As my friend Graham Miles has posted two versions of a piece by Peter Yorke entitled "Fireflies" which are distinctly different by virtue of length, I will take a moment to touch on this particular subject, as it raises some very interesting questions to which there may be myriad answers.
In the case of two recordings of a piece that are noticeably different in length, in the sense that one has material that the other lacks, we first have to ask ourselves which came first and is the original version, to ascertain whether the composer expanded on his original, or on the other hand in the reverse eventuality, whether he cut a short portion from what he originally had, and finally, whether it was rather a matter of cutting it in the recording process to enable it to fit on the side of a 78 or 45 RPM single disc.
Whatever the truth of what may actually have occurred in these cases, it is inevitable that some subjective preference will enter into it when making a judgment.
I do not claim any position of being a final arbiter in such cases. I can only judge each instance of such on its merits as I receive them. I am already aware that there could well be opinions sharply differing from my own, but I have no choice in this matter, as these selections are not being examined as though part of a college course in composition.
To get underway with what I am referring to, I will start with Robert Farnon's "Journey into Melody." Most of us might know that the piece originally had a far more elaborate introduction, making a full circle of keys in the process. This may be heard in the piece's original recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra under Charles Williams. Reportedly Farnon himself decided to shorten the introduction to lead directly into the main melody, resulting in the form most of us are familiar with. For whatever reason, this was more satisfactory to him as being "better balanced" structurally, but as I am at frequent pains to point out, we do not all receive a given piece of music in the same manner individually, and of necessity would include the composer as well. I for one feel that the original extended introduction adds a searching quality at the beginning that gives it a whole new dimension, and I actually prefer the piece in that form and always so play it at the piano.
With Farnon's "Pictures in the Fire" the reverse appears to have occurred as the piece evolved, as one can note by comparing the earlier recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra with the later one by Farnon's own orchestra. In the process, Farnon added in a short phrase to smoothen out a transition within that central modulating section that in a previous article I had written covering this piece I had referred to as "bluesy." I feel that the piece is definitely improved by this short addition, with any feeling of abruptness evident in the earlier version completely remedied, so in this case I will prefer the piece in its later state.
But it should not be assumed from any of the above that I would always by inclination prefer a longer version of a piece when comparing two versions side by side.
To take yet another Farnon selection, "Lake of the Woods" where here too we have alternate presentations; a simpler, normal length presentation in the normal A-A-B-A form of a ballad as given by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, and the later one by Farnon with his own orchestra as part of the album "Canadian Impressions" in which the piece is expanded out to include a whole middle section before returning to the B-A of the opening. In this case, at least for me, it is a matter if stylistic incompatibility, at least as I receive it, between this new middle section and the original outlying portions with which I have difficulty in reconciling with one another. For that reason, I will continue to prefer the shorter version on the older recording. Moreover, I see the rather veiled sound quality here as a clear advantage as obviously the purpose of this piece is to convey a certain atmosphere, not to have every last detail of it rendered vividly clear.
Haydn Wood's "Soliloquy" is another example of what I am referring to. I actually found myself in a brief dialogue with the blogger, John France on this piece and expressed my reactions to the piece and to the two versions of it.
The shorter version appears on a recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra under Robert Farnon; the longer version with the Slovak Radio Orchestra under Ernest Tomlinson.
As I advised Mr. France on that blog (it appears that hitherto he had been quite unaware of Farnon's shorter version), with my present information, it is quite impossible to know whether Wood expanded his piece from what he originally had, or trimmed away material from his original in the other eventuality, or perhaps Farnon in his efforts to fit the piece on the side of a single edited the piece to that end (quite expertly, one would think, if such were the case).
In any event, my preference is decidedly for the shorter version, which I invariably use when performing it. Listening to the longer version, I get the inevitable impression that it starts on an indeterminate chord in the middle of nowhere, and that the piece actually begins a few bars later. Moreover, in the reprise section, I feel that by the very nature of the material, it is quite unnecessary to go over every last bar that appeared earlier, and as I have just stated, I will continue to maintain for reasons stated my firm allegiance to the shorter version.
