GLCD 5177 – The Golden Age of Light Music: The Composer Conducts – Vol. 1
Brattleborro Reformer September 2011
Composer Conducts – Now that the epic Guild Light Music series The Golden Age of Light Music has about 80 CDs, I find it more and more difficult to praise this series without repeating myself. So lately I have been making gentle fun of how hard pressed they must be not only to come up with so many titles but how to arrange the material so that each disc has some sort of unifying theme.
If all the selections are by the same composer, there is little problem. A title like “Animal Antics” clearly announces that each selection will have something to do with teddy bears having a picnic or the like. So when I received a copy of “The Composer Conducts, Volume 1,” I had no idea what would be on it but I got the idea of the basic tie-in. There are 26 selections, five of which are in stereo; and the years of the recordings are from 1951 to 1960. To my knowledge, I have never heard a single one of them, except for the Leroy Anderson “The Phantom Regiment.” The timings range from 2:01 minutes (“Montana Round-up”) to 7:04 (“Symphony in Jazz, 1st movement”). Each is a little musical portrait of its subject, be it “Jet Journey,” “Puppets on Parade,” or “Sports Arena.” I note with interest that several new orchestras appear on this disc, while many of the orchestras that dominated the older Guild CDs are absent. And because most of these selections appear in no other version, one cannot fairly judge the old adage that a composer is the worst conductor of his own music.
Still, this recent Guild disc is as much a delight as all that have gone before!
MusicWeb International June 2011
Composer-conductors are the cocks of the walk in the first volume of Guild’s series-within-a-series. Thus Ron Goodwin gets us off to a flying start with Jet Journey followed briskly by the brash matador evocations summoned up by Gérard Calvi in Courses de Toros. Cedric Dumont encourages his orchestra to pile on acres of luscious romance and he is followed by Woolf Phillips in Parisian Mode in a typically imaginative, here Gallic-inclined, conjunction. Leroy Anderson, meanwhile, evokes a ghostly march in his clever The Phantom Regiment.
For Capitol, Les Baxter unleashes City of Veils, a typically exotic picture postcard opus with glowering lower brass and evocative percussion – bazaar music. Friml’s Puppets on Parade is pertly interpreted by its composer in 1959 whilst Harry Geller is an Australian in New York rolling out Subway Polka with plenty of action, for RCA. Morton Gould ruminates on piano during his contribution with his orchestra, but Kermit Leslie heads for the hills with a yee-haw on his lips as he takes us on a Montana Round-Up – folksy cowboy stuff. You’ll hear from many of the maestri of the genre – the unmistakeable David Rose pizzicatos, for example, announcing his presence on Pam Pam.
There’s a firm march from Wilfred Burns – or Bernard Wilfred Harris, to give his real name – and then two princes of British Light Music; Charles Williams (Isaac Cozerbreit to those who knew him best) and Frederic Curzon, whose own name sufficed. Williams’s Trolley Bus is a delight but the relaxed Curzon charm in Boulevardier is even better. This brace was recorded in 1946 for Chappell and Boosey & Hawkes respectively. A continental and steadfast member of Guild’s restoration programme is ubiquitous Dolf van der Linden and his saucy badinage in Jack the Dancer is pleasurable. Another elite continental practitioner was Werner Müller whose RIAS Dance Band seems to nod in Glenn Miller’s direction.
This is an enjoyable selection with Guild’s boffins doing their best to keep some esoteric tricks up their sleeve; it’s good, for instance, to see labels such as Paxton, Harmonic, Coral and Dot covered. Purchase with confidence.
An enjoyable selection. Purchase with confidence.