Reviews

GLCD 5112 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Reflections of Tranquility

Various

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Classical Net

This is the 12th CD in Guild’s absolutely charming series dedicated to The Golden Age of British Light Music. The title ‘Reflections of Tranquillity’ is suitably apt as the pieces chosen here have a sense of old world romantic charm about them and are at times unbearably nostalgic such as in the case of Robert Farnon’s In a Calm. There are a number of orchestras here which also remind us of those days when everything was calmer and more sedate. Sidney Torch, Monty Kelly, Robert Farnon himself and Walter Collins were all stalwarts in their day and the lovely pieces recorded here are definitely fine memorials of their art.

In his usual indefatigable manner, David Ades manages to conjure a mix of the familiar and the almost totally unknown. There is Eric Coates’ classic Under the Stars, and Joyce’s Dreaming but I confess that I was completely unaware of such obscure pieces as Haymes’ Beyond the Next Hill or Hans May’s Rippling Down the Mountain. However the compilation fits together so seamlessly that it would be rather impertinent to keep on discussing individual items.

David Ades’ notes continue to make essential reading for the lover of this genre and this is fast superseding Dutton Laboratories’ equally magnificent efforts in this field with their volumes on the Queens Hall Light Orchestra, Mantovani and other stalwarts such as George Melachrino and Robert Farnon. Guild’s remastering is predictably excellent and I would urge all those lovers of this beautiful genre to snap this CD up without delay.
Gerald Fenech


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.


The Gramaphone August 2005

`The Golden Age of Light Music’

Delightful and entertaining classics, albeit with one or two asylum-seekers!

Reviewing the first Warner ‘British Light Classics’ (8/04) I declared that, if you wanted just one such collection, that should certainly be it. The judgement remains, but this successor supplements it nicely, especially for including several older classics. That it doesn’t uniformly live up to its predecessor is due not so much to the choice of items as to some of the performances. Nights of Gladness, the Pas de quatre and The Grasshopper’s Dance belong to a gentler age, and to capture their period charm they require a correspondingly gentler tempo than here. Most particularly, Frederic Curzon’s The Boulevardier is here a man-about-town in a frightful rush. Were Barry Wordsworth and his boulevardier both late for an appointment? And by what stretch of whose Imagination does the Mexican Hat Dance qualify as a British Light Classic simply because it is played in a British arrangement?

There are successes, of course, including a Haunted Ballroom that captivatingly emerges from and recedes into the mist, a delightful Watermill, a sparkling Dumping Bean, a swaggering Destiny waltz, a Londonderry Air with exquisite solo playing, and a final Covent Garden that Shows Wordsworth’s outgoing style to typical advantage. The uniformly brilliant orchestral playing makes this for the most Part an admirable successor to the previous collection.

The further release in Guild’s Light Music series (See 3/05, p71) concentrates an a much narrower time-frame, the emphasis being an mid-20th-century numbers in 1950s recordings expertly restored and remastered by Alan Bunting. Moreover, the concentration is an Works largely neglected an CD. It’s good, for instance, to have Anthony Collins’s With Emma to Town as a change from his Vanity Fair. Other numbers will rank as classics for anyone alive and alert in the 1950s; such as Ecstasy and the Shadow Waltz, both composed by leading British composers under Pseudonyms – as revealed by David Ades’s informative notes. Certainly Theo Mackeben’s Münchner G’schichten is a German classic – to the extent that it has even been performed at a Henry Wood Promenade Concert. What about a similar accolade for some British light music classics?
Andrew Lamb


MusicWeb 02.05.05

Do not get me wrong. I love this kind of music. OK – one can accuse nearly all of these composers of wearing their hearts on their sleeves. It is easy to criticize the incipient sentimentality of most of these numbers. And perhaps the textures, themes and instrumentation rely a little too much on the clichés of the day. But this is music to be enjoyed, not studied and analysed.

I do not suppose the history of music would be any different if any of these pieces had not been composed. Yet the world would be much poorer; this CD is about sitting back and enjoying oneself. It is all about taking a trip down memory lane. It is allows us to discover a forgotten country where everything seemed simpler and the summers were always warm and the skies blue. Forget the Korean War, austerity and the threat of Atomic holocaust. This is the most escapist music you can imagine.

Just look at some of the titles. The CD opens with a lush (“only grass is lush, France” – English master, Coatbridge High School 1968) number depicting that magical kingdom in Asia – Shangri-La. Before long we are wandering in Cyril Scott’s Lotus Land – not the best version of this tune I hasten to add. But soon we are exploring David Rose’s Deserted City and Cecil Milner’s enchanting Primrose Dell.

The pleasures of night time and twilight are well represented on this CD too. We have Joyce Cochrane’s evocative Starry Night and Under the Stars by the redoubtable Eric Coates. Trevor Duncan’s dreamy Moon Magic and Al Hoffman’s period piece, complete with harmonica, A Night of Stars finish off the nocturnes.

