Reviews

GLCD 5120 – The Golden Age of Light Music: The Hall of Fame – Volume 1

Various

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International Record Review February 2007

`The Hall of Fame – Volume 1′ is almost a ‘Greatest Hits’ CD, although with so many pieces written over many years, the 22 tracks here cannot cover an unofficial Top 22. It does contain some famous items, in superb performances – often those which made the music popular originally – and this is a splendid introduction to the world of light orchestral music. It also has the advantages of fine orchestras and conductors, including Morton Gould, Arthur Fiedler, Robert Farnon, Andre Kostelanetz, Anthony Collins, Stanford Robinson, Stanley Black and Eric Coates – the last in a movement from his Four Centuries Suite. On occasion, the orchestral playing here is outstanding – the Boston Symphony Orchestra (as the Boston Pops) in Leroy Anderson’s masterly Serenata, Morton Gould’s Orchestra (which often included members of the New York Philharmonic, as did Kostelanetz’s orchestra), the hand-picked Kingsway Symphony Orchestra with Farnon conducting his Portrait of a Flirt, and – unless my memory fails me – members of the LSO and LPO as the London Promenade Orchestra with Collins in his superb Vanity Fair. The ‘featured composer’ here is Clive Richardson, heard as the solo pianist in his famous London Fantasia, with its eerie suggestion of Second World War air-raid sirens. Charles Williams conducts. This is an excellent CD (Guild GLCD5120, 1 hour 18 minutes).
Robert Matthew-Walker

SOURCE NOT KNOWN, 11-2006

The amount of music recorded an 78’s and so much stashed away in publishers’ music libraries that was never sold to the public continues to amaze. So much of it, of course, was for the British market and in any case from this point in time is unknown an these shores. But many of the names are old friends.

Mich in Buried Treasures is being male available for the first time. Alan Bunting’s audio restorations are first rate here and in the entire series. Among the highlights are Stanford Robinson’s Valse Serenade with the BBC Theatre Orchestra conducted by the composer. This was used as a BBC radio theme for “Tuesday Serenade” following WW II. Quite unusual for hem is George Melachrino’s London – March recorded in 1947 by GM himself with his orchestra.

Really special is Philip Green’s Song of Soho: Rhapsody for Piano & Orchestra with pianist William McGuffie taken from a film score for “Murder Without Crime” in 1950. This is another in the genre of the Warsaw Concerto and the Spellbound Concerto. You’ve never heard this one before!. There are many more winners from British and non-British composers. The CD ends with a selection of famous tunes by Robert Stolz who conducts them with the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich.

Say It With Music focuses on the composers. Aside from Americans Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Leroy Anderson, Rodgers & Hart, etc., many Brits are featured as well. The 1950’s sound was pretty decent to begin with, so not too much “restoration” was needed. Among my favorites are White Wedding by Edward White played by the New Concert Orchestra under Dolf van der Linden, Richard Addinsell’s Out of the Clouds with Joe “Mr. Piano” Henderson and Laurie Johnson and his orchestra, Eddie Heywood’s Rainfall with Percy Faith and his orchestra and harpsichordist (!) Bernie Leighton, Frederic Curzon’s Savoire Faire played by the NCO/van der Linden team, Melachrino’s Waltz in Water Colours, and Frank Cordell’s nifty Big Ben Waltz with the composer and his orchestra but using one of his composer’s names of Francis Meillear. This release is one of the best in the series.

The Hall Of Fame – Volume 1 has tracks recorded from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. There are many famous performances here including Morton Gould’s version of David Rose’s Holiday for Strings. Yes, Rose was born in England. The famed Vivian Ellis train piece Coronation Scot with Charles Williams and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, Portrait of a Flirt by Robert Farnon (a Canadian by birth as you will recall) conducting the Kingsway Symphony Orchestra, and Noel Coward’s Mad About the Boy with Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra illustrate just some of the gems to be found here.

Anthony Collins conducts his own famous Vanity Fair with the London Promenade Orchestra. Reginald King conducts a real rarity: Percy Fletcher’s My Love to You recorded in 1930. And that old warhorse In A Persian Market by Ketélbey with Stanford Robinson and the New Symphony Orchestra of London turns up as well.

On this CD Clive Richardson is the featured composer. His dates are 1909-1998. We have Robert Farnon and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducting a 1947 performance of Holiday Spirit, Sidney Torch doing Outward Bound with the same orchestra also in 1947, and best of all, Charles Williams and the Columbia Light Symphony Orchestra in London Fantasia with none other than Clive Richardson himself at the piano. This one dates from 1945. Here is another piece in the Warsaw Concerto mode. I’ll bet you didn’t know there were so many such things! This one is also among the best in the series and maybe a good starting place for you to start looking into these remarkable CD’s.


