GLCD 5147 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Bandstand in the Park – Volume 2


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Klassikcom Thursday November 06 2008

Nichts für Militaristen
Ein Sonntagnachmittagsausflug. Man lustwandelt durch Feld und Flur, mindestens aber im Park. Und dort klingt bereits vom Musikpavillon Musik herüber. Eine Blaskapelle hat sich zum fröhlichen Musizieren formiert und bearbeitet tüchtig ihre Instrumente. Zum Wohlgefallen aller. Einst war dies so – in der ersten Hälfte des vorigen Jahrhunderts. Wenn sie heute überhaupt noch stehen, so sind die Musikpavillons in einem erbärmlichen Zustand, und zackige Musik wird schon lange nicht mehr auf diesen Podien der leichten Unterhaltung gespielt. Was bleibt, ist die Tonkonserve, denn zum Glück nutzte die Schallplatte schon früh die Beliebtheit der vielen und großen Militär- und Blaskapellen, um den Hörern am heimischen Abspielgerät tüchtig den Marsch zu blasen.

Wieder einmal hat David Ades den Lichtschalter angeknipst und ist die Stiegen zum Tonarchiv herabgegangen. Bereits in zweiter Folge bringt er nun für die ‚Golden Age of Light Music’-Reihe markante Märsche, aber auch weniger Marschhaftes gesammelt auf CD, meist in Aufnahmen mit britischen Blaskapellen wie der Central Band of the RAF, der Black Dyke Mills Band, der BBC Wireless Military Band, der Grenadier Guards Band, der Irish Guards Band. Aber auch die Kapelle der königlich niederländischen Marine und sogar die österreichischen Hoch- und Deutschmeister sind mit von der discographischen Partie.

Zugegeben, solche Musik ist nicht jedermanns Sache und eine Scheibe mit Marschmusik gerät schnell in Verruf. Doch in diesem Fall ist diese Sorge unbegründet. Dafür sorgen Komponisten wie Eric Coates mit seinem ‚Dam Busters’-Film Theme, Robert Farnon mit seinem ‚Smiles ‚N’ Chuckles’ oder auch Alexander Borodin, dessen Tänze aus ‚Fürst Igor’ in einer ausgesprochen klangfein interpretierten Wiedergabe in einem Arrangement von Dan Godfrey durch die BBC Wireless Military Band unter der Leitung von B. Walton O’Donnell. Ein bisschen angestaubt hingegen muten da denn doch die stechschrittfreundlichen Märsche eines Eduard Wagnes (Die Bosniaken kommen) und Karl Komzak (Vindobona) in Aufnahmen des Jahres 1952 mit den Deutschmeistern unter Julius Herrmann an.

Klangtechnisch von Restaurator Alan Bunting einmal mehr herausragend aufgemöbelt, sind diese Aufnahmen nicht zuletzt eindrückliche Zeugnisse einer musikalischen Spielkultur, deren Niveau seither nicht mehr erreicht wurde.
Erik Daumann

MusicWeb International Wednesday October 15th 2008

EMI has its GROC – Great Recordings of the Century – and Guild has its GALM, its miscellaneous compilation albums devoted to that amorphous sub-genre known as the Golden Age of Light Music. This one is a continuation of its Bandstand in the Park sub-series with its evocative LNER poster art from 1930; Bridlington by Henry George Gawthorn (1879-1941), all dappled sunlight on the promenade, blazers and knee length skirts, a military band visible in the bandstand; turquoise parasols twirling in the light breeze. A land where the Great Crash never intruded.

Despite the specificity of the cover artwork the dates of recordings range between 1929 and 1955. The disc opens with the last of them, a number that will swell the chests of patriotic Englishmen everywhere; the Eric Coates theme from The Dam Busters, a tune so good even Adrian Boult loved it. That’s followed by a sparkling and virtuosic example of cornet playing from William Lang and the Black Dyke Mills conducted by Arthur O. Pearce. Robert Farnon is heard in cheeky form in Smiles ‘n’ Chuckles whereas there’s a famous old novelty staple in the line-up as well – The Whistler and his Dog. This is played by the Black Diamonds Band on a 1929 Zonophone but it was made famous of course by Arthur Pryor of Sousa’s band.

Easthope Martin’s evergreen Evensong is played smoothly by the elite BBC Wireless Military Band conducted by B. Walton O’Donnell in 1932 whilst the aviation branch of the fighting forces is represented by the Central Band of the RAF. They essay the wholly appropriate The Jolly Airman from 1956 – confident, breezy, post-War optimistic and full of swing. I think it was Terry Jones of Monty Python (and Chaucerian Studies) fame who did the dirty on Harry Parr-Davies’s Sing As We Go – which is again a BBC Wireless/O’Donnell recording – and appropriated its melody for one of his naughty songs. No such fate befell – or has befallen – the confident swagger of Vivian Dunn’s Cockleshell Heroes. His Marines School of Music orchestra is one of the many and varied such bands on this disc. Another is the Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy directed by Captain G. Nieuwland – and a stirring show they make of Tony Lowry’s Golden Spurs. The ‘March King’ – Kenneth Alford – is represented by The Great Little Army which is a typically winning and spruce march. The final track represents two sides of a 1934 Columbia 78; The Prince Igor Ballet Dances in this arrangement by Dan Godfrey and once more in the capable embouchures of the men of the BBC Military Wireless Band under O’Donnell.

