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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The Film Music - volume 1

Scott of the Antarctic - suite (1948) [41.12]
Coastal Command - suite (1942) [23.43]
The People's Land (1942) [13.17]
Merryn Gamba (soprano)
Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
rec. 12, 21 Mar 2002, Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10007 [78.30]


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The prolific output yet sustained eminence of Chandos production is witnessed yet again by another immaculately prepared and executed disc. This is the most recent in Chandos's 'Movies' series which stretches back to the first of the Arnold and Alwyn anthologies. The series now stands proud on the shelves with a common livery - even the aforementioned Arnold and Alwyn volumes have been repackaged to match. Documentation is outstanding with notes by Michael Kennedy, generosity of duration is self-evident, design is clear and eye-catching.

The Scott music is mostly familiar from the Sinfonia Antartica but there are quite a few unfamiliar moments. Ship's Departure (tr.5) is marked by a Sally Army 'tin tabernacle' recessional; very much Moody and Sankey. This is followed by the shimmer chill of the Ice floes with some chortling cor anglais work and music of which Bernard Herrmann would have been proud. Recording quality is outstandingly satisfying as in the famous Penguin Dance - part fun and part presentiment of cataclysm. If the BBCPO and Chandos can keep this up for their new Bax symphony cycle then we have something both troubling and joyous to come. In tr.14 the linkage with the bleak lines of the Sixth Symphony and the Sinfonia del Mare of Gösta Nystroem is clear enough. With harkings back at 1.28 to the Saturnine terror of the bells - there are surely memories here of Holst's Planets.

In this most extensive ever recording of the Scott music we are indebted to Stephen Hogger for his remarkable research and arrangement work. As a result of this ten of the eighteen Scott tracks are world premiere recordings.

The movements in the Scott of the Antarctic suite are: Main Titles, Prologue, Doom, Sculpture Scene, Ship's Departure, Ice Floes, Penguin Dance, Aurora, Pony March, Blizzard, Distant Glacier, Climbing the Glacier, Scott on the Glacier, Snow Plain, The Return, Descending the Glacier, The Deaths of Evans and Oates, End Titles.

The movements in the Coastal Command suite are: Prelude, The Hebrides, U-Boat Alert, Taking-Off at Night, The Hudsons take-off from Iceland, Dawn Patrol (Quiet Determination), Battle of the Beauforts, Finale. These are colourfully despatched by Gamba. The music is familiar both from the Silver Screen and the Marco Polo recordings. No such familiarity in the case of Mr Hogger's 13 minute single movement revival of RVW's music for The People's Land - a celebration of the work of the National Trust and through its love affair with landscape a natural for Vaughan Williams' pastoral vein. However there are also aggressive flashes as at 1.47. Rather a pity that this score is in a single compacted rhapsodic movement (although the notes assure us that it is complete in this form) rather than separately tracked. It would have been good to be able to tie in the music with the scenes portrayed: Dover, Lake District, West Wycombe, Bodiam Castle, cliffs and pastures, lakes and sea visions. The film was made in 1942 with commentary by Freddie Grisewood. The music is full of folk references and one of the most glowing of these relates to his music for Sir John in Love at 4.48.

Roll on volumes 2, 3, 4 ....
Rob Barnett

see also Editor's Choice on Film Music on the Web


The Film Music of:-
William Alwyn vol. 2 CHAN 9959
Malcolm Arnold vol. 2 CHAN 9851
Alan Rawsthorne CHAN 9749
Richard Rodney Bennett CHAN 9867
Arthur Bliss CHAN 9896
Georges Auric CHAN 9774

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