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After Grand Hotel
track listing below review
Ananda Trio
rec. KMFA-FM
PIERIAN 0021 [68:33]
The Ananda Trio was founded in 1989 and gives serious-minded recitals as well as the kind of repertoire espoused in this Grand Hotel disc. For example, they gave the American premieres of the arrangement for piano trio and percussion of Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony, and of Arthur Butterworth’s Piano Trio, Op.72. Maybe the impetus for that last work came via its British violinist Miranda Dale, though American cellist Margaret Coltman lived in London for a couple of years, and the pianist who anchors the group, Felicity Coltman, has also travelled to perform in Britain and indeed internationally.
This easy-going disc is predicated on Palm Court lines. There were numerous Hotel Kings on both sides of the Atlantic, and rather unfairly the American lions of the genre have not been as well remembered as their European counterparts, largely because the latter made many more recordings. Of them it’s Albert Sandler, Tom Jenkins, and Max Jaffa who have retained most kudos: all three were outstanding fiddlers by any reckoning. Indeed there’s a quotation in the disc booklet from Martyn Jones, son of Tom Jones (no, not that one) — who took over from Sandler at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne in 1929 and was himself a master of the genre — on the subject of the popularity of Palm Court broadcasts.
The programme here is of operatic potpourri, sentimental songs, romantic legato-laced confections, waltzes and genial dances and the like. It’s not all very well-known, which is a definite bonus, and clearly some archival work amongst the faded scores has turned up out of the way numbers, such as the three folk melodies arranged by Berndt Stalhands with which we begin, variously sturdy, wistful and genial. Frederick Hall’s Lads and Lassies Gay! is a salon folk song and van Goens’ Romance sans paroles a charming romantic morceau. Van Goens is best known for his cello vignettes. Ernest Adler distilled the essence of two operas, by Gounod and Lalo, and they’re heard in the arrangements made by Henry Eichheim — extensive exercises reminiscent of mid to late-nineteenth century potboilers so beloved of pianists and violinists. Louis Ganne’s Ecstasy makes a welcome appearance and there’s fresh charm from Friml in his Twilight in the salon trio arrangement by Alfred Moffat. Pierné’s Serenade seldom fails either.
So this is an enjoyable and enterprising selection, that pays due tribute to the days of the Palm Court with a good balance of novelties and standards. The booklet notes are fine. But the recording, undated, in the studios of KMFA-FM, Austin, Texas, is very flat and lacking in warmth. The playing itself is certainly within the genre but sometimes lacks character and personality. Phrasing is not always as sensitively wrought as it might be, or intonation. I think a warmer acoustic would have led to a better result.
Jonathan Woolf

Track listing

Three Folk Melodies arr. Berndt Stalhands [6:11]
Frederick HALL
Lads and Lassies Gay! arr. Calvin Grooms [2:47]
In Golden Autumn arr. Calvin Grooms [4:17]
Alaskan Twilight (1927) arr. Calvin Grooms [5:01]
Moorish Nightsong [2:38]
Daniel van GOENS (1858-1904)
Romance sans paroles [4:00]
Ernest ADLER
Le Tribut de Zamora: opera by Gounod arr. Henry Eichheim [11:09]
Le Roi d’Ys; opera by Lalo arr. Henry Eichheim [9:57]
Jan BLOCKX (1851-1912)
Serenade from Milenka arr. Henry Eichheim [3:10]
Rudolf FRIML (1879-1972)
Twilight arr. Alfred Moffat [3:46]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Serenade [2:44]
Louis GANNE (1863-1923)
Ecstasy (Reverie) [4:31]
Oscar STRAUSS (1870-1954)
Waltz Scherzo [4:31]
Charles HUERTER (1885-1974)
Told at Twilight [4:08]