Leroy Anderson…1

August 30, 2008






It isn’t often that this reviewer gets to talk about someone who had a No. 1 composition on the Hit Parade for 15 weeks but this is the case with Leroy Anderson and his very famous “Blue Tango” song, a melody that has been in lots of movies, commercials, and all forms of background material. Listening to this collection of 14 of his numbers certainly brought back the days in the band playing “Bugler’s Holiday” (actually I played trombone so this one was easy). Today it reminds me of a music assignment but the trumpet playing is a whole lot more than that. “Chicken Reel” and “Fiddle Faddle” are both standards of Leroy Anderson and his favorite orchestra the Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler conducting, or his own orchestra on the Decca label. Both of these have also been performed in films and high schools and colleges all over the US. “First Day of Spring” will remind you of the sweeping beauty of a John Williams fantasy film score. “Classical Jukebox” mimics classical music standards complete with percussion for the dropping of the coins and even a stuck record that repeats over and over for a few bars. In fact on my first listen I immediately thought something was wrong with my CD player! These small touches certainly add to the arranging of his works. Leroy was quite the unique composer.

Anderson composed the majority of his work in the three to four minute range, primarily because he worked with the available media at the time: first the 78RPM and then the 45RPM. And even when he started to do recordings for Decca on the vinyl LP format, he was likely set enough in his ways not to want to change. As a result of this, Leroy has written 100’s of compositions and created some classic arrangements for the Boston Pops and other orchestras throughout the world all in this time range of three to four minutes. Major bandleaders such as Guy Lombardo and Hugo Winterhalter took his material and arranged them to the styles of their orchestras.

The exception to the three to four minute track is a recording of his Piano Concerto in C major (1953), a 19+ minute work performed by Jeffrey Biegel. The first movement could remind you of something that Sergei Rachmaninov could have written. While not terribly complex it moves briskly enough and keeps your attention with some interesting passages. The middle movement, the Andante is very melodic and soothing, simple and delicate. The final movement Allegro vivo, my favorite movement of the three, is a Gershwin like melody, very upbeat and well arranged in the Anderson style. The orchestra doesn’t take a back seat on this one as all sections contribute, save one section of a minute or so where the soloist is given his due with some grandiose scales. This reviewer can certainly understand the increase in the number of performances since its revival in 1989. It certainly is an audience-friendly work as noted in the liner material by Richard S. Ginell. It is not going to supplant any of the warhorse concertos but it should have its rightful place in the catalog of works for symphony orchestras.

I don’t think that I ever quite realized the popularity of Leroy Anderson. He seemed to be in that ‘twilight zone’ area of not classical enough for the snobs, too schmaltzy for the big band/jazz buff, and too promenade for others, yet his music is performed the world over to this day by pops, marching bands, and now symphonic ensembles with the revival of his piano concerto. This CD offers a little bit of everything to the listener and is part of a continuing series of recordings featuring Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Recommended.

Naxos CD# is 8.559313

Golden Score Rating is ***

Track Listing:

1… Bugler’s Holiday (2:41)

2… Blue Tango (2:58)

3… The First Day of Spring (3:05)

4… Belle of the Ball (3:00)

5… Governor Bradford March (2:29)

6… Clarinet Candy (2:59)

7… The Captains and the Kings (2:46)

8… The Golden Years (4:10)

9… Chicken Reel (3:07)

10. Fiddle Faddle (3:43)

11. The Classical Jukebox (3:09)

12. China Doll (2:38)

13. Balladette (3:02)

14. Arietta (2:38)

Piano Concerto in C major

15. Allegro moderato (8:23)

16. Andante (5:12)

17. Allegro vivo (5:55)

Total Time is 61:54


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