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Benjamin FRANKEL (1906-1973)
Curse of the Werewolf (1959) [34:22]*
So Long At The Fair (1950) [6:21]
The Net - Love Theme (1953) [3:05]
The Prisoner (1955) [30:35] **
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Davis
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 26-27 July 2005. DDD
* First complete recording; ** world premiere recording

Frankel was a composer of wide sympathies. These included enthusiastic advocacy for the works of Sibelius and Finzi. His own music, as evidenced by his string quartets, eight symphonies and opera Marching Song - the latter awaiting premiere recording - used a modicum of Bergian dissonance to eloquent effect.
Frankel had a ready professional talent for film music and scored many features for the burgeoning British cinema industry of the 1940s and 1950s. Rather like Elizabeth Lutyens, Frankel found that, provided he chose his films well, he could use his more avant-garde natural language rather than having to switch to something more populist. Horror and psychological drama were welcoming. When necessary he could also do the more populist stuff too but usually with a personal zest and citrus accent.
There have been a number of collections showcasing his work in this genre from CPO and Silva Classics. Here is a generous selection from Naxos issued in the year of the Frankel centenary (2006). It compares very well with the last general CPO anthology which seemed thin fare beside the score for Battle of the Bulge - itself a highly recommendable disc from CPO.
Curse of the Werewolf - typical Hammer horror schlock drew an excellent score with the Prelude and Finale being outstanding. Those two substantial tracks have a feeling of Chasseur Maudit, mixed in with wild rumba and a dash of Herrmann's North by North West. Thereís plenty of rampant brass especially the romping and rearing French horns: sensational sound. We are delightfully spared nothing in impact by Tim Handley's audio team. That rearing theme echoes throughout the score as in Revenge and Escape (tr. 4) and Leon Imprisoned (tr. 10). The Beggar (tr. 2) has an easy-going jog-trot of a melody akin to that in Carriage and Pair. On the other hand Servant Girl and Beggar has a gently Bergian chill. He writes vernal avian music for Pastoral conjuring an innocence we may link with similar rustic moments in the Frankenstein films. For the werewolf Transformations (trs. 8, 11) the chiming of bells recalls the torment and nightmare of Malcolm Arnold's symphonies 5 and 7.
So Long at the Fair - a romantic film about a disappearance at the 1889 Paris Exposition - is represented by a continuous medley, gentle and charming in the style of Herrmann's Magnificent Ambersons. The selection is unfailingly buoyed up by the clip-clop Carriage and Pair with its silky lyric line spun over the top of the horse hooves. Plaudits to the yielding tone of the Liverpool violins.
The Net was an Anthony Asquith film about a team of scientists working on an experimental aircraft. The Love Theme is tentative and sparingly adds a solo piano part with just that whiff of Chopin-Rachmaninov romance high in the register.
The score for The Prisoner provides a very substantial sequence. It tells the psychologically oppressive tale of a Roman Catholic priest's imprisonment and interrogation in a nameless communist state. Alec Guinness plays the priest and Jack Hawkins the interrogator. Again, in the Prelude, the Liverpool horns roar out in aureate splendour. Not unexpectedly however this score is predominantly introspective, ominous and downbeat.
While So Long at the Fair and The Love Theme represent the more tender Frankel the Curse of the Werewolf and The Prisoner show Frankel in his most earnest dramatic style including some masterly use of dissonance. Note that the eleven cues for The Prisoner and the twelve for The Curse do not exclude some poignantly yielding material by way of contrast and for atmosphere building and storytelling.
In the little insert there's a nice informal photo of the composer but no stills or film posters. The liner-notes are by Frankel expert Dmitri Kennaway who has also done all the score reconstructions. Naturally, with the exception of Carriage and Pair from So Long at the Fair all the other original performing material has disappeared.
This is the best single CD selection of Frankelís film music - ranging from the sensational Gothic spectacular to the cool and charming.
Rob Barnett


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Reviews of selected other Frankel recordings
Symphonies (cpo) - RB, HC
Film Music (cpo) - Vol. 1, Vol. 2
Violin & Viola Concertos (cpo) - NH

For further information about Benjamin Frankel, see the website dedicated to his life and music. 

Message received

Many thanks for such a glowing account.

One small correction, before I get more credit than is due to me: the original scores for Curse of the Werewolf and The Prisoner are two of the very few that survived, so my
task was simply to produce printed editions and parts. To be honest, I really don't think
I could have reconstructed those two, especially given the way some cues were faded
in and out.

I did reconstruct the Love Theme from The Net, and the cues from So Long At
The Fair (except, of course, Carriage and Pair, as you point out).

Dimitri Kennaway


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