Analysed by Robert Walton
It must be highly unusual for a three minute composition on a 78 rpm disc to actually supply music for each scene like a film soundtrack. I can’t recall such a thing.
In this case the location is Paris (familiar to the composer) when we are picked up by a limousine. One’s mind immediately turns to Gershwin whose reputation for describing big cities is well established as An American in Paris, but the opening sound of Acquaviva is more appropriate (remember New York in a Nutshell?) This is followed by a lush welcoming string passage when we are ushered courteously into a humble café. You may say this is a little over the top, but this is no ordinary restaurant. You can tell by the music and the decor. A haunting Mancini-like waltz greets us as we step down from this classy automobile and enter a warm and friendly establishment.
Now seated at a table, you know you’re in for the ultimate in French cuisine or just a drink, because right on cue the sound of an accordion joins the orchestra. We’re in Paris alright! Made to order music just like the food. Yes, they’ve thought of everything. It’s the kind of café where you can have anything you like, and you won’t get annoyed glances from the staff, even if it’s just a coffee! After more string sounds, solos from the piano, guitar and woodwind provide the perfect atmosphere. Before we know it we’re back to the accordion but not for long because our limo has arrived and awaits us. That was a quick drink! Acquaviva is again on hand to whip us away into the traffic of the French capital’s most famous thoroughfare.
In conclusion a word or two about our esteemed composer, Joseph Francis Kuhn. I have to admit I was totally ignorant of him until a little research put me right. He was an American symphonic composer, arranger and conductor known for his sweeping rhapsodies. The Paris Theatre 0rchestra was one of the many groups connected with the American Miller Company one of which was the 101 Strings. Sadly Kuhn died at the tragically young age of 37 in 1962 from a spinal cord injury. Look out for four of his other works on Guild CDs.
Catch Champs Elysees Café on “Confetti” Guild GLCD 5175
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Chandos CHAN 20151 (78:40)
The estimable Estonian ensemble under its fellow countryman and former MD, the highly regarded veteran maestro Neeme Järvi (described by his record company as “legendary”), bring us another enjoyable classical-lite Chandos collection...
Readers may recall that, a while ago, I wrote a review of a 2-CD set issued by The NDO Project, which included a short history of the latter, and featured the BBC Midland Light and Midland Radio Orchestras.
Vienna Philharmonic ǀ Riccardo Muti
Sony (2 CD) 19439840162 (1:44:0) ; DVD 19439840179
(also on Blue-ray & 3 Vinyl)
This annual event in its 82nd year was a much different occasion than normal with the concert being performed to an empty Golden Hall of the Wiener Musikverein due to Covid-19.
Solo Piano Arrangements Of Light Music Classics, Performed By Paul Guinery.
Twenty-two tracks by – inter-alia – Geoffrey Toye , Jack Strachey Richard Addinsell, Haydn Wood, Vivian Ellis, Billy Mayerl, Madeleine Dring, Eric Coates, etc. Total playing time 78 min. 31 sec.
EM RECORDS – EMR CD 064
The name Paul Guinery might possibly 'ring a bell' to those who may recognise him as a staff announcer on BBC Radio Three and also the World Service; he still appears on-air from time-to-time as a freelance radio newsreader.
Analysed by Robert Walton
The most recent volcanic eruption in Auckland, New Zealand took place about 800 years ago. It created Rangitoto Island at the mouth of the Waitemata Harbour. Fast forward to the 20th century and during WW2 a 6 year old boy was walking barefoot in the sand on the mainland opposite Rangitoto along Takapuna Beach, when he suffered his own personal ‘eruption’ - a nasty bee sting! Yes, it was me! There were no EpiPens in those days. By the time we got home my face was completely swollen and unrecognizable but the combination of a doctor and a brandy seemed to do the trick. I gather it was touch and go for a while. Luckily I have never experienced another. All the more reason to always carry an EpiPen. So hearing this composition brings it all back. I can’t help feeling sorry for my attacker though.
I never saw or heard the actual bee, but anytime Dolf Van Der Linden’s Orchestra happens to be playing Bees-A-Buzzin’ I’m straight back to the scene of the crime! There’s absolutely no doubt about the title of this piece, which enters instantly. The opening busy busy section is a good test for an orchestra especially one as good as this. Up, down and around goes the scale-like tune delivering the appropriate mood.
And so to a short secondary theme giving us just the right contrast to the main melody, which is standing by to rejoin the piece. And then we’re immediately into the bridge for a third tune adding yet another building block to this brief journey of continuous rhythm. The listener somehow feels freer (if that’s possible in this context) and slightly relaxed but as soon as the bee returns to its normal work of sipping the nectar, the melody takes on a more business-like tension.
Of course the most famous ‘bee’ tune is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble-bee from his 1900 opera “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” with a more oriental flavour containing 50,000 notes! It’s intended to evoke a chaotic and rapidly changing flight path of a bumblebee. It certainly succeeds.
And in its own way so does Seibert’s Bees-A-Buzzin’ if somewhat less frenetic. It’s a sort of gentle entry preparing you for the hard chromatic world of Rimsky-Korsakov!
Heard on Guild Light Music
Confetti GLCD 5175
Chandos CHSA5264 (TT 64:46)
The strings of the superb Sinfonia of London, with Andrew Haveron as leader, are given a chance to shine on this, the award-winning ensemble’s fourth John Wilson conducted orchestral release on this label.
Perhaps not exactly light music as many understand it, but the following could be of interest.
While theatres remain closed to the public due to coronavirus restrictions the programmes will broadcast hit songs and performances from the world of musical theatre.
BBC Radio 2 will host three days of programming about musicals, while further shows will be broadcast on BBC One, BBC Four and iPlayer.
Radio 2 presenter and West End star Elaine Paige said: “Musicals are such a huge part of my life – as they are for so many of my friends and colleagues – so to be unable to perform or go to the theatre for most of last year was devastating to us all. Radio 2 Celebrates Musicals is a way for us all to come together, to be uplifted and sing out loud to the world’s best show tunes.”
Radio 2 Celebrates Musicals will run from January 29-31. The series of programmes will end on January 31 with a special show hosted by Sheridan Smith from the London Palladium. Smith said: “With so many amazing performers we’re going to hopefully bring some joy to all those at home, with the best songs to help lift the spirits in these very difficult times.” The programme will also be shown on BBC One in February.
Helen Thomas, head of Radio 2, said: “2020 left a gaping hole in the lives of musical theatre lovers with the shows being closed due to the pandemic.” She added: “I truly hope our programming will help to lift the spirits and capture the joy and elation that only these wonderful songs and performers can bring.”
image: Elaine Paige (Ian West/PA)
Capitol 602435318059 (59:43)
Here is another with a big difference: the vocals are also newly recorded in the USA by the 80-year-old singer, whose distinctive voice that can bring a tear to the eye is still strong. The orchestra is Sir Simon Rattle’s premier band, the 70-piece LSO, conducted by William Ross and recorded in January 2020 at the famous Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood.