JOHANNES BRAHMS Variations on a Theme of Josef Haydn “The Philharmonia 75th anniversary CD box set contains some really thrilling performances from a dazzling array of soloists and conductors—Karajan, Giulini, Klemperer, Kletzki and Cantelli among them—but the ones I’m most fascinated by are the concerts Toscanini gave with the orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 1952 which provide a wonderful snapshot of the Philharmonia Orchestra live on stage in its first decade.” / John’s right on this one, can’t do better than Arturo Toscanini at the RFH in ’52 with the Philharmonia
MAURICE RAVEL Daphnis et Chloe Suite no 2 “Once it became apparent that we would all be spending our days at home, I decided to embark on a project I had been putting off for years:correcting all of the many thousands of errors in Ravel’s masterpiece, Daphnis et Chloe. I soon became thoroughly absorbed in this rather epic task and ended up completing a brand new edition of the whole ballet which I will be recording next year. Here’s the peerless Charles Munch conducting the Second Suite.” / Listen, you. If you can do better than Charles Dutoit (Montreal, 2005—the FULL 56 minutes, with CHORUS) I’ll plotz. (No matter what, you’ll always be number one with me, that won’t change.)
EDWARD ELGAR The Dream of Gerontius “I’ve been making my way through all 109 discs of the new Warner Classics Barbirolli box set—a conductor whose work I come back to time and time again. There’s a fervour and intensity to his music making that is utterly compelling and this legendary performance of Elgar’s greatest work has, for me, no equal.” / Elgar, a devout Roman Catholic, was something of a religious mystic and this is evident in his much of his work, no more so than in this looong, stately but yummy setting to Cardinal Newman’s musing on death and redemption
TEDDY WILSON Don’t Blame Me by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields “I love, love, love Teddy Wilson’s piano playing—I’ve had his solo piano discs on a loop for days…” / Nah. If you want to hear one of the greatest swing* pianists ever at his best, here he is doing “I Got Rhythm” by the Gershwin brothers
KEELY SMITH Cocktails for Two by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow “Songs—in all their guises(!!!)**—have always been at the centre of my musical life. The great American songwriters from the first half of the last century gave us so many treasures and I’d never want to be without them. Last week my trombonist friend, Andy Wood, reminded me just how great Keely Smith is.” / When I was a little tiny teeny girl, I thought listening to Keely Smith singing this lush Charles Trenet-Albert Beach songbook standard “I Wish You Love” on the radio was like walking through an enchanted forest
*I am astonished that John actually, correctly, described Teddy Wilson as a Swing musician rather than put him into the catchall Jazz bag, which I’d have expected him to do, considering who was his teacher. His teacher was Richard Rodney Bennett. My teacher (at CUNY) was YUSEF LATEEF (download his 1957 album Jazz Mood here in full).
**John, are you conflating song with melody, or what? Only asking as a humble member of your audience.
Sweet love doth now invite
Thy graces that refrain
To do me due delight
To see, to hear
To touch, to kiss
To die with thee again
In sweetest sympathy
That I may cease to mourn
Through thy unkind disdain
For now left and forlorn
I sit, I sigh
I weep, I faint
I die, in deadly pain
And endless misery
Draw forth thy wounding dart:
Thou canst not pierce her heart;
For I that do approve
By sighs and tears
More hot than are
Thy shafts, did tempt while she
For scanty tryumphs laughs
There were some particularly strong singers in the BBC Proms concert at the Royal Albert back in 2011 I take pleasure in remembering, on this gray Monday two days before The Inauguration. “Serenade” from The Student Prince was one of my mother’s favorite numbers, she just thrilled to it, especially when Mario Lanza was singing. “Can’t Help Singing” was in my Deanna Durbin Songbook when I was a teenager. “The Man That Got Away” was sung at my friend’s funeral—the friend who left me all his Andre Previn records—by his grieving lover. And then there’s “Secret Love”.
Disappointing to hear that John won’t be doing Britten’s The Turn of the Screw at Wilton’s Music Hall in London this month. So, to cheer everybody up, here’s the full 2-hour program of my John and The John Wilson Orchestra at the Proms, 2013. That’s Jane Monheit, John, and Matt Ford below.
