The Film Music of Arthur Benjamin and Leighton Lucas
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)
Suite from The Conquest of Everest (1953) [9:34]
The Storm Clouds Cantata from The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) [7:44]
Waltz and Hyde Park Galop from An Ideal Husband (1947) [7:11]
Leighton LUCAS (1903-1982)
Portrait of the Amethyst from Yangtse Incident (1957) [6:49]
Dedication from Portrait of Clare (1950) [3:38]
Prelude and Dam Blast from The Dam Busters (1954) [5:15]
Stage Fright Rhapsody from Stage Fright (1950) [4:54]
Suite from Ice Cold in Alex (1958) [9:19]
This Is York (1953) [9:26]
March-Prelude from Target for Tonight (1941) [3:04]
Abigail Sara (mezzo); Rob Court (organ)
Côr Caerdydd/Adrian Partington; Gwawr Owen
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba
rec. BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales, 3-5 October 2011. DDD
Full Track-List at end of review
CHANDOS CHAN 10713 [67:58]
Arthur Benjamin (profile profile profile) was born in Australia. A fighter pilot in WW1 he is reputed to have tangled with the German ace Hermann Goering later to achieve infamy alongside Adolf Hitler. Benjamin was supported by Thomas Dunhill into an RCM open scholarship to London. His claim to popular fame rests on the Jamaican Rumba, based on the tune, Mango Walk. He wrote a great deal of film music of which these three samplings are a small part. At another level he wrote some estimable concert music including three string-instrument concertos (Dutton), two works for piano and orchestra (Everest), a masterly Symphony (Lyrita and Marco Polo), light orchestral pieces (ABC), chamber music (Dutton; ABC) and much else including piano pieces (Lyrita, ABC).
The little four movement suite for The Conquest of Everest speaks of the grandiloquent confidence of the New Elizabethans in Coronation year. Its sense of human striving, of the awesome scale of nature and of valiant endeavour is frankly and impressively expressed. Strings surge and brass ring out in a chest-swelling blend of Walton with a dash of Korngold. This documentary film had a narration written by Louis MacNeice. Wind back two decades to The Storm Clouds Cantata from The Man Who Knew Too Much. There you can hear a more doom-inflected accent and a pall of darkness. The choral writing is influenced by Walton’s Belshazzar premiered only three years earlier. There’s also a touch of Rimsky in the chirpy woodwind at 5:10 and of Tchaikovsky at 5:40. It’s a dramatic little piece to words by Dominic Wyndham-Lewis (1891-1969) – and yes the words are there in full on pages 40 and 41 of the booklet. Hitchcock re-made the film in 1955 and Herrmann re-used and slightly extended the Benjamin cantata. Herrmann is also seen conducting the cantata as part of the re-made film. The Waltz and Galop puts in a Viennese appearance in An Ideal Husband. This ersatz contribution is a convincing piece which catches the manner rather well and strikes parallels with a work I often cite in such comparisons, Barber’s gloriously indulgent Souvenirs orchestral suite not to mention Benjamin’s own Cotillion. There’s also a touch of Herrmann’s later score for The Magnificent Ambersons. Herrmann conducted this bipartite piece for his well known 1970s collection of British film music (review).
Londoner, Leighton Lucas (profile) was at first a dancer, part of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. This connection arches over his music. Various ballets are prominent in his worklist. In 1923 he conducted Boughton’s The Immortal Hour during its first and greatest celebrity. He also essayed concert music including the Partita (1934) for piano and chamber orchestra, the Sinfonia brevis (1936) for horn and eleven instruments (said by Philip Lane to be touched with the influence of gamelan long before Britten and McPhee), a clarinet concerto (Dutton), the Ballet de la reine (ASV), and various works for brass band.
The Lucas scores included in the second part of this disc are to films many of which were shown during Sunday TV matinees in the 1950s and 1960s. In those far-off days there were only two or three channels and 405 line analogue broadcasts. It’s a treat to hear this music now in such good sound. The Yangtse Incident material is predominantly light and jaunty – a touch at tr. 10 of Walton’s Crown Imperial strikes a glancing blow off Coates. Dedication from Portrait of Clare is a luxuriant arrangement of Schumann’s Widmung from Myrthen. The Prelude and Dam Blast from The Dam Busters will do very nicely thank you. The brass sing their souls out. There’s a calmly succulent trumpet solo at 2:13 alongside the nobility and swagger. This is more than just the famous march and we do get a Tapiola-inflected insight at 4:10 into the murderous floods released by the successful breaching of the dams. The Stage Fright Rhapsody is another in that specialist genre of sub-Rachmaninovian pocket piano concerto. It’s very effective too and can happily stand alongside similar examples by Bath, Addinsell and Rózsa. The Suite from Ice Cold in Alex is in three movements – a hammeringly tense movement which may have given John Williams the idea for one of his Star Wars themes and a lushly romantic interlude indebted to Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique. There’s also a scorching march with a touch of Handel about it and a Scotch snap. The compact suite from the travelogue This Is York is commanding, playful, folksy (III) and thoughtful. The second movement doffs the hat to Honegger and Pacific 231. Back finally to the Second World War for the grand March-Prelude from the wartime documentary Target for Tonight. Ireland’s Epic March puts in an appearance. The Chandos team also remind us of their splendid way with the brass and especially with the BBCNOW’s horns.
The music here may be short-winded but it is enjoyable and is recorded so as to flatter. Neither will the documentation let you down. It shows the same flair and dedication that has gone into rescuing and reconstituting this music from soundtracks. A remarkable effort all-round.
If you have liked the other discs in the series then you will need this one as well.

