July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
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Alfred Hitchcock featurette (Video and CD reviews):-

Video Review:-

 A Talk With Alfred Hitchcock
CBC (Canada) Image ID9486CZ Black and White [52 mins]

I picked this video up in Tower Records on my way through Seattle after vacationing in Canada. It was announced as a new video release. The interview with Hitch dates back to 1964 (hence black and white). It was a two-part television programme broadcast by CBC in their Telescope series (sponsored by General Motors) roughly equivalent to BBC's contemporary Monitor series.

The interview is fascinating. For me, its most interesting facet is what is omitted - any mention of Vertigo. In 1964, that film had not quite achieved the cult status which it enjoys today. Interestingly, the interviewer, Fletcher Markle, says, "Most critics today agree that your finest film to date is Shadow of a Doubt, would you agree with that estimation?" "Unquestionably", agrees Hitch.

Hitchcock explains his philosophy of montage - putting an idea across in a series of "little assemblies" like a mosaic and shows how he achieved the Psycho shower murder scene by assembling no less than 78 pieces of little film over 45 seconds to convey its horror: shots of feet, head, hands, shadows on the shower curtain, water going down the plug-hole, and the shower curtain being pulled from its hooks as Janet Leigh's lifeless body slumps to the floor etc. He then contrasts this mosaic with another for the murder of the detective, using a different technique of sharply contrasted angled shots head-on and from high up.

Of music for his films, Hitch says, "I have no control over the music the composers do as they like, I can't judge its effect from hearing a piano (reduction)." Bernard Herrmann is also interviewed. He states that Hitch was adamant about having no music behind he Psycho murders but Bernie insisted and when Hitch reluctantly heard those famous stabbing chords with the film as opposed to silence he immediately relented.

Another fascinating section relates to the story limitations imposed by the use of certain actors. In Suspicion, it will be recalled, Cary Grant was suspected by his young wife, Joan Fontaine, of plotting to kill her. Now the producers, concerned for Grant's career and not wanting him to appear in unsympathetic roles, insisted that there be a happy ending with Grant proven to be just a loveable rogue (the wild car ride at the end where Fontaine is convinced he is planing to kill her by pushing her out when he actually pulls her back in). Hitch wanted to have an ending where Grant poisons her with that glass of milk. Fontaine would have realised his intention but resigned herself to death rather than continue life without his love. However she has written a letter to her mother, which she asks Grant to post as he hands her the milk. The letter reveals all so that no other woman need share her fate. The film would have ended, after her death, with Grant cheerfully posting that letter.

Special effects for The Birds is discussed and special mention made of Marnie which was in production at the time of the interview. A must for all Hitchcock fans.


Ian Lace


EDITOR’s CHOICE Classical Score July 2000


Collection: Alfred Hitchcock
Dimitri Tiomkin
Strangers on a Train
Franz Waxman
Roy Webb
John Williams
Family Plot

The Utah Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Ketchum
[Note: This album might be difficult to find in some territories. Varèse Sarabande's California office assures me that it is still in their catalogue. If in difficulty visit their web site: www.varesesarabande.com]
  Amazon USA

For the second month in succession I find that I prefer a recording that might be difficult to obtain. This marvellous album was first released in 1985 and I snapped it up in its LP format. Readers might remember that I mentioned it in our Alfred Hitchcock centenary feature on this site last year and I was keen, then, to review the CD version that I knew existed but I was led to believe that it was no longer available. Then I found a copy in a Vancouver record store. Needless to say I purchased it without a moment's hesitation.

The larger type in the heading is there for a purpose. Tiomkin's score for Strangers on a Train is simply magnificent. It towers over all the other music on this album. And that is some statement for all the other works have stature. The 16+minute Strangers... suite opens with one of Tiomkin's most powerful and memorable Main Titles. Here is Tiomkin's pronouncedly individual style, with its great rhythmic energy, magnificent tunes, and opaque rough-edged sonorities. In this Hitchcock thriller Farley Granger is Guy, a champion tennis player who is approached on a train by Bruno (Robert Walker) who proposes they swap murders. He will kill Guy's unsympathetic and unwanted wife while Guy kills Bruno's over-dominant father. The music for Guy reflects his somewhat passive character, while Bruno's music denotes his mania in the demonstrably glassy, ghostly tones of high violin harmonics. These two themes (both heard in the main title) are heard to spectacular effect in the tennis match scene, in which Guy has to race against time to finish his game and prevent Bruno planting incriminating evidence in the form of a cigarette lighter. Ketchum and the Utah players succeed magnificently in screwing up the tension implicit in this wonderfully thrilling music.

