October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Curio Corner

If Only They Had Written for Films – Percy Grainger .


Orchestral Works 3 The CHANDOS GRAINGER EDITION Volume 15
 Richard Hickox conducting the BBC Philharmonic
  CHANDOS CHAN 9839 [70:25]

In a Nutshell
 Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
  EMI 5 56412 2 [69:59]

Jungle Book John Mark Ainsley (tenor), David Wilson-Johnson (baritone)
 Polyphony, The Polyphony Orchestra conducted by Stephen Laytona
  HYPERION CDA66863 [73:51]

We had planned that the Danish composer, Carl Nielsen would be our subject this month. However, since a new recording of Percy Grainger's orchestral music has just been released by Chandos and is reviewed on our associated site, Classical Music on the Web, and because Film Music on the Web is carrying a review of John Bird's book about the composer, both of which we suggest you read, it was felt that we should grasp the opportunity to make Percy Grainger the subject of this month's 'If Only They Had written for Films.'

As reported in the book review, Grainger had a number of film and film music associations. He was a true cosmopolitan: born and raised in Australia, attended music college in Frankfurt, resided in England where he was enormously influential in the folk song revival, and settled in America. Dominated by his mother, he was, nevertheless, an incredibly strong athlete stoking ship's boilers (as a passenger!), and running miles to concerts etc. An incredibly colourful character, he was married in front of thousands of people at the end of a concert (he was a very gifted concert pianist too) at the Hollywood Bowl. The many records of his music have always sold well. He eschewed concerti and symphonies in favour of beautifully crafted, melodic miniatures like, Country Gardens, Handel in the Strand, Mock Morris, and Shepherd's Hey - all immensely popular.

All the above works have been included in Chandos's ambitious Grainger Edition. Chandos' plan to record all Grainger's works and arrangements. The Edition has covered vocal, orchestral, chamber and instrumental and wind band concerts and recitals of the composer's music. Grainger made many different arrangements of his pieces for many combinations of instruments and voices, to allow maximum performance opportunity. The latest release, Volume 15 Orchestral Works 3 - includes less well-known yet interesting works like: Hill Song 2, Colonial Song (a very emotional piece that would grace some screenplay), the exotic Eatern Intermezzo for percussion ensemble and The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart might equally tempt some producer looking for source music.

Grainger was impressed with the writings of Rudyard Kipling to the extent that he was influenced to write many settings of Kipling's writings. The Hyperion release includes many of these, plus 13 other songs and one of Grainger's most passionate and affecting works, Shallow Brown.

The EMI collection conducted by Simon Rattle is recommended because it is stunningly recorded and includes a performance of Grainger's most significant work, The Warriors (Music to an imaginary ballet.), as well as Country Gardens, In a Nutshell and Grainger's immensely colourful orchestration of Ravel's La Vallée des Cloches.

Ian Lace


Ian Lace

Reviews from previous months

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