An article by William Zucker.
In this essay, I am dealing with four musical comedy medleys that were arranged by Leroy Anderson as staff arranger for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra. This aggregate recorded these settings during the early 50s, and though these were generally available in this form for some time, they have remained in relative obscurity. It is a shame, because these settings are of outstanding quality in their own right.
A conductor of a summer band series who was situated at the Manhattan School of Music for some time, Mr. David Simon, was familiar with the many musical comedy medleys of Robert Russell Bennett, outstanding in themselves, as well as numerous Leroy Anderson selections, and regularly conducted works from both categories. He was very surprised when I told him about the Leroy Anderson arrangements of these medleys; I urged him to sample them and possibly conduct them, with the words, "They really are very good," and his answer, in a way a tribute, as seemingly knowing what to expect. "I guess they would be." I don't at this point know how successful he was in tracking these down, or whether they remained at the time under any copyright protection or any ownership rights by the Boston Pops Orchestra or Arthur Fiedler, but either way, they should be clearly better known than they have been all these years, and perhaps for very unexpected reasons.
In most instances of these prepared medleys, it has been a case of a string of melodies from a given production run together in helter skelter fashion without any thought as to how to make them fit together.
The Robert Russell Bennett arrangements, probably the best in common currency that are available for performance, are to a degree noteworthy and of considerable quality, for Mr. Bennett was an estimable composer as well as arranger in his own right, and I can say that I have personally witnessed his conductorial skills as well. His arrangements tended to be tied more to what would be expected in a Broadway production, successful for that reason, but still retaining a recognizable element of individuality.
The arrangements of Leroy Anderson tended to concentrate more on the
purely musical elements involved in putting settings like these together. They were more independent of Broadway considerations (although they were still capable of exhibiting a jaunty, American, often syncopated manner when it was desired); being more independent was probably the reason that Mr. Anderson ended up writing the music for only one Broadway production, "Goldilocks." This independence may have cost him the opportunity to write for more such productions, although for the music itself it was altogether beneficial. (After all, Beethoven ended up writing only one opera, "Fidelio," even though there were a few other incidental music settings.)
The lesson from all of this is that in all cases, it is the arranger, whether Bennett, Anderson, or others, whose work makes its impression musically, which is what counts. Two different arrangers working on the same material will produce settings as different as day and night. The ones who bang out the tunes with one finger - in this case Rodgers, Berlin, Porter, and Loewe remain practically insignificant in this case, a fact that many tend to forget when it comes to credit where credit is due. In general, the arrangements by Robert Russell Bennett, in their greater reflection of Broadway, tend to be more rugged, and more rough and tumble, more a matter of taking chances, so that occasionally something might work rather less well. In the case of Leroy Anderson, the setting is a bit more distant from Broadway, bearing a much greater degree of musical refinement, and especially in this case, most definitely not designed for casual but rather for attentive listening, very much here being dealt with in the same manner as I deal with various classical works I have written on to provide suggestions for ideal performances. For those who approach these settings, even those by Mr. Bennett, as a source of all their favorite melodies fed to them one after the other, I can only say that they should not be reading this essay - it is not meant for them.
There is another factor to be considered in dealing with this set of medleys: the matter of the album as a coherent, indissoluble unit, meant to be presented and heard as one. At the time this album and others dealing with light music were produced, in many instances the producers, which would include the arrangers/conductors/composers involved, took especially great care to fit selections together that would precede and follow one another with a degree of logic, perhaps by key relationships, perhaps by contrasts. Upon repeated listening to many of these albums, one could begin to feel in many instances a certain pull of the various selections or movements toward one another. In some instances it was only a part of rather than an entire album, but the effect of it was still there. In addition, the effect is such that upon hearing these settings, one will get the impression that they were actually so composed and are inconceivable presented in any other manner. The best arrangers of that period, representing a lost art of today, were capable of providing this same illusion.
I need to divert for a moment. In the process of obtaining the sheet music for many of these items of light music, I came across a publication entitled "Cocktail Music for Your Enjoyment." This was actually based upon an album of superior salon music as recorded by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, with selections taken from the Chappell Library, and released in this country under the title, "Very Very Dry." To my astonished pleasure, the selections in this publication directly followed the recording in its selections by the diverse composers presented, in the same order and in the same keys. Of course, as always, one must make allowances when piano transcriptions are involved if it is desired to more closely emulate the orchestral sound, but the point is that it was a faithful presentation as transcribed for piano of the entire contents of this album, exactly as though the whole were one vast composition.
