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Oh! It's a lovely war - Volume 1
Original sound recordings from the First World War 1914-1918
CD41 CD41-001 [78:00]

The Red Shoes - Music from the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Archers 1941-51)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
49th Parallel
Brian EASDALE (1909-1995)
The Red Shoes; Black Narcissus; Gone to Earth; The Small Back Room
Allan GRAY (1902-1973)
A Matter of Life and Death; The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp; A Canterbury Tale
CD41 CD41-002 [74:00]

Sinfonia Antartica; Scott of the Antarctic – Archive recordings from the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Sinfonia Antartica (1953) [44.42]
Scott of the Antarctic - film music (1948) [8.24]
Recordings of explorers' reminiscences and novelty songs
CD41 CD41-024 [67.14]

With a rarely dwindling, and more often constantly expanding, back catalogue of CDs I felt that a little feature on three of the many CDs produced by CD41 ought to be helpful. Many of their discs have a history/nostalgia accent but these three, two of which have been previously reviewed by MWI, mesh that aspect with British music connected to film; a little less so in the case of Oh! It's a lovely war. The Sinfonia Antarctica disc is well documented with an essay by James Hayward, while The Red Shoes Archers CD is annotated across six pages but in block capitals which tax the appetite to read. CD41's access to original sources is invaluable, however, and creates a remarkable sensation of time-travelling.
 
The first of four discs in the label's series Oh! It's A Lovely War deploys transfers of original sound materials. These were taken down in 1914-18 with one exception. The authentic sound materials are now at least a century old and what we hear has been adeptly freshened with natural results using the CEDAR process. The 24 tracks mix narrative accounts of the war with sentimental and hortatory songs of the era. All the famous titles are here at least from the point of view of the Allies - if not the Austro-Germans. Two marches (or close) are the United Forces March by "Entwhistle" played by The Metropolitan Military Band and the Grand Peace Records for military band and "supporting artists". The latter gives an excuse to look back at Tipperary and a bravado-high medley of other martial tunes including The British Grenadiers, All the old favourites are there including Good Bye-Ee given a stiff music-hall delivery. John McCormack sings Tipperary and Novello's Keep the Home Fires Burning. You also get to grips with Haydn Wood's immensely popular and enduring Roses of Picardy. The two 1920s vintage song medleys radiate an intolerably bright and cheery glare which is offset by some excellent spoken word tracks.

Two vivid pieces are spoken by Sgt Edward Dyer VC and these precede several tracks including one narrated by 'some of the boys'. This element, coupled with the eerie sound of what is reportedly a gas shells bombardment fill out the picture with a frisson. The 1914/15 cylinder of Your King and Country Want You trampingly exhorts the audience to sign up. Recruitment success is assumed by Marie Lloyd who sings an authentically winking comedy song in Now You’ve Got the Khaki On. Have You News of My Boy, Jack? Is sung by Louise Kirkby-Lunn to music by Edward German (1917). You may, if based in the UK, recall a TV film My Boy Jack (2007) in which author Rudyard Kipling (David Haig, who also wrote the film), and his wife (Kim Cattrall) search for their 18-year-old soldier son (Daniel Radcliffe) killed in battle. On the downside, the insert leaflet has rather small-fonted commentary which is a pity as the track notes are good. The booklet otherwise sets out valuably detailed historical and recording minutiae by historian James Hayward. This disc and its companions have a special resonance in 2018 - one hundred years since the end of hostilities. Beyond this you may also want to fill out the picture with a generous collection of songs on Nimbus-Retrospective.

The Sinfonia Antartica disc collects 78rpm sides of the original untinkered-with film music for Scott of the Antarctic. It adds the Sinfonia Antartica, as recorded first by the pioneering London Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Boult, with John Gielgud's narration. Gielgud can be heard before each movement except the first. That said, it seems that RVW did not intend the Symphony to be performed with a narrator. Soprano Margaret Ritchie's vocalise is a common feature to the soundtrack extracts and the Symphony. She was accustomed among other things to vocalise as she had performed the same composer's Three Vocalises, one of VW's last works. For the Medtner Society she had done Medtner's Sonata-Vocalise with the composer.

This omnium gatherum is a self-declared selection of "Archive recordings from the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration". It starts with the creaky music-hall tones of P. Pelham and L. Wright's ’Tis A Story That Shall Live Forever (1913) added to this is a slightly more serious narration with music by Robert Carr. Then, after the first track, comes RVW's Sinfonia Antartica, recorded on 10-11 November 1953. This is the whole symphony in a single 45-minute track. It's a pity that individual movements were not separately tracked. While it seems that no recordings exist of Scott telling of the earlier expeditions prior to his last and fatal one, their place is taken by a total of seven and a half minutes of Shackleton speaking about his own Polar adventures. Back to RVW then for seven scenes from Scott of the Antarctic from 1948, five years before Sinfonia Antarctica saw light of day in the concert hall. From that point of view the Pearl GEM0100 has the edge as it allocates one scene to each track. More modern and extensive, even comprehensive, recordings of this film music exist on Dutton and Chandos. Those hankering for a full survey of RVW's film music beyond the Scott music should try the three-disc Chandos box that is CHAN 10529.

