21 Jan

CD Review – Ravel: Orchestral Works

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CD Review – Ravel: Orchestral Works Sinfonia of London / John WilsonCD Review – Ravel: Orchestral Works
Sinfonia of London / John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5280 [83:45]

Due to the wretched pandemic, we have had to wait some time for a new album from our friend John Wilson and his celebrated orchestra. Now following their Dutilleux disc it is here, devoted to the music of a much better-known French composer, Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). It has been said of him that he wrote very little music that was second-rate, be it orchestral, piano, ballet, chamber, opera, or song. He also enjoyed the jazz he heard in the 1920s New Orleans and it influenced some of his later works.

Maurice Ravel placed high importance on melody, telling his pupil Ralph Vaughan Williams that there is "an implied melodic outline in all vital music". He was also a renowned orchestrator, sometimes of other composers' output, with Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition being the best example.

La Valse (the completion of which was delayed by Ravel's service as an ambulance driver during World War 1) starts quietly but builds up to a sonically brilliant finish over its 11½ minutes. The hauntingly elegiac Pavane Pour une Infante Défunte (for Small Orchestra), written in 1899, established his reputation by achieving world success. The ballet music for Ma Mère L’Oye (Mother Goose), the longest work here (27:58), began life as some pieces for piano duet written for two children. This edition is a première recording. The very Spanish Alborada del Gracioso, and the very Gallic Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, later orchestrated for a ballet, were also originally written for solo piano.

His best-known piece – kept until last – is the exciting Boléro, thanks to the ice-skaters, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who used it to accompany their gold medal winning perfect-six dance at the 1986 Olympics. We learn from Hugh Macdonald's booklet notes that it was originally entitled 'Fandango'. John has carefully reinstated details of the score which had become carelessly lost so it, too, is a première recording. The story goes that Ravel once remarked about this work that he had produced only one masterpiece and that it contained no music!

Seemingly good for a quotable quote, he once stated, "The only love affair I have ever had was with music". And when Gershwin asked for lessons in composition, Ravel is said to have replied: "It is I who should be asking you how to make so much money by writing music".

Given the pedigree of the conductor and orchestra, those who are familiar with the composer will need no reassurance about adding this latest issue to their collection. Others can sample it on the excellent Chandos website. I notice that Andrew Haveron, the usual SoL leader, only plays on Pavane with Charlie Lovell-Jones filling the role on all the other works.

I believe this to be the longest album I have had the pleasure of reviewing. Let us hope it will be the benchmark for more releases throughout the year.

© Peter Burt 2022

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21 Jan

CD Review – Hail Caledonia Scotland in Music

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hail caledoniaCD Review – Hail Caledonia
Scotland in Music
City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra
Ian Sutherland conductor
ARIADNE 5014 [79:32]

SOMM welcomes the new year with another dip into the Iain Sutherland sporran of spirited sounds – this time from his Scottish homeland with a fresh remastering by the admirable Paul Arden-Taylor of live radio transmissions taken from 'Pops at the Philharmonic' concerts at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in 1995-96.

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16 Jan

New book 'Music by John Barry' now available

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2021 11 12 first a5 advert3

A near five-hundred page, fully-illustrated (often with rarely seen images), chronological exploration of key landmarks underpinning John Barry’s illustrious career. Written in the form of extensively researched essays concentrating on one specific score, over forty are represented, from the first, Beat Girl, to the last, Enigma. Whether highly acclaimed or lower key films, each chapter sets out, clearly and accurately, the circumstances surrounding the inception and completion of the score under scrutiny and in doing so, provides fresh insights into John Barry’s remarkable legacy.

Please note that inclusive of packaging this book weighs around 2 kg and the cost of posting it varies enormously depending upon location. So, when placing your order, please provide us with your full address. You will then receive an email detailing costs inclusive of postage to your country, and how to pay. Thank you!

Order now via this email link

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11 Jan

Reginald Pursglove (1902 -1982)

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Reginald Pursglove (1902 -1982)
By Robert Walton

When violinists come up for discussion, we tend to think of great classical soloists like Benedetti, Bell, Chang, Heifetz, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Perlman and Vengerov. These top players in a class of their own have made their names in the glare of publicity playing the world’s most famous concertos.

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Reginald Pursglove (1902 -1982)
By Robert Walton

When violinists come up for discussion, we tend to think of great classical soloists like Benedetti, Bell, Chang, Heifetz, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Perlman and Vengerov. These top players in a class of their own have made their names in the glare of publicity playing the world’s most famous concertos.

But what about the thousands of fiddlers who occupy symphony orchestras and recording sessions who remain comparatively unknown? In many ways it was these musicians who were the lifeblood of the business. Without them, the industry would have collapsed. Lots of these players filled the need for specialization in which the instrument covered a much wider range of music. This is true today as it was then.

