Piano Concerto; the Golden Yea
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|1. Bugler's Holiday|
|2. Blue Tango|
|3. The First Day Of Spring|
|4. Belle Of The Ball|
|5. Governor Bradford March|
|6. Clarinet Candy|
|7. The Captains And the Kings|
|8. The Golden Years|
|9. Chicken Reel|
|11. The Classical Jukebox|
|12. China Doll|
|15. Allegro Moderato|
|17. Allegro Vivo|
Leroy Anderson etched out his own unique place in American music - a composer rigorously trained in the classical tradition whose records could top the pop charts, a reclusive personality whose compositions became household words, and a meticulous craftsm
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Not so well known are 'The First Day of Spring', a delicate dreamlike piece featuring a lovely horn melody, or 'Clarinet Candy', one of a set of pieces (including 'Fiddle-Faddle' and 'Bugler's Holiday') singling out a soloist (or soloists) from the orchestra. The 'Governor Bradford March' is the least Anderson-like piece here; it is a fairly straightforward Sousa-esque march written in honor of a Massachusetts governor in 1948; this is its first recording. 'The Captains and Kings' and 'The Golden Years' are mildly nostalgic (and perhaps ironic) celebrations of time gone by. 'China Doll', 'Arietta', and 'Balladette', those less known, are obviously on first hearing from Anderson's unmistakable pen.
The Piano Concerto, played here by pianist Jeffrey Biegel, has not had much play since its première by Eugene List in 1953. Anderson withdrew it as he was dissatisfied with its first movement. (I frankly think the jazzy fugato in that first movement is one of the best things in it.) He talked of revising it but never did. His widow released it for public performance in 1989 and it has had a few airings since that time. Like all Anderson's music, it is melodic and distinctly American. Slatkin, the BBC Concert Orchestra and Biegel give it a fine performance.
For those of us who have known and loved Anderson's music these past fifty or more years, this CD is self-recommending. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the music here will be ingratiating.
Collected here are some familiar pieces, namely Bugler's Holiday, Blue Tango, Fiddle-Faddle and Chicken Reel. The Golden Years makes me imagine Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing. The Classical Jukebox may strike some people as a tad ridiculous (music purists I am sure cringed) but it is meant in good fun. Perhaps the most interesting piece on this disc is the Piano Concerto from 1953. Anderson was dissatisfied with the music and withdrew the concerto. His widow released the concerto in 1989 and it has become more popular with each performance. The concerto begins with a lively melody kicking off the first movement; the soloist joins with a reflective melody that is explored by soloist and orchestra. The middle movement is a tuneful and carefree; the Finale begins with a delightful, high-spirited melody, followed by a brilliant second subject. The concerto has approachable, tuneful music that would not be considered on a level with composers like Samuel Barber or Aaron Copland but it has a charm that is not forgotten.
This collection reveals Leroy Anderson as a consummate musician with a wealth of melodies. Listening to his music brightens my day and that is as high a complement as I can pay. Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra perform the pieces with a lively spirit.
Leonard Slatkin leads energetic, committed performances of a wide range of Anderson works, and Slatkin and pianist Jeffrey Biegel team up to show us that Anderson was capable of writing a fine Piano Concerto, one that deserves to be more widely known than it currently is. Jeffrey Biegel brings to this somewhat strange combination of Rachmaninov/Ravel/Gershwin influenced concerto a sense of respect and such a fine technique that the concerto in his hands becomes important. The work was premiered by the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago, under Anderson's baton with Eugene List as soloist, in 1953. It got mixed reviews both there and in a subsequent performance in Cleveland, and Anderson withdrew it. He intended to revise it, but never did, though toward the end of his life he is reported to have found himself coming around to the piece again. After his death, his widow Eleanor Anderson decided to release it in its original form, and Jeffrey Biegel is one of its main proponents now. But then that is one the aspects of Biegel's career that makes him cherishable - his willingness to try new areas of exposing his audience to fresh works, neglected works, obscure works, or transcriptions for piano of famous works for other instruments.
The works include here are as follows: Bugler's Holiday, Blue Tango, The First Day of Spring, Belle of the Ball, Governor Bradford March, Clarinet Candy, The Captains and the Kings, The Golden Years, Chicken Reel, Fiddle-Faddle, Classical Jukebox, China Doll, Balladette, Arietta, and the Concerto In C, for piano and orchestra. It is a terrific memoriam to Leroy Anderson. Grady Harp, December 12