Reviews

GLCD 5113 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Mantovani – By Special Request – Volume 2

Various

To the CD in our Shop


Essex Chronicle 14-07-2006

Guild of good musical variety

Not for the first time, have I focused upon one of the smaller classical Labels available to collectors of CDs in this country.

Guild Records (GmbH) is based in Switzerland.

Having had a long association with their releases, I am more than happy to recommend them, both for their variety and general interest.

For example, one of the series that the company has released is The Golden Age of Light Music.

Admittedly, Guild is not the only company that has explored the treasury of 78rpms, and reissued them on CD.

There are plenty of “nostalgia” editions, but for sheer breadth, the16 volumes is to be admired.

From an introductory volume (Guild GLCD 5101), the series explores each decade, and then some of the big bands and orchestras such as Mantovani (Guild GLCD 5113).

So let me introduce two of the volumes in more detail.

British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras (Guild GLCD 5108) looks back to the times when the big city cinemas had their own pit orchestras that would play during the intermissions (previously during the “silents”).

In this album, the 19 tracks feature pit bands such as the Coventry New Hippodrome, London Hippodrome and London Palladium in some of the easy-on-the-ear numbers including a selection from Jerome Kern’s

Showboat and the very familiar Grasshoppers ‘dance.

I can remember going to a dancing class as a toddler and made to dance to this number – oh, the indignity of it all.

The Golden Age of the 1930s has two volumes linked to it.

The second-(Guild GLCD 5116) introduces some of the same orchestras and other big names of the time (now forgotten) like Edith Lorand and her Viennese Orchestra, Harry Engleman’s Quintet and Barnabas von Geczy and his orchestra.

He probably came from Peckham.

There is an experimental stereo track as a bonus recorded in 1934 with Ray Noble and his New Mayfair Orchestra.

This was the time when popular music was fitted an to the 3 minutes average side of a 78rpm.

But Guild is not just about nostalgia.

Among its latest releases is a winning combination of Dvorak’s celebrated Cello Goncerto, and another shorter work by the same composer, as well as the Cello Concerto in E minor by Victor Herbert (Guild GMCD 7235).

American Cellist, James Kreger, makes a passionate case for this wonderful music, ably partnered by the Philharmonia conducted by Djong Victorin Ya.

Croydon’s Fairfield Hall provides a warm ambience, and however many times you have heard the Dvorak Concerto, listen to that by Irish-born Victor Herbert and find something really dramatic about it.
Chris Green


Delius Society, USA 02/06

By now there are 18 or 19 Guild releases (Distributor: Albany) of Light Music taken from the 78’s and LP’s of producer David Ades and restorer Alan Bunting with occasional assistance from some friends.

The current batch for review includes:
Light Music from the Silver Screen GLCD 5109
Mantovani-By Special Request GLCD 5110
Reflections of Tranquility GLCD 5112
Mantovani-By Special Request-Vol. 2 GLCD 5113
Highdays and Holidays GLCD 5115 In Town Tonfight- The 1930s Volume 2 GLCD 5116
Bandstand in the Park GLCD 5117. ‘

Each of these CD’s has 20 to 27 tracks. I’ll just be able to indicate a few highlights from each.

5109 features recordings from the 40’s and 50’s so the sound even before remastering was good. The opening track is a symphonic treatment of Early One Morning from “Spring in Park Lane” played by Robert Farnon and his Orchestra. This folk tune is one of my favourites, and I was glad to hear this arrangement for the first time. Seascape from “Western Approaches” really sounds like film music and here is played gorgeously by the London Symphony Orchestra under Muir Mathieson. Saga of Odette from “Odette” played by Charles Williams and His Concert Orchestra is another nice one. Williams with pianist Arthur Sandford also offers the Mansell Concerto effectively. It’s from “The Woman’s Angle”. There are such Works similar to, bat not surpassing, the Warsaw Concerto, including the Quebec Concerto from “Whispering City”. It’s Williams again bat with Arthur Dulay at the piano.

All of us of a certain age will recall Mantovani and his “Cascading Strings”. Those lush arrangements were mostly made by Ronald Binge. On 5110 highlights include Sydney Baynes’ Destiny Waltz, Addinsell’s Blithe Spirit-Waltz Theme, El Choclo (Kess of Fire), and Love Here is My Heart with those Cascading Strings in fall cry.