MusicWeb Tuesday July 18 2006

The majority of tracks on this amply-filled disc are well worn pieces of variety orchestra music that were played on the BBC Light programme in the 1940s and 1950s. Many are familiar even if not known by name. Oddly coupled with these popular pieces are others of an earlier vintage and with more of a traditionally classical image, like Coates’ Four Centuries Suite; Ketèlbey’s In a Persian market (that mirrors the old chestnut ‘In a Monastery Garden’); and Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Out on a limb, perhaps, is Lehár’s Vilja from his operetta, ‘The Merry Widow’ dating from as early as 1905, and clearly not of this genre.

The disc includes a first commercial release of Melachrino’s Gracious Gown, a dreamy piece in slow waltz time. Information does not tell us for what or why it was written and recorded. Curious as to the source of Wooden Shoes, I assumed that the Herbert in question is Victor Herbert of The Red Mill fame. I tracked down the piece to a passage in Toymaker’s Workshop from Babes in Toyland. Unlike the Marco Polo version [8.223843] where the Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra is muddied by extraneous and eccentric animal effects, here one can hear the music nicely focused in glorious isolation. The genteel Ständchen’s Serenade No.1 has never been known by name to me yet its appealing bright, catchy rhythm is memorable, not dissimilar from the style of Jessel’s Wedding of a Rose (with prominent harmonising woodwind) that follows. Say it isn’t So is a meandering and disappointing Berlin number that lacks direction or his usual ragtime inspiration. Strachey’s In Party Mood is better remembered as the signature tune of ‘Housewives’ Choice’, or more recently as the theme for ‘The Comic Strip goes to Devon’. Disappointing is Nelson Riddle’s version of Vilja, where violas and cellos dominate the theme line with unclear focus. The soprano’s vocal theme needed a much brighter sound, possibly flute with piccolo doubling. Here the theme is muddy and Riddle’s crude decoration just doesn’t work.

The CD makes a point of featuring composer, Clive Richardson, devoting three tracks to him. The first of these tracks, Holiday Spirit, is repetitious and monotonous to the ear. Better are the other two compositions showing a fair degree of good construction, Outward Bound and London Fantasia.

The booklet gives scant information on the composers and associated orchestras: it would have helped to say where all these pieces used to feature. Maybe it is somewhat late in the day for Guild to be releasing the more familiar pieces found in this album when Ronald Corp has covered them so admirably in his British Light Music series in modern Hyperion recordings. For me, the real appeal here is to revisit the original wireless recordings as I remember them (lovingly restored by Alan Bunting), and also to put names to the composers of this music we know so well.
Raymond J Walker


Klassik.com Tuesday 20 06 2006

Musikalische Muntermacher

Ungebrochen ist die Lust der Plattenfirma ‘Guild’ an der Edierung ihrer Serie ‚The Golden Age of Light Music’. Schon über 20 Scheiben dokumentieren eine Ausnahme-Sparte in der schier unüberschaubar gewordenen Masse von CD-Veröffentlichungen. Ob ‚Light Music’, ‚Easy Listening’ oder ‚Concert Music’, welchen Oberbegriff auch immer man für diese Art von Musik finden möchte – völlig gerecht wird ihr keiner davon. Sagen wir mal so: es sind gleichsam musikalische Muntermacher, nicht nur im Sinne des leicht Anhörbaren, sondern auch im Sinne einer Sinnesschärfung auf rundherum gut gemachte und herausragend interpretierte Musik aus vergangenen Tagen, hier aus den Jahren zwischen 1930 und 1955 in Aufnahmen von Charles Williams, Arthur Fiedler, Robert Farnon oder Nelson Riddle, um nur ein paar zu nennen. Einiges, nicht vieles, hat auch den Weg in unsere Rundfunkanstalten gefunden, wie zum Beispiel David Rose’s ‚Holiday for Strings’ oder Albert Ketèlbeys ‚In A Persian Market’. Doch auch sie klingen schon lange nicht mehr aus dem Äther. Umso erfreulicher, dass ‚Guild’ nun erneut nach- und auflegt und die Schätze der leichten Muse ans Tageslicht bringt.

