The Five Browns are back, in entertainment mode – filmic style. As if to reinforce the fact the jewel box credits are printed movie style, in a type so vertiginous that I have now taken my eyeballs into the dry cleaners for some tender remedial work. So much for verisimilitude, fellers.
This disc is of film soundtrack music, generally though not exclusively mediated by a clever intermediary. There are Browns a-plenty to do the honours, from a solitary Brown to a phalanx of five. So we start with Star Wars in a suite version arranged by Greg Anderson. The Imperial March is a thunderous creation, one of John Williams’s most grandiloquent inventions but the full complement of five Browns pay as much attention to the vamping Ragtime theme and to the lyrical, chordally powerful material elsewhere. Strangely, aspects of the writing sound almost Rachmaninovian when played by the pianos.
We are assured plenty of contrast. The brief title music from To Kill A Mockingbird is a study in refined tracery, whilst Anderson returns for Over the Rainbow, a suite for all five pianos based on themes from The Wizard of Oz. It’s in effect a kind of fantasia in barnstormer late nineteenth-early twentieth century style, the kind of thing that virtuoso performers churned out for their own use. It’s sassy and has plenty of brio. He’s also arranged a Disney medley of tasty favourites. The solitary Joplin piece doesn’t really flow, its tango elements being rather overdone.
Philip Glass’s music for The Hours has been arranged by Michael Riesman and Nico Mühly and even in this version for single piano it manages to cast its allure. Stephen Hough’s My Favorite Things is here, played by Melody Brown; the arranger has also recorded it, and it’s becoming better known as a pleasing concert encore. The arresting opening credits music for Catch Me If You Can comes with sassy finger clicks; Williams is so superb a film composer that his taut, immediate themes survive transposition and arrangement. Another great such composer, Nino Rota, contributes his Romeo and Juliet music – beautifully lyric. To end we have excitement pure and simple – Herrmann/Hitchcock
The playing has vigour and panache. The recording is notably well balanced. It’s a tricky disc to recommend however; you need to be into both the medium and the message.