoyable collection, with plenty of variety, and many “finds”.

What a brilliant opener String Fever proves to be. It’s racy and piquant, naughty harmonies amidst a straight forward-syncopated bass. Excellent! Poinciana is one of several trees known as the Flame Tree. Royal Poinciana is endemic to Madagascar’s dry deciduous forests and in the wild it is endangered. I’ve only seen photographs of the tree and it is very beautiful, but I’m not too sure what this marimba melody has to do with it!

Scrub is an expression string players use to describe music which is not very interesting to play, perhaps page after page of tremolandi, or something colourful but not particularly musical. Thus Ken Warner’s Scrub Brother Scrub has a tune verging on the uninteresting, because it is a kind of scrubbing, but at the same time it’s fascinating and very pleasant. Ellis’s The Epic Waltz – in a very American arrangement by Angela Morley – is one of those pieces, such as Herschel Burke Gilbert’s title music for the Dick Powell (TV) Show which you’re convinced you know even on first hearing. Fiddlin’ the Blues is a funny piece of country fiddling with a blues harmony and a manic drum. Great fun. Windy Corner isn’t suffering a storm, rather a slight breeze whilst you wait for your date, and have high expectations of the coming evening. Pedrillo’s Buggy Ride is a real hoot of a piece, mock clicking heels, bright and breezy tune and an irrepressible attitude. You will, I am sure, immediately recognize Tillie’s Tango – a lovely, and very silly, dance piece.

Sidney Torch’s All Strings And Fancy Free is yet another of those pizzicato scherzo–like pieces so beloved of light music composers. Apart from the plucking, it has a big tune in the middle, complete with heart–on–sleeve violin solo. Monnot’s Left Bank (C’est à Hambourg), whilst being a portrait of that famous part of Paris, has a Kurt Weill Berlin undertone at the beginning, very odd. It’s a marvellous piece nonetheless. I don’t know one dud piece by Billy Mayerl and his Busybody is another of his lovely pieces. Tico Tico is an arrangement of the famous tune. Dream Street is another example of the violins scrubbing away, and I imagine that Peter Knight’s Pink Gin is a pretty good musical depiction of that beverage. I’m a beer man myself.

My three favourite pieces are right at the end of the disk. Meredith Willson’s (he of The Music Man fame) Sneezing Violins is a bigger piece than you would expect, and Frank de Vol’s Lotta Pizzicato does exactly what it promises – it has a lotta pizzicato. Roger Roger’s Music Hall is a marvellous fast piece which proves that the show can, and must, go on.

Yet again, Guild has created a fabulous disk of very interesting and entertaining music, most of which will be new to most of you. The transfers are bright and very clear, with no surface noise but – and I wonder how they do this – there is no discernable lack of bloom in the higher frequencies. The notes, though not exhaustive, are good. Yet again we must be grateful to Guild for opening our ears to some excellent music which has lain forgotten for too long.
Bob Briggs


Klassik Com Friday March 27 2009

Interpretation

Klangqualität

Repertoirewert

Booklet

Mit dieser Kompilation feiern David Ades und Alan Bunting bereits das 50. Album in der Reihe ‘Golden Age of Light Music’. Seit dem Start dieser Serie bei ‘Guild Light Music’ im Jahr 2004 kamen mehr als 1200 Aufnahmen auf den Silberling. In weiteren Zahlen bedeutet dies ca. 200 Orchester und mehr als 400 Komponisten. Der Begriff ‘Light Music’ ist in erster Linie ein britischer. In Nordamerika ist indes der Ausdruck ‘Concert Music’ bekannt, während die Franzosen ‘Musique Légère’ bevorzugen und die Deutschen, steif und streng wie wir halt sind, die schwere Kunst der leichten Muse als ‘Unterhaltungsmusik’ betiteln.

All diese Begrifflichkeiten aber sind zu kurz gegriffen angesichts der Bandbreite und zeitlichen Ausdehnung der Einspielungen, die David Ades auf 50 CDs gebracht hat, denn immerhin umfassen die Aufnahmen einen Zeitraum von den 20er bis in die späten 50er Jahre. Raritäten sind genauso zu finden wie beliebte Melodien aus Revuen, Filmen, frühen Fernsehsendungen, des Weiteren Archiv-Musik, d.h. speziell komponierte Hintergrundmusik für den Einsatz in Funk und Fernsehen ‑ angesichts der heute praktizierten Sparmaßnahmen ein nicht mehr denkbarer Luxus. Nicht zuletzt aus diesem Grund weht über jeder der inzwischen 50 Kompilationen immer auch ein Hauch Nostalgie.

