In Mantovani's orchestrations, strings cry and swoop like seagulls above an undulating ocean of horns, pianos, timpani, and other instruments, but the distinctions between the latter blur into a wave of sound while the strings hold forth with their piercing melodies. At times, the effect is riveting, which is not the sort of listener response with which easy listening music is usually associated. Instrumental Favorites is mood music suitable for relaxation, but -- like all good mood music -- has arrangements that are interesting enough to reward close listening. As the title suggests, Instrumental Favorites is not a hit-oriented collection, although it does contain four of Mantovani's biggest hits. The 24-track anthology spans the years 1951-69, concentrating on well-known melodies drawn from Mantovani's many albums. Mantovani wasn't a one-note music maker, so "Games That Lovers Play" features a prominent electric guitar, and "Manhattan Serenade" is richly orchestrated with a variety of instruments that weave in and out. Rossini's "La Boutique Fantasque -- Can Can" is a brassy, dramatic piece that breaks the mellow mood but shows how Mantovani sometimes challenged the distinctions between light and classical music. The arrangements are strictly instrumental without the wordless vocal choruses that populate so many orchestral pop recordings that are categorized as instrumental music. Instrumental Favorites is a generous and serious anthology of an artist who is not often taken seriously.
Instrumental Favorites Review
by Greg Adams