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Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975)
Classical Juke Box, Syncopated Clock, Chicken Reel, Fiddle Faddle, Serenata, Sleigh Ride, Irish Suite, Saraband, Promenade, Trumpeter's Lullaby, Jazz Legato-Jazz Pizzicato, A Christmas Festival
The Boston Pops/Arthur Fiedler
rec. 1947-1950. ADD
NAXOS NOSTALGIA 8.120649 [57.07]

From an affluent East Coast background, Anderson, a Harvard graduate, studied composition with Enescu and Piston. Kicking the composer trends he came from a family who encouraged his musical talents. His production of light music standard genre pieces was phenomenal. A cannily commercial musician he was effectively the lord of the American airways during the radio age. This heyday ran from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Andersonís brilliance is never in doubt. He can slough composer skins and change moods with chameleon fluency and jaguar speed. He shows both melodic resource and humour. Try the track that gives the CD its name. In Classical Juke Box listen to the 'repeat groove' at 1.32 - a phenomenon known only to those who experienced the LP age. Otherwise the music runs the pastiche range from Wagner to Rossini to Offenbach. Anderson can also tritsch-tratsch it with the Straussian best.

Memorable moments abound. There is the sly smile of The Syncopated Clock with its wood block ticking. The Chicken Reel keeps the changes ringing and rushing along. Fiddle Faddle recalls the Typewriter Serenade taken at a downright presto. Serenata takes us to some soigné Pasadena roof cafe with glimpses of Fred and Ginger dancing Ďamong the starsí.

Sleigh Ride is one of Anderson's great hits complete with its riffling jingle of reindeer bells and woodblocks. It cross-refers to Carriage and Pair by Frankel, Mozart's Schlittenfahrt and Delius's own Sleigh Ride. It also fits quite well with Herrmann's music for the film The Magnificent Ambersons - redolent of a gracious if unkind era.

The later tracks on this disc are commercial and polished but ultimately not as memorable as Sleigh Ride and Fiddle Faddle. The Trumpeter's Lullaby is taken at too fast a pace to be a convincing lullaby but it is played quietly; a Beverley Hills cradling to be sure.

The Irish Suite is done with chattering élan. There is flashy flutery from the Bostonian wind desks. The Minstrel Boy is done like a mysterious Pilgrims' March from Mendelssohn's Italian but with the long curvaceous string theme of the folk song arching high and free. The bassoon sings gratefully in The Rakes of Mallow. The wearing of the green is taken as an opportunity for a beautiful pizzicato. The Hollywood surge and splurge of The Last Rose of Summer strives for the key to our tear ducts. The flashy Bobby Shaftoe-Yankee Doodle of The Girl I Left Behind Me recalls similar settings by Roy Harris in Folksong Symphony and perhaps in Holbrooke's orchestral variations on the same tune from circa 1902.

Andersonís A Christmas Festival, using carols and seasonal songs in free-wheeling medley, cuts a grandiose Handelian dash, revels in Tchaikovskian serenade and echoes Ketèlbeyan bells ringing through the whispered magic of Silent Night - all most beautifully phrased and shaped. Anderson will not let us go without a shindig which he duly delivers in Jingle Bells. The dignified Adeste Fideles blazes out the confident true voice of Christmas over the top of the commercial chi-chi and fluff that is Jingle Bells. This is mammon counterpointed by sincerity.

Most of this on the positive side. Anderson however takes none of the risks of his contemporary Ferdy Grofé. At least on this showing he was not prepared to extend into more emotionally probing mood painting.

Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979) is in his element in this music. He was a long-lived figure and cut a dashing and prominent path through the heydays and autumn era of orchestral light music in the States.
The disc is well documented.

Rob Barnett


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