And then the Sea, the Sea! A fair number of these musical paintings have a nautical feel to them. Robert Farnon’s In a Calm nods to Fred Delius and is none the worse for that. Peter Dennis’ Packet Boat is a much livelier work that evokes the annual holiday to the Channel Islands or perhaps the Isle of Man. Angela Morley is a little more philosophical with her attractive Adrift in a Dream which rates as one of my favourite pieces on this CD. But the favourite has to be Lizard Point by Charles Williams. Another reviewer has alluded to Bax’s Tintagel and this is pertinent. Whilst not being as complex as the masterwork it is still a fine achievement that presents one of England’s great landmarks on a fine summer’s day rather than in a storm.

A few works seem to come in from the warm further climes, however. I have alluded to Shangri-La. We have a nice arrangement of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Bali H’ai, we go on Safari with Belle Fenstock and go Rippling Down a Mountain courtesy of Hans May.

And finally How are Things in Glocca Morra? This is a lovely heart warming number from Finian’s Rainbow. I suppose that all is well – not only in that little town but in the world of ’fifties light music.

All in all there are twenty-four evocative numbers on this CD. Each one is a little gem in its own right and deserves to have at least one version in the catalogue. The sound quality is a tribute to Alan Bunting and the full programme notes by David Ades are superb.

I have alluded to simpler days. This CD is full of sunshine and hope and the sheer joy of being alive.
John France


Review By Jonathan Woolf

There’s a large amount of Golden Age Light Music and Guild is mining the best of it. Some of the specialist labels that produced so much – Essex, Chappell, Paxton, MGM and Bosworth, all of which have been well featured in this extensive series – are here of course. But it’s good to see that Guild has dug up some sides issued by Harmonic with its eponymous house band and have taken in Mercury as well as the more standard Parlophones and Deccas. It’s one of the pleasures of the series to be acquainted with the diverse collection of competing companies who were so active in the field in the forties and fifties and indeed beyond. In this release Guild push up to the fifty-year copyright period and cover an eight-year span from War’s end to the rise of the LP.

We start with the glutinous promise of Shangri-La (amazingly co-written by that adept jazz player Matty Malneck). With its cascading harps and ripe strings, via the agency of Monty Kelly and his orchestra, this summons up Technicolor and Rank School smiles, ankle socks and Joan Collins. It certainly summons up an era, but then in its much subtler way so does genre-maestro David Rose and his languid Deserted City – the other side of the escapist fantasies so richly evoked in this series. Primrose Dell is mood music pure and simple – and very English – whilst we also find the supposedly hot house Lotus Land of Cyril Scott (still alive and kicking at the time of this recording), which tends to wilt under the pressure of Camerata. Admirers of the Canadian genius Robert Farnon will note the Delian cast of In A Calm, which has here been programmed to precede the older Walter Collins’ rather Elgarian influenced Linden Grove – strongly in the tradition of English Marches despite the Vaughan Williamsy title.

These tints of the influences of older composers are matched by the brasher modernity of contemporary style. There’s a great big fat trumpet solo in Starlight Rendezvous over swirling strings, that shows the kitsch was alive and well on the Bosworth label in 1952 but Rippling Waters shows some aquatic charm to counter balance the band stand brio elsewhere. Aspects of style of this kind recur throughout this disc. Pastel shades are programmed next to cheesy Hawaiian numbers, which in their turn rub discographic shoulders with, say. Eric Coates’ Under The Stars. One of my favourite tracks, once past its portentous opening, is Archibald Joyce’s easeful and charming Dreaming in its Sidney Torch arrangement (always a sign of quality). Then there’s the ex fiddle player Charles Williams whose Lizard Point is not unacquainted with Tintagel – and manages to pack a lot of incident into three minutes; a feature of all these genre pieces. Hans May was a distinguished figure in this company and his Rippling Down the Mountain shows that cascading harp and string numbers can be imbued with delicacy and a degree of orchestral discretion as well as colour. And we end with Belle Fenstock’s brashly dancing Safari, chock full of high spirits.

David Ades contributes his usual helpful, biographically astute notes. The transfers are generally fine though there were a few moments when I suspected that slightly too much treble filtering has taken place. Otherwise, more pleasures.


In Tune International – May 2005

PICK OF THE MONTH

REFLECTIONS OF TRANQUILITY is a beautiful collection. David Ades shows all his skill as a compiler of melodies compatible in mood and interpretation by some of the finest orchestras from the golden age’ of the 1940s and 1950s. Admirers of the genre will be impressed particularly by ensembles conducted by less well known maestros notably Monty Kelly (a fabulous version of SHANGRI-LA), Louis Voss (an atmospheric STARLIGHT RENDEZVOUS) and the Acquaviva recording of BEYOND THE NEXT HILL. The blend of themes is just right combining wistful moments with more lively interludes – superb music for listening and relaxation. Alan Bunting’s customary high class sound restoration again impresses. In the often frantic world of today, this nostalgic music was never more welcome.
Brian Belton