CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
(CLOFO)
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS



27 NOVEMBER 2009

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the Web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.



The album cover may not always appear.
Hoddinott: 8 Welsh & 3 Investiture Dances, etc (w Jones & Mathias); Various Cndctrs & Os [Lyrita]
Those who've enjoyed the little known music we've told you about by the likes of Gustav Holst (1874-1934, see the newsletters of 1 November 2006 and 12 March 2009), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958, see the newsletters of 18 April 2006 and 20 November 2006) and Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006, see the newsletters of 28 April 2007 and 18 December 2008) are going to love this collection of rarely heard orchestral dances by three twentieth century Welsh composers.

Alun Hoddinnott (1929-2008) wrote three sets of what he called Welsh dances, but it was only in the last of these (no recording currently available) that he actually quoted folk tunes. The first two, which are the ones presented here, consist of four dances each, all of which are original creations based on melodic and rhythmic elements commonly found in Welsh folk music. The initial set dating from 1958 has two spirited opening numbers, a lovely swaying lento, and a "helter-skeletal" finale featuring a prominent part for the xylophone.

The second set appeared some ten years later in 1969, and follows a similar rhythmic scheme. Two infectiously perky selections precede a slow, dramatic arioso offering, and a spirited finale suggestive of wide-open spaces like the American West.

Shortly after he finished these, the composer wrote an additional three to commemorate the 1969 Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. Again the Investiture Dances don't actually quote folk tunes, but only suggest them. The outer two are fast, but at the same time appropriately ceremonious. The central one is a slow melancholy pavane, which must have added solemnity to the occasion.

Two additional Hoddinott pieces are also included. The Jack Straw Overture was inspired by the exploits of the fourteenth century English Rebel so named. Originally composed in 1964, what we have here is the orchestrally expanded version of 1980. The ominous opening may bring to mind that famous line from The Highwayman, "The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas." Stealthy, rebellious passages then begin to appear, and the level of activity soon reaches revolutionary proportions. The overture suddenly ends with a final outburst dramatized all the more by the percussion section.

The second of Hoddinott's two concerti grossi for orchestra follows (no recording currently available of the first). It was written in 1966 to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the Wales National Youth Orchestra, which performs it here. In six varied movements one could think of it as a Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), but designed to show off the individual as well as collective virtuosity of its extremely talented young dedicatees. The winds are supported by the strings in the opening "Intrada," and then by percussion in the following "Scherzo." The former evokes images of a Roman Triumph, while the latter is a cheeky flight of fancy.

The otherworldly "Variationi," throbbing "Intermezzo," and disembodied "Aria" movements contain choice parts for the trumpet, pizzicato strings, and flutes with harp, respectively. For the finale the composer gives us another one of his dances that recalls ideas from previous movements, and offers the assembled youngsters an opportunity to demonstrate their concerted abilities. You may find places that even sound like the Britten (1913-1976) piece mentioned above.

Judging by the number of his works that include "Dance" in their titles, it would seem William Mathias (1934-1992, see the newsletter of 12 March 2009) was just as equally taken with this form as Hoddinott. He's represented on this CD by four dating from 1972, which he calls Celtic Dances. Inspired by more than Welsh folk music, these unique Mathias creations also take their cue from that of Brittany (see the newsletter of 23 February 2006), Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland. The composer tells us they're meant to evoke a feeling of the mythological past, and there's a whimsicality about them that does just that.

The first materializes out of the Celtic mists into a stimulating cadenced caper that occasionally brings to mind William Walton's (1902-1983) Shakespearean film music. There's a nimbleness about the tintinnabular second that leaves the listener wondering if it might have Elizabethan connections (see the newsletter of 16 January 2007). Not so the grand-mannered, big-tuned third which could easily be eulogizing the past glories of Cornwall's Tintagel Castle. The last is a Highland fling that ends this engaging hoedown in a choreographic frenzy.

The disc concludes with Daniel Jones' (1912-1993) Dance Fantasy of 1976. It's a balletic theme and variations that begins with a heraldic statement of the main subject. The variations that follow range from subdued to victorious with one sounding a bit like something out of a US Western [track-23, beginning at 04:41]. The fantasy ends with great pomp just as it began.

The Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras under Sir Charles Groves (1915-1992) give superb accounts of the Jack Straw Overture and first set of Welsh Dances respectively, as does the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra under Bryden Thomson (1928-1991) of the Dance Fantasy. The National Youth Orchestra of Wales conducted by Arthur Davison (1918-1992) delivers totally committed performances of everything else. Granted there are moments when some of its members may show their inexperience, but what they lack in technical ability they well make up in sheer enthusiasm for this music.

Made at different locations between 1972 and 1982, all of these recordings present consistently spacious soundstages. The orchestral timbre is immaculate, but the highs may strike some as a bit brittle depending on your speaker system. Aside from that, this release should be an enjoyable listen, and pique your desire to hear some of the other Lyritas featuring music by Hoddinott, Mathias, and Jones

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P091127)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Mortelmans: Homeric Sym, Morning Mood, Myth of Spring; Brabbins/RFlem P [Hyperion]
Not too long ago we told you about a couple of symphonic works inspired by Classical Greek authors (see the newsletters of 15 April 2008 and 13 July 2009), and the 1898 Homeric Symphony of Belgian composer Lodewijk Mortelmans (1868-1952), which appears here for the first time on CD, is yet another. Maybe it inspired German composer Ernst Boehe (1880-1938) to write his four-part tone poem From Odysseus' Voyages in 1903-05 (available on CPO 999875 and 999908).

Mortelmans had long been an admirer of Homer, and his symphony is a four-movement set of musical impressions stemming from his having read the Iliad and Odyssey. The opening one, subtitled "Of the Heroes," begins with an appropriately courageous theme made all the more stalwart by a rhythmic insistency like that found in the second movement of Beethoven's Choral Symphony (No. 9, 1822-24). This is the basis for a series of symphonic transformations that are valorous, devotional, fateful, and ultimately triumphant. The following slow movement, "Memories of Patroclus' Death," is appropriately somber, and dominated by a poignant funeral march that ends things on a sad but heroic note.

The mood brightens in "Sirens Playing and Singing," which is in fact a winsome scherzo with a highly chromatic trio section that pays homage to Richard Wagner (1813-1883). High spirits prevail in the finale, "The Genius of Hellas," despite a somewhat contemplative central episode, also of Wagnerian persuasion. With opening and closing sections built around a rousing optimistic melody, it's probably meant to extol the glories of the Hellenic age, and makes this one of the high points in late romantic Flemish music.

This release is filled out with the tone poems Morning Mood (1922) and Myth of Spring (1895), which might best be described as "nature music" somewhat akin to what was being written about the same time by Austrian composer Joseph Marx (1882-1964, see the newsletters of 28 January and 15 April 2009). Almost thirty years separate the Mortelmans pieces, so it's not surprising to find stylistic differences between them, particularly since the later one followed a hiatus of almost twenty-five years in his orchestral output.

Morning Mood begins with what must be an effulgent sunrise painted to some degree with Wagnerian brush strokes. There's a subtlety and introspection about what follows that leave the listener with a sense of inner peace rather than feeling he's been on one of those emotional roller coaster rides typical of many tone poems. It’s a beautifully proportioned romantic creation that bears repeated listening.

According to the composer Myth of Spring was inspired by vernal ballads and legends found in the thirteenth century Edda of Norse Mythology. There's a subtle lyricism about the introduction that may in places [track-6, beginning at 01:52] remind some of Glazunov's (1865-1936) symphonies (see the newsletter of 20 August 2009), or possibly even Borodin's (1833-1887). Soon hunting horn calls and stringed whirlwind effects make this a much more demonstrative tone poem than the one above. As it builds to a festive climax, the feeling of elation produced in the listener is phenomenal. This belongs in every romantic music lover's collection, and will leave you wondering where it's been hiding all these years!

The Royal Flemish Philharmonic under their recently appointed principal guest conductor Martyn Brabbins (see the British orchestral songs recommendation below) delivers superb performances. The playing is committed and enthusiastic, revealing every nuance of these rarely performed scores. Hopefully Hyperion will soon tap this source again for more seldom heard Flemish symphonic repertoire.

The sound is quite good, but depending on your system, you may detect occasional hints of digital grain in the strings. A warm, reverberant acoustic makes for a rather deep soundstage. While most will find this perfectly suited to the highly romantic nature of these selections, some may find themselves wishing for a more sharply focused symphonic image.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P091126)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Rütti: Requiem; O.Robinson/E.Price/J.Watts/D.Hill/LonBach C/SSinfa [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
New requiems are a rarity these days, but here's one completed in 2007 by Swiss-born Carl Rütti (b. 1949). For the most part a composer of religious music, he first studied at the Zürich Conservatory and then in Britain. Consequently you'll find elements of the English choral tradition here as well as central European influences.

