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William PERRY (b. 1930)
Music for Great Films of the Silent Era - Vol. 2
Silent Film Heroines (Lilian Gish, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Vilma Bánky, Betty Bronson, Pearl White and Janet Gaynor) – A Song-Suite for mezzo soprano and orchestra [33.03]
Summer Nocturne for flute and orchestra [12.02]
Brass from the Past: concerto for ophicleide and orchestra [21.47]
Hearts of the World  [12.04]
Wallis Giunta (soprano); John Brancy (baritone) ; Timothy Hutchins (flute); Nick Byrne (ophicleide); Michael Chertock (piano) (all except Summer Nocturne).
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Paul Phillips
rec. National Concert Hall Dublin, 2014
world premiere recordings except Summer Nocturne
NAXOS 8.573105 [79.09]

This album is part two of a collection of music for silent films composed by William Perry. Part one is available on Naxos 8.572567.

The programme begins with separate musical portraits of eight silent film heroines as portrayed by the big female stars of the day in Perry’s Silent Film Heroines: A Song-Suite. Wallis Giunta colours her voice convincingly and enchantingly in portraying the on-screen heroines beginning with Lilian Gish’s portrayal. This brims with the pathos of the young heroine of Orphans of the Storm (1921) who is a young woman who brings her blind sister into 18th century revolutionary Paris in search of medical help. Mary Pickford’s Polyanna (1920) is a bright and lively juvenile portrait. Greta Garbo’s and Vilma Bánk’s portraits are glorious romantic melodies: Garbo for A Woman of Affairs (1928) who is searching “for the right kind of man” and Bánky in The Night of Love (1927) says “There is a love in the Gypsy soul, love that you cannot control”. Comedy is king when Gloria Swanson as a chorus girl tries to become posh to impress a man in Fine Manners (1926). Betty Bronson’s heroine was Peter Pan (1924) and here her music is boyishly heroic yet full of grace. Pearl White was a renowned actress who was featured in many serials such as The Perils of Pauline (1914). These always climaxed in cliff-hangers at the end of each episode. Finally Janet Gaynor starred in Seventh Heaven (1927) a romance set in the Paris of World War I. She believes her lover has been killed in action nevertheless she waits in their little flat on the seventh floor just in case he returns.

Perry’s Summer Nocturne for flute and orchestra was composed for a 1923 King Vidor film entitled Three Wise Fools. The music suggests a nightingale who observes children playing and lovers walking hand in hand. He flies off as darkness descends. The music is sweetly evocative of all the vignettes with a lovely melody for the romance. There is too a hint of Delius.

Whoever remembers the ophicleide? It was a bass brass instrument that was superseded by the tuba. It had a certain character that William Perry deemed could be used in film music to suggest specific characters and moods. His Brass from the Past is a concerto for the instrument and orchestra cast in four movements: ‘Blue Ophicleide’ because it was occasionally used in the dance bands of the early 1900s; ‘Military Ophicleide’ has a chain of four different marches; ‘Pastoral Ophicleide’ is a lyrical elegy and ‘Latin Ophicleide’ presents the instrument in rumba and beguine settings as Perry reminds us that the instrument was once popular in Cuba and Brazil.

Finally Wallis Giunta is joined by baritone John Brancy in Perry’s music for the D.W. Griffiths film Hearts of the World. In the space of a little over twelve minutes this is a dramatically effective and affecting tale of how the peace and serenity of a charming French village is blasted by the ravages of World War I. As part of the composition, Perry set verses by Charles Kingsley to evoke the happiness and terror experienced through the years before, during and after the conflagration.

A worthy follow-up to the original collection of William Perry's music for ssilent films.

Ian Lace


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