Olivier Messiaen and his Turagalila Symphony

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Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, teacher, and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. Messiaen was born on December 10, 1908, in Avignon, France, into a literary family, the elder of two sons of Cécile Sauvage, a poet, and Pierre Messiaen, a teacher of English who translated the plays of William Shakespeare into French. Soon after his birth the family moved to Ambert, the birthplace of Chabrier, where his brother Alain was born in 1913. At the outbreak of World War I, Pierre Messiaen enlisted and Cécile took their two boys to live with her brother in Grenoble. There Messiaen became fascinated with drama, reciting Shakespeare to his brother with the help of a home-made toy theatre with translucent backdrops made from old cellophane wrappers. At this time he also adopted the Roman Catholic faith. Having already taught himself to play the piano, he still took piano lessons. His interest included the recent music of French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, and he asked for opera vocal scores for Christmas presents. Around this time he began to compose. In 1918 his father returned from the war and the family moved to Nantes. Olivier continued music lessons, and one of his teachers, Jehan de Gibon, gave him a score of Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande. The following year Pierre Messiaen gained a teaching post in Paris. Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1919, aged 11.

At the Conservatoire, where his teachers included Georges Falkenberg for piano, Noël Gallon for counterpoint and fugue, and professor Baggers for timpani and percussion, Messiaen made excellent academic progress. In 1924, aged 15, he was awarded second prize in harmony, having been taught in that subject by professor Jean Gallon. In 1925 he won first prize in piano accompaniment, and in 1926 he gained first prize in fugue. After studying with Maurice Emmanuel, he was awarded second prize for the history of music in 1928. Emmanuel engendered an interest in ancient Greek rhythms and exotic modes. After showing improvisation skills on the piano Messiaen studied organ with Marcel Dupré. Messiaen, having never seen an organ console, sat quietly for an hour while Dupré explained and demonstrated the instrument, and then came back a week later to play Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fantasia in C minor to an impressive standard. Messiaen gained first prize in organ playing and improvisation in 1929. After a year studying composition with Charles-Marie Widor, in autumn 1927 he entered the class of the newly appointed Paul Dukas. Messiaen’s mother died of tuberculosis shortly before the class began. Despite his grief, he resumed his studies, and in 1930 Messiaen won first prize in composition. While a student he composed his first published works—his eight Préludes for piano. The earlier Le banquet céleste was published subsequently. These exhibit Messiaen’s use of modes and palindromic rhythms. His public début came in 1931 with his orchestral suite Les offrandes oubliées. That year he first heard a gamelan group, sparking his interest in the use of tuned percussion.

From 1929, Messiaen regularly deputised at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris, for the organist Charles Quef, who was ill at the time. The post became vacant in 1931 when Quef died, and Dupré, Charles Tournemire and Widor among others supported Messiaen’s candidacy. His formal application included a letter of recommendation from Widor. The appointment was confirmed in 1931, and he remained the organist at the church for more than sixty years. He also assumed a post at the Schola Cantorum de Paris in the early 1930s. He married the violinist and composer Claire Delbos, daughter of a Sorbonne professor, in 1932. Their marriage inspired him to both compose works for her to play, such as Thème et variations for violin and piano in the year they were married, and to write pieces to celebrate their domestic happiness, including the song cycle Poèmes pour Mi in 1936, which he orchestrated in 1937. Mi was Messiaen’s affectionate nickname for his wife. In 1937 their son Pascal was born. The marriage turned to tragedy when Claire lost her memory after an operation and spent the rest of her life in mental institutions. From 1934 to 1939 he taught piano sight reading at the École Normale de Musique and an organ improvisation course at the Schola Cantorium.

In 1936, along with André Jolivet, Daniel-Lesur, and Yves Baudrier, Messiaen formed the group La jeune France (“Young France”). In response to a commission for a piece to accompany light-and water-shows on the Seine during the Paris Exposition, in 1937 Messiaen demonstrated his interest in using the ondes Martenot, an electronic instrument, by composing Fêtes des belles eaux for an ensemble of six. He included a part for the instrument in several of his subsequent compositions. During this period he composed several multi-movement organ works. He arranged his orchestral suite L’ascension (“The Ascension”) for organ, replacing the orchestral version’s third movement with an entirely new movement, Transports de joie d’une âme devant la gloire du Christ qui est la sienne (“Ecstasies of a soul before the glory of Christ, which is its own glory”). He also wrote the extensive cycles La Nativité du Seigneur (“The Nativity of the Lord”) and Les corps glorieux (“The glorious bodies”).

At the outbreak of World War II, Messiaen was drafted into the French army. Due to poor eyesight, he was enlisted as a medical auxiliary rather than an active combatant. He was captured at Verdun, taken to Görlitz in May 1940, and was imprisoned at Stalag VIII-A. He met a violinist, a cellist and a clarinettist among his fellow prisoners. He wrote a trio for them, which he gradually incorporated into his Quatuor pour la fin du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time”). The Quartet was first performed in January 1941 to an audience of prisoners and prison guards, with the composer playing a poorly maintained upright piano in freezing conditions. Shortly after his release from Görlitz in May 1941, Messiaen was appointed a professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatoire, where he taught until his retirement in 1978. He compiled his Technique de mon langage musical (“Technique of my musical language”) published in 1944, in which he quotes many examples from his music, particularly the Quartet. Among his early students were the composers Pierre Boulez and Karel Goeyvaerts. Other pupils included Iannis Xenakis in 1951, Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1952, Alexander Goehr in 1956–57, Tristan Murail in 1967–72, and George Benjamin during the late 1970s.

