Thursday, 7 June 2018

Arnold Steck: Riviera Rhapsody

As I teenager I always wanted to go to the French Riviera for my holidays. However, it was beyond my parents’ finances, so we made do with Lytham St Anne’s and Morecambe, which I always enjoyed and look back with many happy and glorious memories. It was not until about 2007 that I made my first visit to this romantic part of the French coast. As I stepped off a boat in the harbour, I discovered that Cannes was in the middle of the Film Festival which made it extremely busy and quite difficult to find a restaurant to have a pleasant lunch. I guess I wanted to be a Boulevardier, sitting on the seafront with glass of vino! It was too busy. I did find the Hotel de Provence which was visited on several occasions by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. And I was able to have a swim in the sea, which compared to the North Sea or the Irish Sea was exceptionally warm, even for Maytime.  

Recently I discovered the short Riviera Rhapsody by Arnold Steck: this reminded me of my visit to Cannes and a subsequent trip to Monaco. Steck’s music is all heart-on-the-sleeve romance, in the style of Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, Charles Williams’ The Dream of Olwen and Hubert Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody. However, the tunes are all his own and the passion, the drama and the romance are all packed into about 6 minutes. It was composed around 1955 and reflects the glamour, the post-war confidence and the beginnings of foreign holidays for the massed with great aplomb.

Arnold Steck is a pseudonym. His real name was Leslie Statham. I had heard of neither incarnation before hearing this Rhapsody. Leslie Statham was born on 18 December 1905. After military service with the Welsh Guards where he played in the Regimental Band, Statham continued to compose and arrange music for military bands and other musical groups. He died on 28 April 1974.

Philip Scowcroft, on MusicWeb International, has written about Arnold Steck/ Leslie Statham: ‘[He was] particularly active in the 1950s and 1960s, is remembered mostly for his marches with titles like Piccadilly, Birdcage Walk, Path of Glory and best known of all as it was the original signature tune for Match of the Day [used between 1964 and 1970], Drum Majorette, not to mention other 'production' music' titles for Chappell’s library such as Morning Canter and Important Occasion.’

Arnold Steck’s Riviera Rhapsody is performed on the Guild CD (GLCD 5132) by the New Concert Orchestra, conducted by Dolf van der Linden. The piano soloist was ‘Alexander Glushkoff’ The original recordong was on Boosey and Hawkes O 2254 and was released in 1955. It took up two sides of a 78rpm record.

Jonathan Woolf, reviewing the Guild CD on MusicWeb International has written: ‘Alexander Glushkoff – real name? – turns up with Dolf van der Linden to deal with [the] Riviera Rhapsody, a pocket concerto opus à la Addinsell; Rachmaninov coupling vigorously with Rhapsody in Blue and all over in five minutes.’
Certainly, this tune seems to be the only one I can find that Alexander Glushkoff has recorded.

Arnold Steck’s Riviera Rhapsody can currently be heard on YouTube in this performance. 

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