Sunday, 9 December 2012

George Melachrino: ‘Winter Sunshine’

The liner notes of the Naxos recording of this work suggest that the composer set out to reflect the glamorous ski slopes and the even more glamorous people who frequented them. Presumably he had France, Austria and Switzerland in mind. However, when I hear this piece I think of the North Yorkshire Moors. I remember a happy day walking along part of the Cleveland Way – there was a carpet of snow, the sun was shining and there were clear blue skies. I had extensive views towards the Pennines across the Vale of York. They used to say that in the days of steam locomotives a keen-sighted person could see the smoke trail of a train leaving York and arriving in Darlington some forty miles to the North.   That was not the case in the electric age when I visited this viewpoint; however, after the walk I remember returning to a lovely hotel in Helmsley where there was a warm coal fire!
George Melachrino was a successful composer and musical director during the 1940s and 1950’s. He was born in London in 1909 and began to compose music at an early age. When he was fourteen he commenced studies at Trinity College of Music.  In 1927 he began his performance career working in many of the then popular bands, including at the Savoy Hotel off the Strand. In 1939 he was leading his own band and had an important contract at the Café de Paris. During the war years he trained as a PT instructor in the Corps of Military Police. However, Melachrino managed to keep up his musical playing and duly became Musical Director at the Army Broadcasting Department. He conducted the British Band of Allied Expeditionary Forces – which was the British equivalent of Glen Miller.  After the conclusion of hostilities he formed the George Melachrino Orchestra. This band led him to considerable success and he is rated alongside Ron Goodwin, Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani.  George Melachrino died in 1965.
‘Winter Sunshine’ is written in simple ternary form. The piece opens with a catchy tune that possibly suggests a sleigh ride – certainly there are sleigh bells. There is considerable movement and activity. However, a romantic tune soon tries to establish itself into the prevailing fun. The middle section is introduced by harp figures, before a slower version of the ‘big’ tune is presented. Eventually the lovers are left to their own devices, as the fast-moving music returns before a flashy coda brings the piece to a conclusion. The composer makes good use of woodwind as well as the strings. Altogether this is a vibrant, well-balanced piece.
Winter Sunshine is one George Melachrino’s most famous works: others beings the ‘Starlight Roof Waltz’ and the ‘Autumn Concerto’ which charted at No.18 in 1956.
This work can be heard on British Light Miniatures: NAXOS  8.570332 Unfortubnealty there is no YouTube file, however a sample can be heard on Amazon

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