The work is scored for soprano, baritone, double chorus, strings, harp and organ. At the request of the Bach Choir of London, who commissioned and perform the work on this recording, the orchestral forces are similar to those for the orginal 1887-88 version of the Fauré (1845-1924) Requiem. And like his French counterpart, Rütti uses them to great effect.

The composer tells us that to emphasize the fact we enter and leave this life weak and alone, he starts and ends with a cappella solos for the soprano. There's a disembodied quality about the first one that begins the opening "Introitus" which is quite haunting. The chorus and baritone soon join in, also a cappella, and the music becomes more melodic and dynamic. The overall effect is extremely moving and sets the tone for this highly individualized requiem.

A solo cello introduces the "Kyrie," or prayer for pity, that follows. The rest of the orchestra enters dramatically, playing a series of churning rhythmic motifs that are picked up by the chorus and soloists. Suddenly everything subsides as the music ends on a prayerfully peaceful note.

The "Offertorium" begins with a beautiful passage for soprano and chorus invoking deliverance for the souls of the faithful departed. Rütti chose not to include a "Dies Irae" in his requiem, but the central part of this section with the chorus crying "Deliver them from the jaws of the lion," to a roaring leonine organ and driving rhythmic orchestral accompaniment comes close to one.

The departed having been delivered from the beast, the baritone sings a cappella, "As Thou didst promise Abraham and his seed," to a modally tinged melody (MTM) that'll figure prominently later on. The ending of this section is thrilling, building to an earthshaking crescendo for full chorus and orchestra with arresting harp as well as organ effects. It then magically fades away with sparkles of violini sul ponticello.

In the "Sanctus - Bendictus" that's next, the vocalists ascend and descend what must be a stairway to paradise built by the organ and strings with rising-falling passages. There's a mystical quality about this section that some may find make it a distant cousin of "Neptune" from Gustav Holst's (1874-1934) The Planets (1916).

Scored for the two soloists, reduced strings and harp, there's a directness and simplicity about the "Agnus Dei," that make it one of the work's emotional highpoints. It effectively conveys the feeling of innocence and vulnerability associated with the lamb as a symbol of Christ.

Like Max Reger (1873-1916) and Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) before him, the composer was inspired by his compatriot Arnold Böcklin's (1827-1901) painting Isle of the Dead when he wrote the next "Communio" section. Shimmering strings and a hushed chorus intoning the words "Let eternal light shine upon them," suggest the recently deceased’s boat ride over a quiescent lake of tears to the land of eternal rest.

The final "In Paradisum" is a religious musical masterpiece! It begins unassumingly with strumming strings and the baritone singing, "Into paradise may the angels lead thee," set to the MTM idea mentioned above. Soon the chorus enters and the work builds to an ecstatic climax based on MTM, only to fade away in a diminuendo just for harp and strings.

The requiem concludes a cappella with a subdued chorus followed by the soloists singing "Lord, grant them eternal rest," again to MTM. Just as in the beginning, only the soprano is heard at the very end. Her voice floats heavenwards, asking God to give the departed eternal rest, and then disappears leaving the congregation in devout silence.

As you've probably already guessed from what you've read, there's a romantic undercurrent running through this work. Consequently any successful performance of it must preserve its religious formality but at the same time inject enough sentiment to make it emotionally meaningful. That's particularly true for the soloists, and soprano Olivia Robinson as well as baritone Edward Price do so to perfection.

The same can be said of conductor David Hill, who leads the Bach Choir of London along with the Southern Sinfonia in striking performances. As an added bonus, celebrated organist Jane Watts (see the newsletter of 18 May 2008) provides invaluable support on the magnificent Klais organ of St. John's, Smith Square, London.

