Various Artists

The Golden Age of Light Music: British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras

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This is an offbeat disc within the Guild label's Golden Age of Light Music series, which has mostly been devoted to the genre known in North America as easy listening. The selection here certainly overlaps with the material of that genre: light classical pieces, tunes from stage musicals and film scores, small steps in the direction of jazz and pop. But the recorded repertoire on this disc is unique, and uniquely British. The program consists of selections by cinema and theater orchestras, which of course existed in many countries but were extensively recorded only in Britain. Most of the music comes from sources other than actual film scores, although the several film selections inlcude one composed by the extremely prolific and almost forgotten American composer John Stepan Zamecnik (Babylonian Nights, track 12), a figure in search of an academic chronicler. The most distinctive feature of the program is the inclusion of several pieces that feature a theater organ; sample track 2, Ernest Bucalossi's Grasshoppers' Dance, for the unearthly effect. As early on-location recordings, these will be significant for those interested in the history of recording per se, and they're a great deal of fun for everybody else, as well. Other items of interest include a delicate Scarf Dance by Cécile Chaminade, another once-familiar composer who was forgotten until feminist scholarship resurrected her. The theater orchestras themselves, never that popular in the U.S. (where organists held the spotlight alone), vanished after World War II, giving the disc as a whole the faint flavor of an undiscovered treasure chest. It's not the disc to choose for those curious about Guild's series, but it and its Vol. 2 companion are recommended for anyone interested in British popular culture, film history, or light classical genres in general.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:21
2
3:10
Show Boat, musical in 2 acts
3 3:17
4 2:02
5 6:11
Parisian Sketches (2)
6
2:46
Conversation Piece, musical
7 7:15
8 2:55
9
2:49
The Cat and the Fiddle, musical in 2 acts
10 6:04
11 4:36
12
3:14
The Vagabond King, operetta
13 3:12
Three Light Pieces, suite for orchestra
14
3:03
15 3:06
Fleet's Lit Up, musical play
16 8:31
17 2:03
18
3:26
King of Jazz, film score
19 8:08
blue highlight denotes track pick