This CD is the third volume in the Naxos ‘Leroy Anderson Orchestral
Music’ series - see reviews of Volumes 1
there has also been a ‘Favourites’
disc issued. As you can see from the header, the present volume
includes four world premiere recordings.
The curtain-raiser, is Anderson’s less than venerable
portrait of the great American institute of learning; Harvard
Sketches begins with ‘Lowell House Bells’, its dignity soon
blown away by the cheekiness and japes of ‘Freshman in Harvard
Square’ and the goofiness that intrudes on the calm of ‘Widener
Reading Room’ then the chaos that is ‘Class Day Confetti Battle’.
Melody on Two Notes, the second of the premieres, based
on a simple G and D tune, is an attractive little melody with
a nostalgic glow. Mother’s Whistler has an engaging impish
quality; it seems such a shame that this bright little bonbon
with its quirky interruptions - including, one imagines, a dog
barking and somebody kicking a bucket - should have been withdrawn
by the composer. The fourth premiere is an exuberant and bombastic
arrangement of George Gershwin’s Wintergreen for President
- that cheekily lampoons all political ambitions.
Interestingly the Gramophone Classical Music
Guide chooses to ignore Leroy Anderson completely, not so
its rival Penguin Guide. Neither does Maestro Leonard
Slatkin; he is no stranger to the music of Leroy Anderson for
he recorded an album of his music with the Saint Louis Symphony
Orchestra for RCA between 1993 and 1995. (09026 68048 2) that
included many of the composer’s most popular tunes such as Blue
Tango, The Syncopated Clock, Sandpaper Ballet and The
Typewriter. Then and for the releases in this splendid Naxos series, Slatkin delivers smiling, unabashed performances
full of joie de vivre.
There are yet more Leroy Anderson favourites to be found in
this album including: The Typewriter, a huge Anderson
hit, that had another unusual sound effect - the inclusion of
an actual typewriter as a percussion instrument; The Penny
Whistle Song one of Anderson’s catchiest tunes with the
flutes given some of the most endearing material; The Phantom
Regiment with its march tune that stirs and haunts; and
Plink, Plank, Plunk! another bubbly, witty tune for plucked
strings. A wonderful Anderson tune and a popular hit, the Sandpaper Ballet reminisces
over old vaudeville acts when dancers sprinkled sand on the
stage during their routines. A Trumpeter’s Lullaby is
another lovely piece with the slow lullaby theme contrasted
with a much more lively and colourful Latin central episode.
The Syncopated Clock is another firm favourite with woodblocks
depicting a clock that sometimes ticks on the wrong beats –
and it has three terrific melodies in its short two minute span!
Serenata is yet another unforgettable Leroy Anderson
hit with its sinuous romantic Latin hedonism. And then there
is that other terrific, joyful Christmas celebration that is
Sleigh Ride with its merry horses’ hooves patterns and
Additionally, Promenade is a bracing walk,
a little pompous but jaunty and memorable. Saraband begins
in stately seriousness but high jinks intrude before long. The
amusing Old MacDonald Had A Farm begins ostentatiously
but soon degenerates into a cacophony of farmyard imitations
and cheeky syncopations. Anderson’s arrangement
of Willson’s Seventy-Six Trombones adds glamour and colour
to the original and Sousa gets a look-in!
The concert’s most substantial item is another
Suite of Carols, this time for brass choir; Volume II
of this series included a suite for String Orchestra.
The Suite of Carols is imaginative writing of a high
order lifting the usual arrangement of these popular yuletide
songs to an altogether different level.
As with Vols 1 and 2 of this Naxos series, Slatkin delivers all these tuneful Leroy
Anderson hits in uninhibited performances full of joie de
vivre. Altogether, the three volumes that comprise this
series must figure in my Recordings of the Year list.
by John France