Reviews

GLCD 5194 – Nature’s Realm

Various

 

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MusicWeb International – December 2012

Weather, sunrises, twilights and sunsets, landscapes and highways are the elements around which this nature-focused disc circumnavigates. It’s clearly been a labour of love and enjoyment, quixotic élan too, to compile this 25 track disc.
We start with a wakeup call, with Sidney Torch conducting the Thunder and Lightening Polka. Orchestral musicians used to call the conductor ‘Torture’, according to Richard Adeney, the scurrilous flautist, though it seems it wasn’t maliciously meant: it was pure wordplay to while away the time. The rich verdant romance of Morton Gould follows in Stormy Weather, decidedly not played as a torch song. Frank Chacksfield, who has often impressed throughout this long series, does so again in the brief tone poem that is Misty Valley, complete with its piano solo.
Ray Martin brings zest and fun to his thunderous interjections in Tango in the Rain, a properly descriptive opus cackling with brio. No one seems to know who The Wayfarers were. They play Malcolm Arnold’s theme music from Whistle Down The Wind; possibly the composer himself was involved. In a disc like this many of the tracks will be unfamiliar. One such was Meadow Mist, an evocative little piece from the pen of Leonard Trebilco, better known as Trevor Duncan under which name he wrote his Light Music material. Trebilco was one of the giants of the English scene, a comment that needs no amplification given that Guild has provided so much evidence of his orchestral skill and conducting ability.
It’s perhaps inevitable given the theme that quite a few pieces cleave close to the classical, or light classical wind. Ron Goodwin’s The Whirlpool Theme is splendidly effective in this respect and Frederick Fennell’s Summer Skies does much as Trebilco does in terms of evocation. Ronald Binge obtains the requisite rich string tone in September in the Rain, complete with glittering rainfall effect. There are the trademark Guild conjunctions of drowsy and uplifting pieces — in this respect Percy Faith’s Blues Is The Night (‘is’ not ‘in’) is reflective intimacy whereas Whirlwind, written by Eric Spear and played by Charles Williams, is a galvanizing piece of work.
One could go on enumerating the fascinating nuggets exhumed in this disc. How about, as we conclude, the hints of Ravel’s La Valse in Tonnerre Sur La Louisiane (Thunder in Louisiana), the deft mood sketching of Bruce Campbell’s Trotting Class or the vertiginous, brassy and very self-confident The Mad Mountain Ride, composed by George Trevare and conducted by Sidney Torch. Then, for admirers of Felix Slatkin and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra — and surely everyone is an admirer — there’s the Sunrise movement from Ferde Grofé’s delicious Grand Canyon suite.
It ends a really superb selection of natural pleasures.
Jonathan Woolf

Memory Lane – Winter 2012

In Nature’s Realm the compilers have assembled an intriguing bouquet of compositions ranging from Johan Strauss’ Thunder And Lightning Polka on track one to Ferde Grofe’s Sunrise from his Grand Canyon Suite, which provides the finale on track 25. In between we have an atmospheric Misty Valley penned by Peter Yorke, Leroy Anderson’s Sunny Skies and a beautiful interpretation by the Melachrino Orchestra of Romberg’s Softly As In A Morning Sunrise. All, needless to say, wonderfully transcribed by Alan Bunting.
GH

