REVIEWS: Conductor: Walter Susskind; Orchestra: Melachrino Strings; Film: Charley Varrick

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by  Peter Cates

Handel’s Messiah

Walter Susskind conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus; Musical Heritage Society MHS 582/ 583/ 584, three LP set, recorded September 22-24,1958.

Walter Susskind

Being in the Easter spirit, I offer comments on this Messiah set since the music is appropriate to both Christmas and this week’s observances. Con­duc­tor Walter Susskind (1913-1980) delivered a performance of superb quality with a crackerjack quartet of singers – my special favorite being the late contralto Helen Watts (1927-2009), whose rendition of He Shall Feed His Flock gives me the thickest goosebumps every time I hear it. Harpsichordist George Malcolm (1917-1997) did beyond superb playing with the orchestra and revealed especially exquisite details in certain sections such as the Pastoral Symphony.

My first Messiah record was a 99-cent highlights disk from this same performance. A CD edition of this recording is priced starting at 2 or 3 bucks by various Amazon vendors.

Melachrino Strings

April in Paris
RCA Victor LSP-2739, recorded 1963, stereo dynagroove LP.

The Melachrino Strings were the creation of English-born George Melachrino (1909-1965), an all-around musician skilled at playing violin, viola, clarinet, oboe, etc., and composer of movie soundtracks. This orchestra landed a contract with RCA Victor in the very early fifties, sold easy listening records by the millions and were the biggest rival to Mantovani. The albums had such titles as Music for Relaxing, To Sleep By, For Dining and To Study By; and ones devoted to the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, and, one special favorite, Jerome Kern. To me, their arrangements were tasteful, very pleasant and, as a rule, less sugary than those of Mantovani.

April in Paris also has a group of three accordionists, the Trio de Musette, which provides charming instrumental contrasts to the larger orchestra within each selection. The program consists of French-styled pop classics such as C’est Si Bon, I Love Paris, the Bobby Darin hit Beyond the Sea, Song from Moulin Rouge, Autumn Leaves, the title song, etc. The LP shows up often on Amazon sites and in various thrift stores along with other Melachrino titles.

Charley Varrick

starring Walter Matthau, Andy Robinson, Joe Don Baker, John Vernon, Sheree North, etc.; 1972.

Walter Matthau

A mostly forgotten film of possible interest.

With respect to bank heist flicks, this movie remains one of the best ones I have ever seen. Matthau plays the title character who is thrown unwittingly into one nasty situation after he and his friends pull off the typically every day bank robbery. Their proceeds are not the common ten or, if lucky, $20,000 for their well-planned hard day’s work but a roaring six digits when

Sheree North

the gang coerces the employees into handing over certain cloth bags seen behind the counter. They have obviously hit a money laundering outfit. And become the target of some individuals, portrayed with captivating aura by Joe Don Baker and John Vernon, who pursue them with scorched earth determination. Quite fun and delightfully unpredictable at moments!

Joe Don Baker

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