Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Will Grosz: The Isle of Capri

This kind of song is not the usual diet of The Land of Lost Content, however I was so attracted by this cover when I discovered it in a second-hand bookshop that I felt that I just had to post it. Yet, on further investigation I found out that the composer was no ordinary Denmark Street or Tin Pan Alley hack. And there is also a British connection...

Wilhelm (Will) Grosz was also known by the more prosaic title of Hugh Williams. He was born in Vienna in 1894 where he later studied composition with the great Austrian opera composer and conductor Franz Schreker. At the age of 34 Grosz went to Berlin where he worked in a variety of jobs in radio, theatre and recording studios. In 1934 he emigrated (escaped?) to England and thence to the United States where he continued as a composer of serious music as well as writing dance music, foxtrots, tangos and ballads. He also made a career for himself in Hollywood.
As a 'serious' composer he wrote in an avant-garde style but also turned his hand to the more popular titles that he is perhaps best known for - probably to make ends meet. Apart from the 'Isle of Capri' he composed 'Harbour Lights,' 'Red Sails in the Sunset,' and 'When Budapest Was Young,' -all to lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy.
Will Grosz's more serious works include three operas, two ballets, incidental music for three plays, scores for a number of films, orchestral works, a Symphonic Dance for piano and orchestra, chamber music, piano pieces and songs. [Wikipedia]
He died in 1939 in New York City.

The Isle of Capri can be heard on YouTube sung by Gracie Fields – yet another British connection!

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