5112 has some tracks where the sound seems a bit bright such as in Shangri-La played by Monty Kelly and his Orchestra. The Danish State Radio Orchestra under Robert Farnon turns up often an these CD’s and two of these winners are Starry Night and Mid Ocean written by Farnon himself. A real surprise was Camarata’s version of Cyril Scott’s Lotus Land. Not to be missed! Composer Bob Haymes, younger brother of singer Dick Haymes, turns up an two pieces: Beyond the Next Hill and La Brilliante both conducted by American conductor Acquaviva and his Orchestra. This one is one of the best in the series.

5113, Mantovani Vol. 2, may not be quite the equal of Vol. 1, but there are some winners anyway. Ancliffe’s Nights of Gladness and Concerto in Jazz by Donald Phillips with Arthur Young at the piano grab your attention.

5115 features music from the Bosworth Mood Music Library 1937-1953. Many publishers maintained their own libraries and among them were Paxton. Chappel, and Boosey & Hawkes. Ketèlbey turns up with In a Chinese Temple Garden and Wedgewood Blue both played by the Louis Voss Grand Orchestra. Busy Business with a nod to The Flight of the Bumblebee is a fun novelty number played by the International Radio Orchestra. Highdays and Holidays by Peter Yorke and again played by Louis Voss gives this album its title. Voss & Co. also play Haydn Wood’s little known Sketch of a Dandy.

From the title of 5116 you’d guess that Eric Coates’s Knightsbridge March has to be here and so it is played by the BBC Dance Orchestra under Henry Hall. Chinese Street Serenade features Alfredo Campoli and His Marimba Tango Orchestra. There is some fancy stick action here. There is an arrangement of Procession of the Sirdar (sec) by Ippolitov-Ivanov, arr. Finck, played by the Commodore Grand Orchestra under Joseph Musicant. Special an this CD is a selection from “Mr. Whittington” played by Ray Noble and the New Mayfair Orchestra. A Bonus track features experimental stereo from 1934 of the last three numbers from the “Mr. Whittington” group. You can hear the difference from the mono recording.

Finally 5117 features bandstand music which may or may not be your cup of tea. But there are some good pieces such as Ketèlbey’s A Japanese Carnival, Walford Davies’ Royal Air Force March Past, a completely unknown An American Folk Rhapsody by American Clare Grundman and played by the Band of the Irish Guards. I couldn’t identify all the tunes bat I did hear “Ort Top of Old Smokey” and “Molly Malone” very briefly. There are some other good ones as well.

The annotations and documentation an all of these releases is first rate as is the sound restoration. Do go for your favourites.


MUSICWEB AUGUST 2005

Mantovani was the son of a violinist at La Scala Milan. Mantovani senior seems to have come to England with an Italian opera company and stayed. Young Annunzio Paolo Mantovani studied the violin at Trinity College and played the Bruch Concerto No. 1 at the age of 16. But, like many musicians at the time, he found employment with a Palm Court Orchestra; thanks to his training he became proficient at composing and arranging. He started recording in the 1930s, specialising in Latin American styles of dance music. His repertoire gradually expanded to include more concert-style light music, eventually developing to his large orchestra with its string-led sound which made him famous in the 1950s. This famous, Mantovani sound, with its cascading strings was invented by the arranger Ronald Binge, who had worked with Mantovani on arrangements since 1935.

This disc of recordings by Mantovani and his various orchestras covers the years 1940 to 1951 and is the second in a series on Guild; many of the tracks have been requested by admirers. The disc concentrates on lesser-known recordings and succeeds in giving a picture of Mantovani which is a little different to the Mantovani that I remember from the radio programmes of my childhood.

The disc opens with Reg Casson’s Castiliana, a recording first issued on the Decca ‘Music While You Work’ label, capitalising on the popularity of the radio programme of the same name. A charmingly Spanish piece, the performance is a little frayed at the edges, an indication of its war-time date. The other side of the original disc featured Casson’s The Spirit of the Matador which crops up later on the present disc.

Spanish and Latin-American music makes up a significant proportion of the disc. The infectiously lyrical Mexican Starlight is credited to Pedro Manilla, one of Mantovani’s aliases. Mantovani also wrote Tango De La Luna which features a very rich string sound. His Adios Conchita features in an attractive Spanish Cocktail which dates from 1942.

A number of pieces on the disc feature very strong, string led sounds, prefiguring the cascading strings of 1951. Gus Kahn and Victor Schertzinger’s One Night of Love is one such, though the boxy 1949 recording does not do it justice. The piece was originally written for the 1934 film of the same name, featuring Grace Moore.

The full Mantovani sound is found, rather oddly, on a distinctive arrangement of ‘On With the Motley’ from ‘Pagliacci’, re-titled Tell me You Love me; one of those pieces where the brilliance of the execution and the style of the arrangement sits oddly with the original material. Another one of these is the selection from Song of Norway where the original Grieg gets a little lost under the layers of the various arrangers (Robert Wright and George Forrest arranged the original Broadway show, the arranger for Mantovani’s orchestra is not credited).

Ronald Binge was the arranger of Night’s of Gladness by Charles Ancliffe; the arrangement allows the orchestra to let their hair down and features all sorts of novelties such as xylophone, tubular bells and a brief snatch of an electronic organ, which the sleeve-notes say could be credited to Binge himself on a Novachord.

The violin soloist in Jeno Hubay’s Hejre Kati is not known, but at the time the recording was made (1950), the string section included both Max Jaffa and Sidney Bowman. Gipsy Trumpeter by Martin Vicente Darre features a fine trumpet solo from Stan Newsome, Mantovani’s lead trumpeter from 1947 to 1959.

The disc concludes with Donald Phillips’s Concerto in Jazz a charming, sub-Gershwin piece featuring the piano skills of Arthur Young.

This is a fascinating disc as it gives us an opportunity to appreciate the wider aspects of Mantovani’s art. If you already possess recordings of his best known numbers then you should consider this disc.
Robert Hugill


MUSICWEB AUGUST 2005

Here’s another dose of Mantovani, with a number of tracks coming from listeners’ requests to Guild, following the success of their earlier disc, which I also reviewed here. There’s something of a glut of Mantovani at the moment but these are less well-known items dating principally from the 1940s and 1950. They’re pre cascading-strings-Mantovani therefore but all are imbued with his generous sense of romance and his arrangers’ nuanced and imaginative work.

Castiliana is suitably rich and Gus Kahn’s One Night Of Love ripely romantic. There’s some dramatic Latin Americana, spiced with lissom charms, in Mexican Starlight courtesy of Pedro Manilla, alias Mantovani. And as before in this series we cover a lot of stylistic ground because along with the exotica in which he specialised we also find spruce Englishry – try Charles W Ancliffe’s Nights Of Gladness. Ancliffe has featured before in Guild’s Light Music Series and his music never fails to impress. He’s a master of concert-piece compression and here he packs lyric tunefulness, nobility and some bell chimes into there minutes.

Mantovani pays tribute to David Rose in Our Waltz, even emulating the distinctive Rose saxes, and Ronald Binge, so important a figure in the development of the Mantovani sound, contributes Siesta, a perky Rumba. Mantovani wasn’t afraid to seek out material from lighter classical sources and here we find some Grieg, a Song of Norway selection released in 1946. The big band symphonic approach works well, if a touch grandiloquently on Tango Bolero and there’s some luscious strings and muted trumpet on Vesta la giubba, known here in its Sammy Kaye adaptation as Tell Me You Love Me. More classics are visited in Hubay’s Hejre Kati, a feature for the orchestra’s (uncredited) leader and La Paloma.

In between we have some big fat trumpet work, à la Harry James or Ziggy Elman, in Gipsy Trumpeter – which has ripped off the Benny Goodman solo and drums arrangement of Sing, Sing, Sing. Still, Mantovani provided many spirit-lifters. Take the maracas and sunshine of Oh Mama Mama, which must have transported mind, though not body, in the rationed days of 1950. Less so the pious One Magic Wish, probably the only ecclesiastical waltz ever to have been written – let’s hope so anyway. To finish we have another well-worn genre number, the pocket piano concerto – here it’s not a Rachmaninov tribute though, as almost all the others were. Donald Phillips wrote Concerto in Jazz with Gershwin on his mind and Arthur (“Art” on the labels) Young did the honours at the keyboard. Rhapsody in Blue is paraphrased as closely as was Rach 2 in those other British Bombshell Concertos, though we get a dose of Boogie Woogie and some Teddy Wilsonish moments as well. Good fun, and no harm done.

Another enjoyable dash of Mantovani then, a good decade’s worth and many unfamiliar and unusual numbers in good sounding transfers.
Jonathan Woolf