Mantovani, (Annunzio Paolo)

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Mantovani, (Annunzio Paolo)

Mantovani, (Annunzio Paolo), Italian-born British conductor and bandleader; b. Venice, Nov. 15, 1905; d. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, March 29, 1980. The most successful bandleader of the 1950s and one of the few British musicians of his time to achieve fame in America. Mantovani led a large, string- filled orchestra playing soothing instrumental music. This formula allowed him to place more than four dozen albums that reached the U.S. charts between 1952 and 1972, seven of which went gold. He also scored gold singles with his recordings of “Charmaine” and “Cara Mia.”

Mantovani’s father was a classical violinist at La Scala who later led the Covent Garden Orch. His family moved to England in 1912; he became a British subject in 1933. He studied at Trinity Coll. of Music and made his professional debut as a violinist at age 16. By 18 he was leading a band, and within a few years he appeared at major hotels and broadcast on the radio. His first success on records came with “Serenade in the Night” (music and lyrics by C. A. Bixio and B. Cherubini), which made the U.S. hit parade in March 1937.

In the 1940s and early 1950s, Mantovani conducted musicals in the West End, notably Noël Coward’s Pacific 1860 (London, Dec. 19,1946) and And So to Bed (London, Oct. 17,1951). At the same time, following the introduction of the LP he began to make albums of his lushly orchestrated mood music, well-suited to background listening. His initial success came with a single, “Charmaine” (music and lyrics by Erno Rapee and Lew Pollack), which had been used as the theme song for the 1926 silent film What Price Glory? and been a hit for Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. The Mantovani revival peaked in the American Top Ten in December 1951 and sold a million copies.

Mantovani’s first chart album, Selection of Favorite Waltzes, was in the American Top Ten in September 1952; his first U.K. Top Ten hit came with a revival of “White Christmas” in December. His next U.S. album, Strauss Waltzes, released as a 10-inch LP in January 1953, did not chart until 1958 when it was reissued as a 12-inch LP, and later certified gold. In May 1953, his next U.S. album, Music of Victor Herbert, went to #1. The same month, his single of the theme from the motion picture Moulin Rouge (music by Georges Auric, lyrics by William Engvick) and entered the U.S. and U.K. charts, reaching #1 in Britain and the Top Ten in America. “Swedish Rhapsody” (music by Hugo Alfven) was a U.K. Top Ten hit in the fall. In November came the U.S. album Christmas Carols, which did not reach the charts until its reissue as a 12-inch LP in 1957, and eventually went gold.

“Cara Mia” (music and lyrics by Tulio Trapani and Lee Lange) was an unusual Mantovani release in the summer of 1954 in that it featured a vocal, sung by David Whitfield, and was an original composition: “Tulio Trapani” was a pseudonym for Mantovani. The song reached the Top Ten in the U.S. and sold a million copies. (It was revived for a Top Ten hit by Jay and the Americans in 1965.)

Mantovani’s next Top Ten album in the U.S. came with the June 1955 release Song Hits from Theatreland, which went gold. The gold-selling May 1957 release Film Encores was his biggest selling album; it remained the U.S. charts almost four and a half years, finally going to #1 in July 1959. In the summer of 1957, Mantovani returned to the Top Ten of the U.S. singles charts with “Around the World” (music by Victor Young, lyrics by Harold Adamson). Gems Forever..., a follow-up to his recently successful albums of theater and film music, was released in April 1958; it went into the U.S. Top Ten, stayed in the charts two years, and was certified gold.

Mantovani made annual tours of the U.S. and other countries, and during the 1958–59 season he had a syndicated television series, Mantovani. But he was primarily known for his recordings, which continued to be successful as the 1950s came to a close. Continental Encores became his first U.K. Top Ten LP in early 1959, and the U.S. compilation Mantovani Stereo Showcase reached the American Top Ten later that year. Another compilation, All- American Showcase, reached the U.S. Top Ten in early 1960. But the conductor’s major success of the year was his recording of the theme from the movie Exodus (music by Ernest Gold, lyrics by Pat Boone), which became a Top Ten U.S. single in December, with a companion album, Mantovani Plays Music from Exodus and Other Great Themes reaching the Top Ten and going gold.

While continuing to sell consistently, Mantovani’s frequently released albums rarely reached such sales peaks thereafter. Italia Mia was a U.S. Top Ten hit in 1961, as was American Waltzes in 1962 and Latin Rendezvous in 1963. Mantovani Magic reached the U.K. Top Ten in 1966, as did Mantovani’s Greatest Hits in 1967; the latter went gold in the U.S. by 1970. Two U.K. compilations, The World of Mantovani and The World of Mantovani, Vol. 2, made the U.K. Top Ten in 1969. Mantovani’s last album to chart in the U.S. was his 25th anniversary album (presumably the 25th anniversary of his first 12-inch LP), Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, in 1972. In the U.K., the compilation 20 Golden Greats reached the Top Ten in 1979. Mantovani died at age 74 in 1980, after which Roland Shaw led a ghost orchestra under his name that continued to perform and record.


Selection of Famous Waltzes (1952); Strauss Waltzes (1953); Music of Victor Herbert (1953); Christmas Carols (1953); Song Hits from Theatreland (1955); Film Encores (1957); Gems Forever (1958); Continental Encores (1959); Mantovani Stereo Showcase (1959); All-American Showcase (1960); Mantovani Plays Music from “Exodus” and Other Great Themes (1960); Italia Mia (1961); American Waltzes (1962); Latin Rendezvous (1963); Mantovani’s Magic (1966); Mantovani’s Greatest Hits (1967); The World of Mantovani (1969); The World of Mantovani, Vol. 2 (1969); Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1972); 20 Golden Greats (1979).

—William Ruhlmann