Rob Barnett

Enjoyable and recorded so as to flatter. A remarkable effort all-round.


Full Track-List

Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960)
premiere recording
Suite from 'The Conquest of Everest' (1953) 9:34
Reconstructed by Marcus A. Caratelli
Orchestrated by Marcus A. Caratelli and Christoph Schürmann
1 I Title Music - 1:50
2 II Walls that Surpass the Imagination - 0:46
3 III The Great Lift - 2:27
4 IV Top of the World and Final Bars 4:30
5 The Storm Clouds Cantata from 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (1934) 7:44
Edited by Philip Lane
Abigail Sara mezzo-soprano
Rob Court organ
Côr Caerdydd
Adrian Partington guest chorus master
Gwawr Owen conductor
Waltz and Hyde Park Galop from 'An Ideal Husband' (1947) 7:11
6 I Waltz 5:30
7 II Hyde Park Galop 1:41
Leighton Lucas (1903-1982)
Portrait of the Amethyst from 'Yangtse Incident' (1957) 6:49
Reconstructed by Philip Lane
premiere recording
8 1 Theme - 1:12
Sarah-Jayne Porsmoguer cor anglais
premiere recording
9 2 Hornpipe 1:51
premiere recording in this version
10 3 The Amethyst March 3:45
premiere recording in this version
11 Dedication from 'Portrait of Clare' (1950) 3:38
Arrangement by Leighton Lucas of 'Widmung' from Myrthen, Op. 25 by Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
premiere recording in this version
12 Prelude and Dam Blast from 'The Dam Busters' (1954) 5:15
Reconstructed and arranged by Philip Lane
13 Stage Fright Rhapsody from 'Stage Fright' (1950) 4:54
Reconstructed by Philip Lane
Catherine Roe-Williams piano
Suite from 'Ice Cold in Alex' (1958) 9:19
Reconstructed by Philip Lane
premiere recording
14 1 Prelude 2:08
premiere recording
15 2 Love Scene 4:21
premiere recording in this version
16 3 March 2:48
premiere recording
This Is York (1953) 9:26
Edited by Malcolm Riley
17 Opening Titles - 1:47
18 Setting the Path - Diagram Lights - 1:51
19 Thornton-le-Dale - 1:30
20 Smoking Engine - Pan across York - Committee Room - Portraits - Railway Museum 4:17
premiere recording in this version
21 March-Prelude from 'Target for Tonight' (1941) 3:04
Reconstructed by Philip Lane