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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The Piano Concerto dates from 1953 and is a thoroughly tuneful and entertaining work, not much more ‘serious’ than the pieces which make up the rest of this CD. Beginning with the vivacious Bugler’s Holiday, this collection includes many of his popular hits, such as Blue Tango, as well as some lesser-known pieces, like the nostalgic The Golden Years. The Classical Jukebox simulates a ‘stuck groove’ in the middle of the piece, which raises a smile. The performances are excellent, as is the sound…



George Hall
BBC Music Magazine, October 2008

Performance: 
Recording: 

In his heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s, Leroy Anderson was America’s leading purveyor of light orchestral music. His finely crafted miniatures charmed audiences at the Boston Pops and even made it into the hit-parade (Blue Tango stayed at No. 1 for 15 weeks in 1952). This three-volume collection brings together all his orchestral music, including several items that have deservedly retained their popularity. [Actually, further volumes are also available; see Leroy Anderson’s page on this website for more information – Ed] Not everyone will be able to put a name to the wistful Forgotten Dreams, the toe-tapping Bugler’s Holiday or Sleigh Ride, but these and a handful of others will be instantly recognised.

Other pieces, a number of them recorded here for the first time, are only marginally less good. The classical Jukebox cleverly puts the song ‘Put another nickel in’ through the paces of Wagner, Delibes and Liszt. ‘Widener Reading Room’, one of Anderson’s Harvard Sketches, has ‘layered disruptions’, in annotator Richard S Ginell’s words, that recall Charles Ives. Harvard graduate Anderson himself studies with Walter Piston and George Enescu, and his training shows in his consistent technical quality.

Some arrangements here are of other people’s music, notably Handel’s ‘Where’er you walk’ for trumpet, Meredith Wilson’s ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ in Sousa style, and Christmas songs for both string and brass. The sole substantial independent piece is the 1953 Piano Concerto, which starts out as a Rachmaninov derivative but has a real gem of a slow movement that Gershwin might have signed. It’s finely played by Jeffrey Biegel, while Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra do an excellent job throughout.



James Miller
Fanfare, August 2008

The front cover designation, "Orchestral Music 1" suggests that more is on the way. Slatkin's performances with the BBC Concert Orchestra are competitive with everyone else's, and Naxos has provided him with rich sound…One thing not found on most Anderson collections is his 1953 Piano Concerto. …The composer's family has released some hither-to-unrecorded music that will appear in this Naxos series. Exhaustive annotations make this package even more valuable…



Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online, April 2008

That is simply and attractively the kind of music this master of the miniature specialized in. These performances elicit no significant quibble from me. The fine audio quality on this CD is becoming so common nowadays – hurrah!



Andrew Fraser
Music Australia Guide, March 2008

[Anderson’s Piano Concerto] is delightful, sounding like cheeky Rachmaninov or at times Aaron Copland. The miniatures vividly portray many moods, and like his great contemporary Carl Stalling, Anderson draws on nearly every influence possible. His idiom is captured perfectly.



Andrew Lamb
Gramophone, March 2008

Old Anderson favourites and delightful lesser-known finds so easy on the ear

Naxos's ability to come up with winning ideas at knock-down prices never ceases to amaze. Already the label has a CD of Leroy Anderson favourites played by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra in more relaxed fashion than is often the ease (7/02). Here some of those same familiar items are played a little more positively, if with a fraction less verve than in conductor Leonard Slatkin's earlier collection with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1/96). What is of most interest, of course, is the less familiar music.

Though generally less striking than the evergreens, these pieces include some genuine finds. The First Day of Spring and The Golden Years provide delightfully tranquil contrasts to more ebullient Anderson fare, while Arietta is a real gem. Governor Bradford's March is an admirable enough military march, named after a Massachusetts Governor of the 1940s, but lacking in obvious distinguishing Anderson features. The Classical Jukebox is a delightful novelty piece, including a depiction of the sticking needle that was familiar to everyone in pre-CD days, and altogether encapsulating Anderson's genius for packing aural gold into a three-minute piece.

Other shorter pieces are perhaps less striking. As for the agreeably warrn-hearted and romantic 1953 Piano Concerto, it falls into the category of works that are worth hearing without having hitherto been a major loss to the musical world. One way and another, everything here is easy on the ear and beautifully played. It all leaves a delightful aftertaste and excites anticipation of Naxos's next instalment.



John France
Gramophone, March 2008

The present CD is the first of a promised cycle of the ‘complete’ orchestral works of Leroy Anderson. I have often expressed concern about Naxos and their ‘complete’ editions. I think of their Liszt piano works series which more or less ground to a halt – or of more interest to me, John Ireland.(but see footnote) The blurb suggests that the present cycle will include pieces that were suppressed, previously unrecorded and still in manuscript. Let us hope that it comes to pass.

A quick glance at the track-listing reveals only one ‘brand new piece’ – the Governor Bradford March written in 1948. This was named after a Massachusetts politician. Unfortunately, it was not published during the composer’s lifetime. As far as I am aware it has not been recorded before – at least it is not currently available on CD. The listener will be reminded of both Johann Strauss Junior and the great John Philip Sousa. It is hard to imagine why this ‘high steppin’ piece has remained in obscurity. A pure joy!

It is not really necessary to discuss all the tracks on this CD as many of them are not only well known but are ‘household’ names. For example who does not know the Bugler’s Holiday, The Belle of the Ball, Blue Tango, Chicken Reel and the appropriately named Fiddle-Faddle – at least the tunes if not the titles?

Listen to the wonderful Classical Jukebox – there is only one other version of this fine parody. Here Anderson’s ‘cheeky’ takes on Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Delibes’ ballet scores and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 are designed to amuse and impress. And do not be disconcerted by the apparent sticking of the record player needle – it is all part of the fun!

I have not heard the rhythmically ambiguous The Captains & Kings before. This is based on Rudyard Kipling’s great poem ‘Recessional’ – “The tumult and the shouting dies, the captains and the kings depart.” This piece has quite a bit of Eric Coates about it! I was impressed by the slightly more earnest tone of this work.

The Balladette is a much more serious work that its title may suggest. It is described in the programme notes as ‘brooding’. The ‘quizzical chromatic motif’ certainly makes this piece anything but typical Anderson. This is a little masterpiece. Arietta was written in 1962: it was originally composed as a duet for cello and viola at a time when Anderson’s daughter Jane was studying the viola. The effect is charming and we must be glad that the composer chose to rework it in the present form.

Four other works make up this fine selection of Anderson’s compositions. The First Day of Spring has a pastoral feel to it – with a lovely part for oboe. This is perhaps more a country garden on a summer’s day than a wide landscape: very beautiful and quite moving. Clarinet Candy is a romp – written for four clarinettists. It would never fail to bring the house down. China Doll is a delicate piece that again showcases the oboe.

Yet it is The Golden Years that is the most nostalgic piece on this CD. It is hard to know whether this richly scored number is looking to the years already gone by or to a happier future. Perhaps it is just a meditation on the present: for the present is all that we can be sure of having. This is a very attractive piece – and a million miles away from Fiddle-Faddle.

The highlight of this disc is undoubtedly the Piano Concerto. I remember on my first trip to New York coming across a CD of this piece in Tower Records up by the Lincoln Center. I was so enthused by this ‘in your face’ work as I sat in Central Park with my portable CD player – and listened to it at least three times through! It seemed to epitomise that city.

There are two things to get straight about this Concerto. Firstly, that it is full of wonderful tunes, melodies, pianistic figurations, and lush harmonies – yes, I know, my teacher told me that only grass is lush. In fact we hear all the paraphernalia of the romantic concerto at its very best. The other thing is that poor old Leroy could not develop material to save himself. But who really cares when the music sounds as good as it does.

