January 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Lalo SCHIFRIN Film Classics - Lalo Schifrin presents 100 years of cinema concert recording from December 8th 1995, Lalo Schifrin piano and conductor, The Philharmonic Orchestra of Marseille, with guests Dee Dee Bridgewater and Julia Migenes ALEPH RECORDS 001 [71:21]

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1: Medley: High Noon, The Magnificent Seven, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

2: Casablanca - 'As Time Goes by' - instrumental

3: The Sandpiper - 'The Shadow of your Smile' Dee Dee Bridgewater

4: The James Bond Theme

5: High Heels - 'Piensa en mi' - Julia Migenes

6: Medley: Lawrence of Arabia, The Third Man, Dr. Zhivago, Zorba the Greek

7: The Fox

8: Raiders of the Lost Ark - 'March'

9: Gone With the Wind - 'Tara's Theme'

10: The Sting - 'The Entertainer'

11: Medley: La Strada, The Godfather

12: Movie song medley - songs from: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Wizard of Oz, Oefeu Negro, Bagdad Café, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, New York, New York - Dee Dee Bridgewater and Julia Migenes


The subtitle of this release is as misleading as it is purposeless: as the oldest films represented here are Gone With the Wind (1939) and The Wizard of Oz (1939), both a mere 60 years old. That aside, this is a rarity among film music albums, a concert disc of music from the movies, conducted and partly performed by a leading film composer. Perhaps due to the rarity both of such concerts and subsequent album issues, the selections here are of a resolutely populist nature. This is an album devoted almost entirely to famous film themes, reminiscent to the days of Geoff Love Music For Pleasure anthologies, though Mr. Love never was able to employ such fine vocal talents as Dee Dee Bridgewater and Julia Migenes.

The opening Western Medley opens with a stirring orchestral rendition of a tune more famous as the song, 'Do Not Forsake Me', from High Noon (Dimitri Tiomkin). The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein) are quite strong enough to take care of themselves, and emerge from the centre of this three way shoot-out unscathed. More interesting is the opportunity to hear Schifrin's fully orchestrated arrangement of Ennio Morricone's definitive spaghetti western theme, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Purists may rebel in horror, but Schifrin retains the spirit of the piece, while turning it into something both more traditional and more spectacular than the original. If only more of the concert/album was like this.

Schifrin takes to the keys for a jazz-piano instrumental take of Herman Hupfield's 'As Time Goes By', not written for, but made famous by, Casablanca. This is the first track where something which should have been eliminated from concert recordings long ago can be heard: line hum. It's not a big problem at first, but if you have good speakers or headphones and listen loud, it does become clearly audible. By the end of the album it has become very irritating indeed.

Next up is a real highlight, Dee Dee Bridgewater's smoky and wonderfully rich voiced reading of Johnny Mandel's 'The Shadow of Your Smile' from The Sandpiper. Unfortunately 'The James Bond Theme' don't mean a thing, because it just ain't got that swing. It does suffer from a very loose guitarist who seems to be part of another recording entirely. Over the audience applause Dee Dee Bridgewater provides a terribly embarrassing moment by singing Lalo Schifrin's praises to the tune of 'Goldfinger'. Far better is Julia Migenes version of A. Lara and M.T, Lara's song, 'Piena en mi' from High Heels, which here plays like a leftover from Canteloube's Chants D'Auverge.

A crowd-pleasing montage of famous bits from Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago (Jarre), The Third Man (Karas) and Zorba the Greek (Theodorakis) reduces these classic scores to pleasant middle-of-the-road tunes devoid of real dramatic impact, swiftly followed by The Fox, the only Schifrin score represented on the disc. Judging by a documentary about the composer shown on Channel Four last year, this would appear to be one of Schifrin's favourites among his own work. The film is a sensitive adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence novella, but here Schifrin has reworked the main theme into a showcase for his jazz piano. It bears little relation to the original soundtrack, and is too heavy-handed for jazz.

John William's 'March' from Raiders of the Lost Ark gets a routine reading, the epic quality of the soundtrack versions somehow eluding the Marseille orchestra, while Max Steiner's 'Tara's Theme' from Gone With the Wind can survive anything, this version being one of the stronger tracks on the album. Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer', made famous by The Sting is jaunty, catchy, and sounds very much as I remember from the movie, but is it film music?

A homage to Nino Rota links his theme from La Strada with his most famous work, The Godfather. The circus highjinks are colourfully playful, but some nasty line hum detracts from the plaintive trumpet solo and somehow the violin melody just lacks the requisite intimacy. The Godfather works much better, and makes me wonder how much longer we are going to have to wait for a full CD representation of this music.

The album ends with a 16 minute Movie Songs Medley, with Dee Dee Bridge Water and Julia Migenes doubling up on songs from six movies. The problem is, these songs were not written for two voices together. There is no denying the quality of the vocal performances, but 'Over the Rainbow' can only work as an expression of a lonely individual dreaming of the future. Two fine singers swapping lines simply becomes meaningless, the whole point of the song sacrificed to the 'show'. The same applies to much of the rest, though individual solo passages stand out to the extent that one wishes to hear individual albums of movie songs by both these singers. A final barnstorming 'New York, New York' blows the cobwebs out and makes up for some lacklustre work earlier on.

This is a very mixed-bag of songs and themes. Not the sort of album to appeal to the serious film music fan, but perhaps a fair present for fans of the singers, and who also like popular film themes. Otherwise, a very dated release, not for the music, but for the approach of chopping-up film scores into easily digestible bit-sized pieces.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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