One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger




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


I must make a confession. I do not like werewolves or films which involve psychological drama. Torture and violence - either physical or mental are not part of my definition of entertainment. But I do like comedies and light romantic tales and adventures. So perhaps I am not best placed to comment on the majority of this CD with any great authority. Yet I do love the music: it has all the hallmarks of a great composer writing effective music which has the desired effect of pointing up the action on the screen. My problem is this. I do not want subconsciously to provide the relevant cinematographic images in my mind’s eye for some of this enchanting music. I want to enjoy the music as music. Therein lies the rub.

Look at the plot of Curse of the Werewolf: a young man, Leon, is struck down with lycanthropy: causes humans to change into wolves at each full moon. His mother had been made pregnant by a crazed and evil beggar. After a reasonably normal childhood Leon falls victim to vice. Even the love of Christiana does not help him reform - and eventually he comes to a sticky end with a silver bullet fashioned from a crucifix. All very scary stuff – at least to people of my generation – although I wonder what today’s young filmgoers would make of it. Perhaps the ‘scariness’ is a bit camp by today’s standards.

The Prisoner has a harrowing plot – a Roman Catholic priest is arrested on ‘trumped up’ treason charges and is subject to torture and brainwashing, before rolling up at a ‘show’ trial. Not much fun there, I fear, although I understand the film received great accolades when it was released in 1955. And with Alec Guinness (priest) and Jack Hawkins (interrogator) in the leading roles, success was bound to follow.

Neither film is on my list of ‘ones to watch before I die’. But the music is great! The present CD gives a complete account of all the music that Benjamin Frankel wrote for the ‘Curse’ and for The Prisoner. The latter score is in fact a first recording of this music since the film’s release. Interestingly, the composer makes use of ‘serial’ technique in the ‘Curse’ - this being the first British film to use this particular compositional technique. Strangely, Frankel never used this tool again in his work for the cinema.

Now for my secret listening strategy. I listened to the ‘Curse’ and then switched the ‘hi-fi’ off. I had a rest, a cup of tea and a walk round the ‘policies’ and then listened to ‘The Prisoner’. I deliberately put all thoughts of evil and torture and werewolves and dark windy castles out of my mind: Gothic horror and ‘Stalinist’ excesses were forgotten for this exercise. I told myself I was listening to Benjamin Frankel’s “Symphonic Variations” followed by his “Variations on a Theme” for Orchestra. And this did the trick. It actually worked well – there is an internal consistency in each of these two scores allows the works to be listened to without reference to the plot or programme. They are actually extremely effective ‘concert pieces’ if heard in this manner. But - I agree - it is a scam! And call me unsophisticated if you will…

Of course the other two film scores represented are easier on the mind. The short extract from the mysterious So Long at the Fair is pure romance. Most listeners will know the evocative ‘Carriage & Pair’ which has featured in a score of British Light Music record and CD releases. Frankel’s music makes much use of this memorable tune and the result is a lovely miniature suite. The Love Theme to The Net - a spy thriller - is another one of the composer’s attractive tunes. Of course there was much more music from this score – but Carl Davis and the redoubtable Liverpool Phil give us what I presume to be the highlight.

In sum this is a great CD. Enjoy the ‘given’ movie images in your mind if this is your ‘bag’ – or listen to it as ‘absolute music’ if you do not want to associate this wonderful music with hairy hands, sharp incisors and thumbscrews.

Benjamin Frankel is one of Britain’s many underrated and undervalued composers. And he was born a hundred years ago this year. Scan the BBC Promenade Concert Programme and you will not find any mention of him or his music. It would not have taken too much boldness on the concert programmers’ part to dump a piece by Mozart, Shostakovich or Colin Matthews and slip in Frankel’s Violin Concerto or First Symphony. But of course Frankel is not the only composer to suffer from Auntie’s indifference to 19th and 20th century British Music. Heigh ho…

John France

see also Review by Rob Barnett

Link to further information about Frankel





Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.