To those of us of a certain age, the music of Leroy Anderson represents the ne plus ultra of American light symphonic music. From the mid-1930s on Anderson was encouraged and his music was played frequently by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. It wasn't long before his music was being played by practically every ensemble in the country. One of his pieces, 'Blue Tango', even topped the popular hit parade for almost four months in the early 1950s. This CD is said to be the first in a series that will present all of Anderson's extant works, and it contains not only such familiar pieces as 'Fiddle-Faddle', 'Bugler's Holiday', 'Belle of the Ball', 'Blue Tango', and 'The Classical Jukebox' but others that are almost completely unknown, including his only essay in extended form, the Piano Concerto.
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.