Die bunte Mischung mit Schmankerln von Leroy Anderson, Robert Farnon, Noel Coward, George Melanchrino, Bernie Wayne oder Irving Berlin, die man sich munteren Gemüts für ‚nebenher’ in den CD-Spieler legt, darf über einige Ausnahmestücke nicht hinwegtäuschen. Blitzen doch, wie immer in dieser Reihe von ‚Guild’, auch explizit gehaltvollere Stücke aus diesen Kompilationen heraus. Wie zum Beispiel Eric Coates’ ‚Four Centuries Suite’, die hier – leider, leider – nur mit dem ‚20th Century’ vertreten ist. Gerne hätte man sich die komplette Suite gewünscht. Eine schmissig interpretierte Decca-Aufnahme aus dem Jahr 1953 mit dem Komponisten selbst am Pult des New Symphony Orchestra. Oder aber Clive Richardsons ‚London Fantasia’ Sie beschreibt einen Tag der Metropole während eines Bombenangriffs (samt Sirenen signalisierenden glissandierenden Streichern), gleichsam in Form eines einsätzigen Klavierkonzerts (mit Richardsons selbst am Klavier in einer Aufnahme des Jahrs 1945). In verträumt-verklärenden Momenten taucht zu Beginn des Stücks der ‚Lavender Cry’ auf, jener Londoner Straßenruf, den Ralph Vaughan Williams 1911 notiert und selbst in seiner ‚London Symphony’ von 1913 zitiert. Es sind diese subtilen Einsprengsel von herausragender Konzertmusik des 20. Jahrhunderts, die die Edition dieser ‚Light Music’-Reihe so bedeutend macht. Nicht zuletzt auch aufgrund des großartigen Booklettextes mit discographischen Querverweisen.
Erik Daumann


Gramophone July 2006

In March 2005 I welcomed the first 10 releases in the Guild Light Music collection, featuring transfers from 78s and early LPs.  Already the series has expanded to 21 volumes. Of the latest three releases, THE HALL OF FAME – VOLUME 1 offers a rich helping of light-music classics beginning with David Rose’s Holiday for Strings under Morton Gould and ending with a spotlight on Clive Richardson including his celebrated Holiday Spirit and London Fantasia. Among relatively few less familiar items I especially welcome the delightful My Love to You by the sadly underrated Percy Fletcher. ‘THE 1950S VOLUME 3 – SAY IT WITH MUSIC is devoted specifically to early-1950s recordings, and it covers a wide range of composers, orchestras and styles.

Whether it’s a plus or minus for a single CD to range through Roger Roger conducting his own music, the Hamburg Radio Orchestra playing Straus’s Waltz Dream, and Geraldo and His New Concert Orchestra playing a piece by Joyce Cochrane will depend on individual taste, but there will surely be welcome discoveries for all.

For me the greatest attraction lies in ‘JOYOUSNESS – THE MUSIC OF HAYDN WOOD, not least because it includes several items omitted from the Marco Polo collections of music by this British light-music master (8/92,8/97). Of the London Landmarks suite, for instance, we have not only the celebrated Horse Guards — Whitehall but also Nelson’s Column and Tower Hill, even if sadly scattered around the CD rather than grouped together.

I indicated previously that a major downside of the series was the curious attitude towards vocal items Rather than authentic vocal versions, we have here, for instance, a souped-up and distorted Vilia by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, an over-the-top Till the Clouds Roll By by the Gordon Jenkins Orchestra, and a cringingly awful Roses of Picardy featuring Freddy Gardner on the saxophone. Truly one man’s meat is another’s poison!

For the most part, at least, these CDs make happily undemanding and highly pleasant listening. Alan Bunting has reprocessed the recordings expertly, and they come with informative notes David Ades. Andrew Lamb


In Tune International – June 2006

This wonderful series, the best light orchestral library ever assembled on compact disc, continues to weave its magic. A batch of five new discs is now available and three are reviewed this month with a further two covered in the next IT. For those readers yet to discover the Guild series may I summarise a few facts that are common to the project. The series draws on recordings made by commercial labels and music publishing companies during the 1930s, 1940s and the 1950s up to the existing copyright cut-off point. The compilation discs aim to offer light music items not available elsewhere. All recordings are digitally remastered to the highest standards. Two of the most dedicated and knowledgeable light music collectors combine their talents in creating the project which now totals 23 compact discs. David Ades is series producer and compiler and Alan Bunting is responsible for audio restoration and remastering.

For many of us who collect light orchestral recordings the “golden age” of the music began in the immediate post second world war years with the 1950s seeing the zenith. With the issue of GLCD 5119, SAY IT WITH MUSIC, the resourceful Guild team offer volume three of a sequence of discs featuring leading orchestras of the Fifties. A 27 track 77 minute long CD contains sumptuous performances of great “evergreens”, in a tastefully blended programme designed to provide maximum listening pleasure. That is guaranteed with the participation of Stanley Black, David Rose, Leroy Anderson and Robert Farnon to name just some of the great maestros who dominated the genre. To stimulate the enthusiasm of the serious collector any Guild CD invariably contains a rarity and/or a surprise. In the case of GLCD 5119 it is gratifying to find three recordings made under the baton of the distinguished Dutch conductor DoIf Van Der Linden. Light music is renowned for providing original compositions in “mood music” of a descriptive nature. On this disc, pieces such as Leroy Anderson’s famous Sandpaper Ballet, Phil Green’s Wagon Trail and Big Ben Waltz played by Frank Cordell’s Orchestra are typical examples. A disc that really hits the right note!