It could be argued that the first movement has all the hallmarks of Rachmaninov and the last nods vigorously to Edvard Grieg. It could also be argued that it does not matter. This is the all-American Piano Concerto – unlike Gershwin in that it does not ‘do’ jazz. It is untypical of Edward McDowell in that it is not romantic in a European style. Yet from the point of view of melody and sheer pleasure it can hold its own against any piano concerto in America or beyond. Look out for that wonderful second subject of the third movement. Anderson at very his best – a touch of genius.

This is a CD to buy – even if you have tons of Leroy Anderson in your collection already. Leonard Slatkin could not be a better advocate for this music. The BBC Concert Orchestra are manifestly in their element and Jeffrey Biegel plays the ‘over the top’ Concerto with pizzazz!

I just hope that Naxos close the deal: I look forwards to reviewing the next couple of discs!



Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, February 2008

Leroy Anderson's contribution to American music was unique and circumscribed. Writing mostly for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, he invented and perfected the three-minute orchestral "light classical" piece, and no one since has done it with such flair. The melodies are tart or tender, at once accessible and unpredictable, and Anderson's use of the orchestra is discreetly virtuosic. The first installment in a planned survey of his orchestral music by conductor Leonard Slatkin offers 14 zippy numbers, from familiar favorites such as "Bugler's Holiday" and "Fiddle-Faddle" to such rare gems as "The Golden Years" and "Balladette." Listening to the pieces straight through is a little like gorging on bonbons, but taken in judicious doses, they're irresistible. Also included is Anderson's 1953 Piano Concerto, which applies the same ideas on a larger scale with mixed success.



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, February 2008

This first installment of Naxos' new cycle of Leroy Anderson's (1908-1975) complete orchestral works is a most auspicious start. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Anderson studied at Harvard with Walter Piston. But unlike his teacher, who wrote many extended orchestral works, including eight symphonies, Anderson remained a miniaturist to the end, producing melodically immaculate short pieces. His association with conductor Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra was legendary and saw the birth of many works that would become American classics.

Belle of the Ball (1951), Blue Tango (1951), Bugler's Holiday (1954), and Fiddle-Faddle (1947) will be familiar to all. But there are a number of other unpublished treats here that won't be. The Captains and the Kings (1962), China Doll (1951), The First Day of Spring (1954), The Golden Years (1962), Balladette (1962) and Arietta (1962) are all delightful mood pieces. Clarinet Candy (1962) does for that instrument what Bugler's... did for the trumpet.

Then there's the festive Governor Bradford March (1948), which is a recording premiere, and the Chicken Reel (1946) that ends with a cock-a-doodle-doo unlike any you ever knew. The Classical Jukebox (1950) is based on the song Music! Music! Music!, which was popular back then, and anticipates the zany Hoffnung Festivals that would come a few years later. Anderson subjects the tune to some very amusing stylistic transformations à la Richard Wagner, Leo Delibes and Franz Liszt. There's even a brief episode simulating a stuck record.

The CD concludes with a real rarity, Anderson's three-movement piano concerto. It was written in 1953 and is the composer's most extended piece. Disappointed with its reception, Anderson soon withdrew it, and it wasn't revived until 1989. In retrospect it's a romantic treasure that's on a par with such pieces as Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto. Captivatingly tuneful, it's very much worth hearing.

Pianist Jeffrey Biegel makes a strong case for the concerto, and Leonard Slatkin evokes exceptionally spirited performances from the BBC Concert Orchestra. This is a fine tribute to a man who was truly an American original.

The sonics are quite good, but the soundstage may sound a bit compressed depending on your speaker placement.



