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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BLUE TANGO The Very Best of Leroy Anderson

Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra

Alto ALC 1324 Playing time: 71:30

 

 

 

 

 

1. Sleigh Ride

2. Blue Tango

3. Belle of the Ball

4. Trumpeter’s Lullaby

5. Plink Plank Plunk

6. Sarabande

7. The Waltzing Cat

8. Serenata

9. Promenade

10. Sandpaper Ballet

11. The Typewriter

12. The Syncopated Clock

13. Chicken Reel

14. Horse and Buggy

15. Song of the Bells

16. Jazz Pizzicato

17. Jazz Legato

18. Girl in Satin

19. Forgotten Dreams

20. Fiddle Faddle

21. Penny Whistle Song

22. Bugler’s Holiday

23. Christmas Festival Overture

 

Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was a man of parts. He spoke several languages, including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese in addition to English and Swedish. Languages were his “major” in university, and he earned a Ph.D. from Harvard.

However, from the time he was a child, music was of much interest to him also, and he received a B.A., Magna cum laude in 1929 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, then went on to earn an M.A., Music in 1930. Something of an autodidact, he was proficient in several musical instruments, among them piano, mandolin, trombone, cello, tuba, and double-bass.

After serving in the U.S/ Army in WWII, first as a translator and later, after completing officer candidate school, as Chief of the Scandinavian Department of Military Intelligence, he returned to civilian life and decided he was to make his living as a composer. He also went on to enjoy some renown as an orchestral conductor, although he had not studied conducting during his time in university. On many occasions he conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra playing his works. As his official biography states, “From 1946 to 1975 Leroy Anderson conducted over 70 concerts including the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hartford, Kansas City, New Haven, New Orleans, St. Louis, Stockholm, Toronto, and Washington DC (National Symphony) . Anderson would most often conduct the works of other composers during the first half of the performance. These included works byBerlioz, Bizet, Brahms, Chabrier, Elgar, Grieg, Handel, Haydn, Offenbach, Rossini, Schubert, Sibelius, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Wagner. Anderson would then conduct some of his own compositions during the second half of the program.”

But composing was always first for this gifted man, as the long list of his compositions would attest. His scores were meticulously formed and very intricate, signature effects being the triple tonguing of the brass and the pizzicato of the strings. Anderson described his music as “concert music with a pop quality.” It certainly reached a very wide audience, as his popularity during through the fifties showed. The many radio programs that broadcast pop music at that time featured his pieces just about every day, it seemed, most of them included in this CD release. With their multiple sounds—even noises, some might say—from the clip-clop of hooves, the neighing of horses, the sounds of a penny whistle, chiming bells, and various other sound effects from the percussion sections, one is reminded of what the Sauter-Finnegan orchestra was doing at the same time. Although theirs was a more jazz-oriented music than Anderson’s, the latter’s was more widely acclaimed, perhaps, than the former’s.

These sound effects, along with Anderson’s humorous flair for grafting typewriters, clocks, even sandpaper into the score, were most amusing and clever. Those of us who were listeners during the decade of the fifties will be able to nod knowingly when looking over the tune list, recognizing just about every tune. Those who were not can perhaps sigh for what they missed and what today’s playlist on radio programs is so bereft. But this CD can perhaps supply the deficiency to a degree.

Bert Thompson



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