Regular readers of
MusicWeb’s sibling, Film Music
on the Web, will recognise the name
William Stromberg as the conductor of
the majority of the releases in Marco
Polo’s ongoing ‘Classic Film Scores’
series. Clearly the cinematic nature
of this music is of great appeal to
this conductor. And the huge orchestral
forces and brilliant colours offer a
marvellous opportunity to demonstrate
new sound technologies.
The Grand Canyon
Suite has been recorded numerous
times so Stromberg faces stiff competition
and it has to be said that there are
more persuasive performances. Bernstein
on Sony SMK 63086 is infectiously witty
in his portrait of ‘On the Trail’ and
Kunzel’s Telarc recording (CD 80086)
has power and splendour aplenty and
it offers a second performance of Cloudburst
with real thunderclaps as a bonus).
I also retain an affection for Antal
Dorati’s Decca recording (410 110-2).
Having said all that, Stromberg’s reading
has plenty of guts and character and
it sounds very thrilling – the surround
sound really involving the listener.
and enthusiasm makes a strong case for
Grofé’s Mississippi Suite
which is less well-known and candidly
less interesting. Its opening movement
‘Father of the Waters’ is a broad sweeping
evocation seeking to suggest the river’s
natural grandeur but Indian calls and
negro folk-tune banalities don’t help.
The most interesting movement is the
very witty portrait of ‘Huckleberry
Finn’ with Stromberg wildly and mischievously
boisterous. ‘Old Creole Days’ is more
restful, a sweet elegy for the old days
in moonlit Louisiana gardens (sub-Delius).
Finally, ‘Mardi Gras’ fizzes with exuberant
high jinks and folksongs. A favourite
old ballad (the name of which has persistently
escaped me) towers proudly over a New
Orleans carnival backdrop.
Even less well-known
is the ‘Niagara Falls Suite’ another
musical ‘picture post card’; another
noisy spectacular. ‘Thunder of the Waters’
captures the grandeur of the high falls
as they cascade downwards carrying a
suggestion of their watery smokiness.
Implicit in this movement are Indian
motifs which play a major part in the
‘Devil’s Hole Massacre’ – a movement
that stands up to any similar western
movie music by Steiner or Tiomkin and
recalls an Indian ambush of 1763 when
a British train of 25 wagons was obliterated.
‘Honeymooners’ adds a taste of romance
and steers the music into calmer waters
before the final ‘Power of Niagara’
plunges us back into even greater turbulence
depicting the industrial might associated
with a local Niagara hydro-electric
plant complete with sirens and anvil
Big, big Technicolor
music; great fun even in its banal moments,
all conducted with great verve by movie
music specialist, William T. Stromberg.
See also review
by Jonathan Woolf