Richard Freed
GoodSound.com, February 2008

Musical Performance:
Sound Quality
Overall Enjoyment

Leroy Anderson’s ingenious scoring was always as critical a factor as the actual content of his striking miniatures. So, of course, was the matter of performance: his pieces could not be sight-read, but required high-level musicianship and meticulous preparation. Arthur Fiedler started him off, as arranger for the Boston Pops, and Fiedler, Frederick Fennell, Maurice Abravanel, and Anderson himself left us splendid recordings of Andersoniana. Leonard Slatkin, who joined this distinguished roster more than 15 years ago in one of his last recordings with the Saint Louis Symphony, now has embarked on a five-disc series of all of Anderson’s music for orchestra. Vol.1 comprises 14 of these vignettes, some as well known as Belle of the Ball, Blue Tango, China Doll, etc., and some virtually unknown: Balladette, Arietta, Governor Bradford March, etc. Also included is the composer’s only formal concert work, a concise but potent Piano Concerto about which Anderson had doubts, but needn’t have. Eugene List must have had fun with it in its 1953 premiere; Jeffrey Biegel and Slatkin certainly do here, presenting us, in agreeably spacious sound, with a scintillating piece substantial enough for subscription concerts...



Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, February 2008

Go on, I defy you to not enjoy this wonderful, tuneful, exuberant, fun music.

John Williams described Anderson as "one of the great American masters of light orchestral music", but in truth he is without peer. Not even the great David Rose is quite up there with Anderson. He studied harmony with Georges Enescu and composition with Walter Piston at Harvard and was discovered by Arthur Fiedler in 1936, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years there have been many recordings of Anderson’s music – many by Anderson himself conducting a pick-up band – but they have almost always concentrated on the well known works. Indeed, Slatkin himself, recorded an Anderson album with the St Louis Symphony but that, too, concentrated on the popular pieces. This disk, deliciously described as Volume 1 (Hurrah!), mixes the popular with the less well known.

The disk explodes into life with theBugler’s Holiday, the performance simply bursts out of the speakers at you. The BBC Concert Orchestra, a band which can play just about anything from Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality (I remember a superb performance of that work in about 1975 on BBC Radio 3, conducted by its then chief conductor Ashley Lawrence) to Charles Williams’s Devil’s Galop is on top form. Indeed, I’ve never heard an orchestra enjoying itself so much. Is there another such versatile band in the world I wonder?

Slatkin brings out the very best from the orchestra, with a wonderful swagger and perfect sense of style. He forms each miniature with care and love, making them the mini masterpieces so many of them are.

The disk ends with Anderson’s biggest concert work – the Piano Concerto in C. Here the style here is more serious, which might account for the mixed reception it received at its première in 1953, but enjoyable as it is it lacks that special something which makes his pops pieces so perfect. Having said that, the slow movement is simply drop dead gorgeous, with a lovely dance section in the middle, and the finale is a hoot. Anderson withdrew the work, which, with hindsight, we can see was unfair, as it is a fine piece. It’s interesting that another composer working in the light field – Stephen Sondheim – withheld his Piano Concertino, written in 1949, from public consumption, until Jonathan Sheffer discovered it and gave it its première in 2001.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you that this is essential listening for anyone with a soul and a love of a good tune. You owe it to yourself to make space in your life, and your CD collection, for such carefully wrought serious light music.

The performances are all you could wish for, the recording excellent, the notes informative. Until a recent spate of new recordings, light music had a bad press for too many years, not being worthy of a serious music lovers attention, but just like allowing yourself that second Mars Bar, it’s great to wallow in sheer delight and enjoy the guilty pleasure of a good tune.




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, February 2008

Leonard Slatkin recorded a marvelous Leroy Anderson collection for RCA with the St. Louis Symphony, and of course Anderson's own recordings for Decca/MCA remain special, but this new series promises to offer several recording premieres, and Jeffrey Biegel's rendition of the terrific Piano Concerto is the best yet. So all in all, it's hard to deny this release the strongest possible recommendation. The music may be light, but the craftsmanship and standard of quality are second to none.

