Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (November 15, 1905 – March 29, 1980), known by the mononym Mantovani, was a popular conductor and entertainer in the "light orchestra" style. Mantovani is probably more associated with the light orchestra genre than any other person.
He was also musical director for a large number of musicals and other plays, including ones by Noel Coward. After the war, he concentrated on recording, and eventually gave up live performance altogether. He worked with arranger and composer Ronnie Binge, who developed the "cascading strings" sound (also known as the "Mantovani sound"). His records were regulars in stores selling hi-fi stereo equipment, as they were produced and arranged for stereo reproduction. In 1952 Binge ceased to arrange for Mantovani, but his distinctive sound remained.
He recorded for Decca until the mid-1950s, and then London Records. He recorded over 50 albums on that label, many of which were top-40 hits. These included Song from Moulin Rouge and Cara Mia, which reached No. 1 in Britain in 1953 and 1954, respectively. The latter was also Mantovani's first U.S. Top Ten hit.
In the United States, between 1955 to 1972, he released over 40 albums, with 27 reaching the Top 40 and 11 the Top Ten. His biggest success was with the album Film Encores, which made it to No. 1 in 1957. Similarly, Mantovani Plays Music From 'Exodus' and Other Great Themes made it to No. 2 in 1961 and sold over one million albums.
Mantovani made his last recordings in 1975.
Author Joesph Lanza describes Mantovani's string arrangements as the most "rich and mellifluous" of the emerging light music style during the early 1950s. He stated that Mantovani was a leader in the use of new studio technologies to "create sound tapestries with innumerable strings", and that "the sustained hum of Mantovani's reverberated violins produced a sonic vaporizer foreshadowing the synthesizer harmonics of space music."
In 1958 Mantovani and his family bought a holiday home in Bournemouth in Durley Chine Road, then in 1961 acquired a new property in Burton Road (now part of Poole). He moved, finally, to a new home in Martello Road in Poole.
Since his death at a care home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1980, his music has enjoyed a minor revival, with much of his catalogue reappearing on CD and an orchestra bearing his name performing concert tours. The saleability of the Mantovani name is underscored by new recordings being made as the Mantovani Orchestra. Unfortunately, a large number of CDs are also available of unauthorized recordings, billed as Mantovani or Mantovani Orchestra. There have also been CDs released under the Mantovani name of recordings made by others while Mantovani was still alive. Thus, consumers of this music are advised to familiarize themselves with the conductor's discography. Material with the London Records logo on it is apt to be genuine Mantovani, while other recordings are less likely to be actual Mantovani recordings.
The continued popularity of Mantovani's music is evident by the number of original albums which are being released, on labels such as Dutton-Vocalion, and by the many compilations available throughout the world. In 2008, as a result of successful, ongoing CD sales, amongst other contributing factors, the Mantovani Orchestra (performing from the original scores) was recreated for a tremendously successful historical tribute concert, held at the Lighthouse, in Poole, England, on 27th January, conducted by Sam Newgarth, MBE. Much critical acclaim has led to the planning of a second concert, to take place in January 2009, at the same venue. There are two Mantovani websites in honour of the maestro, a written biography by Colin MacKenzie entitled Mantovani - A Lifetime In Music (ISBN 1-905226-19-5), and the International Mantovani Association.