Victoriana: Music, Verse & Recollections from the time of Queen Victoria

Music, verse and recollections from the time of Queen Victoria from Kenneth Williams, Miss Dorothy Blake’s personal account of life with the Queen at Osborne House, The Broadside Band, Richard Burnett & many more with a detailed 32 page booklet with numerous quotations from Queen Victoria’s journals, Mendelssohn letter and other historical background information.
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In the UK, ITV's 'Victoria' is now set to be the next 'Downton Abbey'. As with 'Downton', this series will carry an admittedly populist image of the Imperial Victorian era across the world. Material about Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and the Empire years still hold the potential for wide-scale success driven by both praise and condemnation of those intriguingly Janus-faced times.

The present compilation is by Saydisc casts far and wide through the riches of the Saydisc's eccentric "Museum of Curiosities". There's slightly over two hours of material at a two-for-one price. This ranges from spoken reminiscences, delightful music-box and Polyphon 'quainteries' to hymns, nursery songs and parlour readings.

Those Leipzig-originated 24½-inch Polyphon discs are the source of a very attractively complex sound web that glints and glitters. It's a Rolls-Royce among automatic music carriers of the age. Its glassy, silvery, spangled resonance is captivating and it's clearly a luxury item by comparison with the more prolific music-box. The Bristol barrel piano - another example of the Victorians' fascination with the miracles of automatic music - conjures up the public houses of the time.

From such lyric luxuries we come to the spoken sections interspersed liberally among the music tracks. These recordings, of which there are quite a few, include extracts from Francis Kilvert's diary and Kenneth Williams is heard on two tracks reciting 'Parlour Poetry'. This he does, guying things up but with just a shade of restraint - just a shade. Miss Dorothy Blake’s personal account of life with the Queen at Osborne House - as interviewed by Peter Duddridge in 1965 - appears on no fewer than seven tracks. She is forthright but completely engaging; treasure indeed. Her memories of Queen Victoria's slippery silk dress are priceless.

The excellent 32-page booklet by Mr Lucena presents flavoursome commentary on each item, track by track. It's also in a type-face that is easily legible. Music, verse and recollections from the time of Queen Victoria. This arrives courtesy of Nimbus at Wyastone Leys, the cherished stronghold of Saydisc, Amon Ra and its related family of labels. Eccentric splendour rules. Rob Barnett, Musicweb-International

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