British Light Music - Richard Addinsell. © 2021 Naxos Rights US Inc

CD Spotlight

Hugely Influential

Music by Richard Addinsell, heard by GERALD FENECH

'Smooth and colourful performances ...'


In 1941 war-weary cinema-goers attending the latest British film at the Regal Cinema in London's West End were struck, among other things, by a piece of music that pervaded the whole film, climaxing in a virtually complete performance of it in a concert setting within the scenario. The film was Dangerous Moonlight, and the piece everyone was talking about, and humming as they left the cinema, was the Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell.

After fifty years, with more than a hundred separate recordings and sales in excess of 3 million, its appeal remains undimmed. So undimmed that people tend to forget that Addinsell's career was much much more than just one hit.

Richard Addinsell was born on 13 January 1904 in Woburn Square, London. His adoring mother gave him his first education at home, after which he entered Hertford College, Oxford to study law, but this was not what he wanted, and after eighteen months he abandoned this line of study. His real interest was music. In 1925 he enrolled at the Royal College of Music, but even here he lasted only two terms before leaving again without obtaining any formal qualifications. By this time Addinsell was already collaborating with Noel Gay, among others, in an André Charlot 'Revue'.

In 1932, in collaboration with Clemence Dane, he wrote the incidental music for the Broadway adaptation of the combined Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The Warsaw Concerto, as earmarked above, was such a success that it proved to be the catalyst for a career in film music, which lasted practically till the end of his life. Indeed, he started composing for the film industry as early as 1936, and his score for the 1939 Oscar-winning Goodbye Mr Chips won him widespread recognition.

Listen — Richard Addinsell, reconstructed by Philip Lane: Goodbye Mr Chips - Theme
(track 1, 0:00-0:50) ℗ 1994 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Addinsell was a match for many cinematic genres: historic drama (Fire Over England, 1937; Tom Brown's Schooldays, 1950; Beau Brummell, 1954), psychological (Gaslight, 1940), contemporary (Love on the Dole, 1941) or even comedy (The Prince and the Showgirl, 1957; Waltz of the Toreadors, 1962). He was hugely influential on a generation of British film composers, and established a quality and style of full scale orchestral writing that was never bettered. Addinsell retired from public life in the 1960s, gradually becoming estranged from his close friends. He died in Brighton on 14 November 1977, aged seventy-seven.

Now to the disc under review. Way back in the 1990s the Marco Polo label embarked on a series dedicated to 'British Light Music'. At the end of the project, the collection numbered nearly two dozen issues, and many collectors, myself included, had the opportunity to enjoy a myriad of little gems that many considered old-fashioned. Well, it seems that this genre is very much in vogue again, if only for the reason that, during this time of strife and stress, one does need something to relax with.

Listen — Richard Addinsell: Tune in G
(track 8, 0:00-0:49) ℗ 1994 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Thanks to Naxos, which is a very close collaborator of 'Marco Polo', we can now have a second bite at the cherry with this Volume 1 dedicated to the music of Richard Addinsell, that includes music from the films Goodbye Mr Chips, Ring round the Moon, The Prince and the Showgirl, Tom Brown's Schooldays, Fire over England and A Tale of Two Cities, plus four other short pieces and a fifteen-minute concerto for piano and orchestra called The Smokey Mountains.

Listen — Richard Addinsell: Old Joe Clark (The Smokey Mountains)
(track 5, 0:00-0:49) ℗ 1994 Naxos Rights US Inc :

This is music full of catchy melodies and deft orchestration, harmonically unchallenging and always with a touch of sentimentality around the corner.

Listen — Richard Addinsell, arranged by Douglas Gamley: A Tale of Two Cities - Theme
(track 13, 2:45-3:39) ℗ 1994 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Smooth and colourful performances complete this inaugural issue of a cycle that promises to be a journey worth exploring. Natural sound quality and detailed annotations are top notch.

Copyright © 5 July 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta





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