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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Benjamin FRANKEL (1906-1973)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
The Night of the Iguana - Pastoral (1964)
Trottie True (1949)
The Years Between (Lullaby) (1946)
Footsteps in the Fog (1955)
Queensland SO/Werner Andreas Albert
rec ABC Studio 420, Australia, 31 Oct-2 Nov 2000 DDD
CPO 999 809-2
[67.13]

My heart sank when the crashing Offenbachiana of the opening of the first track burst in. However what did I expect? This is, after all, music for an amusing film and play - 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. Frankel provided a very inventive score - Nutcracker writ modern. Along the way we get at least one striking episode where oleaginous supra-stratospheric sliding violins play pianissimo.

The Werewolf film offered the late Oliver Reed his first starring role. This is a toothsome morsel with hints of Mahler 4 and Beethoven Pastoral along the way. Looks like a good case for a complete recording. The Night of the Iguana is recorded complete for the first time. There are ten tracks. The Prelude deploys glassy Sibelian violins and links thematically with Frankel's concert work A Catalogue of Incidents from Romeo and Juliet. It does not shrink from a hint of Copland's prairie nocturnes. Speaking of Copland, The Mexican Washerwoman sounds like a cross between Ravel's Pavane and the quiet moments in El Salon Mexico. This is certainly serious film music from the souring trumpet cantilena at 1.45 in The Letter to the atonal tarantella of Shanghai The Coach. The Hannah and Shannon theme is worthy of the psychological subtlety of the score: pointillistic, cloud-hung, doom-laden feeling even a distant shade of Mahler’s infamous adagietto. You get the feeling that this score was about something that mattered in the great scheme of things.

At the other end of the scale we come to Trottie True which is rife with frothy Edwardian gaiety, Waldteufel and Offenbach with a touch of Lehár all done with élan. Along the way we get Sousa-style horn swoon, swooped alco-hazed flute theme; all in all a sensuous but not overheated period piece. Fluffy and done with ease and accomplishment. The Years Between is a lullaby. Lana Owen and Buxton Orr, as Frankel pupils, advised on the arrangement by Kennaway from the piano solo played on screen by Eileen Joyce. Kennaway did not have access to the film itself. It was arranged from published sheet music. It is an ordinary little theme but sensitively put across by the solo violin touched in over the main body of strings. The Lily Watkins theme very popular but lost from sight until now though recorded in the 'fifties by Melachrino, Wally Stott and Laurie Johnson.

The tracks from Footsteps in the Fog represent about half of the original score. The performing materials were created by Dimitri Kennaway from listening repeatedly to the soundtrack. It at first sounds like quite a marine score with cymbal-evoked waves smashing on craggy headlands. The tracks include music suggestive of disillusion, sour bleak sunrises and a stalking storm at end. Its more eldritch moments remind the listener of the surreptitious marsh music from Korngold’s Elizabeth and Essex and Waxman's for Prince Valiant.

The notes, which are in German, English and French, reward close reading. These are eked out with cinephile references like the pointer to two youthful and otherwise uncredited extras in Trottie True: Roger Moore and Ian Carmichael.

If you would like to catch Frankel in his most seriously inventive vein then go for the CPO disc of The Battle of the Bulge otherwise brace yourself for some jolting gear-changes.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Hubert Culot



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