The Pink Lady

Tivoli Band and Éric Mathot, Musique en Wallonie, MEWL 1889

     Recordings from Europe of late are boasting a lovely selection of Salon orchestra music. Tivoli Band’s latest disc focuses on popular light music from the 1914-18 period of the Great War. This, as the disc’s notes inform us, was a time of great bleakness and so entertainments were necessarily light hearted in order to keep up morale in the face of terrible adversity. The darkness surrounding the period indeed is far from evident in the music featured here. Most of the music, indeed, is from some of the worst-hit areas of the great war: Belgium and the Netherlands. Opening with two pieces by Georges Lauweryns (1884-1960) (a composer of whom I must confess complete ignorance, though evidently a composer and arranger with his own orchestra): Holiday’s and C’est la saison d’amier, we are instantly in amiable musical company. The former is a sprightly march with an instantly hummable main theme. This is followed by a more gentle waltz by the same composer, clearly in a more romantic mood. 

     The third track introduces us to the disc’s tenor soloist Maxime Melnik- a light tenor perfectly suited to this repertoire, with a very slight vibrato and a vocal range that is instantly on show with the opening two lines of his first number, soaring to considerably heights, whilst sounding like it is no effort at all! The number in question is by the barely known Dutch composer Willem Jan Paans (with a French text) La valse rousse. Again, it is a romantic waltz, though it has arguably a more memorable central theme than the previous one. 

     There are three Grand Fantasies on this release, which might feel ever so slightly like multiple-medley-itis, but it would be unfair in the extreme to say that these are not entertaining! Two of these are by Belgian operetta composer Hippolyte Ackermans: Le Charme Étrange and L’avocate. Both of these show Ackermans’ melodic gifts at their height: memorable tunes flow one after the other with no shortage of musical humour along the way!

    We have a fantastic soprano on this disc as well: Joëlle Charlier, who is first heard in the comic song Baron Zeep (Baron Soap- referring to illegal makers and distributors of soap in the first world war when supplies were scarce and made a lot of money out of it) who gives spirited performance in all of her numbers. Hers is a less light voice than Melnik, clearly someone capable of carrying larger scale repertoire, but the power of the voice really carries songs like this along. 

     With a title like The Most Beautiful Suffragette, we can surmise there is quite a story behind this piece by Emile Siroux  Jr., but unfortunately I don’t know what it is. What we have here, however, is a charming characteristic piece in an upbeat manner that really makes us wonder what the political context to the piece is! 

     The longest selection on this disc is from Caryll’s The Pink Lady, from which the CD takes its title. It is, perhaps, a tiny bit over-long, but as a tribute to one of the most popular musicals of the time, it seems fitting that the selection takes pride of place. The soloists are less used on this disc as Tea for Two allowing the Tivoli Band to take the starring role.      

     The band is the brainchild of bandleader and bassist Eric Mathot, who established the group to promote Belgian light music, though he also has a great interest in early and baroque music. The various influences seem very helpful to this band who treat the music with the delicacy it needs at all times, which staves off the potential of “rum-rti-tum” sounds that lesser ensembles can fall victim to when working in this style. Highly recommended feel-good music played by an especially dextrous ensemble. They have several more recordings on offer, so do give the Tivoli Band your time. DA

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