MusicWeb International – August 2012

I always consider that I am having an adventure when I first listen to a new volume of The Golden Age of Light Music. It is quite definitely an exploration in sound and mood. In the present CD we are treated to a contemplation of ‘Nature’s Realm’. Like most of these discs there is a good balance between arrangements of standards from the ‘shows’ or the world of cinema and ‘original’ pieces. I admit that the later genre is of most interest to me.
However, the arrangements on this album are all first-class. The opening Johann Strauss Thunder and Lightning Polka is a great place to start. Well-known to virtually everyone, it is given a vibrant performance by Sidney Torch and his Orchestra. This presents nature at its most thrilling and spectacular. Harold Arlen’s lovely Stormy Weather is probably more about the ‘atmospherics’ in a lover’s hearts rather than in Nature -‘stormy weather since my man and I ain’t together, keeps raining all the time.’ It is good to have Malcolm Arnold’s characteristic tune from the film Whistle Down the Wind. It is not a film I relate to – but the music is classic Arnold. I love the sparkling score from the 1949 psychological thriller Whirlpool starring Gene Tierney and Richard Conte. It is so typical of the period with gorgeous romantic strings and swirling harps. A slightly more relaxed mood is created by the song ‘Softly as in a Morning Sunrise’ from Sigmund Romberg’s 1927 operetta The New Moon. Here are lots of romantic strings in the Mantovani style. Three men collaborated to provide the ravishing September in the Rain – Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s original was given the Ronald Binge touch which certainly has echoes of Binge’s more famous ‘Sailing By’.
The remainder of the numbers on this disc are miniature tone poems describing a geological, meteorological or geographical feature: painting a picture or portraying an emotional response by the onlooker.
Peter Yorke has written an attractive little piece that perfectly – if a little romantically – describes a Misty Valley. Not to be outdone Trevor Duncan has contributed an essay of English pastoral music called Meadow Mist. This is one of the loveliest works on this CD and probably deserves inclusion in ‘samplers’ of English landscape music. It is at times almost ‘Delian’ in its harmonies and orchestration. I have not heard of Lotar Leonard Olias before, however his ‘Tango in the Rain’ is a little bit of a novelty: a good tune complete with ‘rain and thunder sounds’ in the background and also a melodeon, I think.
It is good to hear another piece from Frederick Curzon. He is best known for pieces such as The Boulevardier, the Dance of the Ostracised Imp and Punchinello. The present accomplished arrangement is a setting of the well-known song ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’. The original dates back to the late 17th century. Clive Richardson’s film score-like Saga of the Seven Seas is a big, expansive piece. It conjures up images of sailing ships and wartime convoysand is full of the salt tang of the sea.
Leroy Anderson must be one of the best-known composers of light music. His contribution Summer Skies is sultry piece that echoes its title: ideal for daydreaming. I have not come across Leslie Coward before, however his Wandering the King’s Highway is an attractive little arrangement of a song that was once popular. It dates from the nineteen-thirties. A touch of Elgar and Coates here along with a bit of a swing.
Peter Yorke’s Fireflies is a typically colourful piece of whimsy. Beautifully scored it vacillates between a deliciously romantic nocturnal mood and the delicate tracery of the beasties in question. It’s one of my favourites on this CD. The liner-notes are right in suggesting that Percy Faith’s Blue is the Night reflects the composer’s mastery of the orchestra. This is a haunting number that is both romantic and descriptive. I imagine a lady or gentleman looking out over the blue Bay of Naples on a warm, still night and regretting the absence of a lost love. Listening to the progress of the music suggests they will not return … but there are plenty of other fish in the sea!
Another fine musical picture is provided by Anthony Mawer with his idyllic Countryside. I believe it is not an English landscape – but just where it is located is harder to say; most likely somewhere a touch warmer. However, it has a lovely melody and is well arranged.
Thunder in Louisiana by Gerard Calvi is quite explicit – it starts off quietly, but a jazz suffused mood takes over. Beating drums and wa-wa brass move the music onto a different level. The score builds up to an iddy bit of a storm before subsiding. There are lots of good orchestral devices, especially in the percussion department. Domenic Savino’s Twilight on Las Pampas is quintessential Latin-American mood music.
I guess that no compilation of light music would be complete without at least one example of Robert Farnon’s craft. In this present CD, it is his magnificent Headland Country. It is almost like a score for a 1950s travelogue film advertising Cornwall or the Dorset Coast. However, the liner-notes suggest a possible Canadian background. Whatever the geographical setting it is a lovely expansive and undeniably romantic piece. Trotting Class by Bruce Campbell is another ‘novelty’ number. Lots of good tunes and a clip-clop accompaniment would have made this an ideal score for a romantic Ealing Comedy featuring a day’s pony-trekking on the South Downs.
Roger Roger – I knew of someone called William William Williams once – is a French composer who has contributed his quixotic imaginary Landscape to the Chappell Recorded Music Library.
I just love the varied movement of George Trevare’s The Mad Mountain Ride. This is quite a complicated piece with contrasting themes and moods. However, the basic premise would appear to be some kind of trek/ski/sledge in the high hills. The penultimate track on this CD is Cyril Watters’ Spring Idyll. Somehow, this does not quite work for me: it is just that little bit too intense. Yet there are some lovely moments that exhibit an accomplished orchestrational ability that goes well beyond much that appears as light music.
The final number on this exploration of ‘Nature’s Realm’ needs no introduction. Ferde Grofé’s stunning ‘Sunrise’ from the Grand Canyon Suite is one of the masterpieces of American descriptive music. It holds impressionistic description with high drama in perfect equilibrium.
As usual, the sound quality of these restored tracks is excellent, bearing in mind that they have been re-mastered (by Alan Bunting) from old 78 r.p.m. and vinyl records. The accompanying notes are helpful, giving an insight into both the composers and the orchestras.
This is the 94th release in the Golden Age of Light Music series (see review listing): it shows no sign of being the last. It never ceases to amaze me how many numbers in this genre there is. If I were honest I would have imagined that after all these CDs they would be scraping the bottom of the barrel. The opposite would appear to be the case: each new release presents surprises and delights that the listener can barely imagine. Long may the series continue!
John France