In those days, as I have just stated - this point needs emphasis - many conductors of light music as well as record producers took great care in putting selections together in these albums so that they go together very logically from a musical standpoint and thus may be listened to with a degree of attention in this manner from beginning to end.
I have identified many such albums or parts of albums in which this prevails, not only by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra or by Robert Farnon - or by Leroy Anderson - but also by the likes of Alfred Newman, Andre Kostelanetz, Morton Gould, Domenico Savino, Alec Wilder, and Percy Faith. I myself have assembled several selections by Victor Young and have grouped them into an album (hypothetical, but I can retape them so that this grouping is established for myself), into a musically logical assemblage. It is a thought to do writeups on some of these groups for possible performance, intermixed with other essays I have produced on composers ranging from J.S. Bach to Mahler, soon to be extended forward to include such as Sibelius, Elgar, and Vaughan Williams.
To get to the set of Leroy Anderson musical comedy medleys I am about to deal with, I will discuss performance of these very much under the assumption that the four movements (as I insist on referring to them) are really meant to be presented and heard in the manner and order that they appeared on that original recording by the Boston Pops Orchestra.
(I - South Pacific - 1, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair; 2, Bali H'ai; 3, Happy Talk; 4, Some Enchanted Evening; 5, I'm in Love with a Wonderful Girl)
I must emphasize that in all these movements, these subtitles just given will be purely for purposes of enabling the reader to follow the account of the movement - such subtitles will NOT be carried forward into the description, as the overall musical issues take absolute priority in all cases. Also, as I have stated in a previous account, I vastly prefer to deal with this material from a purely musical, abstract standpoint.
After the introductory flourish, which previews some of the material to be heard later in the movement, we get on with the first section, and I would simply mention here, in addition to emphasizing the prevailing rhythms, that the dynamics be given some attention. Each of those statements beginning with the repeated notes should have a perceptible crescendo to the second element of the phrases, and on the second occasion, the dynamic effect should be even more pronounced. The contrapuntal imitations on the last statement may be used to convey the vastness of the setting as it presents itself.
This first section, due to the tonal deflection about to take place in passing to the second section, tends to detach itself from the rest of the movement, having little if anything to do with what follows. This is due especially to the very remote key relationship - the A Flat Major section is interrupted by a deceptive cadence and by a further modulation leads us to D Major, which in essence is basic to the remainder. The tritone relationship very definitely cuts the sections apart here. A considerable ritard in passing from the first to the second section is clearly desirable.
So we now get underway with the second section, which not only keywise but also materialwise, turns out to be basic to the remainder of the movement. The second statement should be given with much more dynamic emphasis than at first. At the end of this, passing to the second strain, the rising violins must not be permitted to be overly prominent at the point where the second strain first begins, from the upbeat, and the same precaution should be taken at the end of this, where we return to the first strain. The last statement gets plenty of emphasis, as usual taking care that the byplay is never permitted to obtrude, and at the end, there is a considerable diminuendo and ritardando in preparing for the next section, in G Major.
I would not spurt ahead in this next section; in fact, I might consider
moving even more deliberately than indicated in the Boston Pops recording. The clue lies in the nature of the music. With Robert Russell Bennett's still very creditable setting, the "cutesy" approach, along with a touch of jauntiness might directly reflect the Broadway musical, but Mr. Anderson has clearly something different in mind here, which is much more suave in character, and might perhaps be more reflective of a table discourse at an afternoon tea party in a sense, but the important thing is that if it works musically, and fits in organically with what comes at least before, that is all that really should matter. Mr Anderson, as we well know, was fully capable of being "cutesy" and jaunty whenever he desired to be.
The tempo here should remain relentlessly steady and the smoothness of the setting should be emphasized in every way possible. At the end, there should be no ritard as the accompanying figure, the last aspect to remain at the end, rises from one octave to the next one up and the whole finally concludes. It is desirable to take a short pause here before beginning the next section.
The major second progression, of which we shall see more of in the succeeding movements, is used in the interest of separating the settings from one another. The key is now F Major; under normal conditions one would not recommend having two sections side by side in an awkward tonal relationship such as this, but a master composer can handle this situation smoothly, especially when it is clearly demonstrated that the sections are really meant to be broken apart to suggest separate pictures.
Little comment is called for here; the section needs to be presented in a walking tempo, and rather unassuming in its character. Once again, it must be seen to that the byplay in the other parts will not interfere with the main melody. On the last statement, a little more of a surge forward is desirable, broadening for the latter portion and the cadence, before the second strain which serves as codetta makes its final appearance.
Very carefully and smoothly, on the last F Major chord, as the section needs to properly conclude, the 3/4 meter and faster tempo for the following section should steal in, with a gradual crescendo to the A, hitherto the top line, and now filling the whole texture as the home dominant preparing to return us to D Major. The very direct relationship in this case makes the process inordinately simple. The crescendo resumes on the upward scales, finally leading us into the forthcoming section, upon arrival of which there should be a momentary accent as outcome to the preceding and then immediately subito piano, but not so much that the accent referred to would ring across the first bar or so.
The dynamic level will continually rise as expressing greater and greater enthusiasm as to the character. Finally, with the final setting, the composer (by whom I am of course referring to Leroy Anderson, not Richard Rodgers), pulls up his shirt sleeves by the extreme forward presentation, extending out the last phrase in his own favorite manner, at the end of which there is an enormous broadening and significant preparation ultimately leading us to what we have already learned to regard as the destined outcome.
This last presentation of the second section, grandly presented, should make its point with each of the repeated notes of the melody given an enormous crescendo each time, always again watching that the byplay does not obtrude. The closing phrase needs to be considerably broadened.
With the final flourish, still based on this material even though now in 3/4, we must move ahead to allow for a properly brilliant close, without any broadening at any point. The final downward D Major arpeggio goes straight into the held D unison, upon which a further crescendo will provide the occasion for the D Major chord at the very end to be cleanly cut off, with a considerable accent.
(II - Annie Get Your Gun - 1, I Got the Sun in the Morning; 2, They Say that Falling in Love is Wonderful; 3, The Girl that I Marry; 4, Doin' what comes Naturally)
The preceding movement concluded in a manner quite satisfactorily and with a certain completeness, although I am not necessarily suggesting that it be performed separately. Rather it is a matter of what we are covering now representing a complete break, thanks again due to the key progression by the major second, being less smooth and less directly related, and used almost throughout the movement, giving us a somewhat rougher, more earthy setting, which would probably be quite appropriate in the situation. Plenty of rhythmic emphasis should be indulged in here, both with the introductory flourish and the first section itself. In addition, with the second strain, an accent on the very last eighth note of each measure, perhaps not in the Boston Pops recording, will give the whole a very desirable "kick" to the setting, so to speak.
There should be even more emphasis rhythmically as the first strain restates itself, and then, after the held chord, already pointing to a different tonal center which again will set itself off as a separate picture, a gradual ritardando should be taken, considerably broadening as we approach the next section.
A very ample sound is called for here, with the melody really singing out, and by contrast, with the second strain pushing ahead just a bit until returning to the first strain which should again be given with plenty of warmth and ampleness. A momentary uprise will takes place as the melody extends itself in the last phrase, wherein a broadening of the tempo is also called for. At its conclusion, there may be an appreciable pause, as the following portion goes in an entirely different direction.
Again there is a complete break, suggesting once again a separate picture as the major second key progression once again is utilized. For this next section, a waltz tempo is adopted, and the whole is meant to be presented in this "cutesy" manner that I referred to earlier. Another arranger might have perhaps a more lyrical, sentimental view of this melody, but Mr. Anderson is providing us with his own personal impressions of it, and if it works musically within this context, that is after all what counts. The whole is to be taken in a thoroughly nonchalant, non-committal manner which will admirably present what is clearly desired here.
Another pause, indicating another separate picture, and we embark on a more animated section, suggesting a very earthy aspect by the homeliness of both the melody, the harmony, and perhaps even the song from which it was originally derived. A rhythmic emphasis is clearly desirable here, with a complete absence of any sentiment or dynamic subtlety.
