Robert Docker (1918 - 1992)
Robert Docker was one of the finest musicians in the field of popularlight music. He was certainly one of its primary champions as a performer, bothin this country and latterly in Australia. His compositions, including those featured on thisrecording, have become standards in the light music genre, but perhaps it isfor his arrangements that he was best known and loved by audiences andbroadcast producers alike. He wrote works of considerable stature for piano andorchestra and for the combined forces of orchestra with solo singers andchorus, selections from the greatest hits shows from stage and screen. He alsowrote and orchestrated music for cinema, including part of the score for Chariotsof Fire.
Robert Docker was born in London on 5th June, 1918, the son of a gas worker. He was educated first at North Paddington Central School, during which time healso received some private musical tuition. He arrived with a London CountyCouncil Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied viola withJames Lockyer, piano and composition. He also learned to play the organ, theharpsichord and the violin, but it was his particular skill at the piano keyboardthat largely determined the successful career that was to lie ahead of him. Hisfirst arrangement was broadcast in 1936 and his debut on air came some ten yearslater.
Docker worked with many famous names, both as an arranger and as anaccompanist. Amongst the many popular artistes for whom he made arrangementswere the Scottish soprano Moira Anderson, Cynthia Glover and the American diva,Lorna Dallas. He also had fond memories of accompanying Jose Carreras in one ofthe songs at the tenor's first popular concert appearance at the Royal AlbertHall in 1985.
A large number of his appearances during the last twenty years of hislife were for the BBC, principally BBC Radio 2 and with the BBC ConcertOrchestra in the long running series Friday Night Is Music Night, wherefor many years he worked with and orchestrated for the late and irreplaceableSidney Torch. In addition to these broadcasts were his many appearances assoloist and as orchestral pianist with the London Studio Players, on Radio 2 andin other areas of BBC programming, where the best of British light music was so oftenheard. In performances for two pianos, he formed a partnership with Edward Rubachwhich lasted for fifteen years and subsequently with William Davies and alsowith Gordon Langford, another fine composer, arranger and pianist.
Legend is probably one of Robert Docker's best-known original compositions. Itrepresents that particular strand of light music, the 'concerto-like' featurefor piano and orchestra, happily ranking alongside, The Dream of Olwen
by Charles Williams, Hubert Bath's Cornish Rhapsody, Richard Addinsell'sWarsaw Concerto and Miklos Rosza's Spellbound Concerto (allavailable on Naxos 8.554323). While these were all for use in films, Legend
has remained essentially a concert or broadcast piece only. He had taken one ofthe ideas for the piece from a suite he had written for piano, viola and horn.
While Docker was playing the draft version in the publisher's office, SidneyTorch was in earshot and remarked upon its potential. It was used, however, bythe BBC's Home
Service in 1959 during their Saturday Night Theatre series, having beenthe inspiration for a play by Merlin Roberts entitled The Long Way Back.
Legend was later recorded in various shortened and re-arranged forms but itis the original version that is featured here. While strictly a piece of lightmusic, Legend gives the listener the feeling of something altogethermore substantial. Robert Docker performed this work on many occasions for theBBC and in public concerts all over this country and in Australia.
Scene du Bal is absolutely typical of the golden era of light music. Thedivided strings after the opening are typical of the era and its style, and ituses a standard light orchestral line-up with the clarinets featuredprominently in a repeat of the middle melody. Any 'interlude' in the early daysof television would have been graced by the addition of this piece to providean easy background to the visual image. The work enjoys merit in its own rightas an easy-to-listen-to piece where the melody is always paramount.
Three Contrasts for Oboe and Strings is really a collection of separatepieces played in a concerto-like configuration. They were written over a periodof some five years and dedicated to the oboist Linden Harris, principal oboistwith the BBC Concert Orchestra, who played them in the tribute programmebroadcast by the BBC Concert Orchestra as part of their fortieth anniversarytour of Britain. The first piece, AlIamarcia, was curiously the last of the three to be composed. The second piece,Romanza, dating from September 1985, has a most beautiful and hauntingtune with a touch of melancholy. The phrases are long and tender, showing offthe player's control and the instrument's range and versatility within theorchestral framework. The finale, Rondolet, was the first of the threepieces to be written, and first played as a solo item by Linden Harris during abroadcast of Friday Night Is Music Night. The Three Contrasts, alater work of which Robert Docker was particularly fond, are a welcome additionto the light music and indeed oboe repertoire.
Tabarinage was written in June 1961 and has been a firm favourite withplayers and audiences ever since. It is written in the form of a can-can and isoutrageously cheeky without being vulgar. The title is translated literally as'buffoonery' and shows off the composer's sense of humour. It was played afterfamily and friends had gathered for his funeral in May 1992 at IpswichCrematorium, in keeping with the family's request. Tabarinage is aclassic light miniature masterpiece and always brings a smile to both performerand listener.
Scenes de Ballet was published in 1985 by Inter Art Music Publishers. It isnot clear that these pieces were ever used to accompany dance, but they form ashort suite suggestive of classical ballet music.
Air from Air and Jig for Strings was originally published by ArcadiaMusic Publishing and dates from 1963. This movement is marked Andante espressivo
and exploits the full range of string tone. In this, as in much of RobertDocker's other works, there is a strong awareness of the viola within hisscoring, an instrument too often neglected and one which he played and whichhis widow Meryl still plays. The simple tune is cast and interwoven in thepastoral mode of an English country summer scene and uses the strings to painta picture rich in peaceful solitude.
The Spirit of Cambria was prepared for a celebration of St David's Day broadcastby BBC Radio 2 on 1st March 1972. This is not an original composition but anarrangement of four well-known traditional Welsh tunes. There is, however, anelement of compositio