September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Ernest GOLD Film Themes Vol 1  
  The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer
  ARTEMIS ART-F 001   [40:41]
(This album is a repackaging of the album released by Decca Records in 1963)
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This is a reissue of a 1963 album, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, but according to the liner notes originally billed as performed by the non-existent London Festival Orchestra for 'contractual reasons'. The set is typical of film music re-recordings of the time, in that it contains 11 tracks, each either a main theme or short suite from a particular film. The 60's were a dark age when entire albums devoted to re-recording a single film score, or even albums containing extended suites, where both unknown and unimaginable. The album is also typical in having standard 40-minutes LP record playing time, and given that this re-release is subtitled Film Music Vol.1, one can't help but feel that some additional tracks might have been included, rather than saved for a later issue. After all, the disc will find itself competing against such issues as the Silva Screen 'Essentials' series, each of which offers around 100-150 minutes of music in spectacular modern sound for the price of a single full-price album. What is atypical of this album compared to its time is that the music is conducted by its composer with one of the world's top orchestras, and that rather than the usual bland re-arrangements expected of an anthology from this era, the music retains its cinematic flavour blended with something of the then prevalent Mantovani sound.

Ernest Gold really seems to have fallen out of favour. In Exodus he wrote one of the all time best loved film themes, yet at the moment the only generally available score of his is the recently re-issued It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Otherwise, for such a major composer, his work has all but vanished from disc. The notes tell us little other than that Gold bridged the gap between such composers as Korngold and Steiner, Bernstein and Goldsmith. On the evidence here this seems to be true, Too Much, Too Soon having a melody which almost uncomfortably echoes Korngold's love theme from The Adventures of Robin Hood, the sombre treatment of the Exodus theme seemingly to fall between Miklós Rózsa's El Cid and John Williams' Schindler's List. Perhaps this is why Ernest Gold's music is currently not widely available, being too old fashioned for fans of Williams, Goldsmith et al, but a little too modern to be classed with the 'Golden Age' greats. Here It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World has a Broadway parallel to the My Fair Lady overture, The Young Philadelphians being a sentimental melody in the vibrato-heavy idiom of Max Steiner.

For the time the sound is very good, full and without distortion. The stereo image is startlingly wide, and there is some wow and flutter right at the very end, presumably from the original mastertape, which throws everything most disconcertingly out of tune. The performances, of course, are excellent. Unfortunately we are told nothing about either the films or the titles of the individual tracks, only the films they originate from. For the record, apart from those already mentioned, these are Judgement at Nuremberg, The Last Sunset, Inherit the Wind, Pressure Point, A Child is Waiting, On the Beach, Saddle Pals. Of these, and certainly compared to Christopher Gordon's score for the new mini-series version of the same story (which I also review this month), Gold's version, based around 'Waltzing Matilda', is a disappointment. There may be a certain ironic appropriateness, but the music lacks the dramatic power of the film itself. Ultimately this is an interesting but hardly essential album, which while initially quite engaging rapidly looses some of its appeal as the limitations become increasingly apparent.

Gary S. Dalkin



Gary S. Dalkin


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