This moves into a faster tempo, once again via an unrelated key progression by major second. The melody itself is considerably elaborated, and the virtuosic aspect of this setting should be fully encouraged. As the full orchestra eventually takes over, and the first strain returns for the last time, there is a momentary break at the end of the phrase which should be observed, and when the phrase is concluded it is expanded out in an enormous ritardando which leads into the big restatement of the melody from the second section, beginning with the second strain.
A broadening should occur at the end of this display, and then the tempo, will push ahead as the material from the last section reappears, rhythmically varied by upbeats. There is a momentary pause before the final gesture, which is simply the culmination of the phrase from this last section which concludes the movement.
(III - Kiss Me Kate - 1, Another Op'ning, Another Show; 2, Wunderbar; 3, So in Love; 4, Always True to You in My Fashion)
We begin the third movement in the same F Major that the previous movement concluded on, although the approach for what we are now embarking on is totally different. The major second key progressions referred to all along are used here as well, but on this occasion the intent is quite different, without the attempt to produce separated pictures. This can be seen by the fact that the transitions between sections are carefully designed so that unlike in the previous movement, the key progressions will work out much more smoothly. The whole character of the movement is much more earnest in expression, quite in contrast with the earthiness that I continually refer to in the second movement.
Before proceeding, I have to emphasize (as I very often feel the need to) that the key progressions and key relationships in any piece of music really do play a major part in shaping the whole, and I feel that it is desirable for even a casual listener to acquire a rudimentary knowledge of such as it will greatly facilitate understanding of what takes place.
I referred to Robert Russell Bennett earlier, making a comparison with the work by Leroy Anderson in the production of the sort of medleys that we are dealing with here. I indicated that his medleys tend to be more directly reflective of the Broadway scene, and that they tend to be more rough and tumble, with more of a willingness to take chances, so that often something that is attempted may work out less well.
I am now thinking of the Show Boat medley which Mr. Bennett produced, and note that in particular the key progressions used are exactly the same (in reverse order) as those in this third movement by Mr. Anderson.
I will suggest that though the individual sections may be magnificently wrought, the same care in connecting the respective sections has not been taken, resulting in what sounds to me as a degree of perfunctoriness, and in that sense would tend to work less well, as I would put it. To be sure, Mr. Bennett fully redeemed himself with such efforts as the medleys for South Pacific (the shorter version, in full competition with that by Mr. Anderson; our first movement in this account) and My Fair Lady, which are fully exemplary in the sense I am referring to.
With Mr. Anderson, nothing is ever left to chance; there is a much greater degree of refinement in the work, with everything very carefully and meticulously worked out, possibly due to its greater proximity with classical practices. I realize that in making such an invidious comparison I am leaving myself vulnerable to getting brick-batted for my views, but my readers and also would-be performers of this set of pieces (hopefully as I am advocating here played as a complete set in order) are perfectly free to disagree with my views.
To get underway, we have an opening flourish which takes us directly into the first section, in the same F Major as carried over from before. The rhythmic character will immediately manifest itself and the performer should fall right into its rhythm, and make all the due emphases as called for, including the exclamations at the ends of the phrases in the second strain - they are quite typical of the composer - Leroy Anderson.
When the first strain finally restates itself for the last time, a well graded crescendo is called for, which must be applied very gradually over the entire portion of the phrase as the sequences rise. At the end of the phrase, in addition to the enormous broadening, there is a hemiola effect occasioned by displaced accents, over two measures. Although obviously it has to be conducted in its written meter, I would very much urge that these accents be fully indulged in - and the ritardando here should be considerable, throughout this tonal sequence ultimately leading to the A Major chord where the 3/4 meter begins, and the tempo is released.
The ensuing passage, picking up the 3/4 meter - no further tempo adjustment is necessary once it begins - serves as a bridge to the second section. Although the second section is in G Major, a key once again representing a major second step from the original, potentially incompatible on the face of it, the key progression in this case is handled so deftly and smoothly that there is no clash of tonalities as might otherwise be the case, and one would as a consequence be scarcely aware of it. One might also note here some rather obvious references to motives by Johann Strauss, Jr., which is a rather engaging feature.