It's too bad this is not a hybrid release, because the super audio tracks on it would have undoubtedly yielded better choral sound than what's here. More specifically there's some digital grain in the massed voices, although the soloists sound quite good. The organ and orchestra are faithfully captured across a deep soundstage in the ideally reverberant acoustic of St. John's Church. The balance between the soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra is just right. Audiophiles will find some of Ms. Watts’ pedal points a good workout for their woofers.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P091125)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnline.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Spratley: Sinfta, Cl Conc, Rec Conc, "In Outlaw..." Ste; Soloists/Various Cndctrs & Os [Toccata]
You have to hand it to Toccata Classics for their uncanny ability to come up with neglected classical treasures (see the newsletters of 16 January 2007, 15 January 2008 and 28 October 2008) as exemplified by this recent release featuring music of British-born Philip Spratley (b. 1942). The composer tells us in his illuminating album notes that he hasn't really written that much, but if the selections on this CD are any indication, his oeuvre makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity.

The program opens with a four movement sinfonietta for strings and timpani, which Spratley says is one of his few early works he's allowed to survive. While the original date of composition is not given, it apparently went through many revisions, and didn't reach its present form until 1987. It begins with a memorably dolorous melody (DM) that will recur throughout the piece, followed by a faster folkish sounding tune. The two ideas then pass through a highly imaginative developmental house of mirrors, finally emerging much as they entered this sonata form movement.

A heartfelt arioso and perky stimulating scherzo are next. The timpani make their presence known by dramatically enhancing both, and then go on to introduce the finale. This begins rather somberly with a variant of DM that's the embryo from which the thematic body of the last movement grows. A skittering motif soon appears followed by some clever contrapuntal chicanery, after which the sinfonietta ends with a coda once more restating DM. You'll find this piece an invigorating mix of Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) L'Histoire du soldat (1920) and Sir Michael Tippett's (1905-1998) Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1938-39) with maybe a touch of Bernard Herrmann's (1911-1975) suite for strings from his music for the 1960 Hitchcock movie Psycho thrown in for good measure.

A concertino for clarinet, strings and percussion (no date given) is next. With the subtitle "Byard's Leap," Spratley tells us it's about a legendary Lincolnshire horse named "Byard" (see the album notes for details), and in that sense it's certainly programmatic. But program music or not, this three movement work stands on its own as a significant contribution to the clarinet concerto genre.

It begins with an engaging equine cadenza for the soloist that could easily be imagined as imitating a variety of whinnies, neighs and nickers. The strings enter, introducing a “pastural” theme, which the clarinet proceeds to horse around with before trotting into the barn for the night. Feelings of abandonment and rejection made all the more intense by the timpani characterize the larghetto that follows. But it would appear all ends well in the prancing final allegro where, if you listen very carefully, you'll hear Byard leaping for joy.

Spratley turns to the feline in his recorder concertino of 1982-83 (revised in 2008), which honors the memory of all the cats he's had down through the years. In seven movements, each musically modeled after an old dance, it's a modern day Baroque suite in which the soloist at one time or another plays four different types of recorders (sopranino, soprano, treble, and tenor). Highlights include a wary opening "giga" that enters "on little cat feet," furtive "corante," spooked "ostinato," and final whirling "rigaudon," where the puss in question must be chasing its own tail. Like the clarinet concertino, this is more than program music in that it's an important addition to the small body of modern day recorder concertos.

This enterprising disc ends with a revised version (no date given) of the 1971 suite In Outlaw Country. Originally for large orchestra, the composer later replaced two of its five movements, and rescored it for harp, strings and trumpet. It's a set of musical impressions associated with the area where Spratley grew up. The title reflects the fact that this was also the hangout for Robin Hood and his band of merry men.

The beginning prelude starts with a theme that seems to bear a strange resemblance to that timeless children's song "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." However, any intimations of youthful innocence soon dissipate as goose-stepping passages complete with trumpet calls bring this section to a militaristic finish (see the album notes for programmatic details).

The mysteriously languid notturno that's next may at times recall the opening of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) 1812 Overture (1880). But the pace quickens with a bustling, brilliantly orchestrated scherzo, only to slacken once more in the pastoral yuletide lullaby that follows. The finale is a sprightly saltarello full of catchy folk elements (Spratley is an avid folk music collector). It ends with the trumpet playing a stirring hymn tune, "Southwell" by H.S. Irons (1834-1905), above the rest of the orchestra, much as in the last movement of Honegger's (1892-1955) second symphony (1941).

Conductor Barry Wordsworth and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia give a superb account of the sinfonietta, proving themselves strong advocates of Spratley's music. In the case of the other three selections, we have the composer himself conducting the Manchester Sinfonia in what will probably be definitive performances of these rarely heard works for some time to come. Clarinetist Linda Merrick and recorder-player John Turner get a big round of applause for their polished solo work in the concertinos. Harpist Eira Lynn Jones and trumpeter Tracey Redfern should also be commended for their significant contributions to the suite.

