27 May


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Born Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, 15 November 1905, Venice, Italy, died 30 March 1980, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. A violinist, pianist, musical director, conductor, composer and arranger, Mantovani was one of the most successful orchestra leaders and album sellers in the history of popular music. His father was principal violinist at La Scala, Milan, under Arturo Toscanini, and also served under Mascagni, Richter and Saint-Saens, and subsequently, led the Covent Garden Orchestra.



It is said that Mantovani received encouragement to become a professional musician from his mother, rather than his father. He began his musical training on the piano, and later learned to play the violin. After the family moved to England in 1912, he made his professional debut at the age of 16, playing the Bruch Violin Concerto Number 1. Four years later he had installed his own orchestra at London's Hotel Metropole, and began his broadcasting career. In the early 30s he formed the Tipica Orchestra and began a series of lunchtime broadcasts from the famous Monseigneur Restaurant in Piccadilly, London, and started recording for Regal Zonophone. He had two US hits in 1935-36, with 'Red Sails In The Sunset' and 'Serenade In The Night'. In the 40s, Mantovani served as musical director for several London West End shows, including Lady Behave, Twenty To One, Meet Me Victoria, And So To Bed, Bob's Your Uncle and La-Di-Da-Di-Da. He was also involved in Noel Coward's Pacific 1860 and Ace Of Clubs; conducting from the theatre pit for artists such as Lupino Lane, Pat Kirkwood, Mary Martin, Sally Gray, Leslie Henson and many others. His records for UK Decca included 'The Green Cockatoo', 'Hear My Song, Violetta' and 'Tell Me, Marianne' (vocal by Val Merrall). Experimenting with various arrangements with which to target the lucrative US market, he, came up with what has been variously called the 'cascading strings', 'cascading violins', or 'tumbling strings' effect, said to be an original idea of arranger Ronald Binge. It became, the Orchestra's trademark and was first used to great effect in 1951, on Mantovani's recording of 'Charmaine', a song originally written to promote the 1926 silent film classic What Price Glory?. The Mantovani recording was the first of several million-selling singles for his orchestra, which included 'Wyoming', (another 20s number), 'Greensleeves', 'Song From Moulin Rouge' (a UK number 1), 'Swedish Rhapsody' and 'Lonely Ballerina'. Mantovani's own compositions included 'Serenata d'Amore', 'A Poem To The Moon', 'Royal Blue Waltz', 'Dance Of The Eighth Veil', 'Toy Shop Ballet' (Ivor Novello Award 1956), 'Red Petticoats', 'Brass Buttons'. 'Tango In the Night' and 'Cara Mia', written with UK record producer/manager Bunny Lewis. David Whitfield's 1954 recording of 'Cara Mia', with Mantovani's orchestra accompaniment, sold over a million copies, and stayed at number 1 in the UK charts for a record (at the time) 10 weeks. It also made Whitfield one of the earliest UK artists to break into the US Top 10. Mantovani issued an instrumental version of the number, featuring himself on piano. This was most unusual in that the instrument was rarely a part of his 40-piece orchestral set-up. Singles apart, it was as an album artist that Mantovani excelled around the world, and especially in the USA. He is said to have been the first to sell over a million stereo units, aided in no small measure by the superb quality of sound obtained by Decca. Between 1955 and 1966 he had 28 albums in the US Top 30. Although he toured many countries of the world, including Russia, his popularity in the LISA, where his style of orchestral offerings were often referred to as 'the beautiful music', was unique. An indication of the US audience's devotion can be gained from a claim by George Elrick, Mantovani's manager of 21 years, that at the beginning of one tour of the USA, the maestro was taken ill and a few concerts had to be cancelled: the prospective capacity audience at one of them, the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis, refused to claim refunds, preferring to retain their tickets for the following year. Mantovani continued to perform throughout the 60s and 70s. He was awarded a special Ivor Novello Award in 1956 for services to popular music.

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Read 14890 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:43


  • William Zucker posted by William Zucker Sunday, 28 May 2017 22:14

    Jim's comment echoes those of some of my own musical colleagues, many in the serious field but with a degree of knowledge of light music, who assumed that "Mantovani began with Charmaine," and were greatly surprised when I told them about his many recordings that were made before he adopted the "cascading strings effect." It surprises me a bit that they would make such a comment, as quite unlike the recordings of Melachrino and Charles Williams whose recordings were released in the USA in very limited numbers, virtually all of Mantovani's recoridngs were released here and were easily available.

    As I have referred to these several on several occasions, even in my correspondence with David, it is perhaps time that I enumerated some titles to go with my reiterated comments. Please note: this is far from exhaustive a list.

    Green Cockatoo
    El Toreador
    Prelude to the Stars
    The Way to the Stars
    The Legend of Glass Mountain
    Night and Day
    One Night of Love
    Lullaby of the Bells (double sided)
    Bees in the Bonnet
    Carriage and Pair
    The Red Sombrero
    Ritual Fire Dance
    Nature Boy
    The Dream of Olwen
    Skyscraper Fantasy
    The Windsor Melody
    Poem to the Moon
    London Fantasia (double sided)
    Last Rhapsody
    Red Petticoats
    Teddy Bear's Picnic
    Somewhere a Voice is Calling

    Some of the above are from the period around the time that "Charmaine" came out and already make use of the string effect although to a lesser degree. The following are some form the early period that were available in LP albums:

    Destiny Waltz
    The Bullfrog
    The Laughing Violin
    Out of this World
    Tango Bolero
    Hejre Kati

    I should further point out that "Tango Bolero" is essentially the same piece that appears in Percy Faith's album with Mitch Miller entitled "Music Until Midnight." The selection in question in that album is "Rosa." Which one would prefer is a matter of personal taste; both in my opinion have their virtues.

    The above represents a segment of the light music recorded library that deserves far more attention than it has hitherto been given, in this opinion.

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  • Jim Stokes posted by Jim Stokes Saturday, 06 May 2017 11:09

    WOW! This is an outstanding writeup. I didn't know Monty had a hit songs in 1935-1936. I do recall Charmaine in 1951 as a mega hit. Thanks again from the background. I'm a member of RFS. Jim Stokes.

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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.