GLCD 5101 – The Golden Age of Light Music: An Introduction
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.
Radar Magazine (Count K) www.mstation
The Golden Age of Light Music compiled by David Ades, Guild Light Music. This is the second CD of this oeuvre to come along in quite a short time. Is this a revival, or is it that some marketing people decided that a certain age-taste demographic needed something to buy? I don’t know. It is fun to think of this sort of thing being played at cool urban dinner parties as an alternative to World music or electro-muzak. Unfortunately, quite a few of the tunes are a bit too self-important to be let out on their own in that way. This collection is quite different to the other and includes orchestras such as the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, Sidney Torch and his O, Andre Kostelanetz and his, Mantovani, Percy Faith and many more. Titles are such as, Gateway to the West, Going for a Ride, Martinique, Paris to Piccadilly, and yes, more… twenty-five tracks in all. Collect them all!
MusicWeb Tuesday June 08 2004
This album is the best possible introduction to the genre of Light Music. Buy it and give it to all your friends. …
On this introductory disc we have twenty-five classic examples of ‘light music.’ Let us not worry too much at this stage what we mean by this designation. Most admirers of this genre know exactly what is implied – if that is not putting the cart before the chicken’s egg. However as a basic rule of thumb my personal definition of the term ‘light music’ is ‘music with a distinctive tune and rhythm, often nostalgic that does not have pretensions to profundity – and is downright enjoyable and perhaps even fun!’
This CD presents a variety of different ‘light’ genres that fit the above definition. We have arrangements, impressions, miniature tone poems and novelty pieces. Let us look at some of these works in a little more detail.
One of the earliest recordings (1935) is by Eric Coates and is the well known London Bridge March. This is not quite as popular as Dambusters or Knightsbridge. However, Coates has done more than almost any other composer to present musical impressions of London. This march certainly deserves an airing, if for no other reason than its engaging trio section.
One of the best examples of ‘topographical’ music on this disc must be Robert Busby’s Paris to Piccadilly; chock full of tunes and allusions to French and English melodies. It was written after the Second World War when people were once more able to travel freely to and from the Continent. It describes a trip – presumably by train, ferry and perhaps taxi from one great capital to another. From the pavement cafés to the French House in Dean Street!
A hop over the ‘ditch’ brings us to the Big Apple for the attractive Skyscraper Fantasy by Donald Phillips. This work opens with an expansive slow introduction before slipping into a big, romantic tune somewhat influenced by jazz. Of course, America is the land of opportunity; it has always been possible to see New York or Newfoundland as the Gateway to the West. The Canadian-born composer Robert Farnon gives us a memorable piece that has long been a favourite both here and across the pond. Once we are in the ‘West’, there is the Grand Canyon to visit. Dolf van der Linden presents us with a characteristically bouncy piece which seems to have little to do with scenic depiction, but delivers a memorable tune, deliciously scored.
Morton Gould is one of those composers who write music proficiently in virtually any genre. Here we have a miniature called Tropical. This is a fine piece that hurries along in a subtle manner. We are well aware that it is written by the hand of a master.
The ‘big boys’ get a look in too. There is a fine arrangement of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in C# minor by the redoubtable Robert Farnon with obbligato flute and clarinet solos by Arthur Gleghorn and Reginald Kell. I still prefer the original piano version (1835) but this does make a pleasant change.
Arthur Benjamin is a great composer who has been unjustly neglected. However he is and will always be remembered for his fantastic Jamaican Rumba. This was originally for piano and has been re-presented here courtesy of Percy Faith. Listen out for the Latin-style muted brass -fab! (But do investigate AB himself and in particular his Symphony on Marco Polo – it really is outstanding music)
All amateur pianists will have known and loved Edward MacDowell’s wonderful, simple, yet very beautiful ‘To a Wild Rose.’ It is given first-rate treatment here by Peter Yorke.
Then there are the novelty impressions. All of these show that ‘light music’ does not mean sloppy craftsmanship. In fact, it implies the very opposite. The orchestration of Sidney Torch’s well known Going for a Ride is masterly. This work epitomises the light music genre. David Rose – best known for that all-time, but risqué, favourite The Stripper – can always be relied on to give a good tune. Here the Dance of the Spanish Onion is at times quite brash and occasionally reflective. The great Puffin’ Billy is known to generations of British folk who avidly listened to Children’s Favourites on the BBC Light Programme. It has reappeared in countless adverts and television programmes and has been featured in many light music anthologies. White is also well remembered for The Runaway Rocking Horse and Paris Interlude – both fine examples of his skill and poise.