The sinfonietta was recorded eighteen months before, and at a different location than the other selections. But in both cases the two recording engineers involved have created consistently convincing soundstages. Brilliance and clarity characterize the orchestral images projected, and the soloists are perfectly highlighted. However, the violins may come off sounding a bit steely, depending on your sound system.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P091124)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnline.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
British Orch Songs (Elgar, Gritton, Ireland, Parry, Sanders); Gritton/Brabbins/BBCCon O [Dutton]
Variety is the spice of life, and you'll certainly find it here with this exceptional collection of twenty-two songs for soprano and orchestra written between 1886 and 1988 by five British composers. Every one of these is a gem, making this disc an ideal opportunity for those who’ve never dipped their toe into the pond of romantic song to do so, and a must for those who've already found the waters to their liking.

The recital begins with ten selections by Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934, see the newsletters of 16 April 2007, 15 September 2007 and 15 March 2008). Several of these, particularly heart on the sleeve "The Torch" (1909, orchestrated 1912), flowing "The Wind at Dawn" (1888, orchestrated 1912), plaintive "Pleading" (1908), which many consider his finest solo song, and naive "The Shepherd's Song" (1892) as orchestrated by Lionel Salter (1914-2000), find the composer on a melodic high comparable to that in his legendary song cycle Sea Pictures (1899).

Eric Gritton (1889-1981), grandfather of our soloist here, Susan Gritton (b. 1965), is represented next by his "O Stay, Madonna!" (1910) in an orchestration done last year by his son, Robin. A world première recording, and none too soon, this gorgeous unpublished treasure has languished in obscurity far too long!

Another recording first, Guenever's soliloquy from Sir Hubert Parry's (1848-1918) unfinished opera Guenever (1886), follows. This is a performing realization done in 1995 by the composer's biographer Jeremy Dibble. Parry was under the spell of Richard Wagner (1813-1883) when he wrote it, and it shows in this dramatic outpouring as Guenever protests her innocence, believing she is about to be burned at the stake.

Best remembered as the director of the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival while organist at the cathedral there, you've probably never heard of John Derek Sanders (1933-2003). He was also a composer of some merit whom you'll not soon forget after hearing his "Evening on Severn." Originally written in 1988 as the finale for his song cycle In Praise of Gloucestershire (not currently available on disc), he later orchestrated it in 1994, including it as part of his five-movement cantata Gloucestershire Visions (not currently available on disc). That’s what we have here in another world première recording, and it’s an auburn twilight masterpiece.

Concluding this memorable recital we have nine songs of John Ireland (1879-1962), which appear here for the first time on disc with orchestral accompaniments done in 2008 by Arnold Bax (1883-1953) authority Graham Parlett. The first five are with full, and the last four, string orchestra.

A student of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924, see the newsletter of 20 September 2006) and teacher of E J Moeran (1894-1950), Benjamin Britten (1913-1976, see the newsletter of 3 October 2008 and Richard Arnell (b. 1917, see the newsletter of 11 May 2009), Ireland was one of England's finest modern day songwriters, eventually composing ninety-one of them. Highlights here include the expansive "My True Love Hath My Heart" (1920) as well as impressionistic sounding "The Trellis" (1920) and "Adoration" (1918). There's also delightfully folksy "I Have twelve Oxen" (1918) and "The Heart's Desire" (1917).

Soprano Susan Gritton is in a word, "superb." Her voice is perfectly suited to this repertoire, and the care and attention to detail she lavishes on every song makes each a winner. For the second time in this newsletter conductor Martyn Brabbins distinguishes himself (see the Mortelmans recommendation above), drawing ideal support for Ms. Gritton from the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Recorded at the Colosseum Town Hall, Watford, England, the sonics from the orchestral perspective are very good with a convincing soundstage wrapped in an appropriately rich acoustic. The balance between soloist and orchestra is ideal, but there are times when some audiophiles may wonder if Ms. Gritton's ravishing voice might have been better served by another type of microphone. It's interesting to speculate how this disc might have sounded had something like Ray Kimber's IsoMike (see the newsletter of 7 February 2007) been used.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P091123)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


OLD BUT GOLD


The album cover may not always appear.
Berlin: Annie Get Your Gun (cpte music); Criswell/Hampson/McGlinn/AmbrSing/Lon Sinfta [EMI]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
In the twenty years since EMI initially released this landmark compendium of all the music from Annie Get Your Gun (1946), Irving Berlin's (1888-1989) songs have aged well and sound better than ever. One could even say it’s attained operetta status along with such greats as Show Boat (1927), Oklahoma (1943), Kiss Me Kate (1948), and My Fair Lady (1956). Those who for some reason or another failed to get it the first time around now have another chance with this reissue, and at a bargain price too! By the way, the album is 99% music with minimal dialogue throughout.