The musically literate feature films of Powell and Emeric Pressburger form the theme of one of the three discs. These Archers productions are atmospherically and resonantly done. The disc starts with the signature sound of the arrows thudding into the butt archery target for the title picture frame of the Archers films. When first reviewed here the OST originals sourced by CD41 and inevitably featuring the voices of the actors, irritated the reviewer. Not so in my case. There is something overwhelmingly atmospheric about hearing the soundtrack music with the actors' or narrators' commentary or oration. RVW's 49th Parallel, with its heart-easing wide-stepping theme, is superbly spun, woven and liberated by Muir Matheson and the studio orchestra. In any event the two segments chosen, Prelude and Epilogue, are principally musical material. Where the voice enters it is almost as potent as in Vaughan Williams' Oxford Elegy. An alternative approach to this score can be found on an RVW anthology on Naxos or on another Pearl or Bernard Herrmann's languid 'take' on the Prelude on Eloquence. Allan Gray's plunging and tempestuous film noir romantics for A Matter of Life and Death sweep the listener along. They suck the mind into the fantasy, as does the pebble-hard piano minimalism of The Waiting Room and the phantasmal Prelude and Stairway to Heaven. Gielgud's moving stiff upper lip for An Airman's Letter to his Mother separates three miniature scenes from Gray's less striking music for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp with its concluding big band swing "Commando Patrol". It's Gray again for A Canterbury Tale which opens with an evocation of the quintessentially English countryside through a peal of bells and a theme that bespeaks pilgrimage.

Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue takes up 8+ minutes of the disc which could easily have been allocated to original music by one of the others from The Archers' stable of composers. This is an opportunity missed. Onwards to music by Brian Easdale. As for the brace of Red Shoes extracts, they boast Ravel-like and stirring tones. For me the hyper-dramatic music for the film Black Narcissus registers Easdale's name most commandingly. CD41 gives us two tracks including the impressive "composed-sequence" with its choir-intensified sequence - a hysterical and possessed Daphnis sound. This accentuates the torment of the bell-swung moments which form an unforgettable climax to the film. The presence of this music prompts thoughts of Dmitri Tiomkin's score for Lost Horizon (recently refurbished by Dutton-Vocalion). The similarly hectic and feral Gone to Earth (a novel by Mary Webb) is represented in often galloping tempi by three extracts. The hypnotic ticking sound and intensifying dissonance of a couple of very brief fragments from The Small Back Room indicate that Easdale could turn his hand to the sort of immersed modernism that would have delighted Elizabeth Lutyens for Hammer Productions. The "tuning-up" sequence from Tales of Hoffman has more complexity and Ravel-shaping than you might have expected.

At least Easdale has had his own Chandos volume (review review) but sadly Allan Gray has been overlooked. Speaking of lacunae, I would mentioned the concert works of two composers 'famed' for their film music: John Wooldridge and Frank Cordell (1918-80). Wooldridge's serious works ought to be looked at again. His symphonic poem The Constellations (1944) was premiered by the New York Philharmonic under Rodzinski and given its first UK performance by John Barbirolli and the Hallé. There are other works too. If RVW's Thanksgiving for Victory (review review) has a place in the light why not Wooldridge's A Solemn Hymn to Victory; never mind his Symphonic Suite The Elizabethans, Largo for OrchestraPrelude for an Unwritten TragedyPrelude for a Great Occasion and English Rhapsody, Song of the Summer Hills. The latter is dedicated to Boyd Neel. There is also a Cello Concerto written for Maurice Eisenberg (1900-72) and The Saga of the Ships for narrator and orchestra. As for Cordell, he is likely to be remembered for his music for the films The Bargee, Khartoum, Ring of Bright Water (1969) and Cromwell (1970) and TV serial music for The Man Who Never Was and Court Martial. What of his Cello Concerto (1978) and Horn Concerto (1979). Are they completely devoid of merit? Apart from these two composers we should recall that Brian Easdale also wrote music for other than the silver screen. His work-list included several operas, The Phoenix - a ballet - and the Missa Coventrensis written for the same festival as Bliss's Beatitudes and Britten's War Requiem. He also had to his credit a Piano Concerto (1937), a Concerto Lirico for piano and orchestra given in 1955 by Wilfred Parry, the Hallé and Barbirolli at the Cheltenham Festival, Dead March - A tone poem, Five Poems for speaker and orchestra and various songs and solo piano pieces. Does anyone have private recordings of these scores by Wooldridge, Cordell and Easdale?

