Leroy Anderson’s music sparkles. Always elegant, it embodies the rich lyricism and ingenuity of his poetic soul. This recording presents a unique combination of Anderson’s compositions. Along with his only Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, which is performed by soloist Catherine Wilson with conductor Skitch Henderson and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, are included original orchestral favourites such as Sleigh Ride, Belle of the Ball, The Syncopated Clock, Blue Tango and Forgotten Dreams, which are heard in intimate solo piano and chamber music settings by Rick Wilkins, C.M. The inclusion of the world premiere of Leroy Anderson’s own chamber arrangements of hits Fiddle Faddle, Jazz Legato, Promenade, Saraband, Clarinet Candy, Trumpeter’s Lullaby, and Bugler’s Holiday, adds historical interest, while two selections from his Broadway musical Goldilocks, I Never Know When and Lady in Waiting round out this distinct perspective on Anderson’s work.
The inspiration for recording The Music of Leroy Anderson came from Rolf Anderson, one of Leroy Anderson’s sons. The story began very innocently, in a happenstance way. As Rolf was driving from his home near the Quebec border to Burlington, Vermont, he tuned in to What’s New, on CBC radio, where he heard Ensemble Vivant perform Rick Wilkins’ arrangement of Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango. The performance so captured Rolf’s attention that he wrote to Wilson:
“…this performance by Canadian pianist Catherine Wilson (with Mark Skazinetsky on violin and Jack Mendelsohn on cello) of a new arrangement of Blue Tango by Rick Wilkins was most unusual and very well done indeed! That my father’s music was still being recorded was not news to me, but this was quite unique. Hearing this popular orchestral piece of 1952 in a small ensemble performance excited me as I imagined how my father’s music could be brought to a new, larger audience with this fresh interpretation. I couldn’t wait to tell my family.”
The Anderson family sought out Wilson and initiated what would become a long and close collaboration.
Independently, director/producer Peter Rosen was approached by Mrs. Leroy Anderson to make a documentary on Leroy Anderson’s life. The Anderson family did not know that Rosen was coincidentally creating a series of short videos of Wilson’s work, nor did Rosen know that the Anderson family had become acquainted with Wilson’s music. Wilson learned through Rosen that her name had been presented as one of the pianists who should be considered to perform Anderson’s only Piano Concerto for the documentary.
After receiving a copy of the score, Catherine Wilson learned and performed the Concerto for conductor Skitch Henderson at Steinway Hall in New York City. Henderson was greatly pleased by Wilson’s performance, which echoed his own approach to the music. Shortly thereafter, they recorded the Concerto for PBS with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The third movement of this performance of the concerto has been included in “Once Upon a Sleigh Ride,” the documentary on the life of Leroy Anderson.” Of the performance Mrs. Leroy Anderson said: “Catherine Wilson plays the Leroy Anderson Piano Concerto with brilliance, clarity and passion.”
Following the concerto’s recording, Wilson and the Anderson family discussed the idea of completing this recording project with more of Rick Wilkins’ arrangements of Anderson’s compositions. Mrs. Anderson provided a number of arrangements of Anderson’s compositions, which were arranged “as if through some sort of occult connection, for piano, violin and cello, (the core instruments of Ensemble Vivant) by Anderson himself.” County Courier, Vermont, U.S.A.
With such a feast of wonderfully imaginative and varied music to choose from, it is easy to see why this project ultimately blossomed into a dual compact disc—a cornucopia of colours, sonorities, moods and emotions, never ceasing to uplift the spirit, each piece speaking to the listener’s heart.
Catherine Wilson, Pianist/Artistic Director of Ensemble Vivant
The music of Leroy Anderson is firmly entrenched in American popular culture. A composer of distinctive and delightful miniatures, his best-known works include Sleigh Ride, The Syncopated Clock (theme for CBS New York’s The Late Show for over 25 years), and Blue Tango (#1 on the Hit Parade in 1952). More than 50 years since many of his compositions were written, Leroy Anderson’s music remains as popular with listeners as it was during the composer’s lifetime.
Composer John Williams has said of Leroy Anderson’s music, “though we have performed his works countless times over the years at the Boston Pops, his music remains forever as young and fresh as the very day on which it was composed.”
