, clarinet candy
, waltzing cats
, whistling kettles
, and the world’s most famous sleigh ride
. These pieces are just a few examples of Leroy Anderson’s brilliantly light-hearted music.
2008 is the centenary of Leroy Anderson’s birth (he lived from 1908 to 1975), and during this year Naxos Records
is issuing a complete series of Anderson’s music
, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
I've had a good time listening to these CDs and playing them on the radio. The sound effects (like typewriters and clocks) are fun, but it’s the wonderful melodies and his inventive use of the regular orchestral instruments that make his pieces more than a collection of parlor tricks. And if some of these pieces are too silly for you, check out his Piano Concerto
or Harvard Sketches
.Reading a bit about Anderson
, I thought it was neat that he played such an unusual assortment of instruments: double bass, trombone, piano, percussion, and organ. At Harvard, he studied Germanic and Scandinavian languages, while also playing in the marching band. He then worked as the arranger and composer for the Boston Pops Orchestra with Arthur Fiedler, interrupted for a stint in the Scandinavian Intelligence Division for the US Government during World War II.
Along with Anderson, we've been playing a few other engaging “light” music composers, including Arthur Ketèlbey
, Edmond Dédé
, and Raymond Scott
. And to think, Saint-Saëns forbade the publishing of his “Carnival of the Animals” until after his death to avoid being known as a composer of light music! It doesn’t seem to have been such bad company after all.
Do you have any favorite pieces by Leroy Anderson? Special memories of hearing or playing his music? (I played Sleigh Ride for years in various school orchestras and bands, and I’m happy to finally hear some of his other
For more about Anderson, you can also check out this All Things Considered story
that ran on his birthday in June.