Journal into Melody – Issue No. 192 – June 2012

When I received this latest Guild CD I wasn’t sure if it was up my street or not because, although it includes several library pieces which I consider „my territory“, the titles seemed to have a rather lethargic sound to them. However the first track is just the opposite, a rousing send-off courtesy of Sidney Torch and his Orchestra, ‘Thunder and Lightning Polka’. According to Davids booklet notes ‘Stormy Weather’ was reckoned to have been written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler …. I always thought it came from the 1943 film musical of the same name, lightly based on the career of Bill „Bojangles“ Robinson. However, whatever its origins there’s a very good arrangement on this CD by Morton Gould and played by his Orchestra. From inclement weather to more of the stuff with a catchy number played by Ray Martin and his Orchestra, ‘Tango in The Rain’ by, according to David, the prolific German composer Lotar Leonard Olias. Sorry David, I’ve never heard of him but somebody whose music I am very familiar with is Frederic Curzon and his tuneful ‘Over the Hills’ and ‘Far Away’ played by the New Concert Orchestra sits comfortably with Malcolm Arnold’s theme music for the 1961 British film ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ …. one star from Leslie Halliwell but the music’s nice. Another Halliwellism describes ‘Whirlpool’ (1959) as „a modestly attractive travelogue with the burden of a very boring melodrama“ but again the theme by Ron Goodwin is rather good as played by his Concert Orchestra, and so is Clive Richardson’s mood music piece written for the Charles Brull / Harmonic Library, ‘Saga Of the Seven Seas’. ‘Wandering The King’s Highway’ by Leslie Coward is more likely to be remembered as a Peter Dawson or Oscar Natzka rendition but here it’s played by the Melodi Light Orchestra from a Chappell disc and a fine tune it is too. Trouble is I can’t find out anything about the composer, even Google doesn’t help. ‘Fireflies’ by Peter Yorke and Eric Spear’s ‘Whirlwind’, both played by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, are very catchy indeed as is Bruce Campbell’s ‘Trotting Class’ on a Paxton 78 played by Dolf Van Der Linden and his Orchestra. Gerard Calvi’s ‘Thunder in Louisiana’ has a slightly hypnotic drum beat throughout – beginning quite quietly, which made me think the title was a bit of a misnomer, but it gradually gets louder and so fulfils its title. I mentioned not knowing anything really about Leslie Coward and almost the same thing can be said about George Trevare whose composition ‘The Mad Mountain Ride’ is played by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch. Mr. Trevare is mentioned on Google as having connections to the Australian ABC Network and there’s a recording of ‘I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover’ sung by Johnny Wade accompanied by George Trevare and his Southern Seven on Columbia DO 3241. However, I’m sure readers will come up with more information in both cases.
Ken Wilkins