November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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British Film Music Vol. 1
Sir Arnold BAX - Oliver Twist; Lord BERNERS - Nicholas Nickleby; Sir Arthur BLISS - Men of two Worlds; Brian EASDALE - The Red Shoes; John IRELAND - The Overlanders; Ralph VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS - Scott of the Antarctic; Charles WILLIAMS - While I live;
 The Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Muir Mathieson & Ernest Irving, (track 13, LSO, track 14, The National Symphony Orchestra, tracks 20 & 21 Charles Williams Concert Orchestra, conducted by Charles Williams)
 Pearl GEMMCD 0100 [74:39]


Here is music from British films made between 1946-48, presented in recordings made for issue of 78rpm records, originally released on Columbia, Decca or HMV. It is a well-filled disc, though unusually the selections from Scott of the Antarctic (1948) also appear in identical form in the simultaneously issued Pearl GEM 0107, Vaughan-Williams Symphony No.6 - Film Music, which I review this month on FMOTW. For my comments on these see that review. That leaves music from six other films, all either classics or films with notable scores by major composers, or both.

Brian Easdale's Red Shoes Ballet (1948) is particularly well-loved, and while the ballet is presented here, so is the rather harder to find 'prelude'. A most welcome return to the catalogue, though the ballet can be heard in all its magical glitter to far greater effect on the Silva Screen re-recording Classic British Film Music (FILMCD 072), and it should be noted that the complete original soundtrack to The Red Shoes has recently been issued by the Sound Track Factory (SFCD33540).

Arnold Bax only wrote two film scores, Malta V.C., and Oliver Twist. This later is represented by three tracks, the first an eight minute arrangement of the film's main theme into a single movement movie concerto featuring Harriet Cohen at the piano; an essential item for Bax collectors. Unfortunately the surface noise is particularly intrusive, making the 'Theme' something of an endurance test for those raised on spectacular modern sound. Then comes a combination of the cues 'The Pickpocketing', 'The Chase' and Fagin's Romp', all followed by the 'Finale'. The music finds the composer caught somewhere between his concert style and the demands of the screen, but it is still unmistakable Bax, full of pace, excitement and drama.

John Ireland's The Overlanders (1946) is a classic film score, here arranged into a suite by the conductor Ernest Irving which lasts almost nine minutes. This is robustly adventurous music, a vein continued through the set-piece 'Bazara', another movie concerto in one movement, this time for piano and chorus, from the film Men of Two Worlds (1946) scored by Arthur Bliss. Rousing as this is, I can't help but feel that the composer is better served by the re-recording on Bliss: Film Music (Marco Polo 8.223315).

Next comes Lord Berners score for Nicholas Nickleby (1947), a Dickens film rather overshadowed by Oliver Twist in the history books, but one which offers an idiomatic and very English score in the grand tradition. And finally, Charles Williams music from While I Live (1947), a romantic melodrama today remembered, if at all, for yet another of those 1940's movie piano concertos, The Dream of Olwen, performed by Arthur Dulay. Endlessly parodied, yet still highly effective, the track is actually preceded by a cue of incidental music from the film which is much more rare.

For those who don't mind the thin and hissy sound, which is actually at least average for the era, this disc will provide much pleasure. The music is excellent, the recordings acceptable and the historic and nostalgic value immeasurable.

Gary S. Dalkin

***** music; ** sound

Reviews from previous months

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