In the dance band world, strings became an integral part of their sound. Even just one violin proved effective in the hands of the right person. In the UK in the 1920s and 30s one of the most in demand soloists was Reginald Pursglove whose violin nestled comfortably in many of the bands which included Carroll Gibbons, Ray Starita and Ray Noble. Reg produced a vibrato so beautiful that it literally took your breath away. In addition he was a brilliant sight reader and a superb technician. Whenever there is a documentary or programme on television covering the years before World War 2, keep a sharp eye out for the leading band of the era, the great Bert Ambrose Orchestra. You might well spot Reginald Pursglove on the left adding his sound to the proceedings. But don’t hang about. You have to be quick!

When I came to Britain in the 1960s, Pursglove’s own group the Albany Strings played several of my tunes on the BBC Light Programme. Years later in the 1970s when I was conducting the London Pops Orchestra at Pye Studios, Reginald happened to be in the string section. What a reunion that was! Incidentally sitting next to him was Jack Rothstein.

Well, after my connections with Reg, it’s time to actually hear what he sounded like. 1944 was the year he recorded Raymond Scott’s In An 18th Century Drawing Room with his own orchestra. He certainly had a distinctive style.

As a young man he studied at the Guildhall School of Music after which he went straight into the music hall and brass band work. The brass work proved good preparation for the dance bands. With all that experience over the years he became one of the busiest session men in town.

Catch him on Google or Guild GLCD 5128 and you’ll see what I mean!

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31 Dec

CD Review – Eric Coates – Springtime Suite

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CD Review – Eric Coates
Springtime Suite
Four Ways Suite / Saxo-Rhapsody
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Penny
Naxos 8.555194 [60:57]

This is a reissue of a Marco Polo CD from 1998 featuring the compositions of the man described as the "Uncrowned King of Light Music".

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22 Dec

Scenic Railway

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Scenic Railway
(Roger Roger)
Analysed by Robert Walton

Until I heard the name Roger Roger pronounced properly in French (Ro-jay Ro-jay) (like the soft “j” in Taj Mahal), I had always assumed it was spoken just like the English first name Roger. I was corrected on a 1950s radio series “Paris Star Time” featuring his 35-piece orchestra.

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Scenic Railway
(Roger Roger)
Analysed by Robert Walton

Until I heard the name Roger Roger pronounced properly in French (Ro-jay Ro-jay) (like the soft “j” in Taj Mahal), I had always assumed it was spoken just like the English first name Roger. I was corrected on a 1950s radio series “Paris Star Time” featuring his 35-piece orchestra.

I first met him on the day I joined Radio Caroline as a DJ in 1964. I was asked to interview him at their London offices in Mayfair. I remember absolutely nothing about it except he was a delightful man and was ready to answer any questions I put to him. It was definitely not the kind of music one might play on a “pirate” ship but I managed to slip the odd title in. Mind you, it hadn’t escaped my attention that such vessels like our “Mi Amigo” would have been flying the Jolly Roger flag! My overall impression of his music was the sheer uncluttered and methodical way he orchestrated his many catchy tunes. Never a wasted note or an unnecessary fill. Which brings me to his ScenicRailway of 1962.

There is an undeniable “Portrait of a Flirt” feeling about Scenic Railway, very melodic and beautifully recorded, presumably in a Paris studio. The clarity of it is superb. Warm syncopated pizzicato strings in harmony take the steam train’s strain heading for the heights in a most relaxed fashion. Woodwind drop in at the obvious moments. After the first 16 bars the strings immediately switch to arco for 10 delightful bars of contrasting fun with the woodwind. Returning to the main theme the flutes play a very short but difficult “same note” exercise against the pizzicato strings.

We are now heading straight for the middle section still in pizzicato mode but not for long as we return quickly back to the bows for a sweeping 8 bar tune sharing the load with the woodwind. The scoring is so detailed just like a locomotive’s components engineered to perfection. Finally we are back to the familiarity of the opening pizzicato section with all its twists and turns.

It wasn’t surprising, therefore, that Chappell & Co eventually offered Roger Roger an acceptable publishing deal for his brilliant compositions that took their place alongside the English giants of the genre. Like them he was fully equipped with all the right musical know-how of orchestration and style, as well as his ability to write tuneful melodies the listener could instantly hum.

From originally writing music for documentaries and films, including the well-known pantomime sequences in Marcel Carné’s 1944 “Les Enfants du Paradis”, the breadth and range of Roger Roger’s work made him a household name throughout the world. “Fiddles and Bows” Guild GLCD 5201

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17 Dec

CD Review – Malcolm Arnold – A Centenary Celebration

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malcolm arnoldCD Review – Malcolm Arnold
A Centenary Celebration
Peter Fisher Violin / Margaret Fingerhut Piano
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0640 [69:03]

Malcolm Arnold was Northampton born in October 1921 and died in September 2006. His music was once described by Sunday Times critic Paul Driver as "fecund, fastidious, witty, touching, melodious, sardonic, profound". Driver also opined that Arnold was "a many-faceted composer …

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14 Dec

CD Review – Eric Coates – British Light Music vol. 3

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CD Review Eric Coates British Light Music vol3CD Review – Eric Coates
British Light Music vol. 3
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Adrian Leaper
Naxos 8.555178 [71:26]'

The Merrymakers, London Suite, Cinderella, The Selfish Giant, London Again Suite, Calling All Workers, The Dambusters March.

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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.