Jerome Kern (1885-1945) was originally asked by producers Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) to do the music for Annie, but he died before he could even get started. So they turned to the then-dean of American songwriters, Irving Berlin, who in a flight of genius dashed off most of the numbers (words too) within about a week. That's pretty unbelievable when you consider how many of his best loved and remembered creations are in this one show!

With a story by the great Dorothy Fields (1905-1974) based loosely on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley (1860-1926), it opens with a rousing overture highlighting several of the memorable tunes that will follow. The curtain then goes up on the first of its two acts with a rousing ensemble march number, "Colonel Buffalo Bill." In addition to a terrific melody, the lyrics for this song, as well as all the others in the show, are exceptional for their cleverness and fluency. Unlike many Broadway musicals, the rhymes never sound awkward or forced!

Naive country girl Annie is soon introduced ("Doin What Comes Natur'lly"), and wins a shooting contest against another crack shot, Frank Butler. He's with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which Bill then gets Annie to join ("There's No Business Like Show Business"). In the meantime she's fallen in love with Frank, and it's their romance ("The Girl That I Marry," "They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful" and "My Defenses Are Down") and rivalry ("You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," and "Anything You Can Do") that are central to the show (see the album notes for more details).

The variety of musical numbers is extraordinary and includes two marvelous choreographed sequences. The first of these, a circus dance, is a foot-stomping medley of the hit tunes. The second is Berlin's delightfully kitsch drum-pounder of an American Indian war dance. It's followed by a humorous ceremonial chant for the chorus, and Annie’s "I'm an Indian Too" after she's been made an honorary member of the Sioux Nation. This segues into a catchy dance based on what she’s just sung. But the act ends on a downer as Chief Sitting Bull reads her a goodbye letter from Frank, who's become envious of her marksmanship and left her to join another show.

But take heart, the second act will bring a reconciliation between the two! It begins with two of Irving’s lesser known songs, "I Got Lost in His Arms" and "Who Do You Love, I Hope?" which will come as welcome discoveries to most. The Broadway classic "I Got the Sun in the Morning" follows in a show-stopper arrangement for Annie with the chorus and orchestra.

As the act draws to a close, Frank reprises his "The Girl That I Marry," and is joined by Annie for one of the most novel Broadway numbers ever written, "Anything You Can Do!" The show concludes with some of the hit melodies making a final appearance as Annie purposely loses a shooting match to Frank, thereby assuring that in the end she gets her man! The curtain then descends on one of the best musicals to ever grace the Great White Way.

Incidentally, the show was revived in 1966 at which time Berlin wrote an additional song ("An Old-Fashioned Wedding") for Annie and Frank. This is included as an appendix.

Fields wrote the title role for the inimitable Ethel Merman (1908-1984), who starred in the astoundingly successful first run of over eleven hundred performances. Needless to say with her one of a kind voice she'd be an impossible act to follow. But our soloist here, Kim Criswell, creates a very lovable Annie that some may even find preferable to the more brazen sounding Merman. She's joined by Thomas Hampson, who sings Frank to perfection, along with a number of other excellent soloists, the Ambrosian Chorus, and the ideally theater-sized London Sinfonietta.

Conductor John McGlinn (see the newsletter of 24 July 2008) brings everything together with the same aplomb as on his previous show music releases for EMI. If you haven't already done so, you might also want to check out his Jerome Kern Treasury and Overtures, as well as Cole Porter Overtures, all on invaluable ArkivCD reissues.

Recorded back in 1990 at Abbey Road Studios, the sound is generally good. However, some may find the voices have a bit of that digital edge which characterized "DDD" discs back then. Otherwise the soundstage is well appointed, and the balance between the soloists, chorus and orchestra, perfect.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P091122)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com


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