October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Film Music of Malcolm ARNOLD Vol 2
  Suite from Trapeze; Overture: The Roots of Heaven; Symphonic Study Machines for brass, percussion and strings; Suite: No Love for Johnny*; Suite: David Copperfield†; Scherzetto for clarinet and orchestra: You Know What Sailors Are; Ballad for piano and orchestra: Stolen Face*; Comedy Suite (Exploits for Orchestra) from The Belles of St Trinian's†; Fantasy on Christmas Carols: The Holly and the Ivy; Postcard from the Med.: The Captain's Paradise*. * premiere recording † premier recording in this version.

John Bradbury (clarinet); Philip Dyson (piano)
  BBC Philharmonic conducted by Rumon Gamba
  CHANDOS CHAN 9851   [78:55]

It's been a long time coming, this second volume of Film Music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, (Volume 1, that included: The Bridge on the River Kwai, Whistle Down the Wind, and Hobson's Choice, was released back in 1992), but this latest collection proves that Arnold was indeed a potent composer in the genre.

The album begins with a suite from Trapeze reconstructed, arranged and orchestrated by Philip Lane and here I should pause to pay tribute to the fine work of Lane which has enabled the recording so many of the tracks on this album. Circus drama, Trapeze (1956) starred Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida. The Main Titles music sums up all the dangerous excitement of the high wire with a broad romantic spirit (and some wit) that reminds one of Steiner. 'Romance' is a slinky, close-up dance which very well captures the mood of the 1940s/50s. Bullish circus 'Fanfares' are followed by the amusing lumbering gait of 'Elephant Waltz' while 'Mike and Lola' is a dreamy romantic interlude. 'Tino's Arrival in Paris' swaggers along with accordion and rhythmic sticks and the suite draws to a conclusion in the darker, dramatic Finale.

The Roots of Heaven (1958) was about elephant poaching in Africa. It starred Trevor Howard and Errol Flynn, and it inspired a bombastic and colourful score from Arnold with some vivid evocations of elephant trumpetings plus a little wild jazz and a lovely romantic waltz. Rumon Gamba gives it a lusty reading.

Arnold's music for the 1951 documentary Report on Steel was turned into Symphonic Study Machines. It is an energetic and frantically paced score that pungently captures the sounds of heavy machinery and the dark smoky atmosphere of the machine shops.

No Love for Johnny (1960) had Peter Finch seduced away from his duties as an MP by an illicit romance. Philip Lane's reconstruction begins with a swaggering jubilant march for Johnny's campaign trail that is not without wit in that one senses false promises. The Moderato movement is for the romance but the dreamy stuff is juxtapositioned with ominous timpani rolls suggesting Johnny's career falling apart when he fails to turn up at the House of Commons.

Another lovely bitter-sweet score (again arranged by Lane), reminding one of the golden age of Hollywood, came for the 1969 version of David Copperfield that starred Ralph Richardson, Lawrence Olivier and Michael Redgrave. It was to be Arnold's last score. 'The Micawbers' is a lively, witty little scherzo that has the quirky fussiness and gait of a pecking hen. 'Young Lovers' develops into a lovely waltz that glides and glitters seductively.

The Scherzetto for clarinet and orchestra from You Know What Sailors Are is a 2½ minute piece of breezy, cheeky slapstick. It was arranged by the late Christopher Palmer. Ballad for Piano and Orchestra from Stolen Face (1952) is a true find. Written very much in the style of the cinema pianoconcertos of the period, the excesses of its Late Romanticism are checked by more sinister material in keeping with the plot development of this early Hammer Horror about a plastic surgeon (Paul Henreid) who recreates the face of his lost love (a concert pianist of course) onto an ex-convict (Lizabeth Scott in a dual role).

But the stand-out track has to be Arnold's brilliantly anarchic and hilarious music for The Belles of St Trinian's (1954) starring the inimitable Alistair Sim and George Cole. Arnold wickedly contrasts the sedate 'tea and crumpet' world of Miss Fritton with the 'ave a banana' crudeness of her criminal brother Clarence and spiv Flash Harry in very witty music slyly orchestrated. Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic have great fun with this one. The music was arranged by Christopher Palmer and edited by Philip Lane

The Holy and the Ivy (1952) is really a collection of Christmas Carols with the distinctive Arnold touch arranged by Christopher Palmer. Finally The Captain's Table (1953) has a jaunty tune for the captain (Alec Guinness) and an infectious dance number for the Captain and one of his two wives (Yvonne DeCarlo). Another piece of splendid reconstruction arrangement and orchestration by Lane.

A nicely balanced programme of some fine British film music played with energy and verve.

Ian Lace


Gary S. Dalkin agrees:-

When Ian Lace sent me the copy of his review above he suggested that I do something different. Which, other than appending one of my school essays about dinosaurs, presents something of a challenge. I could try and find a different way of saying everything Ian has already said, but what would be the point? Ian has covered every aspect of the album in very thorough detail and for me to add anything would not only be superfluous, but a waste of your reading time. Suffice to say I agree with everything Ian says in his review; this is a tremendous album, full of fine music and sufficiently diverse to always maintain interest. And just look at the running time! Not only is it longer than some feature films, but easily offers more music than many a double LP from the so-called 'good old days'. Let us just hope we don't have to wait another eight years for the next exciting episode.

Gary S. Dalkin


Ian Lace


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