The second section itself calls for little comment, except that at the end of the second strain, a slight broadening and swelling of the dynamic level would be appropriate, and when the first strain returns, it is presented in a far more assertive manner than before. On the last bar, following the last note, we are once again back in a 4/4 meter, and prepare for the third section in the parallel G Minor. The basic melody from the next section appears within this preparation, and to call some attention to what ultimately will be in the foreground, a slight accent on the long second beat is to be applied, which will not be continued when the section proper gets underway. A ritard into it is desirable, and this can be done very smoothly on the sixteenth notes which appear at the cadence immediately prior to the onset of the next section. In addition, this ritardando, will allow us to present the whole as though the sixteenths in this ritardando go directly into the melody of the section, as one line.
This section is to be taken in a gently walking rhythm, with at first no variation of tempo of any sort, but rather in a very smooth and even manner. When the first strain repeats itself, some caution is necessary to see to it that the melody gets full prominence with a minimum of disturbance, as the byplay at this point is a trifle animated and thus needs a degree of restraint.
When the first strain finally is restated for the last time, there is now a degree of urgency which calls for a push of the tempo, until the point just before the high point of the melody, where there is a broadening, following which the tempo should continually expand to the final cadence of the section. Thus the additional measures following, on the tonic B Flat pedal, are taken very slowly where the harmony is still resolving itself plagally, following which there is an uprise during which the tempo must start to move faster as the line rises.
At the arrival point, the high B Flat is given an accent and then it is necessary to immediately pull back, quitting the note and lessening the dynamics. The percussion pulsation at this point gives us the basic movement, but ever in diminuendo; it should be to all intents and purposes gone when we reach the introductory phrases introducing the next section (on a B Flat dominant preparing us for an E Flat Major statement).
The general feel of this section should be one of narrative, with the aspect of relating a story. It is to be given in the most gracious manner possible despite the intermittently "swingy" feel to it, and it would be well to dispense with any percussion punctuation throughout. The whole should be presented with considerable warmth and affection.
After the main idea is stated, the melodic interjection following the last note should be regarded as a continuation, the line going directly into and including the second statement of this first strain which is a bit fuller in scoring and dynamics. The same should be observed at the end of this second statement - the melodic curlicue following the last note should proceed directly from that note as one line.
The second strain, featuring a trumpet solo, needs to be lessened in dynamics, but at the end of this strain, which is followed by the second half of the main melody, the trumpet must quit its held high F by the time that final portion is reached, given with much more fullness and energy than hitherto. This needs to properly conclude before we proceed to the faster version of the forgoing in F Major, hence there will be no cymbal stroke on the downbeat, representing the end of the phrase, and the accelerando necessary to accommodate the faster tempo that follows will be much more gentle and gradual than that indicated on the Boston Pops recording, admittedly not an easy task to convincingly put across. In any event, it should never be done in a slam bang manner.
The forgoing is now repeated as stated in this faster tempo, carefully prepared, and the key progression will be less jarring if this precaution with the tempo is taken. One may note that in the second half of this first strain, there is a quite masterful elaboration of the melody as evidenced in the figuration, excellently conceived. I had mentioned Johann Strauss, Jr. earlier; this immediate section might remind just a bit of Leo Delibes, although I am not necessarily suggesting a choreographic presentation of this music (actually classical ballet set to this music would not be such a repugnant idea, after all, provided of course that the musical integrity of this entire work of four movements is maintained in its proper order). I am making this comparison simply to point out the true stature of this music as it was conceived and is presented to us, far above any mere arrangement of a collection of pop songs, and deserving of far more respect. And as far as the Delibes allusion goes, I should mention that it is fully adapted to the style of Leroy Anderson and any Americanism that may creep in.
At the end of the second strain, there is a hold on its last note melodically, although the motion continues. Upon the statement of the second half of the first strain which would follow, we have a presentation in double time augmentation, and the metronomic relationship must be exact for it to make its point. There is an enormous broadening to the cadence which is ultimately deceptive, landing on the submediant D Minor as there is now a statement of the third section.
This is eventually to push ever faster as we approach the cadence, although the material is drawn out a bit in the composer's favorite manner. Leo Delibes rears his head in this portion as well as we push on to this cadence, following which we have a further allusion to the second section (adapted to the 4/4 meter), and eventually the final flourishes to conclude the movement. One should make the most of the brilliance exhibited here and simply speed on to the final bars and the momentarily held F octave and chord which cuts the whole thing off, summing it up in the most satisfactory manner.
