Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Collection: ART HOUSE CLASSICS: Gabriel YARED The English Patient; Michael NYMAN The Piano;David HIRSCHFELDER Shine; Wojciech KILAR The Portrait of a Lady Lynda Cochrane (piano); John Debney conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD2-5982  


Crotchet (UK)

The majority of the tracks on this double CD album are for solo piano. Debney and the Scottish Orchestra are featured on none of the Nyman tracks, on two out of five Hirschfelder tracks, one of the Yared and two of the four Kilar tracks. Not that this fact should deter buyers for this is a most attractive collection.

Lynda Cochrane is the resident pianist with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Keen readers will have noticed that Varèse Sarabande have been using the orchestra very much over recent years and Lynda impressed producer Robert Townson with her playing in the opening solo for John Williams's Sabrina in VS's collection 'Hollywood '96'. The idea to feature her playing in this anthology sprang from that experience. To judge from the evidence on these two CDs, it was an inspired notion for she plays with considerable technical powess, intuitive sensitivity and delicacy

The first CD opens with seven cues from Michael Nyman's The Piano. Now I have often taken a hard line against this composer, siding with those critics who stood out against the general public acclaim for Nyman and who have regarded his work as something akin to the way the little boy looked upon the Emperor's new clothes. However in Ms Cochrane's hands the music began to have a real appeal for me. She gets beyond Nyman's meandering tinklings, especially in the second impressionistic and romantic "Big My Secret" and "The Attraction of the Pedaling Ankle." As Michael McDonagh in his CD notes says, "...they are certainly more affecting than they were in the full-blown orchestrations in the film and in the concerto which Nyman made from this material."

As much as I admired David Helfgott's struggle against his adversity, I, and a number of other critics, could not admire his interpretation of Rachmaninov's magnificent Third Piano Concerto. I thought David Hirschfelder's score for Shine was also over-rated. The two orchestral OST pieces here, including "Scales to America" with pianist and orchestra are pleasant and evocative enough and nicely put together but the ear is inevitably seduced away by the two Chopin pieces (the famous Polonaise in A flat major, op 53 and the lovely, gentle Prelude No. 15, op. 28) plus Liszt's enchanting Sospiro.

The second CD begins with the Royal National Scottish playing, in a rather subdued fashion, the lovely haunting music from The English Patient which was associated with those vivid opening images of the doomed plane flying over the desert. Although the Scottish orchesta's playing is immaculate, this arrangement by Mark McGurty drains too much emotional intensity from this early part of the score although things improve when the love theme, for violins in their high register, is reached. Lynda Cochrane plays the Bach Aria from the Goldberg Variations and the heavily Bach-informed and baroque-decorated cue "Convento Di Sant Anna" plus another introspective piece summing up the main themes, that has the film's title as its cue designation.

Wojciech Kilar's considerable five minute end title music for The Portrait of a Lady (the film was based on the famous novel by Henry James) begins with unison recorders over a quietly pulsating piano and string ostinato. As it progresses, the music becomes more impassioned but for the most part it is tinged with plaintive nostalgia, and speaks of loss and regret. Again it is supported by piano music from the clasical repertoire - this time by Schubert: first the beguilling Impromptu in G flat, D 899, No.3 and then the Impromptu in A flat, D 899 No. 4, both very well suited to the atmosphere of the screenplay. The CD ends with another Kilar cue, "Love Remains" with an extended part for reflective solo piano before the orchestra steals quiety in, in support. Both of the Kilar cues are enchanting.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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