17 Feb

The Film Scores and Original Orchestral Music of George Martin

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The Berlin Music Ensemble conducted by Craig Leon
Atlas Réalisations ARCD008 (63.00)

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16 Feb

Mozart - Piano Concertos 25 & 27 - Review

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MOZART Piano Concertos 25 & 27
Piotr Anderszewski, Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Warner Classic 9029572422

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16 Feb

Serenade and Divertimentos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 - Review

Written by

LEO WEINER
Chandos CHAN 10959  
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Neeme Jarvi.

Serenade and Divertimentos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

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16 Feb

Symphony No. 3; Sinfonietta; Serenade and Divertimento - review

Written by

DAG WIREN
Chandos CHSA 5194  
Iceland National Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Rumon Gamba.

Symphony No. 3; Sinfonietta; Serenade and Divertimento.

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12 Feb

Once Upon A Dream

Written by

(Bruce Campbell)
Analysed by Robert Walton

I can’t believe I have only analysed one Campbell composition. That was Cloudland for the 186th edition of JIM. Disgraceful! So it’s high time I rectified the situation and wrote another one. There’s no doubt Robert Farnon’s music had a huge influence on Campbell’s creations but at the same time over the years Campbell developed an instantly recognizable style. Like Farnon, he inherited the elements of good taste, mainstream modernity and above all quality.

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(Bruce Campbell)
Analysed by Robert Walton

I can’t believe I have only analysed one Campbell composition. That was Cloudland for the 186th edition of JIM. Disgraceful! So it’s high time I rectified the situation and wrote another one. There’s no doubt Robert Farnon’s music had a huge influence on Campbell’s creations but at the same time over the years Campbell developed an instantly recognizable style. Like Farnon, he inherited the elements of good taste, mainstream modernity and above all quality.

Just to remind you of Bruce Campbell’s connection with this highly specialized music. He was a fellow Canadian who came to Britain some years before Farnon and played trombone with well known British dance bands during the 1930s. Later as an arranger, Campbell assisted Farnon on radio, films and recordings and as composer became a regular contributor to mood music libraries. So let’s dissect one of Campbell’s most beautiful waltzes. He obviously had a knack for unusual titles too. Of course the idea for this title was borrowed from the traditional start to ‘fairy’ stories that has existed as a phrase for centuries. One of the first times it was used was in George Peele’s 1595 play “The Old Wives’ Tale”. 360 years later Campbell coined the phrase Once Upon A Dream.

There are two ways of introducing this piece. Either go straight from the top, or supply a few gentle warm-up bars to meet and greet the tune. The latter was Campbell’s wise choice. Judging from the gorgeous 4 bar opening, the harmonies suggest he was a jazzman at heart. Although basically a dance in three-quarter time, Once Upon A Dream is taken strictly in rubato tempo which does full justice to this laid-back hypnotic melody. It almost has overtones of church bells. Sensitivity is the name of the game here. The sheer lack of a steady “Silvester” beat is the very thing which brings it to life. This is purely rural music with not a hint of people, vehicles or cities. I know because I live in the country. So all those requirements are fastidiously taken care of by Bruce Campbell. Perhaps it was his Celtic DNA kicking in. The tune has a similar opening shape to Give A Little Whistle.

The melody gives the distinct impression it wrote itself. Calmly wending its way over the musicscape, the listener can easily trace the tune in what seems like a familiar strain. I vividly recall hearing the strings for the first time and getting the same feeling. There’s an undeniable freshness about the orchestration too, especially its simplicity. In fact it shows there’s no need to score intricate harmonies for such a basic tune. At bar 25 of a standard 32 bar chorus, listen out for a sublime moment before the tune first comes to a halt. This is in fact is the climax of Once Upon A Dream. Producing such an effect is like the magic emanating from the pages of a children’s story. I find it difficult to contain myself at this point.

Meanwhile manning the middle section, a flute forages in the leafy undergrowth of the woodwind section. This is answered by the rest of the orchestra. Eventually a horn and flute bring us neatly back to the beginning for some more glorious sounds. Once again we can wallow in those beautiful undulating string phrases. I just can’t wait to hear a repeat of that burst of brilliance just before the coda.

With a little help from Farnon, Campbell has again not only written some excellent production music, but also captured our hearts in one of his most radiant of miniatures.

Available on New Town:

Production Music of the 1950s
Guild GLCD 5224

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(Roemheld; Parish)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There are three songs I know with the English female name Ruby, popular from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th inspired by the gemstone. The name seems to be having a revival in Ireland at the moment.

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(Roemheld; Parish)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There are three songs I know with the English female name Ruby, popular from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th inspired by the gemstone. The name seems to be having a revival in Ireland at the moment.