(IV - Brigadoon - Intro. and 1, Down on Macconnechy Square; 2, The Heather on the Hill; 3, Almost Like Being in Love; 4, Come to Me, Bend to Me; 5, I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean)
For the fourth and final movement of this set, we have a structure that is notably different and a bit more ambitious than those we have had hitherto, although in the final analysis, one could still say that no two of these are really alike. For one thing, instead of an introductory flourish to introduce the first section, there is instead a full fledged section in itself before the actual first section begins.
Moreover, the final section, rather than merely summing up the preceding, is introduced in a manner that suggests itself as an independent section. The multiplicity of sections and the manner in which they proceed from one to the next is also peculiar to this movement, making for a more complex affair than we've had hitherto, although again, each of the forgoing movements as already stated still have their own special characteristics. But in this case, the composer's preoccupation with material of this nature, as exemplified by the Irish Suite and the Scottish Suite fragment, could have some bearing.
Tonally we experience the same ingenuity in key progression we've seen earlier in how we progress from the concluding F Major of the preceding movement to our ultimate destination of C Major, the key of the first actual section. The movement actually begins in D Major, a key directly allied to the F Major we had, and by sequences eventually lands us in C Major, in a very subtle manner such as we would be scarcely aware of the change in tonal orientation. This is despite the fact that the succeeding sections will respectively fluctuate between C Major and F Major. I must repeat here that key movement in any piece of music is always a primary factor in its working and shaping.
We come in on a dance scene apparently already in progress, and the material should be stated with plenty of energy, both rhythmic (and where called for) dynamic. Upon finally arriving in C Major through the modulatory sequences referred to, the 6/8 jig meter changes to a 4/4, actually to be presented in alla breve cut time. The dynamic has to be abruptly pulled back in a subito piano, but this is the occasion for a fresh uprise, as a crescendo, ultimately leading to the first section.
In the latter stage of this demonstration, there is a contrary motion movement in eighth notes in the outer parts, coming toward one another, and the downward moving upper part must be worked so as to go directly into the melody of the first section as one line. It is really a shame that I am unable to use musical notation to illustrate my point more clearly.
This forthcoming first section should be given in an appropriately rambunctious manner, with the eighth note background texture a continuation of the movement we had in approaching this section, even though melodically, as I have just suggested, they should be presented as one line. The displaced accents in the melody should be fully indulged in and given their due, even though obviously the music has to be conducted strictly according to the meter. The repetition of the opening phrase, in a lower voice, may be pulled back somewhat to provide for a fresh burst of dynamic energy on the second phrase of this restatement. And in the latter portion, where the second portion repeats itself, the emphatic offbeat accents should really be made prominent. At this point, as the recording is not too clear, I would say that the bass on those accents should be F Natural, not F Sharp as some may be tempted to regard it; the F Natural will provide a much more interesting harmonic progression before the final cadence of the section which should be quite emphatic.
The next section is a much smoother affair, with a diminuendo to be applied in the transition bar upon entering it. What should be immediately apparent (and definitely should be made clear in the performance) is the pulsation which has changed from an alla breve cut time to a straight 4/4, with the very clear quarter notes marking each beat. The basic tempo has actually remained the same, with quarter note equalling quarter note, and there should be no deviation of tempo upon entering the section, only pointing the change of metrical orientation.
The whole thing needs to be presented with a casual swing to it; otherwise little further comment is called for, other than at the very end, a slight ritardando might be taken before passing to the following section.
On the recording this following section evinces a slight quickening of the tempo; although this is a possible interpretation, I see it as an altogether discretionary matter and personally feel that actually such a tempo adjustment seems quite unnecessary, as it would work just as well if the ongoing tempo were to remain as it has hitherto.
The second strain of this section is given with plenty of emphasis, particularly the last phrase, with the repeated notes in the melody. At this latter point, with the phrase having been extended, there should be a broadening as we approach the cadence, with a considerable ritardando in the last bar.
Following the conclusion of this section, we pass to a 6/8 meter, which could be considered almost basic to everything that follows from this point. However, in this present situation, the music needs to become progressively more placid, as we approach the very reflective fourth section which provides a welcome contrast with the remainder of the movement.