In 1943, Messiaen wrote Visions de l’Amen (“Visions of the Amen”) for two pianos for Yvonne Loriod and himself to perform. Shortly thereafter he composed the enormous solo piano cycle Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (“Twenty gazes on the child Jesus”) for her. Again for Loriod, he wrote Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine (“Three small liturgies of the Divine Presence”) for female chorus and orchestra which includes a difficult solo piano part. Two years after Visions de l’Amen, Messiaen composed the song cycle Harawi, the first of three works inspired by the legend of Tristan and Isolde. The second of these works about human as opposed to divine love was the result of a commission from Serge Koussevitsky. This was the ten-movement Turangalîla-Symphonie. It is not a conventional symphony, but rather an extended meditation on the joy of human union and love. The third piece inspired by the Tristan myth was Cinq rechants for twelve unaccompanied singers, described by Messiaen as influenced by the alba of the troubadours. Messiaen visited the United States in 1949, where his music was conducted by Koussevitsky and Leopold Stokowski. His Turangalîla-Symphonie was first performed in the US in 1949, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Messiaen taught an analysis class at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1947 he taught and performed with his wife for two weeks in Budapest. In 1949 he taught at Tanglewood. Beginning in summer 1949 he taught in the new music summer school classes at Darmstadt. He experimented with ways of making scales of other elements, including duration, articulation and dynamics, analogous to the chromatic pitch scale. The results of these innovations was the “Mode de valeurs et d’intensités” for piano (from the Quatre études de rythme). During this period he also experimented with musique concrète, music for recorded sounds. When in 1952 Messiaen was asked to provide a test piece for flautists wishing to enter the Paris Conservatoire, he composed the piece Le merle noir for flute and piano. While he had long been fascinated by birdsong, and birds had made appearances in several of his earlier works, for example La Nativité, Quatuor and Vingt regards), the flute piece was based entirely on the song of the blackbird. He took this development to a new level with his 1953 orchestral work Réveil des oiseaux—its material consists almost entirely of the birdsong one might hear between midnight and noon in the Jura. From this period onwards, Messiaen incorporated birdsong into all of his compositions, for example the collection of thirteen pieces for piano Catalogue d’oiseaux completed in 1958, and La fauvette des jardins of 1971

Messiaen’s first wife died in 1959 after a long illness, and in 1961 he married Loriod. He began to travel widely, to attend musical events, and to seek out and transcribe the songs of more exotic birds in the wild. Loriod frequently assisted her husband’s detailed studies of birdsong while walking with him, by making tape recordings for later reference. In 1962 he visited Japan, where Gagaku music and Noh theatre inspired the orchestral “Japanese sketches”, Sept haïkaï, which contain stylised imitations of traditional Japanese instruments. Pierre Boulez programmed first performances of Messiaen’s music at his Domaine musical concerts and the Donaueschingen festival ,included Réveil des oiseaux, Chronochromie, commissioned for the 1960 festival, and Couleurs de la cité céleste. Another work of this period, Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, was commissioned as a commemoration of the dead of the two World Wars and was performed first semi-privately in the Sainte-Chapelle, then publicly in Chartres Cathedral with Charles de Gaulle in the audience. His reputation as a composer continued to grow and in 1959, he was nominated as an Officier of the Légion d’honneur. In 1966 he was officially appointed professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire, although he had in effect been teaching composition for years. Further honours included election to the Institut de France in 1967 and the Académie des beaux-arts in 1968, the Erasmus Prize in 1971, the award of the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 1975, the Sonning Award (Denmark’s highest musical honour) in 1977, the Wolf Prize in Arts in 1982, and the presentation of the Croix de Commander of the Belgian Order of the Crown in 1980.

Messiaen’s next work was the enormous La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ. The composition occupied him from 1965 to 1969 and the musicians employed include a 100-voice ten-part choir, seven solo instruments and large orchestra. Its fourteen movements are a meditation on the story of Christ’s Transfiguration. Shortly after its completion, Messiaen received a commission from Alice Tully for a work to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial. He arranged a visit to the US in spring 1972, and was inspired by Bryce Canyon in Utah, where he observed the canyon’s distinctive colors and birdsong. The twelve-movement orchestral piece Des canyons aux étoiles was the result, first performed in 1974 in New York. In 1971, he had been asked to compose a piece for the Paris Opéra. While reluctant to undertake such a major project, he was persuaded in 1975 to accept the commission and began work on his Saint-François d’Assise. The composition was intensive as he also wrote his own libretto and occupied him from 1975 to 1979; the orchestration was carried out from 1979 until 1983. It was first performed in 1983. In the summer of 1978, Messiaen retired from teaching at the Conservatoire. In 1984 he published a major collection of organ pieces, Livre du Saint Sacrement; other works include birdsong pieces for solo piano, and works for piano with orchestra. He was promoted to the highest rank of the Légion d’honneur, the Grand-Croix, in 1987. Although in considerable pain near the end of his life requiring repeated surgery on his back, he was able to fulfil a commission from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Éclairs sur l’au-delà, which was premièred six months after his death which occurred in Clichy, near Paris, on April 27, 1992.

My collection includes the following works by Olivier Messiaen:

L’Ascension (1933).
Turangalila Symphonie (1948).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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Felix Mendelssohn and his Fourth Symphony, “Italian”

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Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (February 3, 1809–November 4, 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period, who was born on February 3, 1809, in Hamburg, Germany, at the time an independent city-state. Mendelssohn’s father was the banker Abraham Mendelssohn, the son of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. His mother was Lea Salomon, a member of the Itzig family and a sister of Jakob Salomon Bartholdy. Mendelssohn was the second of four children; his older sister Fanny also displayed exceptional and precocious musical talent. The family moved to Berlin in 1811. Abraham and Lea Mendelssohn sought to give their children – Fanny, Felix, Paul and Rebecka – the best education possible. Fanny became a well-known pianist and amateur composer; originally Abraham had thought that she, rather than Felix, would be the more musical. However, at that time, it was not considered proper for a woman to have a career in music, so Fanny remained an active, but non-professional musician. Abraham was also disinclined to allow Felix to follow a musical career until it became clear that he intended seriously to dedicate himself to it

Mendelssohn grew up in an intellectual environment. Frequent visitors to the salon organized by his parents at the family’s home in Berlin included artists, musicians and scientists, amongst them Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, and the mathematician Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet, whom Mendelssohn’s sister Rebecka would later marry. Abraham Mendelssohn converted from the Jewish religion. He and his wife deliberately decided not to have Felix circumcised, in contravention of the Jewish tradition. Felix and his siblings were baptized by a Reformed Church minister in 1816. The name Bartholdy was added at the suggestion of Lea’s brother, Jakob Salomon Bartholdy, who had inherited a property of this name in Luisenstadt and adopted it as his own surname. On embarking on his musical career, Felix did not entirely drop the name Mendelssohn as Abraham requested, but in deference to his father signed his letters and had his visiting cards printed using the form ‘Mendelssohn Bartholdy’.