Charismatic military blowing has been intelligently harnessed in the interest of a varied programme. If some of the earlier sides are too treble starved for my tastes then the later ones are better. As ever, top notch notes.
Jonathan Woolf

MusicWeb International –Wednesday August 20th 2008

Most enjoyable and very well worth investigating …  Bob Briggs
Seemingly long gone are the balmy hot summer Sundays when every local park had a well kept bandstand which boasted live music from an ensemble, brass or military, where light classical was the fare – and we loved it! But it’s not that long ago! Who can forget the scene in The Ipcress File (1965) where the traitor Major Dalby meets Harry Palmer whilst the band plays an arrangement of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture? That’s the kind of music this disk celebrates.

Starting with a vital performance of the March, The Dam Busters which Eric Coates wrote, but actually didn’t write, for the film of the same name! When Coates received the commission to write the theme music he told the studio that he had recently completed a new march and would it suit their purposes? It did, and it’s now impossible to think of the film without that great tune coming to mind. But how easily it could have been called March, Leytonstone High Road. Would it have the popularity it now has had it had that title? Ultimately who cares, it’s a great piece of music and it receives a fine performance here.

Jenny Wren is the typical kind of cornet solo which was always heard on those lazy Sunday afternoons in the park. Farnon’s Smiles ‘N’ Chuckles is a glorious piece of nonsense, full of wah–wah mutes and smooth saxes.

The first novelty, as Henry Wood had it, is Jaime Texidor’s Amparito Roca. Jaime Texidor Dalmau was born in Barcelona, and was a saxophonist who subsequently conducted the Banda Música del regimiento 68, Melilla and the Banda del Círculo Instructivo Musical, Valencia. With his experience he was well equipped to write for band and this is a marvellous example of an up–tempo dance piece.

Flash Harry was the musicians nick–name for Malcolm Sargent but whether Binge’s jolly work has anything to do with that person is anybody’s guess. This is great fun. The Whistler and his Dog is a well known piece but who can name its composer? I wonder which member of the Black Diamonds Band did the sound effects? Sousa’s High School Cadets is a quick march, new to me, and given a really bouncy performance by the Massed Bands. Martin’s Evensong is a beautiful work which easily lends itself to the sustained sound of wind band. Down the Mall is a jaunty march which was a big success on its appearance. Incidentally, Brownsmith and Lowry, the joint composers hidden behind the pseudonym, both worked in the 1930s as arrangers for the BBC Dance Band when it was under the directorship of Henry Hall.

The Jolly Airman is another up–beat march–cum–quickstep. Harry Parr Davies had a short career but still managed to create some of the most memorable songs for British films in the years leading up to World War II, the best known being Pedro the Fisherman, Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye and Sing as You Go: this last was introduced by Gracie Fields in the film of the same name. He also wrote several songs for George Formby Films.

Jack Strachey is probably best known for the delightful In Party Mood. Eros is Piccadilly is like taking a fast stroll round the Circus and taking in the various sights. Eric Coates’s Knightsbridge March is, perhaps, the least successful performance here for I feel that it does need strings to play the marvellous melody he has written, clarinets simply don’t do it for me here. It’s a fine arrangement whether I like it or not!

Die Bosniaken Kommen and Music in the Park are excellent examples of strutting marches, while Royal Review is a much more impressive piece of work, majestic and serious.

Lieutenant–Colonel Sir Vivian Dunn studied conducting under Henry Wood and B Walton O’Donnell and as a violinist he was a founder member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Aged only 22 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Marines as director of music for the Portsmouth Division of the Corps. He was appointed lieutenant–colonel and director of music for the Royal Marines in 1953. He was the first military musician to be knighted. Dunn was a reluctant composer but the march Cockleshell Heroes, written the film of the same name, is a fine example of the real military march written by someone who knew this kind of music inside–out.

With Sword and Lance is a very conventional march but Over the Sticks is an hilarious evocation of a chase (after the fox, perhaps) complete with the posthorn call. Golden Spurs is much in the manner of the early Grandstand TV title music.

James L Tarver was born in del Rio, Texas and as a trumpeter played in dance and military bands as well as orchestras. As a composer he has written extensively for wind band. El Charro is a very obvious south–of–the–border piece.

Known as the British March King, Kenneth J Alford wrote a lot of marches which are always entertaining, the best known being Colonel Bogey. The Great Little Army was the name given to the British Expeditionary Force – the British Army sent to the Western Front in France and Belgium on the outbreak of World War I. The same name was later given to the British Forces in Europe from 1939 to 1940.

Roger Barsotti was, for fifteen years, bandmaster of the Queen’s Royal Regiment, then for 22 years bandmaster of the London Metropolitan Police Band. More recently, Barsotti wrote Motorsport – the theme music for BBC1’s F1 coverage. He wrote much music for band including marches, galops and novelty numbers – xylophone solos and the like – and his New Post Horn Galop is a brisk romp punctuated by the post horn call. Sims’s March of the Royal Air Forces Association contains a wonderful piccolo solo, in the manner of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

Vindobona is a solid and dependable composition, complete with masses of cymbals and drums. The disk ends with Dan Godfrey’s superb arrangement of the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. What a performance it is! Virtuoso playing from all sections of the band but what else would you expect from the BBC Wireless Military Band and its’ conductor B Walton O’Donnell at the height of their powers in 1934? And in excellent sound too!

This is a slightly different kind of programming compared to much of the rest of this series but then the subject demands that. It’s a most engaging collection of pieces, some you’d never hear these days, and their rehabilitation on this disk is most welcome. Despite the age of many of the recordings the sound is very good indeed – they’ve all been cleaned up without any loss of bloom in the top most register. Perhaps this won’t be welcomed by as many listeners as some of the others in this light music series, but it is most enjoyable and very well worth investigating.
Bob Briggs