SONG MEDLEY (YT): – “An Affair to Remember” (from the 1957 film; 20th Century Fox) / Harry Warren, Leo McCarey (the film’s director), Harold Damson – “Something’s Gotta Give” (from Daddy Long Legs; 20th Century Fox, 1955) / Johnny Mercer – “Young at Heart” (from the 1955 film; Warner Bros) / Johnny Richards, Carolyn Leigh – “It’s Magic” (from Romance On the High Seas; Warner Bros, 1948) / Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn – “The Tender Trap” (from the 1955 film; MGM) / Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn – “My Foolish Heart” (from the 1949 film; Samuel Goldwyn/RKO) / Ned Washington, Victor Young – “Three Coins in the Fountain” (from the 1954 film; 20th Century Fox) / Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn – “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” (from the 1955 film; 20th Century Fox) / Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster – “That’s Amore” (from The Caddy; Paramount, 1953) / Harry Warren, Jack Brooks – “Que Sera, Sera” (from The Man Who Knew Too Much; Paramount, 1956 / Jay Livingston, Ray Evans – “All the Way” (from The Joker is Wild, 1957; Paramount) / Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn
A Place In the Sun (suite from the 1951 film; Paramount) / Franz Waxman
“We’re In the Money” (from Gold Diggers of 1933) / Harry Warren, Al Dubin Count on you to include the lyrics in pig Latin.
“The Desert Song” (from the 1953 film) / Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II Meh. I think the only reason you worked this in is because Kim Criswell’s singing a Romberg song in your 5 January concert in Stockholm, “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise”, which is a hot, HOT number. In fact I can’t believe you’re going to stand on the same stage when she sings that song and not get incinerated. But that’s just you I guess.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (suite; from the 1948 film) / Max Steiner God, I forgot how repetitive Max Steiner can be when he’s not cribbing from Herman Hupfeld.
The Old Man and the Sea (suite, 1st movement; from the 1958 film) / Dmitri Tiomkin One movement, mercifully short.
“The Man That Got Away” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin [in an obvious nod to the movie’s latest remake] Of all your singers, Louise Dearman is the only one who could’ve carried these two numbers in this room particularly, and whatever luck or good judgment (and I’m nuts about you dear, but I’m never completely confident about your judgment in these matters) brought her there I’m glad.
“Get Me to the Church On Time” (from My Fair Lady, 1962) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner A little harkening back to your 2012 Proms triumph, eh?
25-MINUTE INTERVAL Proms Plus Talk: a discussion of some of the great film scores being played tonight [Hah! In a pig’s eye] with Matthew Sweet, David Benedict and Pamela Hutchinson
Gypsy (overture; from the 1962 film) / Jule Styne, arr Ramin and Ginzler I still have the clip of you conducting this at the 2012 Proms (the other one). This one is sooo much hotter.
Now, Voyager (suite; from the 1942 film) / Max Steiner John, I’m afraid I really didn’t give this number a fair hearing the first time so I’m going to listen to it again and compare it to your Chandos 2022 recording. But you know, I almost missed the old dear telling Katie Durham that YOU wrote this arrangement because the Mountview kids down on the floor were leading a cheer [@1:05:00].
“The Deadwood Stage” (from Calamity Jane, 1953) / Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster [a Doris Day tribute] O-kay! A FULL number from a musical, complete with chorus—this is the very thing that made your name. All is forgiven.
“It’s Magic” (from Romance On the High Seas [correction, BBC: “On”, not “In”], 1948) / Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn [again, a Doris Day tribute] What in the name of heaven possessed whoever decided to include the worst song Jule Styne ever wrote? Redeemable only—only—if Bugs Bunny (YT) sings it.
A Streetcar Named Desire (main title; from the 1951 film) / Alex North Oh, you’re going to have fun with this one when you have to give sexy program notes to the audience from the podium, like you did in Brighton.
Music and lyrics by Joe Lubin, Hal Kanter and Terry Melcher; arranged by composer Jack Nitzsche (of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame). Sung by Doris Day and chorus with West Coast session singers The Blossoms, featuring Darlene Love(!!!), Fanita James, and Jean King.
You wouldn’t look at him to think that Levant, the eternal loafer/boy genius, was a fine tunesmith as well, would you? But here’s his plaintive standard sung by one of the most identifiable singers in American music. From After Midnight, Capitol Records.