Rolf Anderson, son of Leroy Anderson
The Music of Leroy Anderson CD
Piano Concert in C Major for Piano and Orchestra: Leroy Anderson
Catherine Wilson, soloist; Toronto Symphony Orchestra;
Skitch Henderson, conductor
- Allegro Moderato
- Allegro Vivo
- The Syncopated Clock: piano, violin, cello & woodblock
- I Never Know When: solo piano
- Promenade1: piano duet
- Forgotten Dreams: solo piano
- Bugler’s Holiday: B Flat trumpet and piano
- The First Day of Spring: piano, violin and cello
- Saraband: piano, violin and cello
- Lady in Waiting: solo piano
- The Girl in Satin: piano, violin and cello
- The Minstrel Boy: piano and violin
- Jazz Pizzicato: piano, violin and cello
- Jazz Legato: piano, violin and cello
- The Typewriter1: piano duet
- Sleigh Ride1: piano, violin, cello & bells
- Trumpeter’s Lullaby: B Flat trumpet and piano
- Belle of the Ball1: solo piano
- Turn Ye To Me: piano and cello
- Serenata1: piano, violin and cello
- The Golden Years: solo piano
- Fiddle Faddle: piano, violin and cello
- Summer Skies1: solo piano
- The Waltzing Cat1: piano, violin and cello
- Saraband1: piano duet
- Sandpaper Ballet1: piano, bass & sandpaper
- Arietta1: piano, violin and cello
- Jazz Legato1: solo piano
- Plink, Plank, Plunk1: piano, violin and cello
- Clarinet Candy: B Flat Clarinet and Piano
- Song of the Bells1: solo piano
- Blue Tango2: piano, violin and cello
- arr for Catherine Wilson, solo piano and for Ensemble Vivant by Rick Wilkins, C.M.
Catherine Wilson, Piano/Artistic Director
Kristina Musser, violin
Jack Mendelssohn, cello
Joel Quarrington, bass
with Special Guests:
Ramon Parcels, B Flat trumpet
Laurence Liberson, B Flat Clarinet
Robert Conway, piano
Brian Barlow, percussion
Catherine Wilson brings great technical virtuosity and an understanding of the ‘American’ sound of the Leroy Anderson Piano concerto… she possesses rare depth combined with highly sensitive artistry that is tremendously refreshing.
Founder & Music Director
New York Pops
Catherine Wilson was sensational in her performance of the Leroy Anderson Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall with Skitch Henderson conducting the New York Pops. She brings a special lyric sensitivity to her performance, along with meticulous technical ability. Her presence and affinity for the piece are palpable.
There were bravos, a standing ovation and an encore … the concert revealed the full sweep of Catherine Wilson’s artistic personality, her youthful idealism and openness, her willingness to express emotion, her authority at the piano, and her command of the concert’s direction … Ensemble Vivant cruised the whisking currents of Leroy Anderson’s musical imagination with skill and zest … Anderson would have enjoyed every minute of it.
Catherine Wilson’s playing possesses the perfect combination of superb musicality, passionate commitment, and a lyrical and delicate shading of tonal colours.
Oakville Symphony Orchestra
Wilson is a dazzling performer to watch as well as listen to… there is technical perfection and keen emotionality…she left the audience suspended until the last notes of the concerto…Wilson’s performance was electric; she appears as though she feels every note she plays – at one with her music and instrument. (of Catherine Wilson’s performances with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra)
…Thanks again for a great performance and wonderful program…molti bravi to Ensemble Vivant… please have Ensemble Vivant return very soon!
de Blasiis CMS at the Hyde
Led by a remarkable pianist, Catherine Wilson, Ensemble Vivant boasts a collection of musicians whose abilities and qualifications are second to none… a diversity of beautifully played music and sound (with vibes… Don Thompson, O.C.) from Bach to Piazzolla to Widor… wonderful interpretations… highlight of the Kelowna Community Concert Association series. I had the pleasure of spending time with the group after the concert and they are a fun, humble and inspiring group of musicians… such tremendous mutual talent and respect within the ensemble… Merci Ensemble Vivant!
musician, composer for B.C. Arts