Humphrey, a piano teacher in Newport near Cardiff (Wales, Great Britain)
had many pupils. One day, in the early nineteen twenties, a small,
blind boy was presented to her. He came from a deprived background.
Margaret immediately recognized his talent, took him under her wing
and gave him lessons for free.
The young boy's name was Alec Templeton.
Goodman and His Orchestra play Bach Goes To Town.
Alec Templeton is soloist in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with
Andre Kostelanetz conducting.
Some music lovers
know Alec Templeton as the composer of "Bach Goes To Town".
And if their knowledge goes a bit further they also may recall "Mozart
Matriculates" and even "Scarlatti Stoops to Conga",
but not that he composed serious music.
known as the radio and TV celebrity who in the nineteen forties and
fifties regularly appeared on shows hosted by Bing Crosby, and who
later had his own show called "It's Alec Templeton Time"
(June 3rd - August 8th, 1955).
The more serious
collector, while consulting a record catalog for references of specific
recordings, may have seen the entry under Gershwin of blind Alec Templeton's
recording of "Rhapsody in Blue" with Andre Kostelanetz
for Columbia in the nineteen forties. The recording was issued on
two 12" shellac discs (CX-196; C-DX1045/6) and on vinyl
(ML-4455) and was listed in Columbia's catalog next to the
famous recording of Oscar Levant with the Philadelphia Orchestra and
conductor Eugene Ormandy.
The recording by George Gershwin himself with Paul Whiteman and his
orchestra on one Victor 12" disc (V-35822) and on Columbia (Great
Britain C-1395) was the abridged version.
Levant mastered both the "Rhapsody" and the "Concerto
in F" with insight and skill as hardly anybody else did, Templeton
- being a talented improviser also - had a good rhythmic feeling for
Gershwin's syncopated music, while his Rhapsody in Blue clearly shows
that his technical skill was somewhat limited.
Templeton at the time of his NBC radio broadcasts for Alka Seltzer.
Postcard image editied by R.A.B.
and TV fame was a good reason for Don Gabor to have a recording made
of the improviser which was released on Remington R-199-158 - Alec
Templeton plays improvisations on Offenbach and Strauss.
The uniqueness of this record was that Alec Templeton - who himself
wrote the liner notes for this recording - improvised and then the
takes were played back and then he improvised once more. So in fact
you will hear him play two times and you will hear four hands playing.
Ray Ericson of High Fidelity magazine ended his review in the September
1954 issue: "Clean sound, low price make this a good bet for
those who like smart-cabaret duo-pianism."
In the season
of 1951-1952 Alec Templeton concertized with the Cincinnati Symphony
Orchestra with success. Laszlo Halasz and Don Gabor had good relations
with the orchestra and its conductor Thor Johnson. Several recordings
for the Remington label were scheduled with this orchestra, recordings
to be supervised by Don Gabor and recording director Laszlo Halasz
(former director of the New York City Opera Company). The recording
engineer was Robert Blake. Gershwin's Concerto in F was the
work to be recorded with Templeton in Cincinnati's Music Hall.
was a popular artist and known by many Americans who had heard his
radio shows or were watching his TV appearances. There was a market
for a recording by legendary Alec Templeton although his skills could
not beat the technique of Oscar Levant. Despite
the fact that he is not a virtuoso and does not play the demanding
and at times highly complex piano style impeccably, Templeton's is
an outstanding interpretation. The treatment of the rhythmic sections
are very original, his phrasing is beautiful, and the accentuation's
well chosen; the blues in the second movement (Andante con moto) is
soulful, foreboding the dramatic, expressive lamentation at the end
of the movement.
