Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Angela Morley: Starlight - an impresison for orchestra

I guess that a lot of light music portrays pictures of romantic locations – Las Vegas, New York, Paris and the Mediterranean. However, for many people there nowhere more romantic than London by night. One need only think of taking a taxi cab along Piccadilly on a cold winter’s evening, or perhaps taking a late-night stroll by the gaslights in Green Park. Or maybe it is late-night shopping at Harrods in Knightsbridge before popping into the Dorchester for a Cosmopolitan or a Bellini. And all of these moments somehow seem better if there are stars in the sky. Certainly it will be a rare night in London when the Milky Way is clearly visible, but surely there a many times when the stars and the moon peep out and manage to compete with the electric lamps and light pollution.
Angela Morley has captured all this magic in her evocative piece Starlight. It was written around 1956 when the composer was better known as Wally Stott. All the appropriate effects are used here, the sweeping violins that sound so like Mantovani or Henry Mancini, rich parallel string chords in thirds and sixths, pizzicato and harp arpeggios. Later in the piece a definite light touch of percussion gives an effective counterpoint to the main progress of the strings. Yet the work approaches the end all too soon with a passionate reprise of the string theme. The works last few bars conclude with a great splash of colour.
This is a classic example of the genre and certainly manages to create the image intended. It is impossible to listen to this music and remain oblivious to its mood. Naturally, it is only my conceit that sets it in the West End – it would be equally effective to someone imagining a trip across the Lagoon to the Lido or anchored in the bay off the town of Cannes.
Angela Morley’s Starlight can be heard on The Golden Age of Light Music The 1950s Volume 5 Sunny Side Up Guild GLCD 5142

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