Tonally, it would appear that we would make another excursion to F Major, having shuttled back and forth between C Major and F Major for the previous sections; however on this occasion, the F Major assumes a "Neapolitan" aspect, and we make instead a firm step in the direction of E Major, which tonally will also contrast with the other sections.
It is typical of Mr. Anderson in these medleys to take this step three-fourths of the way through the structure, retiring into a somewhat distant key far in the sharp direction, away from the field of action of the remainder. We have seen it in the Richard Rodgers Waltz Medley already covered, as well as in the Christmas Festival Overture (the "Silent Night" section) and in a manner of speaking the fifth movement of the Irish Suite; this must accordingly be looked upon as a favorite structural device of the composer.
The tempo here must be fully drawn out to allow all expressive elements to have their say. The English horn (cor anglais for the benefit of my readers in the UK) must be given full cooperation by all others playing in this section, and a conductor must be fully sympathetic to allow the solo instrument every opportunity to express whatever may be called for.
The second strain, now with the orchestral strings must sound as a integral continuation, and when the first strain returns, now appearing in the lower strings, the sixteenth note movement in the upper parts, though contributory to the effect, must be properly restrained so that the melody itself may be presented without any interference. In the second half of the phrase, the scoring is fuller, and as we approach the second half of this, with its pause, the emotional fervor and dynamic level must grow. This very last portion must be given with full emotional passion for its context; there will be a diminuendo as we approach the cadence. There is no need of a ritardando until we take the transition bars leading to the final pause on E, before the uprise to the next section. A final word: the apoggiatura in the melody at the cadence should be taken on the beat, and in no way rushed, but presented as though it were an actual melodic element, which in a sense it is; it should be very exquisitely shaped.
And so, after the final pause - and one must remember, the section must be heard as fully concluding before we proceed with the uprise, which consists of a menacing crescendo on a timpani roll on E. It would almost suggest a similar uprise in the last movement of Mahler's Second Symphony, where the earth seems to open up prior to the commencement of the march section, but here the context and intent is totally different even if calling attention to that effect referred to.
The material of the final section bursts out almost as a fanfare, and after this has stated itself, we make a diminuendo with four bars of pulsation on a bare C to emphasize the already established jig-like 6/8 meter. And during this section, there is a very strong upbeat 6-1 (referring to the eighth notes) feel to it; sometimes explicitly brought out, sometimes latent in the background, but one should always be aware of it in both performance and in perceptive listening.
The first statement of the idea is relatively sparse, with a minimum of harmonization, to emphasize the folkish aspect. On repetition, however, the setting is quite full and well conceived from what the original patter song must have been like, and hearing it in this form, one would be hard pressed to imagine how it could in any way be further enhanced or improved upon, even without the text. With the second strain, the upbeat 6-1 element gets full emphasis, with a hold on the second half of the phrase before finally cadencing.
After the cadence, the main idea repeats itself in imitation and in a steady diminuendo to a pianissimo, eventually leading to another uprise which culminates in a restatement of the second phrase of the third section. The forgoing triplet texture from the 6/8 meter continues for the first half of this statement, but there is a further crescendo and a broadening leading to the concluding phrase of the section which sums the whole up. At this point the triplet background is temporarily held in abeyance until the final flourish. The phrase is first stated majestically and broadly, but on the phrase extension we take an accelerando as we approach the cadence.
The final flourish, with the jig-like triplet figures having resumed, is based on the motive from the fifth section. A further acceleration can be allowed to add to the brilliance of the close of the movement and the entire work, but never so much as to allow it to run out of control. The final F octave sums up the whole thing.
This account, which I have been working on for a long time, has been a labor of love for me, as I have endeavored to have others see this music the way I see it. It is most unfortunate that in many places I had to resort to hard technical language, made necessary by the fact that I have no way to set down musical notation here to illustrate the points that I wished to make. It has been done entirely from memory, without my having listened to the recording while working on it - there being no need to, as I know the entire contents quite thoroughly as result of repeated listening to it in the past. Also, I do not have any access to a score, although I do hope that there are conductors out there who do have such access and could put it to good use - for themselves! In any event, I would invite anyone reading this account who happens to have a recording to listen and follow my account along with it at the same time (without any need to refer to the subtitles at the beginning of each chapter as mentioned).