It's a special mystery that Anderson was dissatisfied with the concerto, his only large-scale orchestral work, withholding its publication during his lifetime. We could use a top-notch "Gershwin alternative", and this piece is just the ticket. From the "Rachmaninov without the gloom" opening, to the Latin interludes in the Andante, to the finale's hoe-down reel of a main melody, this piece is a winner. Both Slatkin and Biegel give the piece the royal treatment, playing with both passion and humor. You'll love it.

Among the smaller pieces you'll find familiar favorites (Belle of the Ball, Bugler's Holiday, Fiddle-Faddle, Clarinet Candy, Blue Tango, China Doll), but also some lesser-known but no less delicious surprises. There's The First Day of Spring, a gorgeous meditation reminiscent of the Romanza from Dvorák's Czech Suite, and The Classical Jukebox, in which favorites by Wagner and Liszt serve as a platform on which to graft, P.D.Q. Bach-style, the famous pop tune "Put Another Nickel In [the Nickelodeon]". The playing by the BBC Concert Orchestra is relaxed and charming. Under Slatkin's baton the melodies flow effortlessly, and clearly a good time was had by all. You will too.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

If you are feeling down, here is the perfect antidote. But do you know that the musical world came precious close to missing out on one of the great composers of light classics, Leroy Anderson almost settling for a career as a distinguished linguist. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1908, he was an incredibly gifted young man who qualified to study composition with George Enescu and Walter Piston, yet was an expert in Scandinavian languages. It was the latter part of his studies that helped the American forces when Anderson became a translator in the Second World War. It was by pure chance that the conductor of the Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler, heard his Harvard Fantasy, composed while Anderson was a student at Harvard University, Fiedler immediately realising the potential of the young man. There followed a long relationship with the orchestra as Anderson produced a stream of pleasing pieces that topped the ‘pop’ charts, his success eventually tempting him into writing musicals for Broadway. He also became a major conductor of light music, yet remained by nature a very private person to the point of being a recluse. With such auspicious mentors it is surprising that he wrote just one extended orchestral score, a three movement Piano Concerto, dating from 1953. He was never totally happy with it as a finished product, though his widow did eventually allow it to be published, and since then it has found many performances. Not an erudite piece it simply pleases the ear and has one of Anderson’s most catchy tunes for the finale. It is performed here with panache and obvious fun by the brilliant American pianist, Jeffrey Biegel. The remainder of the disc is given to fourteen of his pleasing miniatures, tracks appearing on disc for the first time, the Anderson family making unpublished scores available for this projected complete Anderson edition. A scintillating Buglar’s Holiday sets the scene, conductor, Leonard Slatkin, finding a highly responsive BBC Concert Orchestra. They swing with the best American orchestras, put on a show of instrumental virtuosity in such tracks as Fiddle-Faddle, and strut with the best in Governor Bradford March in its pseudo-Viennese idiom. Relish the fun of Classical Jukebox, as the disc gets stuck, or the pure charm of Arietta., each track is a gem. The recording has captured the infinite amount of detail Slatkin obtains, making the total package one not to miss.



South Florida Sun-Sentinel, January 2008

The Symphony of the Americas is this region's most eclectic orchestra. It is perhaps one of the most unusual in the Americas, a chamber orchestra that knows no musical bounds and commands respect wherever maestro James Brooks-Bruzzese decides to trample.

Coming up is a centennial tribute concert to Leroy Anderson, the composer of instrumental pop hits Blue Tango, Sleigh Ride, Fiddle Faddle, Syncopated Clock and many more.

Not that this is the only 100th anniversary Anderson tribute. Musical groups around the country are queuing up to commemorate his work, which gingerly bridges a gap between classical discipline and hit-parade fashion. And among recordings, Naxos has just released the first of a five-disc set in its American Classics series, Leroy Anderson Orchestral Music (8.559313).

The initial Naxos disc includes Anderson's only full-length work in the classical format, his 1953 Piano Concerto in C Major. The concerto also is the centerpiece of Tuesday's Symphony of the Americas concert in the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater, where it will be performed by guest artist Thomas Tirino.