The 1969 one by Kenny Rogers was Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town. Two years before that there was Mick Jagger’s Ruby Tuesday, but by far the most musical was written for the 1953 film “Ruby Gentry”. Milwaukee-born film composer Heinz Roemheld’s beautifully crafted song Ruby became a standard almost overnight with words by Mitchell Parish. Despite its limited melodic range, the way it gradually builds provides as much emotional wallop as a song with a wider spread. Incidentally one of Roemheld’s best known scores from almost 400 films was that of “The Invisible Man” (1933).

The common element between the various arrangements of Ruby seems to be the harmonica, as in recordings by Victor Young, Max Geldray and Les Baxter’s hit record. Although I’m not a particular fan of Ray Charles, his soulful vocal on bluesy Ruby has remained with me ever since I first heard it, while the more conventional crooning of Vic Damone coming a close second.

For analysis purposes though, I’ve chosen Percy Faith’s interesting piano concerto-like arrangement that can be found in “That’s Light Musical Entertainment” on Guild’s “Golden Age of Light Music”(GLCD 5158). In fact Ruby, full of potential ideas for development, could have easily been the basis for an official piano concerto. If Faith hadn’t injured his hands in a fire, the soloist might well have been Faith himself, as he had every intention of becoming a concert pianist.

After a rousing start, the tune of Ruby gets maximum exposure followed by some relaxed piano reminders of Rachmaninov. Then the faithful Faith flutes with more piano including a touch of Carmen Cavallaro. See if you can fathom out how Faith achieves the sound of a harmonica. Then gorgeous unison violins give the tune a symphonic feel accompanied by that uplifting woodwind sound. Listen out for a wee suggestion of Mantovani.

Going into the bridge with a harp-like piano, the strings in harmony continue to dominate with the presence of horns. The strings now lusher slow right down to a standstill. After the “harmonica” returns, a brief encounter with a violin continues the pattern soon broken by a complete change of mood.

Like the opening, the orchestra suddenly bursts into an almost operatic moment. We’re back in “concerto” style with piano chords a-plenty while dramatic horns play the melody. Soon they swap parts and the strings play for all they’re worth answered by the horns.The middle section gently creeps back in, after which that sublime violin plays a most moving solo bringing Ruby to a peaceful end via an exotic Riddle-like downward string movement with two quotes from Mam’selle. There can’t be anything in the universe as soul stirring as a violin.

Listening to this tune again after so many years makes me realize that the much neglected and underrated Ruby must surely be one of the most dramatic and thrilling standards of the 20th century. It deserves nothing more than this magnificent arrangement and performance. Where has it been all this time? In fact I would go further and say it contains some of the magical ingredients of a Puccini - the ultimate praise of any melody.

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15 Jan

Radio 2 axes The Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band after 50 years

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Radio 2 has axed its long-running shows playing organ and brass band music and given new slots to Jo Whiley and Cerys Matthews in a generational shift at Britain’s most listened-to station. The Organist Entertains, which has been on the network for 50 years, is being "rested" with veteran presenter Nigel Ogden retiring. Theatre organist Ogden, 63, has introduced recordings and live broadcasts of pipe and electronic organs, since 1980.

Nigel says: "I'd like to thank my ever loyal audience for their support and messages during the 38 years I've hosted The Organist Entertains. I've loved hearing from them and send them my very best wishes for the future. I’d also like to thank Radio 2 for giving me the opportunity to play the music I love each week - it has been a huge privilege."

Radio 2 has also axed Listen to the Band, its weekly showcase for brass band and military music, presented by 78 year-old conductor Frank Renton. The programme has existed in various forms on the BBC since the Second World War.

The yearly Young Brass Award will remain as a Friday Night Is Music Night special in April; whilst brass and organ music will be included in Friday Night is Music Nightweekly programmes throughout the year. Brass will continue to be heavily featured on a weekly basis in Clare Teal’s Sunday night show, which celebrates big band music.

Frank says: "My 23 years presenting Listen To The Band have been hugely enjoyable, especially playing so much of the music that I love. It has also been an absolute pleasure being part of the Radio 2 family, and I want to thank all those who have listened or contributed to the programme over the years. Of course the next thing on the agenda is the continued celebration of the talent of young British brass players when Ken Bruce and I present the final of the BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Award in April."

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10 Jan

Grieg: Piano Concert ● ‘Peer Gynt’

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Lise Davidsen, Ann-Helen Moen, Victoria Nava (sopranos), Johannes Weisser (baritone), Håkon Høgerno (Hardanger fiddle). Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Choirs, cond. Edward Gardner Chandos CHSA 5190 (83’12)

This is the real deal.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.