You are here

Happy Frog and Hot Canary

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Friday, 13 May, 2011

The Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra as heard on this disc consists of a string quartet, flute, oboe and piano, together with a soprano, joined in song sometimes by Liz Menezes, one of the violinists.

They were formed some 25 years ago and, as their name suggests, specialize in salon repertoire.

They have made three other discs previously but this is the first I have heard.

It has much to commend it to anyone interested in this rich seam of music where even the various discs by such groups as The Palm Court Salon Orchestra and the London Salon Ensemble have barely scratched the surface of what is available.

I tried to find some sort of theme running through this programme but could not. Essentially the pieces are chosen from those they were playing at the time of the recording. Not that this greatly matters when it is all entertaining and where they are ordered on the disc in a way suitable for continuous listening.

The expected mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar means that as well as the two very welcome pieces by Haydn Wood and the songs by German and Kennedy-Fraser we have a whole series of surprisingly varied foxtrots as well as the two imitative pieces that give the disc its title.

The inclusion of the songs is particularly welcome in breaking the programme up. All in all it was an absolute pleasure to listen to this disc.

However it disappointed in terms of its presentation. The only list of contents is on the back of the cover, with the details in very small writing in orange or white on a black background.

A magnifying glass helped but should not be necessary. The information given about the music or its composers is very limited, although there is more about the performers.

Perhaps this is acceptable for a disc which appears to be available only directly from the latter, but such a casual approach to presentation is surely likely to reduce its potential appeal to the growing number of collectors of recorded light and salon music.

The very close and somewhat harsh recording is another problem. It feels as though one were seated at a table very close to the band in the kind of establishment at which this music was originally played.

I would certainly have asked to change table – turning the volume down merely makes it quieter without assisting in respect of the apparent closeness of the sound.

Despite all of this I should emphasise that I thoroughly enjoyed the music and performances on the disc. It is good to hear a larger group than seems to be the norm these days.

The Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra are clearly thoroughly versed in the style and conventions of this music and have produced a very diverting and interesting programme here.

There is room for many more discs with this quality of singing and playing making use of more of what they describe as their large portfolio of music.

Next time, however, better notes, a less close recording and a more generous playing time would be welcome.

John Sheppard Musicweb-international

Sub heading: 
Reviewed by John Sheppard of Musicweb-international

Review type: