Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
It may not have occurred to you, but Sidney Torch and Nelson Riddle have something in common. They both had a special “feel’’ for music and when the opportunity arose they couldn’t resist the temptation of maximizing the rhythm with a staccato effect, especially in three quarter time. The phrasing of the opening tune of My Waltz for You has two beautiful silences indicating the wonderfully appropriate cut-off points on the second beat of bars 2 and 6. These are both excellent examples of the Torch touch probably first captured by Johann Strauss Junior.
Nelson Riddle in his string arrangement of Vilia (Guild GLCD 5120) played as a waltz, gets every ounce of feeling out of the melody he could possibly find - living every natural nuance. He allows the notes to do the talking. It’s very similar to the Torch approach and gives the tune a whole new boost. They may be modern masters of music but it’s decidedly an “old fashioned” dance feel. In spite of their varied backgrounds, trombonist Riddle from the world of swing and organist Torch from popular music, both seem quite at ease with the same sort of phrasing. In no way is anything ever corny.
So let’s follow My Waltz for You in detail to find out what drives it. Johann Strauss Junior may have been the “Waltz King”, but Sidney Torch was perhaps the “Schmaltz King”, if that tiny intro with a violin solo is anything to go by. Listen to the satisfying way Torch writes for flutes. The first thing you’ll notice is what an exquisite but slightly sad melody it is, caused entirely by the strings arranged in close harmony like a jazz musician might score it. At the same time you couldn’t get a more relaxed waltz if you tried. It’s almost asleep! The first haunting 16 bars include all those staccato breaks, which build up quite logically to a song-like climax.
And so we arrive at the middle section with the tempo just a little faster. The lower strings are followed by flutes, clarinet and violins that shortly take a sudden dramatic dive. An oboe supported by the same flutes, hands back to the strings that ascend to produce a lovely Torch-like symphonic crescendo. Assorted solo brass and harp bring us gently back to the top, with the orchestra providing a positive finish. The tiny intro we heard earlier becomes the coda. The only grumble is that we aren’t treated to any orchestral “improvising” which we get in Torch’s faster pieces. However My Waltz for You is classic Torch with just the right amount of rubato and is given a perfect performance.
“The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra”
Vocalion CDEA 6094
When I noted the first sentence of Bob's article, claiming that Sidney Torch and Nelson Riddle have something in common, I couldn't imagine what he might be thinking of, as the two arrangers worked in entirely different areas of light music. It reminded me of the similar to me far fetched comparison of Victor Young and Bronislaw Kaper that was made in another of Bob's articles.
Reading further, I saw that it concerned nothing more than the lift in the second measure of each phrase of the main idea, a feature that often appears in slow romantic waltzes, and if one thinks about it, several other examples of this sort of phrasing can be found in such pieces. It accordingly seemed to me rather odd to tie these widely separated figures together on a feature of this nature when in truth they have little if anything in common other than their love for light music, albeit from two different perspectives poles apart from one another.
In any event, I will very briefly comment on the Sidney Torch piece, first of all noting that I own two different recordings of it; one by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Mr. Torch himself, and the other with his own orchestra. The two recordings, while clearly from different sessions and with different groups, feature the same piece without any changes, as should be expected, and totally unlike the case of Mr. Torch's "Meandering," where in the Queen's Hall version and the one with his own orchestra, the two are radically different from one another, causing one to imagine that it is the work of two different arrangers of the same tunes.
"My Waltz for You" is unusual for Mr. Torch in that it is harmonically far more adventurous. with many deceptive cadences and brief visits in and out of various remote keys; not a usual feature of his work. The opening introduction, which is also used as a conclusion, is particularly exquisite and one wishes that more might have been done with it, perhaps to have been rather the main material. or else a further reuse within the piece and accordingly developed further. But let us be grateful for what we do have; as in itself it is a most noteworthy feature.
The Queen's Hall version was released in the USA as part of an LP album entitled "Invitation to Romance," featuring selections by other composers who furnished material to the Chappell Library, most notably Robert Farnon. It is the very first selection in that album.
I should also point out that in conjunction with this album, a volume of sheet music for piano was also released, offering the same selections that appear in this album, a boon for those who wish to follow its contents in more detail. This was similarly done with a second Queen's Hall album released here a year later under the title, "Very Very Dry - Cocktail Music for Your Listening Pleasure." Both of those albums afforded me much listening pleasure, as a result of which they got badly worn out, and I am most grateful that the bulk of their contents (along with an earlier album, "Concert of Popular Music") are now available on YouTube for more listening pleasure.