If I cried a little bit
When first I learned the truth
Don't blame it on my heart
Blame it on my youth
Oscar Moore, guitar and Joe Comfort, double bass. The creamy Nat Cole at the piano.
Between 2000 and 2005 John recorded 8 albums for the venerable jazz/swing/dance band label Vocalion. Whereas four months ago I had none, I now have 6 of them. I have that awful Orchestral Jazz he did with Richard Rodney Bennett; his 2 albums of Angela Morley’s work; his Paul Weston and his Geraldo (see “Geraldo Among the Filipinos, 1963”); and I just ordered Dance Date.
There are two other albums I haven’t gotten yet: One is with a pleasant but unimaginative crooner named Gary Williams (who I suspect was the chap who enabled John to increase the size of his orchestra—“He just turned up one day at my door with a pot of money and said, ‘Will you put together a great big orchestra for me to sing to?’ And that was the start of it,” said my blinky winsome John in a 2011 interview at the BFI) but it doesn’t sound interesting enough to drop fifteen bucks on.
But this one, Lessons In Love, sounds perfectly gorgeous, the little I heard—it’s classic Songbook stuff—and I’m dying to have it. It’s Lance Ellington’s strong clear vocals and fundamental John Wilson Orchestra through and through. Trouble is, it apparently went through a limited pressing so available copies run from 115 American bucks upward. How can a record only 13 years old be a collector’s item already??
Fast forward through World War II to Al Williams’ Papagayo Room in the Fairmont Hotel. It’s 2 a.m. Al’s place is the hangout on the late shift. Mexican food in the middle of the night? We were young and indestructible. Frank was on his own now and headlining at (again) the Golden Gate. The critics weren’t impressed with “Frankie,” as they called him, to his disgust, but the schoolgirls were cutting classes to catch his shows and I was giving him sincere plugs. At the Papagayo Room on his closing night, a burly broken-nosed guy in a polo coat came to my table and said, “You Caen?” When I nodded warily, he slipped me a small package, said, “Frank says t’anks” and disappeared. The package contained a solid gold Dunhill lighter. It was the first but not the last time I would be reminded of Sinatra’s penchant for extravagant gifts…
The Queen of Broadway Bernadette Peters entices conductor John Mauceri with her many, many assets, courtesy of Leonard Bernstein and the great lyric team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden. “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town. Fun starts here at 4:45.
I'm a pot of joy for a hungry boy,
Baby, I'm cookin' with gas.
Oh, I'm a gumdrop,
A sweet lollipop,
A brook trout right out of the brook,
And what's more, baby, I can cook!
Not my favorite version of all the R&H Cinderellas (this is my favorite version—I mean come on, it’s Julie Andrews) but this one boasts, as I mentioned, the gorgeous pinoy Paolo Montalban singing “The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings as well as the Queen of Broadway, Bernadette Peters, singing great another interpolated Rodgers song, “Falling in Love with Love“. Nifty score arrangement by Doug Besterman.
The sweetest sounds I'll ever hear
Are still inside my head
The kindest words I'll ever know
Are waiting to be said
Announcer Don Wilson, Mary Livingston, Jack Benny, and Irish-Heritage Tenor Dennis Day
Fellow Minnesotan Clara Edwards (1880-1974) began her career as a composer and songwriter in the 1920s, joining the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1925. Edwards composed over 100 works and published over 60 songs. Her songs were “quickly taken up by publishers” (her words), and many famous singers performed them, including soprano Lily Pons and baritone Ezio Pinza. Her most successful song was “With the Wind and the Rain In Your Hair”, with lyrics by Jack Lawrence.
“Long Ago and Far Away” is a popular song from the Columbia Pictures 1944 Technicolor film musical Cover Girl starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. The music was written by Jerome Kern and the lyrics were written by Ira Gershwin. Along with the Blane/Martin Judy classic “The Trolley Song”, “Long Ago…” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1944 but both lost out to Bing Crosby’s hit “Swinging on a Star”. Sixty years later it finished #92 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
This is the song that clinched for me that solfeggist job at ASCAP.
“Long Ago and Far Away” (@07:00) Dennis Day and the Phil Harris Orchestra The Jack Benny Program 04 September 1944