Anderson, 1908-1975, first began as an arranger for Arthur Fiedler's Boston Pops in the 1930s. He hit his peak of popularity in the '50s, led by Blue Tango, which spent 15 weeks at the top of the pop chart in 1952.

Anderson merged the short, popular song structure and rhythms with symphonic sensibilities in a unique fashion that demanded a special label, dubbed miniatures. Although the titles might not be instantly familiar to post-1950s generations, the music remains. It's recycled often in background scores, advertising and other commercial settings.

The piano concerto got a mixed reception at early performances conducted by Anderson, who never published it and withdrew it from circulation. According to the Naxos CD's liner notes, he was considering revising it at the time of his death from cancer in 1975. Nearly 15 years later, his widow Eleanor released the concerto.

Like much of his work, the three-movement concerto is full of appealing melodic ideas that qualify as crowd pleasers, while offering an extended environment in which the composer could explore and interpolate them. Lively, brisk and at times melodically propulsive, Anderson uses the inner spaces for the kind of reflective interpolations seldom found in his miniatures.

The Naxos disc does include several lesser known, in some cases previously unpublished, orchestral ballads. Much of Anderson's work was rearranged by big bands to suit their styles, and for other pop venues. The introductory disk for the Naxos set is a fine sampler with Anderson's own orchestral arrangements performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Pianist Jeffrey Biegel performs the concerto. But for sheer musical frisson, there are few challengers to the frisky trumpets of Bugler's Holiday or twirling clarinet passages of Clarinet Candy.



Uncle Dave Lewis
Allmusic.com, January 2008

While American composer Leroy Anderson's music has never suffered for enthusiasm in concert halls, recordings of his work significantly declined in the digital era over that of LPs; record companies were satisfied to reissue the older recordings again and again. One of the best digital recordings of Anderson was The Typewriter: Leroy Anderson Favorites recorded by Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra for BMG. This title still appears to be in print as Slatkin returns to the scene of the crime with Naxos' Leroy Anderson: Orchestral Music I, included in Naxos' American Classics series. While it does share a few titles in common with the earlier release, more than half of the disc consists of material that Slatkin did not explore in the BMG title. At least one piece, "Governor Bradford March" in its orchestral incarnation, hasn't appeared on any recording, and certain other pieces included, such as "China Doll," "Balladette," and "The Classical Jukebox" are relative rarities for Anderson. So is his "Piano Concerto in C major," which has only been recorded twice before, once in an arrangement for piano and organ. This composer of "perennial favorites" was perennially unhappy with his one piano concerto, his only large-scale orchestral composition, and it's fairly easy to see why; Anderson thought most successfully in short forms, and his stringing together of episodic ideas to make up the concerto doesn't really succeed in coming off as a coherent whole. However, Jeffrey Biegel does play it here with a sense of enthusiasm and dazzle, and Slatkin complies with a responsive and gracious accompaniment; the concerto is a very lovely and appealing piece to listen to, in spite of its patchwork construction. Among the lesser-known pieces, "Balladette" is rather uncharacteristic for Anderson, with its ominous, rising scale. "The Classical Jukebox" -- only lately regarded as an Anderson original, as it is based on the pop song "Music! Music! Music!" -- has a skipping record effect that points up his importance as a progenitor of the art of converting "noise" into music.

No one debates the notion that Leonard Slatkin -- even with the decidedly "limey" BBC Concert Orchestra -- has a way with Leroy Anderson; that was one of the things that made BMG's The Typewriter such a glorious experience. One additional aspect that made The Typewriter so attractive was its equally glorious sound quality, which is not in evidence here; the recording is more serviceable than spectacular. Nevertheless, listeners who have already shelled out for the BMG release may rest assured that they will not be duplicating very much in obtaining Naxos' Leroy Anderson: Orchestral Music I. Listeners will no doubt be delighted with the range of interesting and unusual Anderson material offered here.






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