The Maestro : Mantovani©2005JCMarion

The single named master of what was to be categorized as "easy listening" was born Annunzio Paolo Mantovani in Venice, Italy in November of 1905. His musical heritage was established early as his father was the principle violinist at the world famous La Scala Opera House. The orchestra conductor was the world famous maestro Arturo Toscanini. As a young boy Annunzio moved with the rest of his family to England before the outbreak of World War One. He continued his study of music throughout his school years and after graduation from Trinity College he formed his own orchestra and was mostly based in Birmingham, England.

His orchestra gained in popularity and became an attraction at London's Hotel Metropole in 1925, and soon was a featured performance attraction on BBC radio. It was a sometimes family affair with his father on solo violin and his sister featured on vocals. One of the musicians in his orchestra was a keyboard player named Ronald Binge who would work extensively with Mantovani in perfecting the sound that would make the orchestra world famous. In the nineteen thirties Mantovani formed the Tipica Orchestra and broadcast from Picadilly at The Monseigneur. He made a series of recordings for the Columbia Records label in England in the mid thirties that most music listeners forgot about. Two of these made the best sellers list in the United States. "Red Sails In The Sunset" from the Broadway musical "Provincetown Follies" on Columbia # 3097, was a number two best seller in late 1935. One year later in December of 1936 his recording of "Serenade In The Night" on # 3159 was a top ten hit.

In the forties he began his recording career in earnest with Decca Records and then London Records. . After the war into the late forties, he and Binge painstakingly developed the sound known as "cascading strings" and by 1951 had his first big hit, the million selling "Charmaine" for Decca on # 1020. In early 1952 he recorded his version of one of his all time favorite songs, the English folk tune "Greensleeves". The recording on London # 1171 was a top twenty five hit as was the follow up recording "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" on London # 1175. Late in 1952 mantovani recorded the seasonal standard "White Christmas" on # 1280 which was another top twenty five seller. In 1953 his version of "Where Is Your Heart" (The Theme From Moulin Rouge) on # 1328 battled Percy Faith's Columbia version (with vocal by Felicia Sanders) for best seller supremacy. Another huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic was "Cara Mia" featuring vocal by David Whitfield on # 1486.

By the mid fifties Mantovani and his orchestral stylings seemed ready made for the new recording technology of the LP album. He had two more single record hits - "Around The World In Eighty Days" featuring Stan Newsome on trumpet on # 1746 in July of 1957, and "Theme From Exodus" on London # 1953 in early 1961. The true golden age of Mantovani was from the mid fifties to the mid sixties during which he placed thirty LP albums on the best seller list, all of them recorded for London Records. The most popular of these were "Song Hits From Theaterland", "Film Encores" (a number one record), "Christmas Carols" (three different times on the best sellers list), "Gems Forever", "Strauss Waltzes", "Stereo Showcase", "Exodus And Other Great Themes" (a number two hit), "Italia Mia", "American Waltzes", and "Latin Rendezvous".

Mantovani continued to record and perform live in concert with his orchestra through the nineteen seventies. The artistry of his musicianship was silenced with his passing in March of 1980. The sound of his musical style lives on in a great number of CD recordings that are available. As always watch for duplication of tracks especially in the CDs from the nineteen fifties. The early years are documented on the CD "At The Cafe Continental With The Tipica Orchestra" from Vocalion that presents the mid thirties version of Mantovani which also features Stella Roberta (Mantovani's sister Remilia) and Ronnie Binge on keyboards. "25 Original Mono Recordings : 1940-1952" from Living Era presents the orchestra as it moved toward finding its signature sound. "Original Recordings : 1946-1949" a new release from Naxos features 18 tracks from the orchestra in the late forties. An interesting series is "Collector's Mantovani" volumes 1 and 2 from Vocalion. Also from Vocalion is "Great Films Great Themes" with 23 tracks from the films. Two double LP reissues on CD by Vocalion are "Candlelight" / "Favorite Melodies" from the mid fifties on Vocalion, and "Concert Spectacular" (the only U.K. issued LP not released in the U.S.) / "American Scene". There is "Golden Hits" and "More Golden Hits" on London, and finally an all encompassing 4 CD set called "Cascading Strings" released by Jasmine.

Annunzio Mantovani had the talent and musical foresight to practically invent a style of music that lives on to this day. There will always be those who look to the melodic and embracing sound of beautiful music to dream to, think about, and hum to. Mantovani will always be their champion.

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