28 Jun

The Choirs of St Albans Cathedral - a review

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Written by Peter Burt.

JOHN RUTTER Psalmfest
The Choirs of St Albans Cathedral
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra ● Andrew Lucas
Naxos 8.573394

I imagine that a number of readers will be familiar with John Rutter’s carols and hymn tune settings. This his latest release, ...

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28 Jun

Viennese Dances - a review

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Written by Peter Burt.

JOSEPH LANNER Viennese Dances
Orchestre de Cannes cond. Wolfgang Dörner
Naxos 8.573552

Devotees of the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna will know the name of Joseph Lanner (1801-1843). He has been claimed as ‘father of the Viennese waltz’ and was a contemporary of Johann Strauss I (1804-49), the viola player in his first quartet until they quarrelled and the latter left to form his own group.

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27 Jun

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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(André Previn)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There are very few tunes that make me cry. Sometimes Mahler or Farnon unleash a mini ‘Niagara’ in me, but Previn’s utterly sublime theme of total tranquility from the 1961 film “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” has all the elements to produce a similar reaction. Even the melody is crying out to be heard! For me it evokes some of man’s finest qualities: hope, joy, kindness, unselfishness and of course love. It’s like a religious experience. Only music can truly convey such feelings. Previn possesses a natural gift to tug at your heartstrings. The old romantic!

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(André Previn)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There are very few tunes that make me cry. Sometimes Mahler or Farnon unleash a mini ‘Niagara’ in me, but Previn’s utterly sublime theme of total tranquility from the 1961 film “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” has all the elements to produce a similar reaction. Even the melody is crying out to be heard! For me it evokes some of man’s finest qualities: hope, joy, kindness, unselfishness and of course love. It’s like a religious experience. Only music can truly convey such feelings. Previn possesses a natural gift to tug at your heartstrings. The old romantic!

The story is about the lazy good-for-nothing grandson of an Argentinian beef tycoon who eventually finds his manhood as a member of the French resistance during World War 2. Sounding like the love theme from a big biblical movie, the first time I heard it I went into an emotional state from which I didn’t move until the music stopped. Like David Raksin’s Laura, it gives the impression of being based on a single fragment and then developed. It just grabbed me and there was nothing I could do about it. I was totally hooked!

I presume that’s how the Love Theme from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was born. Later Alan and Marilyn Bergman came up with a great lyric for Barbra Streisand entitled More In Love With You. (Incidentally Laura’s lyricist, Johnny Mercer had once encouraged Alan to become a songwriter). Without words, this poignant Previn tune remained comparatively unknown until Streisand included the song on her 2003 “Movie Album” finally giving it the recognition it deserved. And violinist Itzhak Perlman’s recording didn’t do it any harm reaching an even wider audience. Although André eventually got fed up with writing film music, he must have been pleased with this one. Don’t forget he’d come a long way since “Challenge To Lassie”.

In the bridge, the music moves on to a completely new level of film writing with a nod to atonality, but still making musical sense. Schoenberg by stealth perhaps! Clear evidence of venturing into tuneless territory in the style of the man who broke all the rules. After all, André and Arnold once played table tennis together in Los Angeles, so something must have rubbed off! If you’re interested in learning more about atonality, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a good way to gently ease yourself into it. More and more music lovers have found the effort worthwhile. Certainly Percy Faith’s brilliant arrangement does it full justice. It only confirms my view that André Previn is without doubt the world’s most multi-talented musician.

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
Love Theme by Percy Faith’s Orchestra
is available on the Guild CD ”Non-Stop to
Nowhere” (GLCD 5206).

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09 Jun

Mannequin Melody

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(Clive Richardson)
Analysed by Robert Walton

As I’m sure you know, I get a great kick out of analysing light orchestral pieces, especially ones that are jolly and cheerful. Without doubt Mannequin Melody fits into that category perfectly. In fact it puts one instantly into a good mood. This Clive Richardson composition contains many of the qualities of the 1940’s Golden Era, including the presence of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon.

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(Clive Richardson)
Analysed by Robert Walton

As I’m sure you know, I get a great kick out of analysing light orchestral pieces, especially ones that are jolly and cheerful. Without doubt Mannequin Melody fits into that category perfectly. In fact it puts one instantly into a good mood. This Clive Richardson composition contains many of the qualities of the 1940’s Golden Era, including the presence of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon. You can’t ask for more than that. So let’s take a closer look at this latter day classic Mannequin Melody from 1958.

The piece opens with two sustained notes from the bassoon whilst the violins illuminate the chords with some appropriate lively decoration. Flying flutes flutter down to join one of light music’s most stylish tunes, Mannequin Melody. And there’s nothing quite so effective as a melody played by unison violins. They might be playing in the middle register region of the keyboard, but they give a definite impression of lower strings. Being on the same note creates a far more dramatic sound than if they were in harmony. (Just listen to the Melachrino Strings). This simple format really does give the tune the ultimate in exposure. Note on bars 7 and 8 of the first outing of the melody a pizzicato reminder of Holiday for Strings. Big Brother David is watching!