No collection of light music would be complete without something by Leroy Anderson. The piece chosen here is the chipper Plink Plank Plonk – an outing for pizzicato strings showing just how competent Anderson was as a composer and instrumentalist.
Yet the two pieces that impressed me most were two works that I had never heard before – Trevor Duncan (of ‘Doctor Finlay’s Casebook’ fame) and his Vision in Velvet. This is one of those delightfully romantic pieces that makes me think of a beautiful ‘date’ turning up at a dinner party arrayed in all her finery.
The other ‘find’ is the First Rhapsody by George Melachrino. It is perhaps the most reflective piece on this CD – yet it uses the musical language and conventions of the 1940s to present its nostalgic theme. A truly lovely work that I am glad to have discovered.
A brief look at the listings of the tracks will show that many of these pieces were conducted by men who were composers as well as being competent on the rostrum. A number of names that are still ‘household’ raise the baton on these recording – Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani are two examples.
The programme notes are less comprehensive than for the two other volumes in the series already issued. However, with more details promised for future releases and Philip Scowcroft’s ‘Garlands’ on Musicweb, this should not be too big a problem.
The sound quality is excellent, bearing in mind that a number of the tracks have been culled from the original 78 r.p.m. records.
As I have indicated above, this is a fine introductory album to the genre of light music. It should be bought by, or given to, anyone who expresses even the slightest interest in this tuneful and well-written music. There is no doubt in my mind that this can only lead listeners to want to explore deeper into these, by and large, hidden treasures. Let’s wait eagerly for the next tranche in this potentially comprehensive and excellent series.
Review By Jonathan Woolf
Guild is embarking on a Light Music series and the first volume is a broad brushstroke introduction to the genre. It’s chock-full of some of the biggest and best names in the field, from Haydn Wood and Eric Coates, whose 1930s charts are here, through to Robert Farnon, happily (and productively) still with us. The bulk of composers are Anglo-American-Canadian, though we have a fine example of Dutchman Dolf van der Linden’s work and there’s Paris to Piccadilly by Georges Devereaux, a musical entente cordiale. Sidestepping the ever-thorny issue of what is, or is not, Light Music I think we can just delve in to the well-transferred examples here without too much critical soul-searching. Whether derived from soundtrack, popular song, film scores or arrangements from light classics (as in the MacDowell or the Arthur Benjamin) one thing’s for sure; underrate the instrumentalists in these bands at your peril. They employed some of the best players of the day as a check of the two wind soloists in Farnon’s arrangement of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu will reveal – none other than Reginald Kell and Arthur Gleghorn, who were members of the grandly named Kingsway Symphony Orchestra.
So, splendid instrumentalists freelancing for arrangers of proven talent, working for leaders at the top of their profession – often the arrangers and the bandleaders were one and the same of course but not necessarily. We can glimpse the idiomatic litheness of Sidney Torch’s Going for a Ride – with top-notch string playing from one of the leading luminary bands in the field. Ron Goodwin, known and admired for his film scores, arranges the evergreen Heykens’ Serenade with panache and sprightly rhythm whilst the croaking exotica of the sound effects for Martinique are enough to have anyone reaching for the nearest waist to twist. English-born David Rose, for long an outstanding arranger in America, contributes a superb Dance of the Spanish Onion with its tight brass solo and sense of vitality and optimism. The Devereaux band gives us touches of Gershwin in its Anglo-French evocation as well as car horns and twinkle-twinkle little star quotations. Meanwhile Festive Days ditches the frivolity for a touch of the English Spa band style and Puffin’ Billy makes its expected appearance courtesy of Hubert Clifford conducting, of all things, the Danish State Radio Orchestra. Yes, we have the Melachrino Sound – effulgent, romantic with good solid brass and fine rhythm. One of the pieces I enjoyed the most was the arrangement of Dancing Princess in this slashing performance from Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra. It’s good to see names now forgotten; conductors such as Serge Krish, Joseph Lewis and Hubert Clifford – men who led symphonic orchestras in the freelance London world, or in places like Bournemouth, and who are now regrettably more footnote than memory. Good to meet them here.
A warm welcome then to the vitality and melodic warmth of these generous performances. The craft behind them makes them sound simple – but then that’s one of the arranger’s great arts, the seeming inevitability of certain voicings and melody lines. Few did it better than the men enshrined herein.