‘String Fever’ heißt das Jubiläumsalbum und die Hörer bekommen ihre tägliche Dosis Streichersättigung von ihren inzwischen sattsam bekannten Orchesterchefs wie Robert Farnon, George Melachrino, Morton Gould, Leroy Holmes, Dolf van der Linden, Sidney Torch, Richard Hayman oder Laurie Johnson verabreicht. Einmal mehr gilt es, ausgezeichnet restaurierte musikalische Kameen aus den späten 40er und 50er Jahren in ihrer professionellen Handwerklichkeit zu genießen. Denn ebenso wie es für einen Clown eine ungemein schwere Kunst ist, Leute zum Lachen zu bringen, ist es womöglich die Königsdisziplin der Musik, die ‘leichte Kost’ auch wirklich leichtfüßig zu präsentieren und dabei die höchsten Qualitätsstandards des Orchesterspiels einzuhalten. Die genannten üblichen Verdächtigen haben dies aufs Beste verstanden.
Erik Daumann


Journal into Melody June 2010

Sidney Torch’s Masterpiece is Analysed by Robert Walton
To say that David Rose started something when he composed and recorded Holiday for Strings must be the Understatement of all time. Little did he know he had just unwittingly given light music a new direction that was to haue repercussions that would resonate for the rest of the 20th century and beyond. Virtually overnight, light music had moved on. The traditional tried and tested tired old format had just received its biggest shot in the arm with a composition so revolutionary that the old guard didn’t quite know what had hit them. On the other hand, the record buying public had no qualms about this sensational million selling light orchestral piece, completely embracing its freshness and originality. Perhaps it stood out as something of a beacon in a sea of big band music. At the time no one could have foreseen what influence Holiday for Strings from 1944 would have an other composers especially
in Britain, strangely the birthplace of Rose. One of the first to be inspired by the Rose classic was Sidney Torch who unashamedly used the formula for his All Strings and Fancy Free. I have always thought of it as the English Holiday for Strings Beginning with the briefest of introductions, this perfect 1947 portrait of pizzicato playing, immediately insinuntes itself into our consciousness. All Strings and Fancy Free is a typically tantalizing Torch tune with a hint of A Handfu/ of Stars Hum the song at speed and you’ll see what I mean. All Strings and Fancy Free may not have sold a million like Holiday for Strings, but far more people probably heard it as background music in newsreels, feature films, radio and television. Also as a piece in its own right, it had many performances in concerts and record programmes around the world. It was one of the first compositions in the new wave of post WW11 quality light music. Listening
to the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra and Sidney Torch versions, you can picture these top London players letting their hair down in this welcome Break from the classics, but taking it just as seriously. And why wouldn’t they, with music as tasteful as this?
After the first phrase, the flute and piccolo together play four decorative jabs before the piece changes key. This is a stroke of genius so early in the piece but it keeps the melody fresh. (Most modulations tend to take place later in compositions). And all the while the abrupt syncopation that was so characteristic in much of Torch’s work provides the vitality and energy. After two more direct hits from the woodwind, the clarinet joins in with a little Counter melody. Then Torch leaves you in no doubt that a change is on the way and something stirring is about to happen.
With deadly accuracy, sharp shooter Sidney pulls out all the Stops (as a one time Organist that was no problem!) for a Serien of thrilling woodwind notes with the strings in tow. Now we’re Jeep in the heart of Torch territory. He surely invented the word “crisp”. Pizzicato strings switch to arco (bowed). The general build-up of the bricks and mortar of the orchestration is overwhelming as we head towards the middle section. The strings still in tempo play a lovely lyrical tune – a sort of acknowledgement to trailblazer Rose. At this point it may seem to be lacking in propulsion, but of course on this Occasion, the very Same Instruments that first provided both rhythm and melody simply can’t do two things at once! Then repeating this sublime tune, everything slows right down for a typical weepy Torch violin solo, wringing every ounce of emotion out of it. I defy you not to
be moved. Light orchestral lovers who werent into classical music, warmed to this gorgeous goose pimple producing passage. It brings to mind a very similar solo in Music in the Air which surprise, surprise, Torch had arranged. It might have even been the same soloist! Back to those exciting rapid woodwind notes and with the strings restored to pizzicato, off we go again with this captivating melody and a final simple soft landing eventually on a 6/9 chord. (In the key of C, the added notes are A and D).
Analysing this vintage light orchestral classic after all these years has been something of a revelation. The brilliant title All Strings and Fancy Free, and of course the piece itself, sums up for me a never to be repeated period in music, which unlike the previous era never dates, and stays forever young.