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.
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
was 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).
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 first listed in the 1942 edition
of The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music. The recording
was issued on two 12" shellac discs (CX-196; C-DX1045/6)
and later dubbed to vinyl LP 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.
radio 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.
Templeton was a popular artist and known by many Americans who had
heard the radio shows or were watching his TV appearances. There was
a market for a recording by legendary Alec Templeton. 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.
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
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
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
Andrew 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.
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.
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.
Hylton, 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 artist."
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
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 very much.
was in Connecticut where Alec Templeton died, only 52 years of age,
on March 28th, 1963.
Rudolf A. Bruil, page first published fall 2001
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