With THE HALL OF FAME – VOLUME 1 (GLCD 51120) the Guild team very sensibly take stock of the fact that light music has its newcomers who deserve to have the opportunity to buy CDs containing classic recordings by the music’s leading lights. In presenting a compilation of well known works the more seasoned collector is not forgotten as GLCD 51120 demonstrates. Alongside recordings of Holiday For Strings, Serenata, Portrait Of A Flirt and the like are fairly obscure pieces by leading orchestras, examples being Wedding Of The Rose (Ron Goodwin) and Wooden Shoes (Harry Horlick). Another nice feature is the “tribute” to a particular composer, in this instance, pianist-composer, the late Clive Richardson is remembered in three works, including his superb concert piece London Fantasia.

The work of a single composer is celebrated in depth with THE MUSIC OF HAYDN WOOD on GLCD 51121-JOYOUSNESS. 19 recordings by different orchestras illustrate the music penned by one of Britain’s most distinguished light music figures. Haydn Wood’s music has been represented before on Guild releases with regular selections from his large repertoire but “Joyousness” provides a substantial survey of his entrancing music, of which much is so very English in structure and content. The collection takes in recordings from the entire period of Guild’s scope, the 1930s to the early 1950s. Wood’s famous ballad, Roses Of Picardy is heard in the celebrated Peter Yorke recording with the great Freddy Gardner. The composers supreme versatility is demonstrated in compositions that don’t prompt thoughts of all things English via Seville, which features Reginald Foort at the organ and in the New Concert Orchestra’s playing of Vienna (from the “Frescoes Suite”). A collection of outstanding quality with the accent on the more serious style of light music that particularly illustrates the superb sound engineering work carried out by Alan Bunting for this unique series. More next time.
Brian Belton


MusicWeb Wednesday May 17 2006

Another well annotated and transferred disc, slightly treble-suppressant once again. A high ratio of classics. Newcomers particular will find much to stimulate and entertain. …

The Hall of Fame is a new sub-series for Guild. The rationale is to present a taster of some of the very best Light Music classics in newly remastered recordings. I’ve no problem with that even though I have the dizzying feeling that these tracks are going around in an endless loop of retitled reissues. Doubtless this is not the case but a look at the roll-call – Lehár, Coates, Coward, Ketèlbey, Percy Fletcher and the like – might lead one to think so. For one thing some of the arrangements and performances may well be new to you. And to finish we do have a mini-salute to another, younger master of the genre, Clive Richardson. … Why does my spell checker refuse to accept Clive and suggest Clove or Cleeve? Have no Clives been born in the last thirty years?

Clives apart, one can luxuriate in the splendid conjunction of David Rose’s music and Morton Gould’s conducting in Holiday for Strings – ebullient and fizzy. Naturally we get Vivian Ellis’s Coronation Scot and to complete a blockbuster opening trio Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops turn on the glamour for Leroy Anderson’s Serenata. But why stop there; Farnon may now be gone but Portrait of a Flirt is immortal and he serves it up himself with luscious 1948 style.

The Kostelanetz version of Mad About The Boy exploits solo violin, trombone, piano and massed strings, variety being the spice of longing, although it sounds too busy an arrangement. There are however charmers a-plenty to take one’s mind off the near misses. Strachey’s In Party Mood for one or the frolicsome Bubbling Over. Stanford Robinson does his thing with In A Persian Market though it rather lacks the bite of the composer’s own recordings. More up-to date is Camarata’s conducting of the jazz-tinged Brief Interlude. David Rose himself turns up to compress An American in Paris into three minutes. Some would doubtless say that’s an advantage, though maybe the clotted string cream is just too thick, for once.

August Eric Coates was never afraid of transatlantic influence and his syncopated Rhythm, from his Four Centuries suite, has the nerve to half quote Fascinatin’ Rhythm. The Richardson trio includes Outward Bound with its Rimsky hues and the substantial London Fantasia, written in wartime, and featuring Rachmaninovian rhapsody, the Grieg concerto, air raid sirens and a bombing raid. Its lifelike recreation of the sirens and bombing apparently generated adverse comment at the time.

This is another well annotated and transferred disc, slightly treble-suppressant once again. There’s a high ratio of classics here and newcomers in particular will find much to stimulate and entertain.
Jonathan Woolf