Like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart before him, Mendelssohn was regarded as a child prodigy. He began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six, and at seven was tutored by Marie Bigot in Paris. After the family moved to Berlin, all four Mendelssohn children studied piano with Ludwig Berger, who was himself a former student of Muzio Clementi. From at least May 1819 Felix and his sister Fanny studied counterpoint and composition with Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin. This was an important influence on his future career. Mendelssohn probably made his first public concert appearance at age 9, when he participated in a chamber music concert accompanying a horn duo. He was also a prolific composer from an early age. As an adolescent, his works were often performed at home with a private orchestra for the associates of his wealthy parents amongst the intellectual elite of Berlin. Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn wrote 12 string symphonies for such concerts. He wrote his first published work, a piano quartet, by the time he was 13. It was probably Abraham Mendelssohn who procured the publication of Mendelssohn’s early piano quartet by the house of Schlesinger. In 1821 Zelter introduced Mendelssohn to his friend and correspondent, the elderly Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was greatly impressed by the child. In 1824, the 15-year-old wrote his first symphony for full orchestra (in C minor, Op. 11).

In 1824 Mendelssohn studied under the composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles. At age 16 Mendelssohn wrote his String Octet in E-flat major, the first work which showed the full power of his genius. This Octet and his Overture to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which he wrote a year later in 1826, are the best-known of his early works. The year 1827 saw the premiere – and sole performance in his lifetime – of Mendelssohn’s opera, Die Hochzeit des Camacho. The failure of this production left him disinclined to venture into the genre again. Mendelssohn set a number of Goethe’s poems to music. His other compositions inspired by Goethe include the overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, (Op. 27, 1828) and the cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night, Op. 60, 1832). In 1829, with the backing of Zelter and the assistance of actor Eduard Devrient, Mendelssohn arranged and conducted a performance in Berlin of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion. The success of this performance, the first since Bach’s death in 1750, was an important element in the revival of J. S. Bach’s music in Germany and, eventually, throughout Europe.

Over the next few years Mendelssohn traveled widely, including making his first visit to England in 1829, and also visiting amongst other places Vienna, Florence, Milan, Rome and Naples, in all of which he met with local and visiting musicians and artists. These years proved the germination for some of his most famous works, including the Hebrides Overture and the Scottish and Italian symphonies. On Zelter’s death in 1832, Mendelssohn had hopes of succeeding him as conductor of the Berlin Singakademie. However, at a vote in January 1833 he was defeated for the post by Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen. Following this, Mendelssohn divided most of his professional time over the next few years between Britain and Düsseldorf, where he was appointed musical director (his first paid post as a musician) in 1833. In the spring of that year Mendelssohn directed the Lower Rhenish Music Festival in Düsseldorf, beginning with a performance of George Frederick Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt prepared from the original score which he had found in London. This precipitated a Handel revival in Germany, similar to the reawakened interest in J. S. Bach following his performance of the St Matthew Passion. At the end of 1834, he resigned his position in Düsseldorf. He had offers from both Munich and Leipzig for important musical posts, and decided in 1835 to accept the latter.

In 1835 Mendelssohn was named conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He chose this position although he had also been offered direction of the opera house in Munich and the editorship of the prestigious music journal, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. Mendelssohn concentrated on developing the musical life of Leipzig, working with the orchestra, the opera house, the Choir of St. Thomas Church, and the city’s other choral and musical institutions. A landmark event during Mendelssohn’s Leipzig years was the premiere of his oratorio St. Paul, given at the Lower Rhenish Festival in Düsseldorf in 1836, shortly after the death of the composer’s father, which much affected him. Mendelssohn married Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud (1817–1853), the daughter of a French Reformed Church clergyman, on March 28, 1837. The couple had five children, Carl, Marie, Paul, Lilli, and Felix. Mendelssohn also revived interest in Franz Schubert. Robert Schumann discovered the manuscript of Schubert’s 9th Symphony and sent it to Mendelssohn, who promptly premiered it in Leipzig on March 21, 1839, more than a decade after Schubert’s death. In 1843 Mendelssohn founded a major music school – the Leipzig Conservatory, now the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” or, in its own English self-designation, the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre. He persuaded Ignaz Moscheles and Robert Schumann to join him. Other prominent musicians, including string players Ferdinand David and Joseph Joachim and music theorist Moritz Hauptmann, also became staff members.

On his eighth visit to Britain in the summer of 1844, Mendelssohn conducted five of the Philharmonic concerts in London. The Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844), written for Ferdinand David, has become one of the most popular of all of Mendelssohn’s compositions. When Friedrich Wilhelm IV came to the Prussian throne in 1840 with ambitions to develop Berlin as a cultural center. Mendelssohn spend some time in Berlin, writing some church music, and, at the King’s request, music for productions of Sophocles’s Antigone (1841) and Oedipus at Colonus (1845), Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1843), for which Mendelssohn also wrote incidental music, including the famous Wedding March, in addition to his Overture, and Racine’s Athalie (1845). Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah was premiered in Birmingham at the Triennial Music Festival on August 26, 1846, using an English translation by William Bartholomew, who served as his text author and translator for many of his works during his time in England. On his last visit to Britain in 1847, Mendelssohn was the soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and conducted his own Scottish Symphony with the Philharmonic Orchestra before the Queen and Prince Albert.

Mendelssohn suffered from poor health in the final years of his life, probably aggravated by nervous problems and overwork. A final tour of England left him exhausted and ill from a hectic schedule. The death of his sister Fanny on May 14, 1847 caused him great distress. Less than six months later, on 4 November, Mendelssohn himself died in Leipzig after a series of strokes at the age of 38. His grandfather Moses, his sister Fanny, and both his parents had died from similar apoplexies. His funeral was held at the Paulinerkirche, Leipzig, and he was buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery No. 1 in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The pallbearers included Moscheles, Schumann and Niels Gade. At his death Mendelssohn left some sketches for an opera on the story of the Lorelei based on the legend of the Lorelei Rhine maidens. His orchestral music includes five symphonies, some concert overtures, and seven concertos. Mendelssohn wrote his first chamber music at the age of 10. Mendelssohn himself was both pianist and an organist, and composed solo pieces for both. He also produced some theater, vocal, and choral music.

The following works by Felix Mendelssohn are contained in my collection:

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture in DM (1828).
Capriccio Brillant in BbM, op. 22 (1825/1832).
(Piano) Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in gm, op. 25 (1831).
(Piano) Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in dm, op. 40 (1837).
Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra in dm (1823).
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra No. 1 in EM (1823).
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra No. 2 in AbM (1824).
(Violin) Concerto for Violin and Strings in dm (1822).
(Violin) Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in em, op. 64 (1844).
The Fair Melusine Overture in EM (1833).
The Hebrides Overture in bm (Fingal’s Cave), op. 26 (1830).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, op. 21 (1826)/
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Incidental Music, op. 61 (1843).
Rondo Brillant in EbM, op. 29 (1834).
String Symphony No. 1 in CM (1821).
String Symphony No. 2 in DM (1821).
String Symphony No. 3 in em (1821).
String Symphony No. 4 in cm (1821).
String Symphony No. 5 in BbM (1821).
String Symphony No. 6 in EbM (1821).
String Symphony No. 7 in dm (1822).
String Symphony No. 8 in DM (1822).
String Symphony No. 9 in cm (1823).
String Symphony No. 10 in bm (1823).
String Symphony No. 11 in FM (1823).
String Symphony No. 12 in gm (1823).
Symphony No. 2 in BbM, op. 52, Lobgesang (1840).
Symphony No. 3 in am, op. 56, Scottish.
Symphony No. 4 in AM, op. 90, Italian (1832).
Symphony No. 5 in DM, op. 107, Reformation;

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Jerry Herman and “Hello, Dolly!”

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Gerald “Jerry” Herman (born July 10, 1931) is an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway musical theater. Born on July 10, 1931, in New York City, NY, and raised in Jersey City, NJ, by musically inclined middle-class Jewish parents, Herman learned to play piano at an early age, and the three frequently attended Broadway musicals. His father, Harry, was a gym teacher and in the summer worked in the Catskill Mountains hotels. His mother, Ruth, also worked in the hotels as a singer, pianist, and children’s teacher, and eventually became an English teacher. After marrying, they lived in Jersey City and continued to work in the summers in various camps until they became head counselors and finally ran Stissing Lake Camp in the Berkshire Mountains. Herman spent all of his summers there, from age 6 to 23. It was at camp that he first became involved in theatrical productions, as director of Oklahoma!, Finian’s Rainbow and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Herman graduated from Jersey City’s Henry Snyder High School. At the age of 17, Herman was introduced to Frank Loesser who, after hearing material he had written, urged him to continue composing. He left the Parsons School of Design to attend the University of Miami, which had one of the nation’s most avant garde theater departments. While an undergraduate student at the University of Miami Herman produced, wrote and directed a college musical called Sketchbook. It was scheduled to run for three performances, but the show created an instant massive patron demand. Herman’s Sketchbook attracted packed houses for an additional 17 performances before it ended. It was the longest running show in the history of University on Miami theater. He was also a member of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.

After graduation from the University of Miami, Herman moved to New York City, where he produced the Off-Broadway revue I Feel Wonderful, which was made up of material he had written at the University. It opened at the Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village on October 18, 1954, and ran for 48 performances. It was his only show his mother was able to see; shortly after it opened, she died of cancer at the age of forty-four. In 1957, while playing piano at a New York City jazz club called the Showplace, he was asked to write a show to replace one, Little Mary Sunshine, that had left the club. As well as supplying the music, Herman wrote the book and directed the one-hour revue, called Nightcap. He asked his friend, Phyllis Newman, to do movement and dance and it featured Charles Nelson Reilly, who later co-starred in Hello, Dolly!). The show opened in May 1958 and ran for two years.

Herman next collected enough original material to put together a revue called “Parade” in 1960. The cast included Charles Nelson Reilly and Dody Goodman. It first opened at the Showplace and, expanded, moved to the Players Theatre in January 1960. During 1960, Herman also met playwright Tad Mosel and the two men collaborated on an Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Mosel’s 1953 television play, Madame Aphrodite. The musical of the same name, which starred Nancy Andrews in the title role, opened at the Orpheum Theatre on December 29, 1961, but closed after only 13 performances. In 1960, Herman made his Broadway debut with the revue From A to Z, which featured contributions from newcomers Woody Allen and Fred Ebb as well. That same year producer Gerard Oestreicher approached him and asked if he would be interested in composing the score for a show about the founding of the state of Israel. The result was his first full-fledged Broadway musical, Milk and Honey (starring Molly Picon), in 1961. It received respectable reviews and ran for 543 performances.

In 1964, producer David Merrick united Herman with Carol Channing for a project that was to become one of his more successful, Hello, Dolly!, a musical adaptation of Thorton Wilder’s hit play, The Matchmaker. The original production ran for 2,844 performances, the longest running musical for its time, and was later revived three times. Although facing stiff competition from Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that season, winning 10, a record that remained unbroken for 37 years, until The Producers won 12 Tonys in 2001. In 1966, Herman’s next musical was the smash hit Mame starring Angela Lansbury, which introduced a string of Herman standards, most notably the ballad “If He Walked Into My Life”, the holiday favorite “We Need a Little Christmas”, and the title tune. Although not commercial successes, Dear World (1969) starring Angela Lansbury, Mack & Mabel (1974) starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters, and The Grand Tour (1979) starring Joel Grey are noted for their interesting concepts and their melodic, memorable scores.

In 1983, Herman had his third mega-hit with La Cage aux Folles starring George Hearn and Gene Barry, which broke box-office records at the Palace Theatre and earned Herman yet another Tony Award for Best Musical. La Cage aux Folles won the Tony Award for Best Musical (1983), is the only musical to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice (2005 and 2010), and therefore is the only show to win a Best Musical award for every staged Broadway production. He is honored by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 7090 Hollywood Boulevard. Other honors include the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, named after him by his alma mater. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1996 he provided the music for “Mrs. Santa Claus,” a CBS TV special starring Angela Lansbury. In 2011 Magnormos produced a triptych of his works in Melbourne, Victoria: “Milk and Honey”, “Dear World” and “Hello, Dolly!”. His string of awards and honors includes multiple Tonys, Grammys, Drama Desk Awards, the Kennedy Center Award, the Johnny Mercer Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award, the Frederick Lowe Award, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Theatre Hall of Fame.

My collection contains the following works by Jerry Herman:

Hello, Dolly! (1964): Hello, Dolly! (Title Song).
Mame (1966): Mame (Title Song).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Jules Massenet and the Meditation from Thais

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Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet (May 12, 1842 –August 13, 1912) was a French composer best known for his operas which were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he is ranked as one of the greatest melodists of his era, being admired for his lyricism, sensuality, occasional sentimentality, and theatrical aptness. Massenet was born on May 12, 1842, in Montaud, then an outlying hamlet and now a part of the city of Saint-Étienne, in the Loire, to the family of a struggling metal worker. When he was six, his family moved to Paris due to his father’s ill-health. There his mother, Adélaïde Massenet, née Royer, started taking piano pupils. She also taught Jules so well that at the age of 11 he became a pupil of Adolphe-François Laurent (piano), Henri Reber (harmony) and Ambroise Thomas (counterpoint) at the Conservatoire de Paris. He was still a student when his family moved from Paris to Chambéry, but Jules returned to Paris after a few months, living with a member of his father’s family. To support himself during his studies, he worked as timpanist for six years at the Théâtre Lyrique, playing also other percussion instruments in other theatres, and working as a pianist in the Café de Belleville.

Although at first some of Massenet’s teachers had not predicted for him any career in music, this changed in 1862 when he won the Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata David Rizzio and spent three years in Rome. There he met Franz Liszt, at whose request he gave piano lessons to Louise-Constance “Ninon” de Gressy, the daughter of a wealthy lady named Mme. Sainte-Marie. Ninon became Massenet’s wife in 1866. His first opera, La grand’ tante, was a one-act production at the Opéra-Comique in 1867. The composer’s First Orchestral Suite (originally entitled Symphony in F) premiered in 1867. This was the first of seven suites by Massenet, with programmatic subjects ranging from Alsace (Scènes alsaciennes, 1882) to Hungary (Scènes hongroises, 1871), and from Shakespeare (Scénes dramatiques, 1875) to Fairyland (Scènes de féerie, 1881). Massenet took a break from his composing to serve as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War, but returned to his art following the end of the conflict in 1871. His dramatic oratorio Marie-Magdeleine , first performed in 1873, won him praise from the likes of Tchaikovsky, d’Indy, and Gounod. His real mentor though was his teacher, the composer Ambroise Thomas, a man with important contacts in theatrical milieux. Another important early patron was his publisher, Georges Hartmann, whose connections with journalistic circles aided him in becoming better known during the difficult initial years of his composing activity.

The most famous of Massenet’s orchestral suites, Scénes pittoresques (Picturesque Scenes), was first performed in Paris during March of 1874. In 1876 Massenet received the Légion d’honneur, In 1877 Massenet’s exotic opera Le Roi de Lahore (The King of Lahore) had a highly successful premiere at the Paris Opera, marking the beginning of his ascendancy as France’s most prolific and celebrated operatic composer. At the invitation of his former teacher Thomas, from 1878, when he was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, to the exclusion of Camille Saint-Saëns, and at only 36 was the youngest member ever elected to the Académie, he worked as professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory where his pupils included André Bloch, Gustave Charpentier, Ernest Chausson, Reynaldo Hahn, Georges Enesco, and Charles Koechlin. His greatest successes were Manon in 1884, Werther in 1892, and Thaïs in 1894. He was appointed a Grand Officer of the Legion in 1899. His only piano concerto was first performed in 1903 and receives occasional modern performances. Notable later operas were Le jongleur de Notre-Dame, produced in 1902, and Don Quichotte, produced in Monte Carlo 1910, with the legendary Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin in the title-role. His autobiography was entitled Mes Souvenirs (1912; My Recollections). Massenet died on August 13, 1912, in Paris at the age of 70, after suffering from cancer for a long time.

A very prolific, hard-working composer, Massenet had over 25 extant operas to his credit. In addition to his operas, Massenet composed concert suites, ballet music, oratorios and cantatas and about two hundred songs, as well as chamber music and works for solo piano. He also wrote a considerable amount of incidental music for plays, including Sardou’s Le Crocodile (1886) and Racine’s Phèdre (1900). Some of his non-vocal output has achieved widespread popularity, and is commonly performed, such as the Méditation from Thaïs, which is a violin solo with orchestra, as well as the Aragonaise from his opera Le Cid, and the Élégie for cello and orchestra from his incidental music to Les Érinnyes. The latter two pieces are commonly played by piano students, and the Élégie became world-famous in many arrangements. The only known recording by Massenet is a scene from Sapho where he accompanies the soprano Georgette Leblanc on the piano. Soon after his death, Massenet’s style went out of fashion, and many of his operas fell into almost total oblivion. Apart from Manon and Werther, his works were rarely performed. However, since the mid-1970s, many operas of his such as Thaïs and Esclarmonde have undergone periodic revivals.

The following works by Jules Massenet are included in my collection:

Cendrillon (1899): Suite.
Esclarmonde (1890): Suite.
Manon: A Dispar Vision.
Suite No. 1, op. 13 (1865).
Thais: Meditation.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Bohuslav Martinu and his 2nd Symphony

martinu
Bohuslav Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a prolific Czech composer who was born on December 8, 1890, in Polička, a small town in the highlands of Bohemia near the Moravian border. His father Ferdinand, a shoemaker, served as fire watchman who rang the town bell, and the family lived in the tower of the St. Jacob Church. When Bohuslav had hardly begun public school, his parents entrusted him to the care of the Policka music teacher. By the age of 10 he had written his first compositions, including songs, piano music, symphonic poems, string quartets, and ballets. As a young violinist, he developed a strong reputation, giving his first public concert in his hometown in 1905. The townspeople raised enough money to fund his schooling, and in 1906, he left the countryside to begin studies at the Prague Conservatory.

Dropped from the violin program, Martinu was moved to the organ department, which taught composition, but was finally dismissed in 1910 and spent the next several years living back home in Polička attempting to gain some standing in the musical world. He had written several compositions by this time, including the Elegie for violin and piano, and the symphonic poems Anděl smrti and La Mort de Tintagiles, and submitted samples of his work to Josef Suk, a leading Czech composer. Suk encouraged him to pursue formal composition training, but this would not be possible until years later. In the meantime, he passed the state teaching examination and, exempted as a teacher from military service, maintained a studio in Polička throughout World War I, while continuing to compose and study on his own. It was during this time that he studied the music of the Bohemian Brethren, which would influence his style and musical voice.

As World War I drew to a close, and Czechoslovakia declared an independent republic, Martinů composed a celebratory cantata Česká rapsodie (“Czech Rhapsody” for solo, chorus, and orchestra), which was premiered in 1919 to great acclaim. As a violinist, he toured Europe with the National Theatre Orchestra, and in 1920 became a second violinist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, where he learned to master the composition of music for a large orchestra. in 1920. He also returned to the Conservatory and began formal composition study under Suk. Martinů’s modern style, including elements of impressionism and jazz, did not match the conservative styles in Prague, and he became determined to move to Paris. During these last years in Prague he completed his first string quartet, and two ballets: Who is the Most Powerful in the World? and Istar.

Martinů finally departed for Paris in 1923, having received a small scholarship from the Ministry of Education. He sought out Albert Roussel, whose individualistic style he respected, and began a series of informal lessons with him. Roussel would teach Martinů until his death in 1937, helping him focus and order his composition, rather than instructing him in a specific style. During the first years in Paris, Martinů assimilated many of the trends at the time, including jazz, neoclassicism, and surrealism. Ballets were his favorite medium for experimentation, including The Revolt (1925), The Butterfly That Stamped (1926), Le Raid Merveilleux (1927), La Revue de Cuisine (1927), and Les Larmes du Couteau (1928). Martinu composed a remarkable number of works during his Paris years. Among these were Polocas (“Halftime”) and La Bagarre (“Tumult”), both for orchestra, and an opera Voják a tanecnice (“The Soldier and the Dancer”), as well as the ballets and chamber music.

In Paris, Martinů was welcomed into the Czech artistic community living there at the time. He would retain close ties to his homeland, returning to Prague and Polička during the summer months and for premieres of his works. Along with new styles, Martinů would continue to look to his Bohemian and Moravian roots for musical ideas. The best known during this time is the ballet Špalíček (1932–33), which incorporates Czech folk tunes and nursery rhymes. In 1926, Martinů met Charlotte Quennehen (1894–1978), a French seamstress, and they married in 1931. In 1935 he was awarded a Czechoslovak State Prize for another of his operas, Hry o Marii (“The Miracle of Our Lady”). One of his most famous operas, Julietta aneb Snár (“Juliette, or The Key to Dreams”), was first performed before a Prague audience that same year. Other works from this period include the cantata Bouquet of Flowers, Tre Ricercari, and the relentless Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano, and timpani.

When the German army approached Paris early in the Second World War, Martinů fled, having been blacklisted for his connections to the Czech resistance. He and Charlotte journeyed first to the south of France, spending a short time in Switzerland, and then through Spain and Portugal, eventually reaching the United States in 1941 with the help of his friend and diplomat Miloš Šafránek. Even during these very trying times Martinu continued not only to compose daily, but also succeeded in writing music that is full of strength, vitality, hope, and joy. Among his works of this period are his Sinfonietta giocosa for piano and orchestra and Fantasia and Toccata for piano solo. Life in America was difficult for him. Martinu had to work hard to establish himself in the New World. However it was in America that Martinu mastered symphonic writing. A fall from a balcony in 1946 resulted in serious injury and high medical bills, and a temporary interruption in his ability to write music. Following his recovery, he composed a great deal and taught at the Mannes College of Music for most of the period from 1948 to 1956.

Martinu also taught at Yale University and the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood). His six symphonies were written in the eleven-year period 1942 to1953, the first five being produced between 1942 and 1946. Principally through these virtuoso symphonies, Martinu was to gain America’s respect. His notable students include Alan Hovhaness, H. Owen Reed, Jan Novák, Vítězslava Kaprálová, Howard Shanet and Burt Bacharach. In 1953, Martinů left the United States for France and settled in Nice, returning in 1955 to take up a teaching position at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; by now he was again composing as prolifically as before his accident. In 1956, he took up an appointment as composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, and the following year he gratefully took advantage of a generous offer by the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher and moved to Sacher’s estate in Switzerland.. During his last few years Martinu wrote an almost innumerable number of compositions. But, succumbing at last to a cancer that had been plaguing him for nearly a year, he died at a clinic in Liestal, Switzerland, on August 28, 1959.

Along with Leos Janacek, Bohuslav Martinu was one of the twin giants of Czech music in the twentieth century. Martinů was an immensely prolific and varied composer. Harry Halbreich’s catalog of Martinu’s music, to which the composer did not assign opus numbers, lists nearly 400 compositions. His sixteen operas include The Greek Passion after Kazantzakis, Ariadne after Neveu, and the radio opera Comedy on the Bridge, and he produced fourteen ballet scores. An impressive list of orchestral compositions includes six symphonies. There are concertos for a variety of instruments, including five for piano and a useful Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra. A large amount of chamber music is represented by duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets, octets and nonets.

Among these the seven string quartets deserve particular mention, in addition to the works for violin and piano and three cello sonatas. In addition to a large number of shorter piano pieces of all kinds, Martinů wrote a Fantaisie and other pieces for two pianos, as well as music for harpsichord, leaving his organ Vigilia unfinished at the time of his death in 1959. Choral works by Martinů include the remarkable oratorio Gilgameš, based on the ancient Babylonian epic of that name. There are choral works of biblical derivation and a number of choral arrangements of traditional Czech, Slovak and Moravian material. His songs include Magic Nights, settings of poems translated from the Chinese. Well established in the repertoire, Martinu’s best works confirm Martinu’s status as an important twentieth century composer. Many of his works are regularly performed or recorded.

My collection contains the following works by Bohuslav Martinu:

Symphony No. 2 (1943).
Symphony No. 4 (1945).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Cecil Milner and the Americana Suite

Cecil-Milner0017
Edward Cecil Milner (April 20, 1905-November 25, 1989) was a British composer, arranger and conductor who has sometimes been described as one of light music’s respected “backroom boys.” Born at Wimbledon in London, England, UK, on April 25, 1905, Cecil was the first born son of Ernest Edward Milner. Originally from Chesterfield, Ernest was involved with the Elder Dempster shipping business in Liverpool before coming to London in 1903 to help shape the future of Elders and Fyffes. Known as “The Great White Fleet,” the company’s ships, numbering over 100, transported passengers to the West Indies and imported bananas and fruit from the Caribbean and Cameroon. In whatever spare time he had in the 1920s, Ernest founded the Wimbledon Lyric Players, an amateur operatic group which still exists to this day. He married Marie Elizabeth Martindale, they had two sons, Geoffrey Ernest, who followed his father into the shipping business, and Edward Cecil, whose precocious talent made it inevitable that he would follow a career in music. As a youngster, Cecil took part in his father’s amateur dramatics. A family photograph shows him dressed up as Charlie Chaplin. Also, he would play piano with his brother on clarinet when the Lyric Players put on a production.

The Milner family home was Orkney at Wimbledon. From an early age both brothers were keenly interested in music, Cecil playing classical piano at London music festivals at the age of nine, his brother at ten. In those early days Cecil was a guest at a meal given to honor Puccini at one of the London hotels. The brothers attended King’s College in Wimbledon, where Cecil obtained credits in History, Latin, English, French, German and Mathematics. He later attained a certain fluency in Spanish and Russian. During the General Strike of April 1926 Cecil volunteered to be a temporary special constable in the Wimbledon area. At this age, 21, he was already well known in London music circles, for a letter from the Wimbledon Conservatoire of Music, dated February 4, 1927, invited him to the formation of a local flute club. Funded by his father at 14 guineas a term, Cecil attended the Royal Academy of Music in Marylebone Road from 1924 until 1932. Tutored on piano by Ambrose Coviello, then Claude Gascoigne, he studied composition and harmony under Norman O’Neill, the noted composer.

Following the ordinary curriculum at the Royal Academy, Cecil had two weekly lessons of one hour each on piano and one on composition. Harmony and counterpoint were also given as a one hour weekly lesson. Cecil, who possessed absolute perfect pitch, was instructed in aural training, too, as well as sight reading, score reading and transposition. As well as collecting half a dozen bronze and silver medals, he earned the highest awards, the Academy’s certificates of merit for aural training (1928), pianoforte (1929) and conducting (1932), the latter shared with Cedric King Palmer. He also shared the Oliveria Prescott Prize of full scores with Beryl Price in 1932 as a distinguished student of composition. Marking his success, his proud father presented him with a splendid Bechstein Boudoir grand piano, which is still in the possession of the Milner family today. One of Cecil’s first compositions, In a Pine Forest, a nocturne for orchestra, was performed at the Festival of British Music at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, on July 26, 1929, under the baton of Basil Cameron, the renowned conductor associated for many years with the Sir Henry Wood promenade concerts.

Basil Cameron also conducted Cecil’s Pastoral Suite for Orchestra at Hastings on February 28, 1930, and performed another of his works, Spanish Rhapsody. As well as the Australian born Percy Grainger (1882-1961), Cecil was on friendly terms with other luminaries of light music including his life-long friend Clive Richardson (1909-98), also Roger Quilter (1887-1953), Richard Addinsell (1904-77), Vivian Ellis (1903-96) and Cedric King Palmer (1913-99), all of whom possessed a sound knowledge of classical music. For young Milner there were even more ambitious projects ahead. After translating G. Martinez Sierra’s Margarita en Ia Rueca from Spanish, he adapted the work into libretto for a two act opera Engracia, composed between 1930 and 1932. After Milner himself had conducted the aria from the opera at the prestigious Queen’s Hall in March 1932, Engracia was staged the following December in the Royal Academy of Music’s theatre under the baton of B. Walton O’Donnell. The well-known singer Janet Hamilton-Smith (later Bailey), who starred in the West End musical Song Of Norway in the 1940s, sang the aria on one of these occasions.

Cecil’s other compositions of this period included a Quartet for Strings in D minor, a Fugue in A minor, three songs for sopranos, and a String Quartet no 1 in G (Variations for Orchestra) performed in the Duke’s Hall of the Royal Academy. In September 1930 he was offered a sub-professorship at the Royal Academy, but turned it down perhaps because he was too busy or because he did not wish to seek publicity. It comes as a surprise then to learn that while making his name as a classical musician Cecil was a member of the five piece Eclipse Dance Orchestra for some five years and was equally proficient on saxophone (alto, soprano and tenor), clarinet, violin and viola, timpani and, of course, piano. He supplied orchestrations for the band. Should he now follow a career in classical music or look elsewhere for opportunities? On leaving his alma mater he caused some ripples by starting to arrange and compose music for stage, concert hall, and film. This was undoubtedly where the money was to be made, and Cecil hastened to follow several of his contemporaries into the business of orchestrating black and white movies and newsreels produced by the Gaumont British Picture Corporation from studios at Lime Grove in Shepherd’s Bush. Milner was part of a team that included the likes of Hans May, Hubert Bath, Jack Beaver, and Mischa Spoliansky, all ultimately well known in light music circles.

Cecil married Phyllis Platel, a fellow student at the Royal Academy of Music, just before the outbreak of war at St Paul’s RC Church, Dover on August 12, 1939. A trade publication, the British Film and Television Yearbook (1955-56) lists Cecil as the composer and orchestrator of about 50 movies, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, Hey Hey USA, Bank Holiday, The Citadel and They Drive by Night (all from 1938), Inspector Hornleigh, So This Is London, Murder Will Out, Confidential Lady (all in 1940), Dressed to Kill, The Good Old Days, Carnival, Neutral Port, For Freedom, I Thank You, George & Margaret, Two For Danger, That’s The Ticket, The Briggs Family, The Midas Touch, and Hoots Mon. He was associated, too, with Denham Studios for Busman’s Honeymoon and the Gilbert and Sullivan company for A Window in London, both in 1940. In his long career Cecil scored for British Lion, MGM, Twentieth Century, Errol Flynn Theatre movies and the Douglas Fairbanks Jr. series of TV films. His incidental music was used in Gaumont newsreels, Pathé Pictorials, BBC and ITV newsreels, documentaries and advertising features.

Milner’s work for Louis Levy at Gaumont British continued in difficult circumstances throughout the War. In the early 1950s several of Cecil’s mood music library titles were extensively featured in American movie productions. Although film music was his forte, he was also part of the light music scene for many years, including a lengthy and successful association with Mantovani, whose career had taken off after Ronald Binge’s arrangement of Charmaine had become a roaring success in America. After Binge’s departure in 1952, Monty asked Cecil to join him. By now well known in music circles, Cecil probably felt that he was privileged to join Mantovani, as this would help keep him in full employment. Their first collaboration was the eventual million selling Strauss Waltzes album in September 1952. Cecil’s busiest period seems to have been in the late forties and early fifties when he composed and arranged for several mood music libraries.

Between 1952 and 1974 Cecil scored over 250 pieces of music for Mantovani, some of these the more expansive classical interpretations he required, but others definitely more popular in style. Even so, he did not stop working in other directions. There was some routine work for bandleader Philip Green in 1952 before a letter in February 1953 from composer Donald Phillips of Skyscraper Fantasy fame confirmed Cecil’s arrangement of his Bathing Beauty Waltz. Some scores for Charles Brull followed in 1955 and 1956. By 1958 Mantovani was making more use of Cecil’s talents, requiring him to factor his skills on several more “popular” titles. Relations with Monty were invariably cordial and there was a fine business friendship between the two men. By now at the height of his powers, Cecil contributed seven titles to the American Scene album recorded in January and June 1959. The following year both Mantovani and Milner pooled their arranging talents to deal with a large recording schedule of show and film tunes such as Shall We Dance from The King and I, the Sundowners theme, and show songs of the calibre of Mr Wonderful and I Feel Pretty. Cecil also found the time to arrange The Carousel Waltz, Ascot Gavotte, A Trumpeter’s Lullaby and Seventy-Six Trombones. When Mantovani brought out his Italia Mia LP in February 1961, much of this beautiful album was drawn from the light classics, which gave Milner the opportunity to score seven titles, including the traditional Variations on Carnival of Venice which ends with a delightful fugue and Tchaikovsky’s Theme from Capriccio Italien.

Throughout the sixties and into the seventies Mantovani, who was always very busy, had to rely greatly on first rate material from Cecil and his other main arranger Roland Shaw. In 1964 there were two substantial Milner medleys in Folk Songs Around The World. 1965 he wrote six arrangements for The Mantovani Sound and eight for Mantovani Ole, including Fiddler on The Roof, Spanish Gypsy Dance and Mexican Hat Dance. For later albums he excelled with the likes of Ben Hur, What Now My Love, My Cup Runneth Over, Hora Staccato, Gypsy Carnival, the Gypsy Dance from Carmen, If I Were a Rich Man, Theme from The Virginian, the Elvira Madigan Theme, I Will Wait For You, A Lovely Way to Spend An Evening, Isn’t It Romantic, and many more. In short, when working with Mantovani Cecil Milner never lost his touch. Sometimes in Mantovani’s concert programs Milner had the lion’s share of the arrangements. The most notable example was on the 1970 British tour when there were 15 of his scores in the 22 titles, among them the concert opener Night Out. Special concert arrangements he made down the years include a Fantasy on Brahms Airs, prepared with violinist David McCallum for the 1963 British and American tours, Fantasy on Nautical Airs and The Heart of Tchaikovsky, both from 1967, the Irish Washerwoman (1968) and a pot-pourri of show themes, Broadway Scene, from 1971.

Cecil stopped working at the age of 69, leaving an impressive body of work produced over a period of forty years. Gradually, however, his familiarity diminished. Mantovani died in March 1980 after a long illness, and on November 25. 1989. Cecil died in relative obscurity aged 84, after suffering a heart attack at his home in West Wickham. Cecil’s arrangements for Mantovani of Onward, Christian Soldiers, Abide With Me and others were played at the funeral service on December 8, when he was laid to rest in a quiet corner of the St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe village churchyard. Although recognition of his worth has been slow in the past 20 years, the name of Cecil Milner has received more prominence in recent times. He was a most valued, prolific, and versatile member of his profession. His steadfast work for Mantovani alone would justify such a claim, but deserving of recognition, too, is his remarkable career a as a substantial force in film and concert music.

In his prime Milner was a craftsman, his arranging and composing skills being among the best in the business. There are several hundred compositions, arrangements and incidental pieces of music, but to arrive at an accurate total is impossible. The reason for this is simply explained and it concerns his arrangements of other composers’ work. Music publishers paid Cecil a standard fee for each arrangement he made, and that was the end of it. He could only claim royalties for arrangements when scoring a non-copyright piece of music, and it is these that show up in his royalty statements. The others do not. His contributions to music fall into six main categories. Firstly, there were his early classical compositions; then a large amount of incidental music composed for films, interspersed with arrangements of other writers’ work. His own light music compositions were used for all sorts of purposes and there were also various pieces of cueing music devised for mood music libraries. Finally, there were his arrangements for Mantovani, a total of over 250 during a period of 22 years.

Admittedly, the very nature of the man has contributed to his lack of modern day recognition. Like many of his associates, Cecil did not seek the limelight and never courted publicity. It was just not part of his nature; he really wanted none of that. He relied on his compositions and arrangements to enhance his reputation, leaving a variety of music publishers to distribute his own work around the world. In further considering why his worth has not been fully recognized, it is only in recent times that the arranger has been acknowledged as a craftsman in his own right. During Cecil’s main period of activity, which embraces much of his time with Mantovani, it was unusual for light orchestras to include the accredited name of an arranger on the record label or the album sleeve. Thus his name was rarely before the general public or even light music buffs.

We should understand, too, that Cecil wrote a relatively small number of full-length (i.e. over three minute) melodies. He was just too busy arranging other work. Except for his earliest classical compositions which are bound in hardback, he did not keep any copies of his own work, preventing us from assessing its full volume. Additionally, his work was automatically retained by film companies and mood music libraries as their property. Until the 1970s it was unusual for the composer of a film score to be allowed to keep any of his sheet music after recording the score. Even so, one might assume that there would be a stockpile of Cecil’s film arrangements awaiting discovery somewhere or other, but the great studios in the USA and in England all burned pile after pile of original scores and sheet music, simply because they were always running out of space. Applying this same criterion to the smaller film studios, Cecil’s nephew, Timothy Milner, is convinced that many of his uncle’s film and incidental music arrangements were disposed of or thrown away.

The following works by Cecil Milner are included in my collection:

Carnival of Venice (arranged)
Mexican Hat Dance (arranged)
Nautical Airs.
Stephan Foster Suite.
Americana Suite (originally American Folk Song Medley).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Home School Book Review News for 2/2014

Home School Book Review Blog contains book reviews, primarily of children’s and youth literature, from a Biblical worldview.

The web address is http://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Browse through the archives, search for titles or authors, or find books according to categories. New books are added on a regular basis.

Here are some of the books that were reviewed in February, 2014:

February 23, 2014–Incredible Pirate Tales: Fourteen Classic Stories of the Outlaws of the High Seas
February 21, 2014–Blue Jacket: War Chief of the Shawnees
February 19, 2014–Protecting Marie
February 11, 2014–A New Song: The Mitford Years, Book 5
February 9, 2014–History Mysteries: The Cases of James Harrod, Tecumseh, “Honest” Dick Tate and William Goebel

Each month we give a “Book of the Month” Award. For February, 2014, the award goes to:

histmyst

History Mysteries: The Cases of James Harrod, Tecumseh, “Honest” Dick Tate and William Goebel by James C. Klotter

Books that we are currently reading (or listening to as the case may be) and will be reviewed in the future include:
Buccaneers and Pirates by Frank R. Stockton
Pacific Crossing by Gary Soto
The Bishop’s Shadow by I. T. Thurston
Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel
In This Mountain by Jan Karon