CD Review – André Rieu
And His Johann Strauss Orchestra
UNIVERSAL CD [72:20] & DVD [49’] 744754886801
'Clear the top of the best-selling chart: André, his orchestra and choir, are back with their first studio album since 2019. A new release from the Dutch maestro, who brings so much joy to so many people with his CDs, DVDs, live concerts and YouTube presence, will be especially welcome to readers starved nowadays of discs of their kind of music...
Analysed by Robert Walton
It’s strange how some people seem to have a natural affinity with wild life and anything that moves, especially birds. As a toddler, Robert Farnon’s son David was very much into birds...
Analysed by Robert Walton
It’s strange how some people seem to have a natural affinity with wild life and anything that moves, especially birds. As a toddler, Robert Farnon’s son David was very much into birds. They seemed to be attracted by his friendly and welcoming manner flying from of the garden eager to meet this young maestro of ornithological interest. Perhaps he caught the conducting bug in this setting! Even his mother came up with the comment, he could “charm the birds out of the trees”. Bob was in the process of finishing a new piece requiring a title, so hence the name came in handy. (Living in rural Ireland in the 21st century nothing much has changed. Robins, tits and finches are still first in the food queue).
The opening couldn’t be anything else but Robert Farnon describing an early morning atmosphere. I have a 78-rpm disc of an actual dawn chorus recorded in cellist Beatrice Harrison’s Surrey garden in 1924. Going forward, Bird Charmer sounds as if it was one of those 1940’s Farnon gems but in fact was as late as 1958. The magic was still there in leaps and bounds.
The flute heads the woodwind in customary Farnon fashion, flitting around in complete control but giving the impression of being as “free as a bird”. Then in perfect contrast, the strings escape from their cage with a typically beautiful sweeping tune from the Farnon canon with some nice changes, ending with a repeat of that catchy ditty.
We arrive at the bridge for yet another gorgeous melody this time with plenty of daring jumps played by the strings but highly hummable. Listen out for some subtle syncopation. Of course many classical composers took discordant risks like that but not quite as audacious. Come to think of it, there’s quite a bit of that going on in early piano concertos but the dissonance is resolved quicker.
Then echoing the beginning, a now slow oboe and flute with twittering background noise welcome you gradually back to the bustling “early” bird. We return to the familiar up-tempo tune followed again by that irresistable first melody. Then like an afterthought, a suggestion of Sidney Torch’s Comic Cuts, with the coda fitting like clockwork.
Vocalion CDLK 4174
The biggest story of the year so far is the news that 'Music by John Barry', a new book in praise of more than forty of his film scores, is close to publication! Sources close to the project tell us that this near 500-page book is the best work so far from the three scribes. OK, technically it's also the first, but you get the idea! You can see more details on this cunningly constructed flyer by the artist, Ruuders. Now, in view of how poorly the previous book, 'Hit and Miss: The Story of The John Barry Seven' sold, it seems highly likely that copies of this new book will be in limited supply. So, do yourself a favour and indicate your interest immediately by contacting the writers via this email link. Details of price and publication date will be sent to you as soon as possible, and anybody who then orders it is *guaranteed* a copy. In fact, if requested, at least one, maybe two of the authors will sign your copy. They might even do so even if you don't request it. :)
Another attractive release from this ever-enterprising label. Probably the main interest for our readers will be a tad under a the third of the disc devoted to the first recording of Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington's 'Twelve Melodies'. These popular songs – including It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing), Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, Mood Indigo and In a Sentimental Mood – have been arranged by the pianist using the original sheet music. So, they are quite different from the classic jazz versions.
CD Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber – Symphonic Suites
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Orchestra/Simon Lee
Here at last is this new release of what for many of us is our kind of music performed by a full orchestra. It has been a while coming as it was announced at the end of August and the release date then put back two months. Nevertheless, well worth waiting for.
Ballet Egyptien (Alexandre Clément Léon Joseph Luigini)
Ronnie Munro And His Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
Do you remember comedian Jimmy Durante at the piano, showing off his apparent familiarity with foreign names in music? It was during his recording of I’m The Guy Who Found The Lost Chord when he said he was playing Mozart’s Minuet, Have a Banana from “Carmen” and whistling the Sextet from the Luiginis, all at the same time! But it immediately alerted me to the composer Luigini, the French conductor, violinist and composer. He is remembered for just one composition Ballet Egyptien - and then only the Finale! And largely responsible for keeping Luigini’s music alive were the popular British music hall and vaudeville act in the middle of last century, Wilson, Keppel and Betty.
Wilson (born Manchester), Keppel (County Cork) and Betty Knox (Kansas). The highlight of their sand dance was a parody of postures from Egyptian tomb paintings and references to Arabic costume, following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Audiences found their routine hilarious. You can still enjoy it on Google.
The quiet tense opening of Ballet Egyptian seems to be setting the scene for a waltz, more like building up to something dramatic. There is certainly a balletic feel to the music, which continues at some length with a pleasant melody keeping the listener guessing when the climax will hit town. Even when you expect it, Luigini craftily holds it back.
At last the sound of an oboe and violin hint that this lively dance associated with this talented trio is about to start. The famous tune suddenly kicks in, courtesy the lower strings, and we’re in a world of soft-shoe shuffle on sand. It’s a gentle rhythmic tune with controlled enthusiasm. It’s best to watch it with WK & B doing their stuff on a video. By the way there’s a slight Irish touch to the dance. This is followed by a little development when the melody speeds up to reach its conclusion.
Incidentally you might be interested in that “lost chord” Durante was on about. Nothing to do with Sullivan’s The Lost Chord of 1877 which was considered as the archetypal Victorian drawing-room ballad.
Perhaps you might like to try and analyse it from Durante’s disc, which you’ll find on Google.
Chamber Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Eusibius Quartet ● Alastair Beatson Piano
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0642 [68:30]
Pre-pandemic I would have been put off reviewing this album by its title but since March 2019, with lockdown and social distancing, most of the new releases have needed to be by small groups or soloists; and with more time to listen my appreciation of these genres has been increased.
Analysed by Robert Walton
I first encountered Hal Mooney’s Orchestra on an MGM 78 of Helen Forrest singing I Wish I didn’t Love You So. Strings and voice dominated this 1947 Frank Loesser song, spoilt slightly by the shrillness which was sometimes a problem with early MGM discs.