A North American Review of John Wilson and the BBC Concert Orchestra’s superb performance of important Farnon works

FARNON "Captain Horatio Hornblower RN": Suite; Symphony No. 2 in B; The Frontiersmen: Overture; Goodwood Galop; Alcan Highway; Three Impressions: High Street, In a Calm, Manhattan Playboy; Seventh Heaven; Playtime; Symphony No. 1 in D - Scherzo. John Wilson conducting BBC Concert Orchestra • DUTTON Epoch CDLX 7173 (76:43)

Among devotees of light music, Robert Farnon (1917—2005), born and trained in Canada, is practically a deity - and with good reason. No other Englishman since the era of Eric Coates has left such a deep mark, with his utterly distinctive and widely influential idiom, on the whole field of light music. In addition to his conspicuous role in this area, however, in jazz and popular music Farnon was an arranger whose talents were sought out by many famous stars of the day - Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, George Shearing, J. J. Johnson, Singers Unlimited, even Eileen Farrell. Beyond this, Farnon also made occasional forays into film music, as the first item on this long-awaited dazzler of a disc triumphantly illustrates - the concert suite drawn from his most famous score for the Gregory Peck 1950s costume drama "Captain Horatio Hornblower RN".

This is the third and by far the most impressive recording of this splendiferous music. Its towering main theme is the quintessence of swashbuckling adventure, and the exquisite "Lady Barbara" love theme is one of Farnon’s most enrapturing inspirations. Perhaps some of the action sequences sometimes sound a little too forced or generic, but Farnon’s absolutely brilliant command of orchestral colours sweeps away all reservations.

Like Montague Phillips of an earlier generation, Farnon, although he was already lead trumpeter in a radio orchestra led by Percy Faith, began his precocious career while still in his early twenties as a composer of large-scale concert music with two symphonies premiered to considerable acclaim under conductors Sir Ernest MacMillan and Eugene Ormandy. In point of fact, Farnon never totally turned his back on the "classical" world; among his later more extended works are a gorgeous Rhapsody for violin and orchestra, Prelude and Dance for harmonica and orchestra, Tripartita for saxophone and orchestra, and a piano concertante piece entitled Cascades to the Sea.

This premiere recording of the Second Symphony, subtitled "Ottawa," together with the Scherzo movement from the First (both products of the early 1940s, before he emigrated to England as conductor of a war time army orchestra), will delight all of those who have waited decades to hear these prime examples of the Farnon style in gestation.

At nearly half-an-hour in length, the Second Symphony is quite ambitious, and its three movements (Larghetto con maesta; Allegro moderato; Largo ma non troppo) show that Farnon was not content to abide by traditional rules of tempo and mood, of which there is considerable freedom and contrast here, even within individual movements. Though perhaps a little weak in the strategies of formal development, the proceedings are dominated by Farnon’s innate melodic gift as well as his instinctive feeling for rich orchestral textures. Already his characteristic modes of soaring expansiveness and celebratory affirmation are clearly evident. In fact, the composer would now and then return to these then-withdrawn scores to mine them for ideas for later works, such as the opening of the finale, which became the spellbinding Ottawa Heights of his "Canadian Impressions". The First Symphony Scherzo—meaningfully marked Moderato con licenza - sports a disarmingly memorable tune which could be a harbinger of light classics like Jumping Bean.

The remainder of this program offers a diversified cross section of the kind of orchestral miniatures for which Farnon discovered in the post-war years there was a strong demand in England. This was a field that made best use of his particular talents, and most were originally published by Chappell as utilitarian "production" music, but many eventually became popular outside of this specialized context. Both Alcan Highway and High Street were later incorporated into "Canadian Impressions", while Manhattan Playboy typifies the breezy metropolitan dash of Portrait of a Flirt, and Seventh Heaven the glamorous and rhapsodic ambiance of Journey into Melody and A Star Is Born. Incidentally, In a Calm is one of the most serene and luminous pieces of quiet music ever devised. In works like these, as well as The Frontiersmen, Goodwood Galop, and Playtime, Farnon can immediately evoke a specific mood or activity in just a few short pregnant measures filled with striking and often cleverly unpredictable melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic outlines that stay in the memory in part due to their masterly orchestral embodiments.

John Wilson, the enormously talented young conductor whose interests straddle both the popular and classical fields, conducts absolutely impeccable and idiomatic performances from an ensemble with more than a passing acquaintance with this kind of fare. And Dutton’s sonics leave nothing to be desired.

It is high time the artificial boundaries between pop and classic are breached, and it is this kind of release that moves the process forward. The music of Robert Famon is an excellent place to start. Quality is quality, no matter what the context.

Paul A. Snook

Reproduced from the American magazine "Fanfare" by kind permission of the reviewer.

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Vocalion CDLK4100 From The Highlands / From The Emerald Isle

These two LPs feature some beautiful arrangements of traditional airs. "From the Emerald Isle" was Robert Farnon’s first LP in stereo.

"From the Highlands": Blue Bells of Scotland/Wi’ a Hundred Pipers/Charlie is My Darling/My Ain Folk; The Campbells are Coming/A Highland Lad My Love Was Born/Annie Laurie; Bonnie Dundee/Barbara Allen; Blue Bonnets Over the Border/Skye Boat Song; Comin’ Thru the Rye/My Love is Like a Red Red Rose; Highland Laddie/Loch Lomond/Green Grow the Rushes; Robin Adair/Ye Banks and Braes; Keel Row/Whistle and I’ll Come to You/My Love She’s But a Lassie/Blue Bells of Scotland. "From the Emerald Isle": Killarney; St Patrick’s Day/The Gentle Maiden; Kerry Dance/How Are Things in Glocca Morra; The Girl I Left Behind Me/Cockles and Mussels; Londonderry Air; The Minstrel Boy; The Irish Washerwoman; I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen/The Rakes of Mallow; An Irish Lullaby/The Wearing of the Green; The Mountains of Mourne/Kathleen Mavourneen; Haste to the Wedding/Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms.