Some years ago, Robert Walton, one of the Society's regular contributor, wrote an essay on a piece by Edward White that I was hitherto unfamiliar, entitled "Caprice for Strings." I found it to be a rather unusual piece, but because of its rather erratic course I found that I was having difficulty in following it so that it made sense to me. At that point Tony Clayden stepped in to graciously share with both Robert and myself a recording of this same piece purporting to be the original, with additional material that was removed in the later recording.
I listened to this, and as a result of this added material I now for the first time found that I could better understand what the piece was about as the sections now held together more coherently. Moreover, some of the instrumental effects that Bob had described I could now hear for the first time, as I could not hitherto on the version that Bob had originally posted.
Further details of what I am referring to may be seen in my comments about this piece at the time it was posted.
Clive Richardson's "London Fantasia" is another example of what I am referring to. The original version was recorded by Mantovani on two sides of a 12" single disc, featuring Monia Liter at the piano, and is the only version I have cultivated, as it is the fullest version.
Richardson himself recorded it subsequently, with both Charles Williams and with Sidney Torch, and both versions have a small piece cut out. As he has recorded it in this fashion on both occasions, it must be presumed that he so preferred it for presentation, but others listening to it might very conceivably feel differently about it and would prefer it in its original form or at least it's more extended version if it came afterward.
The matter of having to economize in order to fit a selection on the side of a single disc can often necessitate some forced adjustments, some of which, in a recording I have posted of myself at the piano on both YouTube and Facebook I have actively sought to remedy.
Thus, with Percy Faith's arrangement of "If I Loved You" and David Rose's arrangements of "Why Do You Pass Me By" and "All I Desire," in each of which there is an obvious attempt to offer two presentations of the song, using existing material I have added extensions so that both presentations structurally have the full A-A-B-A scheme.
With Peter Yorke's "Blue Mink" I have added a slight extension to end the piece more smoothly so that it is not as abrupt, remembering that this is for listening purposes rather than as background music from a mood library. And in a planned second recording, I will be taking the middle slower section of Yorke's "Whipper Snapper," expanding it out to include more of the material from the faster section, being that this was the apparent intent in what is there presently, aborted due to the necessity once again of fitting the selection on the side of a single disc.
I hope that my notes have been informative and as always I will invite comments back.
In the process of comparing these differing versions of various selections; some lengthier, others shorter, it is natural to assume that exigencies of space in fitting a selection on the side of a 45 or 78 RPM disc was a factor, although as I have pointed out, such factors might very likely have been due to entirely different circumstances.
Nevertheless, I would now like to examine one or two selections, comparing alternate versions, in which space factors indeed might well have been the case.
I am looking at two versions of Richard Addinsell's "Festival," one by Melachrino and the other by Mantovani. The Melachrino version offers far more material, taking nearly a minute and a half longer. It offers two runthroughs of the idea, along with some additional transitional material, before onset of the climax of the piece. The Mantovani version is clearly abridged, yet it offers that sharp punctuation at the very end that is lacking in the Melachrino.
The two versions came to me here in the USA in totally different formats. Most of those early Mantovani recordings were issued as single 10" 78 RPM discs, whereas almost everything of Melachrino was issued as a component within an LP album (although one solitary single 78 RPM disc was released here).
And herein lies my dilemma. Listening to these two versions, aside from any considerations of length or offered material, I find that at least to my ears - others might disagree - that the Mantovani version stands as stronger orchestrally and instrumentally, and for me more satisfying accordingly. When I play this piece at the piano I use the extended version but otherwise follow the gestures suggested by the Mantovani version (including of course the sharp punctuation at the very end).
Although I do not own the actual single disc, I have to assume that Melachrino recorded his version on a 12" disc originally prior to transfer to LP. I note that Mantovani himself did make a few recordings in 12" format ("London Fantasia," "The Dream of Olwen," "The Windsor Melody," etc.) so that one would bemoan the fact that he did not do so with "Festival," or by the same token with the selection on the flip side, "The Legend of the Glass Mountain," with which we have nearly the very same situation.
