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Francis CHAGRIN (1905-1972)
Overture from Helter Skelter (1949) [6:34]
From An Inspector Calls (1954) [3:25]
From The Colditz Story (1954) [3:31]
Suite from Greyfriars Bobby (1961) [11:42]
From The Four Just Men (1959) [3:05]
The Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra (1965) [5:19]
Four Orchestral Episodes from The Intruder (1953) [11:11]
From Easy Money (1947) [6:40]
Suite from Last Holiday (1950) [14:19]
Yugoslav Sketches from The Bridge (1946) [10:42]
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Rumon
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, June 2004
CHANDOS CHAN10323 [77:34]
is a less celebrated composer of British film music and so
this album was overdue for issue in 2004.
The opening suite
is for a minor British comedy, Helter Skelter that starred
many of the comedians working in film and, more importantly,
radio in the immediate austerity post-war period. The music
follows the pattern of the scatty screenplay with frothy slapstick,
custard-pie-type music – complete with horse laughs in the
brass. Broad comedy at the expense of classical music was the
basis of the Halas & Batchelor animated cartoons based
on the drawings of Gerard Hoffnung. For The Hoffnung Symphony
Orchestra, Chagrin cleverly composed a hilarious take-off
of well-loved classics by: Auber, Bizet, Delibes, Grieg, Liszt,
Mozart, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Johann Strauss II and
Tchaikovsky. Great fun.
From the score
for the film version of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls the
album includes ‘A Portrait of Eva’, a waltz theme and variations
to underscore her many moods ranging from the wistful through
hedonistic happiness to despair. The Portrait here, unusually,
begins on a downbeat. A short suite of music from the Colditz
Story - not to be confused with Robert Farnon’s stirring
march that he composed for the TV series - is contrastingly
and unrelentingly brutal in its evocation of Nazi repression
and the POW’s heroic defiance in their determination to escape.
More uncompromising music was created for The Intruder which
was about the problems of homecoming ex-servicemen after World
War II. Chagrin’s Four Orchestral Episodes, drawn from
the film and presumably meant for separate performance, is
predominantly bleak. Much of the music of the opening ‘Preamble’ and ‘Conflagration’ is
black and crushing, perhaps suggesting the servicemen’s continuing
nightmares of wartime horrors.
Greyfriars Bobby was
the story of the Scottish Skye terrier dog who kept a vigil
over his master’s grave for years after his death and was granted
freedom of the City of Edinburgh. The music for ‘Main Titles
and Opening Scene’ beautifully evokes the tang of heather,
the scenic grandeur of the Scottish countryside that was Bobby’s
original home while ‘Bobby escapes to Edinburgh’ vividly suggests
the dog’s determination to follow his master to Edinburgh.
The music scampers through its delightful six-minute span.
It is sharply observed and imaginatively orchestrated, its
fast tempo only pausing for some slower tenderness in sympathy
with the little creature’s fierce loyalty and dogged determination
to surmount all obstacles. Easy Money was one of those
portmanteau films popular in the 1940s and 1950s. This one
was made up of separate stories about football pool winners. ‘Il
basso continuo’ was one of the episodes. It concerned an orchestral
bass player who, fed up with playing monotonous bass lines,
falls out with the conductor and then uses his pools winnings
to bail out te now failing orchestra and insists the bass instruments
are given their share of the limelight. Chagrin has fun, writing
in different styles from baroque to the modern: shades of Shostakovich!
From the 1959 TV
series, The Four Just Men we hear the ‘Theme’ and ‘Main
Titles Music’. The four crime fighters each operated in a separate
major city: London, New York, Paris and Rome. After a sinister
opening statement, Chagrin’s music is a proud, bass-heavy cavalcade
of allusions to all four cities.
The Last Holiday told
the story of a man (Alec Guinness) who on being told he has
only a short period to live, decides to live it up. This is
the most extended suite in the album. Much of the film is set
in an English south-coast hotel and some of the score’s music
is in situ emanating from the hotel’s palm court trio: ‘Romance’ or
bigger ensemble ‘Samba’. A haunting, painfully ironic ‘Nocturne’ sensitively
underscores the scene in which Guinness and Kay Walsh try to
evade romantic entanglements – he is dying; she is married.
Violin solos dominate the ‘Main Titles’ and the sad ‘Epilogue’;
there is rather a cruel twist to the ending of the film.
The Bridge was
a documentary shot entirely on location for the Central Office
of Information (COI). It was about the regeneration of a destroyed
Yugoslav town and its starving inhabitants soon after World
War II. Although the film was only forty minutes long Chagrin
was sufficiently inspired to compose enough music to assemble
into two suites. ‘Village Feast’ is a musical celebration that
flutters joyfully with xylophone abandonment and Mediterranean
sunshine. ‘Omalinda’ (Childhood) is another charming little
sketch, a gentle, poignant lullaby giving way to more busy
playful material. Wisps of mistiness thread through the music
as ‘Dusk’ falls, a nice impressionist portrait with a hint
perhaps of the inn turning its celebrants out at closing time. ‘The
New Bridge’ is busy, muscular music for the hard work and determination
to rebuild the railway bridge over the River Drina. The music
rises to a peroration of nationalistic pride.
music, often quite witty, if not especially memorable.
see also review by Hubert
Culot and an interview with Rumon Gamba
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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