So let’s continue this soaring syncopated strain by one of the masters of this most British of genres. It depicts the post-war era when models on the fashion fairways were of normal size, not dangerously thin and certainly not looking miserable! Returning to the melody, the one-note violins magically metamorphose into harmony with the woodwind briefly taking over before repeating what the pizzicato strings were doing.

The sound of vibes and harp herald a full 32 bar middle section, much of it borrowed from Richardson’s own 1946 prototype Melody on the Move with strings, woodwind, muted brass and vibes. A case of recycling. If you listen carefully you will even hear echoes of Holiday Spirit.

Then it’s back for a final single-note saunter along the catwalk with the three main constituents, Clive Richardson, Robert Farnon and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, all adding their expertise to the finished product. This tried and tested formula works every time.

This Chappell recording of Mannequin Melody is available on the Guild CD “A Box of Light Musical Allsorts” (GLCD 5157)

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08 Jun

The Last Walz - The Strauss Family and Vienna - book review

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John Suchet –

THE LAST WALTZ – The Strauss Family and Vienna

Hardback  277pp   ISBN:978-1-78396-116-0

Published by Elliott and Thompson,  London,
in association with CLASSIC FM RADIO.

Price  £25.00

Having written six books about Ludwig van Beethoven, upon whom he is an acknowledged expert, John Suchet has now turned his attention to the Strauss family –  ‘dynasty’ as he describes it – and the Vienna of the nineteenth century.

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John Suchet –

THE LAST WALTZ – The Strauss Family and Vienna

Hardback  277pp   ISBN:978-1-78396-116-0

Published by Elliott and Thompson,  London,
in association with CLASSIC FM RADIO.

Price  £25.00

Having written six books about Ludwig van Beethoven, upon whom he is an acknowledged expert, John Suchet has now turned his attention to the Strauss family –  ‘dynasty’ as he describes it – and the Vienna of the nineteenth century.

It’s somewhat strange that the history of such a prolific group, (whose music is so well-loved and  has maintained such universal enduring popularity), should be  relatively unknown.

But a really fascinating story it is, and  Suchet  chronicles  it in an eminently appealing way. He has quite  obviously  ’burned a lot of midnight oil’  researching his subject.
 
We learn about  the two ‘Johanns’, father and son, together with Josef and Eduard, who at times were anything but a ‘happy family’, riven by tensions, feuds and jealousy, against the backdrop of a country undergoing an enormous upheaval as it hurtled, seemingly ‘kicking and  screaming’,  towards the twentieth century.

Throughout this personal and political chaos   the Strausses continued to write the waltzes to which the Viennese – anxious to forget their troubles – danced and drank champagne !

The book is beautifully presented, and lavishly illustrated.  Although not inexpensive, it is definitely a worthwhile addition to every serious music enthusiast’s library  and would make a wonderful gift.

Tony Clayden
©  June 2016

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02 Jun

Classic fm - 'David Mellor's Light Music Masters'

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Coming up on Classic fm -
'David Mellor's Light Music Masters'

Saturday 4 June, 9pm

David begins his survey of Light Music with a man who helped put the genre on the map – Arthur Fiedler.

He came out of the violin section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and went on to direct the Boston Pops Orchestra for 50 seasons. The composer and the orchestra even hold the Guinness World Record for the largest single audience for a classical music concert – an incredible 400,000 people.

Tonight David will tell their story and play the music that made them so popular. Instantly recognisable and timeless pieces include I got Rhythm with Earl Wild on the piano, and Jaloussie by Jacob Garder, which went on to be the first 78 to sell a million copies.

Saturday 11 June, 9pm

In the second programme in this new series, David Mellor shines the spotlight on one of the finest Light Music composers of the 20th century: Eric Coates. Coates was recognised throughout the word for his his hummable tunes and brilliant orchestrations, both of which we’ll hear in abundance tonight. But as David promises to prove, there’s more to this English composer than his Dambusters March and London Suite. Join him to discover some surprising stories, which are guaranteed to make you hear Coates’ music in a new light.

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15 May

Tarantelle Styrienne (Debussy)

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Orchestrated by Ravel
Analysed by Robert Walton

If ever there was a musical composition that captures a perfect moment of ecstasy, it just has to be Debussy’s Tarantelle Styrienne, but you’ve got to be quick. Blink and you might miss it! It gives a whole new meaning to the so-called excitable state. And if it hadn’t been for Ravel’s brilliant 1923 arrangement we might have never heard it. It was originally an early Debussy piano piece written in 1890 while at the Paris Conservatory. He was hoping to capitalize on the French love of the exotic, but rarely gets a mention in any books about his piano works. At the time, Debussy was having difficulty putting food on the table so there was some urgency about it. We owe everything to Ravel for drawing it to our attention and indeed bringing it to life. Well, that’s not quite true. We must thank the publisher Jobert for his suggestion to get it orchestrated.

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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.