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David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, July 2010

It’s usual to say, somewhat condescendingly, that Leroy Anderson was a great “light music” composer, but the fact is that he was a great composer. Period. The ability to write a memorable tune is priceless, as Brahms (no slouch in the tune department) recognized in speaking of Dvořák, and it more than compensates for any amount of failings in other departments. Anderson had remarkably few of those: his orchestrations are masterly, his craftsmanship always top-notch. The three suites included here (Scottish, Irish, and Alma Mater) are beautifully put together and incredibly catchy.

The vocal items…are fetchingly sung by Kim Criswell and William Dazeley, and here receive their world premiere recordings. The program ends with one of Anderson’s larger works, the dazzling Christmas Festival. Leonard Slatkin, an old hand in this music, conducts with unassuming mastery, and the BBC Concert Orchestra sounds entirely at home in the idiom. Very good engineering completes this delectable package. Like the rest of this series, this is definitely worth collecting.



Cinemusical, May 2010

Finally, I picked up the fourth volume in Naxos’ Leroy Anderson series. Earlier volumes have made it to the best of the month list here. This release allows us to hear the complete Irish Suite and Scottish Suite plus a few song versions of Anderson’s miniatures. The concluding track is the famous, non-choral version, of A Christmas Festival—probably one of the composer’s most performed works.



Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

ANDERSON, L.: Orchestral Music, Vol. 4 - Irish Suite / Scottish Suite / Alma Mater / A Christmas Festival 8.559381
ANDERSON, L.: Orchestral Music, Vol. 5 - Goldilocks / Suite of Carols (version for woodwinds) 8.559382

Several continuing series have been added to. Volumes 4 (8.559381) and 5 (8.559382) of Leroy Anderson’s complete orchestral music, well performed by Slatkin and the BBC Concerto Orchestra, offer the Irish and Scottish Suites, excerpts from his musical, Goldilocks, vocal versions of Blue Tango and Belle of the Ball, plus several Christmas compilations.



Andrew Lamb
Gramophone, December 2008

More Anderson Light Delights

On Volume 4 of this Naxos series [8.559381], only the delightful Summer Skies falls into the familiar format of Anderson orchestral miniature. The rest constitutes arrangements, including Anderson’s exquisitely wrought orchestration of MacDowell’s To a Wild Rose. If the inclusion of vocal arrangements of Blue Tango, Forgotten Dreams and Belle of the Ball in a collection of orchestral works seems strange, few will object to the chance to hear Tin Pan Alley’s attempts to capitalise on Anderson’s success.

The Irish Suite (the main item on this disc)—a clever compilation of Irish folk tunes—has already been recorded by Fiedler, Anderson himself (four movements only) and Fennell, and is done here with no less grace, charm and excitement. On the back of its success, Anderson conceived his Scottish Suite, but he completed only four of the planned six movements, recorded only two, and then withdrew the suite altogether. Though overall nowhere near as clever a piece as its predecessor, it’s good to have the whole included here; “Turn ye to me” is especially beautifully done.

Previous volumes in this series have included suites of carols; however, the arrangement of less devotional melodies within the Christmas overture heard here seems to me much the most attractive of such seasonal offerings.



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, October 2008
The Leroy Anderson (1908–1975) Centennial Celebration continues with Naxos’ fourth installment in their ongoing survey of his complete orchestral music. This volume features two rarely heard suites and the world première recordings of three of his most popular miniatures, which were later set to words, in versions for voice and orchestra. In 1947 on a commission from the Boston Eire Society Anderson wrote a four-part piece called the Eire Suite based on Irish folk tunes. Then in 1949 he added another two movements and changed the name to Irish Suite, giving us what we hear on this disc. Catchy accompaniments, clever variations and brilliant orchestration turn what would otherwise be a mundane arrangement into a pops gem. Highlights include “The Minstrel Boy”, which would have made Percy Grainger prick up his ears, “The Wearing of the Green” and “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” In the last two there are stylistic references to the pizzicato scherzo in Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony and the finale from his fifth, respectively. A beautiful 1970 Anderson arrangement for harp and strings of “To a Wild Rose” from Edward MacDowell’s suite for solo piano, Woodland Sketches (1896), is next. One of the loveliest American melodies ever written, it’s followed by Summer Skies (1953), which shows that Anderson was equally adept at writing gorgeous, nature-inspired pieces. Whereas the Irish Suite was expanded from four to six movements, it was just the opposite for the Scottish (1954), which was originally to be six, but the composer only completed four. Too bad, because if anything it’s even more colorful than its Hibernian predecessor! By the way this is the first recording of the entire work where the opening and closing “Bonnie Dundee” and “Campbells are Coming” marches are included. Incidentally, the orchestral parts for the “Turn Ye to Me” section are lost and we have David Rose to thank for transcribing them from an old LP of it with the composer conducting. The program continues with three songs based on Anderson’s Blue Tango, Forgotten Dreams and Belle of the Ball. The words are by Mitchell Parish, who also came up with ex post facto lyrics for Hoagy Carmichael’s ever popular Stardust. Sounding like something that could be out of a Broadway musical, the Anderson selections are interesting departures from their more frequently heard pops progenitors. And now for some more musical fun at the expense of the composer’s old college alma mater, Harvard. A 1954 revision of his Harvard Sketches (1939, see the newsletter of 24 July 2008), Alma Mater requires some aleatoric support from the orchestra members as well as assorted SFX effects from the percussion section that would challenge even the best Hollywood Foley artists. The opening “Chapel Bells” is straightforward enough, but “Freshman on Main Street” is hilarious with cuckoo calls, car horns, and Bronx cheers that are right out of a Laurel and Hardy film. Things get even zanier in “The Library Reading Room” where snores and murmurs are heard courtesy of the orchestra members (shades of Frederick Delius’ Eventyr—Once Upon a Time). But all ends well in “Class Reunion” with references to the tune for the 1915 American song Alabama Jubilee with the popular refrain “Hail, Hail, the Gangs All Here.” Incidentally, the melody for it was borrowed from the second half of “With Cat-Like Tread” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. Volume four closes with the full nine-minute version of A Christmas Festival (1950), which is an exceptional holiday overture based on familiar tunes, and a welcome departure from those tired seasonal offerings record companies dust off each year. It ends triumphantly as the organ joins the orchestra in an earthshaking finale that combines Oh Come All Ye Faithful with Joy to the World and Jingle Bells, bringing this release to a glorious conclusion. As was the case with the three previous releases, conductor Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra give us ebullient, thrilling performances of everything. Once again they prove themselves worthy successors to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, who originally championed and popularized Anderson’s music. A round of applause also goes to soprano Kim Criswell and baritone William Dazeley for their vocal work in the three songs. There’s an informality about their delivery that’s totally in keeping with the Broadway character of these numbers. One small nitpick. Now and then it’s hard to understand Ms. Criswell because she was recorded at a rather low level, and no lyrics are included with the album notes. With a huge orchestra as well as two vocal soloists, an organ and all sorts of special effects to contend with, the Naxos audio engineers faced a significant challenge when it came to this disc. But they met it head-on with some of the most glorious sound in the series to date. Light classical music enthusiasts and audiophiles alike will find it a sonic “Belle of the Ball” that will leave you eagerly awaiting volume five.


Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, October 2008

The present volume includes… five world premiere recordings. Three of these are Anderson favourites but with vocals. The Blue Tango—“…a thrilling melody of love…” is just so as Kim Criswell so enticingly sings “…hold me tight in your arms tonight …” She follows, in gentler romantic mood with Forgotten Dreams: “… they keep returning, the years of yearning, no matter how you try, forgotten dreams won’t die…” She is joined by William Dazeley for the dazzling Belle of the Ball: “…it is no wonder the whole world is under the spell of the Belle of the Ball…” If my memory serves me well, both singers deliver these songs appropriately in the style of the 1950s.

Leroy Anderson’s orchestration adds sweet sentimentality to MacDowell’s well-known To A Wild Rose. Another premiere is the composer’s own hazy, lazy evocation of Summer Skies prolonging the mood of gentle, genial nostalgia. The fifth world premiere is of the complete Scottish Suite in four movements: the first of which is the galloping/hunting-like ‘Bonnie Dundee’ which is succeeded by the charming waltz that is ‘Turn Ye to Me’. The third movement ‘Bluebells of Scotland’ is a breezy, almost baroque rendering of the famous tune; then it is all processional pomp with snare drums beating a rather cheeky version of ‘The Campbells Are Coming’.

Complementing the Scottish Suite, is the more substantial and colourful six-movement Irish Suite, full of Irish whimsy. Each movement has imaginative arrangements of six well known ditties: a racy ‘The Irish Washerwoman’; a stirring and affecting ‘The Minstrel Boy’; a perky and cheeky ‘The Rakes of Mallow’; a breezy ‘The Wearing of the Green’ with interesting use of string pizzicato; a lushly romantic ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ with a lovely solo violin by Cynthia Fleming; and the high-spirited ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’.

Anderson’s less than venerable portrait of the great American institute of learning, Harvard Sketches, originally composed in 1939 and featured in Volume III of this Naxos series, is revisited here in the 1950 revision. Renamed Alma Mater, the same material is, if anything, saucier, its humour broader and irreverent; yet there is an unmistakable vein of nostalgic affection too—great fun. Interestingly, the final ebullient ‘Class Reunion’ movement is very reminiscent of the style of Anderson’s English equivalent, Eric Coates.

Christmas works were featured in Volumes II and III of this Naxos series and this volume closes with Leroy Anderson’s glittering concert overture, A Christmas Festival. Once again his imaginative arrangements of popular Christmas carols lifts them to an altogether different level.

This fourth volume may seem to be mainly something of a gathering in of less well-known material and unusual, long-forgotten vocal arrangements of a few favourite pieces. Nevertheless they are delivered with such enthusiasm and joie de vivre, that this latest collection is irresistible.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2008
He was one of the greatest American melody-makers of his time, and the fourth volume of his complete orchestral works covers Leroy Anderson’s arrangements of popular melodies and his reworking of earlier scores. Having decided on a linguistic career, it was by chance that the conductor Arthur Fiedler heard a work Anderson had written while a composition student with George Enescu and Walter Piston. Realising his potential as a light music composer, he invited the young man to create an ongoing supply of cameos for the Boston Pops Orchestra. Successful Broadway shows were to follow, his later years occupied as a conductor of light orchestral music. Apart from his original scores, his works included an extensive list of pieces created from well-known melodies. The present disc opens with five popular ballades woven into the Irish Suite and ends with a compilation of seasonal melodies in A Christmas Festival. Others added words to his best known pieces bringing a new popular dimension to Blue Tango, Belle of the Ball and Forgotten Dreams. Ever the perfectionist, Anderson was frequently looking at his earlier scores, the cheerful Alma Mater, being a recasting of the Harvard Sketches. Naxos, working with the Anderson family, offer a succession of first recordings, including the complete Scottish Suite and the arrangement of MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose, together with the songs performed to the manor born by Kim Criswell and William Dazeley. Leonard Slatkin directs the BBC Concert Orchestra, his unhurried performances allowing Anderson’s music to breath in a way that has often evaded others. Recorded in the Watford Town Hall with its admirable warm acoustic.





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