The critics were
very positive about the performance of Templeton and Johnson's conducting
which is to be preferred to the sentimental accompaniment of Andre
Kostelanetz on Columbia. Johnson lifts the score to a more serious
level. Also the sound quality of the recording of R-199-184
Warren De Motte
evaluated the performance in
Long Playing Record Guide: "Templeton-Johnson enjoy their
musical romp and are well recorded." In some instances Oscar
Levant may be the better pianist since he may have known what Gershwin
was expressing out of first hand, but the cooperation with Andre Kostelanetz
resulted in a somewhat sloppy affair, while Templeton and Johnson
turned Gershwin's composition into a real concerto. No wonder that
Dutch critic Ralph N. Degens mentioned Templeton's somewhat
restricted technique, but praised the outstanding musicality of Templeton
and Johnson and wrote: "...his interpretation as well as the
orchestral part are very compelling." And he also referred to
Robert Blake's successful sound recording: "The sound transmitted
by this record has a flabbergasting clarity and naturalness; especially
the sound of the piano is a surprise." That review was written
As with the recording of the Prokofiev concerto played by Jorge Bolet
and the same orchestra, here too the grand piano was most certainly
Templeton around 1953.
(Picture taken from R-199-158. Edited
Templeton was born on July 4th, 1909 in Cardiff (Wales, UK) and
was blessed with absolute pitch. At the age of four, he composed his
first piano composition and earned his first money when playing at
a children's concert. He began his musical studies at an early age
in his hometown and as a teenager auditioned for the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) and played for them until 1935. Meanwhile he
studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College
of Music, both in London. He held degrees for both institutions.
At eighteen he composed "Trio for flute, oboe and piano"
for which he was complimented by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
On Counterpoint/Esoteric 5533 Alec Templeton plays his "Trio"
together with Julius Baker (flute) and Albert Goltzer (oboe) and on
side two The Phoenix Quartet plays Templeton's "Quartet Pastorale"
which is his Quartet No. 2. The Trio was recorded by Robert E. Blake
Jr., Don Gabor's recording engineer.
One trait of Templeton was his English humor. That is why his compositions
have such witty names as "You and I On Our Lanai", a Hawaiian
song, or - on the more serious side - one can but smile at the title
"Pocketsize Sonata" for clarinet and piano. (He wrote a No.
1 and a No. 2).
Templeton's compositions are available as sheet music and can be found
on the web, and are also appreciated by music students who are constantly
searching for uncommon repertory.
Hylton and His Orchestra. The Hylton Orchestra was the first
to broadcast to America. He took his vocalists and arrangers
to the States, formed an American Orchestra and played at the
Drake Hotel, Chicago and also for Commercial Radio.
Image from the cover of Joy
Records D 267/Decca Eclipse ECM 2046.
British bandleader, who with his jazz orchestra had played in the
Paris Opera, brought Alec Templeton to the United States when Hylton
was to broadcast a series of radio programs for the Standard Oil
Company. The liner notes of Remington R-199-158 state that
"Templeton soon established himself as an incomparable and sincere
In addition to his imaginative creativity when 'modernizing' the classical
masters, Alec Templeton composed serious works for piano, for orchestra,
string quartet, and for voice. Templeton: "Good music need not be
ponderous to be good. It can be everything from Bach to jazz." His
style of composition is close to the idiom of British folk songs.
For many years Alec Templeton and his wife Julie lived in Greenwich
(Connecticut). In the house was a large collection of musical boxes
which made music by means of perforated steel discs. Chimes were hanging
from trees in their garden and, when moved by the wind, made music.
Even their limousine had a license plate 'MUSIC'. Several records
were issued with the sound of Alec Templeton's mechanical music boxes
Dr. John Bertalot,
Cathedral Organist Emeritus (USA), told me that in 1949, Margaret
Humphrey celebrated her jubilee as a music teacher. Alec traveled
to South Wales (Great Britain) to give a recital in her honor. Alec
Templeton also invited her to spend a holiday in America as a thank
you. Because of personal circumstances, Margaret Humphrey was unable
to make the visit, but of course she appreciated the generous invitation
It was in Connecticut
where Alec Templeton died, only 52 years of age, on March 28th, 1963.
Rudolf A. Bruil, page first published fall 2001