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Jonathan Woolf
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   Len Mullenger

Jean WIENER (1896-1982)
Suite à danser No.1 [17:44]
Suite à danser No.2 [7:45]
Marcel DELANNOY (1898-1962)
Suite à danser ‘Jeunesse’ [32:38]
Orchestre Hewitt/Maurice Hewitt
rec.1953, Paris

Much of Jean Wiener and Marcel Delannoy’s film music has been recorded over the years, but this reissue takes us back to 1953 and the heady days of Maurice Hewitt’s eponymous little band. The repertoire is exclusively dance music so those seeking some of French cinema’s classic film scores should head away now. Those, however, attracted to Left Bank wit infused with a modicum of cocktail bar hokum may enjoy this hour-long restoration from Forgotten Records.
Wiener’s Dance Suite No.1 is a six-movement affair reeking of savoir faire. Insouciance introduces the work, with a knowing salon piano kick to keep things honest. The piano musette feel, richly embroidered with accordion blandishments, creep into the Waltz whilst there’s a sinuous but light-hearted Tango to follow. Elegant and sensuous, the fourth movement Waltz is a prime candidate for Guild’s library of Light Music classics. More off-beat is the harpsichord that underpins the sun-drenched Biguine. The Polka summons up the Wiener and Clement Doucet effusions of the 1920s and 1930sand also, I suspect, cocks a sideways glance at the august shadow of Darius Milhaud. This energising, scintillating music is essentially a trifle, but an ingenious one. The second Suite is much more compact and less winning due to its circumscribed nature. Still, the quietly elegant Waltz charms, and the piano and trumpet dialogue in the slow central movement is as enjoyable as the catchy musette with which the work ends: indelibly Gallic, inimitably Parisian, and defiantly Wiener.
Delannoy was Wiener’s contemporary - in fact he was two years younger but predeceased Wiener by two decades. His Suite à danser ‘Jeunesse’ has a more souped-up, forced feel than the more authentic inter-war Wiener suites. The clangourous clatter of the percussion, and the torrid vocal chorus is all rather cheesy. Some may go for the flute arabesques over rippling piano in the Samba but surely no one will go for the vapid slow movement entitled ‘Kew Gardens’ - where the alto sax and chorus conspire to generate an insipid arboreal hybrid. This is certainly not one of Delannoy’s most imperishable masterpieces; he seems to have been afflicted with a bout of the exotic from his superscriptions (‘Tangominima’, ‘Danse des négrillons’, ‘Nanou Filhadoué) but his writing remains conventionally chic and unambitious.
No real fault accrues to Hewitt and his versatile band who acquit themselves well in this mono disc, finely transferred from two Les Discophiles Françaises LPs. There are no notes, as per usual with this series, but internet sources are noted.
Jonathan Woolf