As a supplement you might like bear in mind Pearl's now rather 'ancient' but admirable series of three discs of British film music. Dutton's clever single disc collection and an exceptionally well documented early 1990s EMI special: CDGO 2059. For those who would value hearing RVW at filmic length then the Chandos collection is de rigueur. Meantime do have a look at CD41's website; well worth adding to your checklist.

Rob Barnett

Previous reviews: Gary Dalkin (Red Shoes) ~ Jeffrey Davis (Antartica)


Contents
 
Oh! It's a lovely war (Vol. 1)

1. It's A Long Way To Tipperary John McCormack (1914)
2. Pack Up Your Troubles Murray Johnson (1916)
3. Good Bye-Ee Courtland & Jeffries (1918)
4. Oh! It's a lovely war Courtland & Jeffries(1918)
5. Here we are again!!! F. Wheeler (1915)
6. Medley: Wartime Songs Of 1914 *1 male ensemble (1920s)
7. Medley: Wartime Songs Of 1914 *2 male ensemble (1920s)
8. Keep The Home Fires Burning John McCormack (1917)
9. On The March Sgt Edward Dwyer VC (1915) monologue
10. In The Trenches Sgt Edward Dwyer VC (1915) monologue
11. In The Trenches descriptive sketch record (1917)
12. The Estaminet 'Some of the Boys' (1920s) descriptive sketch record
13. The Attack 'Some of the Boys' (1920s) descriptive sketch record
14. Tommy's Fags Leo & Hesse (1916) comic sketch
15. 'Er Bloke, VC Leo & Hesse (1916) comic sketch
16. Gas Shells Bombardment 'British troops advancing on Lille' (1918) actuality recording
17. United Forces March Metropolitan Military Band (1914)
18. Your King And Country Want You Helen Clarke (1914)
19. If You Were The Only Girl In The World Violet Lorraine & George Robey (1916)
20. Boys In Khaki, Boys In Blue F. Wheeler (1914)
21. Now You've Got The Khaki On Marie Lloyd (1916)
22. Have You News Of My Boy, Jack? Louise Kirkby-Lunn (1917)
23. Roses Of Picardy Ernest Pike (1917)
24. The Grand Peace Record military band (1918)

Sinfonia Antartica; Scott of the Antarctic – Archive recordings from the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration
P. Pelham/L. Wright ’Tis A Story That Shall Live Forever (1913) [3.30]
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Sinfonia Antartica (1953) [44.42]
Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) The Dash for the South Pole (1909) [3.46]; My South Polar Expedition (1910) [3.40]
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Scott of the Antarctic (1948) [8.24] {Prologue, Pony March, Penguins, Climbing the Glacier, The Return, Blizzard, Final Music)
P. Pelham/L. Wright ’Tis A Story That Shall Live for Ever (1913) [3.10]
Stanley Kirkby; Robert Carr (baritones)
 
The Red Shoes - Music from the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Archers 1941-51)
1. Archers Ident (the famous "thunk" of the logo arrow hitting target) [0.04]
49th Parallel (1941) - Vaughan Williams
2. Prelude [3.10] (contains narration)
3. Epilogue [4.16]
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Allan Gray
4. Prelude / This is the Universe (contains narration, dialogue and sound effects) [5.03]
5. The Waiting Room / Washed Ashore [1.33]
6. Prelude / Stairway to Heaven (piano progression) [4.08]
An Airman's Letter to his Mother
7. Narrated by Sir John Gielgud [3.08]
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - Allan Gray
8. Prelude [1.50]
9. War Starts at Midnight [1.47] (entirely dialogue)
10. Commando Patrol [2.42] (big band jazz cue)
A Canterbury Tale Allan Gray / JS Bach
11. Prelude [2.14] (Gray's arrangement of Bach, contains narration)
12. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor [8.48] (1935 Bach recording used in the film)
The Red Shoes - Brian Easdale
13. Prelude [3.52]
14. Ballet Music [12.47]
Black Narcissus - Brian Easdale
15. Prologue [1.47] (contains dialogue)
16. Composed Sequence [5.25] (contains dialogue and sound effects)
Gone to Earth (Brian Easdale)
17. Prelude [1.21] (contains sound effects and dialogue)
18. The Tryst [2.38]
19. The Hunt [1.07] (contains sound effects)
The Small Back Room (Brian Easdale)
20. Composed Sequence [1.40] (contains sound effects)
21. Epilogue [0.52]
Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)
22. Orchestra Tuning [2.58]

 

 



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