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In the cases of recording a double length selection which spills over onto the second side of a disc, an additional factor presents itself; namely, the matter of side breaks - where these can be taken and how smoothly it can be done.
In the case of Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival" and "Richard Rodgers Waltz Medley" we have it from Mr. Anderson himself that in the process of creating his settings, he actually planned on these breaks, so that though they may be inherently undesirable, they are at least not jarring. Of course, once these were transferred to LP and CD, the side breaks that once existed are no longer a matter of note even for those listeners intimately familiar with these settings.
With two compositions by Camarata appearing in his early days of recording; namely, "Rumbalero" and "Rhapsody for Saxophone," no such provision was made, with the result that we have awkward side breaks, and these were not deftly smoothed out upon transfer to EP format. However, upon reading various record reviews, I have more than once come across the comment that London/Decca was not noted for skillful workmanship when it came to dealing with unavoidable side breaks, although I would raise the question as to how this problem might otherwise have been solved.
As with all my articles and essays, I will always welcome comments.
Although the matter of shortening a work to fit on the side of a single 78 or 45 RPM disc is often an issue, I would question whether such was the case with many of the selections I have mentioned. Obviously such had occurred with those I have recorded or in one case plan to record as the issue with those is very clear cut. However, with many of the others I refer to, I would summarily eliminate that possibility.
With "Journey into Melody" and "Pictures in the Fire" it is clearly a matter of compositional alteration not connected with recording exigencies.
With "Lake of the Woods" and "Soliloquy" we would need further information on their evolutionary history. From this end, as I have implied, they both make far more sense to me in their shorter versions which do not at all sound as abridgements from something more extended as was the case with the selections prior to my recordings. With "Caprice for Strings" we would definitely need to find out the reasons for the decisions made as in the longer version the various sections appear to fit together much better.
The version of "London Fantasia" by Mantovani which is complete extended over two sides of a 12" disc. Both versions that Clive Richardson himself recorded at the piano with Charles Williams and with Sidney Torch were shortened. The question arises whether Richardson himself chose to compositionally shorten the piece or for some reason had to or chose to record on two sides of a 10" disc to save on costs.
Eric Coates, in his own recordings of "The Three Elizabeths" made a cut in the reprise section of the last movement. He did this even on his second recording to be released on LP even though in the latter case this was quite unnecessary, thus indicating that he apparently so preferred it, though to my ears this is disconcerting. And on some later versions recorded by other conductors, the same cut was taken, apparently under false assumptions of "authenticity."
Ronald Binge's "Elizabethan Serenade" and Percy Faith's setting of Hugo Alfven's "Swedish Rhapsody No. 1" one would think would fit perfectly on the side of a single disc so that there would be no occasion for any shortening of any sort, and I personally cannot conceive how such would work out and at the same time be made to sound convincing when there are some recordings that present the selections complete.
I will state here that Wilhelm Hansen edition, that published the work of various Scandinavian composers such as Svendsen, Halvorsen, Nielsen, later Sibelius and Alfven, took a look at Percy Faith's very successful adaptation of the Alfven piece and decided to publish it as well, which should be considered quite a tribute.
I have previously mentioned that there were versions of it by both Mantovani and Hugo Winterhalter. Neither of these were anywhere as successful, but as I like to point out, neither of them would ever admit that if not for Percy Faith, they wouldn't even be recording this piece.
There are numerous instances of pieces having to be cut and/or modified to fit onto a '78' or a '45' disc. I can immediately cite 3 good examples (1) Ron Goodwin's butchered version of Ronald Binge's 'Elizabethan Serenade', where the best bit is left out ! (2) Ray Martin's
equally hacked-about version of Hugo Alfven's 'Swedish Rhapsody' and (3) Sidney Torch's truncated recording of 'Barwick Green' by Arthur Wood, where the whole of the intro is junked and
Torch goes straight into the main 'A' tune. Eric Coates frequently had also to do a bit of pruning to enable a successful recording to be made
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