sábado, 22 de agosto de 2009

Hugo Winterhalter - The Very Best Of Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra

  1. Count Every Star
  2. I Wanna Be Loved
  3. Mr. Touchdown, U.S.A.
  4. Beyond The Blue Horizon
  5. Blue December
  6. A Kiss To Build A Dream On
  7. Blue Tango
  8. Somewhere Along The Way
  9. Vanessa
  10. Blue Violins
  11. Music Box In Blue
  12. The Velvet Glove
  13. Latin Lady
  14. The Little Shoemaker
  15. The Magic Tango
  16. Song Of The Barefoot Contessa
  17. Land Of Dreams
  18. The Little Musicians
  19. Canadian Sunset
  20. Swingin' Sweethearts
The Very Best

From the time he started playing violin at age six, Hugo Winterhalter was destined for a life highlighted by a soundtrack of shimmering strings. Born on August 15, 1909 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he grew from a precocious childhood into being a serious student of both violin and reed instruments. He graduated from the New England Conservatory, contributed woodwinds to various orchestras, and was performing for dance bands by the mid-1930s.

As the Big Band era thrived, Winterhalter worked with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, Claude Thornhill, and the baritone megastar Vaughn Monroe. In 1944, he finally had the opportunity to write his first string arrangement for none other than Tommy Dorsey. This was the Winterhalter watershed. From then on, he would hold his listeners under the spell of massed violins while being among the first to embellish "swing" with traditional symphonic instruments.

Like many who faced Big Band's demise in the postwar years, Winterhalter reinvented himself not only by arranging for celebrity vocalists but also by becoming a maestro of mood music, an art that specializes in placing the tantalizing backup orchestras into the forefront. He inevitably made his mark in a pantheon of American pop orchestral giants that includes Percy Faith, Farnk DeVol, and Andre Kostelanetz.

In 1950, after working for MGM and Columbia, Winterhalter made his most significant career move as head Musical Director of RCA Records. There he would arrange backings for major singers like Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Jaye P. Morgan, and The Ames Brothers. His most intriguing contributions, however, were his own records. They included albums often dedicated to subjects like love, travel, and the allure of television themes. He would go into more "classical" directions by leading the Milwaukee and Washington Symphony orchestras, but mood music would be this true forte until his demise in 1973.

Winterhalter also had a roster of hit singles through the 1950s, most of which are specially assembled for this collection. In this fine sampling of Winterhalter's sound palette, stringswept backgrounds blend with heavenly choruses; spicy rhythms, sparkling keyboards and lilting guitars add color but never stray from the catchy melodies. With ethereal vocals and tener horns, he delivers the ultimate Lover's Lane theme on "Count Every Star". He fluctuates from fairy light pizzicato to elegant waltz on "Vanessa" and champions a wistfully exotic style on tracks like "The Velvet Glove" (featuring Henri Rene's musette accordion) and a crisp rendition of Leroy Anderson's "Blue Tango".

Winterhalter had a penchant for approaching music through the ears of a child. "Little Musicians" demonstrates this playful side with its kazoo introduction and kittenish serenade. The ear-tickling combination of celeste and pizzicato on "Music Box In Blue" suggests Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" time-shifted into the dreamland of 20th Century pop. "The Little Shoemaker" and "The Magic Tango" (both originally credited to Hugo Winterhalter's Orchestra & Chorus and a Friend) have Eddie Fisher leading the chorus in a happy-go-lively fashion.

Citing the impressionist composer Claude Debussy as among his greatest influences, Winterhalter likewise uses music to create memory-evoking pictures, a talent that makes him ideal for adapting movie themes. "Beyond The Blue Horizon" (from Ernst Lubitsch's 1930 film Monte Carlo) suggests the delectably frothy images associated with early Hollywood musicals. The percussive buildup of "Song Of The Barefoot Contessa" (apparently inspired by Ravel's "Bolero") conjures the tempest of seduction and suspense from the 1954 feature in which Ava Gardner portrays a Spanish dancer who catches Humphrey Bogart's eye.

Among Winterhalter's most notable sonic postcards are "Land Of Dreams" and his 1956 hit "Canadian Sunset" (his biggest at Billboard's #2). These represent the art of melodic globetrotting at its best. Both are distinguished by Eddie Heywood's urbane piano, but the biggest draw is once again the lush orchestral backdrop that, like a starry night or a blue horizon, lures eager travelers through an itinerary that offers mystery, romance and healthy doses of good-natured humor.

Joseph Lanza *

* Joseph Lanza is the author of "Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening and Other Moodsong" (St. Martin's Press/Picador)

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