I find it almost impossible to believe that I have not written a post about Robert Farnon’s most popular work –Portrait of a Flirt. It was one of the first pieces of light music that struck me at a time when I was more concerned with Bach’s organ music and Wagner’s operas. (The first was Coronation Scot by Vivian Ellis.
Portrait of a Flirt appeared around 1947 and is really a compendium of rhythm and flappable orchestral manoeuvres. It is a deftly written piece that exudes vivacity, humour and romance.
According to the liner notes for the Marco Polo recording of this work, it had ‘humble’ origins. It was originally conceived as a piece of ‘mood music’ for the Chappell Library: like so many similar pieces it would have been used by film and documentary producers to give the ‘correct’ atmosphere to their work.
If ever a piece was able to musically portray a spirited lady who was also a little bit of a flirt, it is this. Basically presented in ternary form, the opening and closing sections present a light-hearted, slightly mischievous disposition, whilst the slower middle section reveals a nocturnal mood that is more romantic that skittish.
Robert Farnon regularly performed this work on the BBC Home Service and Light Programme however, it was given a major fillip when it was recorded by David Rose (of The Stripper fame) on an MGM album.
There are a number of recordings of this work currently available, however, I do recommend the composer conducting on Naxos 8.110849. The piece is available on YouTube with the Farnon conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.