For those who take the opportunity to listen to this group repeatedly in order as on the recording and as set down here, not only will the music come to mean more to them, but they will for the first time become acquainted with Leroy Anderson for what he really was, and let me assure, this represents some of the best of his work. It was produced during the salad days of the Boston Pops Orchestra when he was staff arranger for this aggregate, and in this capacity produced work that ranks with the very best of its type, touching the classical tradition in a manner that frankly very few of his short novelty numbers manage to, although I will still say that there are some very fine selections among this latter group that I hope to be able to touch on at some point.
And not only will the real essence of what he was about come out on repeated listening, but also it will be possible to instantly identify some of the arrangements that the Boston Pops recorded as his even though not so identified. The enhancements of many of the popular selections represented will instantly impress themselves as conceptions that outclass what the originals must have been like. I often say that it is most unfortunate that this quality I refer to did not carry over in the same manner to many of his original shorter selections, although the essence still remains. I feel the need to go into this in some length, as most who read this may not have been aware of the genius involved in putting these settings together and continue to laud him for what I feel are the wrong reasons. But as I will always aver, we hear all music in our own manner, but still owe it to ourselves to partake of many different types and genres to get a rounded appreciation of all forms of music.
As usual, I am open to comments.
Hans, as you say, Robert Russell Bennett produced the first arrangements of the songs by Rodgers, Berlin, Porter and Loewe that constituted in effect their debut. He was available for the purpose, but it just might have been someone else in that position, in which case the songs as thus presented would have had a totally different aspect.
It worked out as it did because Mr. Bennett was an estimable composer, arranger and conductor in his own right, and thus imparted to them an additional cast that in themselves they might not have intrinsically possessed.
You state "once established, they can stand up to what arrangers put them through" - which for me implies that a really skilled arranger would completely submerge their essence, and in order for this essence to be preserved, it
would require someone with a lesser individuality to their arranging skills (although truthfully, one would think that in such a case, the result would sound unbearably bland and insipid).
A truly skilled arranger can take a song and work it in such a way that it will sound as if it were so composed, and inconceivable to be presented in any other way.
The importance of the arranger can scarcely be overestimated, and for the amount of creativity put in, actually deserves far more credit than the song writer who may be gifted melodically but has far lesser skills when it comes to deeper musical insights.
Two different arrangers can take the same song and produce results so totally different from one another, that upon listening and making a comparison, one can receive the impression of listening to two entirely different compositions despite a similarity in the succession of notes in the melodic line. The arranger is demonstrating his own individual impressions and feelings about how the song should be presented, or to put it more plainly, what it means to him.
The musical repertoire affords many examples of situations where a composition by one person is really the work of another, and that other is the one who really deserves the credit. Thus we have the case of the Warsaw Concerto, really the work of Roy Douglas; the Liverpool Requiem, really the work of Carl Davis; and even in the serious performing repertoire we have it with the work of the Russian Nationalist composers, where much of Mussorgsky's work had to be realized by Rimsky-Korsakov, and the same with Borodin's work which needed work by Glazunov to be properly presented and performed.
But I'm starting to go far afield. So Hans, with all due respect to you, just in case I might have misunderstood what you were trying to convey with your statement, please try to clarify it for everyone's benefit.
As for the Leroy Anderson arrangements of these songs and medleys as done for the Boston Pops Orchestra; tailor made or not, Anderson was a substantial musician who could take any insignificant melody and cause it to rise above its origins. His own approach was much closer to serious classical music, and always worked according to such principles. But as far as passing judgment on the value of Bennett's arrangements vs. Anderson's, I would simply lay these out, and after listening to both and studying them closely, I would then decide as to their relative value. I fully recognize that each of us has his/her individual standards or listening needs as to what constitutes an ideal arrangement, what one finds most satisfying, and prefer to leave it at that.
Russell Bennett was Rodgers's, and Kern's, and Porter's, and Loewe's (when RRB was available) to make the all-important *first* arrangements of their songs--the ones in which they'd make their musical debut. Once the songs become established hits, they can stand up to whatever other arrangers put them through; it's always way easier to be the arranger of a "known" popular song.
RRB's print arrangements had to "work" for any ensemble (amateur, professional, complete instrumentation or not) that might play them. The Anderson arr.'s tailored to the Boston Pops are a completely different undertaking.
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