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Vocalion CDLK4102 Out Of My Dreams

A collection of stereo recordings from the 1970s, originally released in Britain on the small Rediffusion label.

Out of my Dreams, Send in the Clowns, Dream a Little Dream of Me, Michelle, Theme from 'Godfather 2', *Latin Dreamer, Romantic Hour, Street of Dreams, The Way we Were, *In a Dream World, You Stepped out of a Dream, The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, Liebestraum, Dream, All Alone, I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair, Dream Memory, Emmaline, I Had the Craziest Dream, Jo-Anne, My Little Friend, When I Grow too old to Dream, Daybreak, Alice Blue Gown. (*Robert Farnon compositions)

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Vocalion CDLK4104 Melody Fair / Canadian Impressions

Two superb LPs of Robert Farnon compositions.

Melody Fair, Jumping Bean, Joanne, A Star is Born, Journey Into Melody, How Beautiful is Night, Peanul Polka, Malaga, Portrait of a Flirt, In a Calm, Poodle Parade, Manhattan Playboy. "Canadian Impressions" – Gateway to the West, Main Street, A La Claire Fontaine, Pow Wow, Prairie Sunset, Alcan Highway, Ottawa Heights, Lake of the Woods, Mountain Grandeur, Canadian Caravan.

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Vocalion CDLK4108 Something To Remember You By / Together (US title: Sunny Side Up)

"Something to Remember You By": Louisiana Hay Ride, Something To Remember You By, Alone Together, Maria, If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You, Got a Bran' New Suit, I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan, Then I'll Be Tired Of You, Dancing In The Dark, I See Your Face Before Me, You And The Night And The Music, A Shine On Your Shoes. "Together": Sunny Side Up, Just a Memory, The Best Things In Life Are Free, Button Up Your Overcoat, I'm A Dreamer, The Black Bottom, Birth Of The Blues, Just Imagine, You're The Cream In My Coffee, Together, If I Had a Talking Picture Of You, The Varsity Drag.

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Vocalion CDLK4112 Two Cigarettes In The Dark / Pictures In The Fire

"Two Cigarettes In The Dark": Title tune, Cocktails For Two, The Touch Of Your Lips, Where Or When, By Candlelight, The Very Thought Of You, Isn’t It Romantic, I’m In The Mood For Love, The Way You Look Tonight, Moonlight Becomes You, A Door Will Open, Love Walked In, Come Dance With Me. "Pictures in the Fire": *Title tune, Love Is A Many-Splendoured Thing, *To A Young Lady, Hey There, Secret Love, *Lazy Day, Friendly Persuasion, *Sophistication Waltz, When I Fall In Love, *A Summer Love, The Story Of Tina, The Nearness Of You.(*Robert Farnon compositions)

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Vocalion CDLK4118 Presenting Robert Farnon / Flirtation Walk

"Presenting Robert Farnon": Yes! We Have No Bananas, Always, Blue Skies, In The Blue Of The Evening, When I Grow Too Old To Dream, Don’t Blame Me, To A Wild Rose, Dawn To Dusk, Laura. "Flirtation Walk": Would You Like To Take A Walk, Reflections In The Water, It’s Always You, Two Little Girls In Blue, Sweet And Lovely, So Do I, Flirtation Walk, By A Waterfall, Can I Forget You, It’s Easy To Remember, Flirtation Waltz, Down By The River, My Foolish Heart, I Love A Lassie.

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Vocalion CDLK4137 Victor Schertzinger Suite / Hoagy Carmichael Suite / Music Of Vincent Youmans

"Victor Schertzinger Suite": The Fleet’s In, Dream Lover, Sand In My Shoes, Marcheta, One Night Of Love, Kiss The Boys Goodbye – bonus tracks: Love Passes By, Tangerine. "Hoagy Carmichael Suite": My Resistance Is Low, Stardust, Little Old Lady, Georgia On My Mind, One Morning In May, Lazy Bones. "Music Of Vincent Youmans": Hallelujah, Tea For Two, Sometimes I’m Happy, Without A Song, Great Day, Orchids In The Moonlight, More Than You Know, Time On My Hands – bonus track: The Carioca.

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Vocalion CDLK4146 The Wide World Of Robert Farnon

Stereo recordings licensed from Parry Music featuring Robert Farnon compositions

The Wide World, Olympian March, Rhapsody For Violin And Orchestra, Scenic Wonders, I Saw My Lady Weep, Swallow Flight, Lake Louise, The Magic Island, Cascades To The Sea, How Beautiful Is Night, Cruise World, Hollywood Stars, Sports Arena, Hockey Night.

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Vocalion CDLK4174 The Songs Of Britain / Stephen Foster Melodies – plus 12 extra tracks

"The Songs Of Britain": British Grenadiers, Drink To Me Only, Lincolnshire Poacher, Londonderry Air, Strawberry Fair, Annie Laurie, All Through The Night, Early One Morning. "Stephen Foster Melodies": Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair, Swannee River, Deep River, Camptown Races, Oh! Susanna, Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming, Sweet And Low, Beautiful Dreamer. Additional tracks: April In Paris, Invitation Waltz, Just One Of Those Things, Kiss Me Again, Shadow Waltz, Donkey Serenade, Persian Nocturne, The Waltzing Cat, *Proud Canvas, *Bird Charmer, *Jockey On The Carousel, *Westminster Waltz. (*Robert Farnon compositions)

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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.