For Hitchcock's last film, Family Plot, John Williams provided a sparkling score that helped to lift this disappointingly tensionless black comedy of errors. The album includes the polished and elegant End Titles that summarise all the main themes including the wordless female voices representing the "mystical" aura - complete with phoney crystal ball - which surrounds Blanche; and the glittering, elegant harpsichord theme. Who knows what might have developed from a partnership of Williams and Hitchcock?

Franz Waxman's music for Suspicion is full of atmosphere and suspense; it is also thoroughly English-sounding appropriate to its setting. (this was the second Hitchcock 'English' story filmed in Hollywood that Waxman had scored, the first being Rebecca-see also my remarks about Suspicion in the Hitchcock video review also on this site this month). The opening Main Titles music has a glitter and glamour that is infectious although there are shadows lurking. For 'Sunday Morning', as Cary Grant courts Joan Fontaine, the material is mainly sunny, optimistic and upbeat as Fontaine is elatedly swept off her feet. Yet again there are passing clouds, particularly in that brief, enigmatic, cold long shot where the sky darkens and it appears that Grant's embrace has something sinister and threatening about it. The mood darkens as Fontaine discovers that her husband is an irresponsible playboy fond of gambling and a spendthrift and a liar. She suspects that he has killed his best friend and that he maybe intending to kill her next. The music swirls menacingly and for the famous scene where Grant races along the cliff road with Fontaine thinking he is about to push her out of the car, Waxman provides a thrilling, pounding accompaniment ('Too Fast') that screws the tension up to fever pitch.

The least well-known composer represented in this collection is Roy Webb who did such sterling work at RKO Radio. Hitchcock's Notorious inspired Webb to write one of his best scores. The Main Title impresses with an urgent note of danger and intrigue contrasted with a memorable sweeping romantic theme for Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. This short suite includes Webb's tense, strongly characterful and evocative music for Sebastian (Claude Rains) as he detects Grant's intrusion and discovery of the uranium hidden in his wine cellar; and the equally suspenseful music for the scenes where Bergman lies poisoned by Sebastian and his mother, before she is rescued by Grant; and finally to underscore Sebastian's doom as he faces the wrath of his fellow Nazi conspirators.

For those who have the LP version of this recording I suggest they keep treasuring it because it sounds richer and fuller than this CD incarnation - yet, notwithstanding this setback, the album is strongly recommended


Ian Lace

The Perfect Storm

SONY CLASSICAL SK 89282 [79:10]
Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

The opening track begins with uncreative music, full of roomy clichés and lacking any protean application, but almost two minutes in there is the musical symbolism of impending danger, a dark roll of low strings, timpani, cymbal and brass -- gathering storm clouds and thunder - that made me remember how great Horner can be. That first magnificent moment is hardly new compositionally (raise your hand if you've heard Hovhaness' Symphony No. 2), it is even old symbolically (Beethoven's Symphony No. 6; and you can put your hand down now), but like the whole of what is contentiously Horner's best score, "Brainstorm," it slices through complaints of undue referrals with at least the illusion of individuality. Horner's craftsmanship shines, if not his artistry. Themoment raises hope.

You know the expression "Hope floats." Well, "The Perfect Storm" ultimately sinks it.

I spent many of my younger days 'bashing' Horner, using terms that were at best brutally accurate and at worst indicative of teenage stupidity. Usually there were combinations of both. However, the basic dilemma remains for us to argue: James Horner is habitually not at his best.

Few listeners will be startled by the general lack of innovation. Some could thank Horner for compiling enough of "Apollo 13" and "Mighty Joe Young" that they can sell them for more shelf space. I would keep Mark Mancina's exceptional "Twister" score, though, as the quality of Horner's electric guitar use is questionable... Of course, all composers repeat themselves and others, but there is repetition that enhances, that is redundant, that plagiarizes, and there is that which doesn't bear repeating.

Interesting, then, how his soundtracks can be well acquainted, yet peculiarly inconsistent. There are more excellent moments than the one I fondly mentioned above awaiting brave adventurers, but "The Perfect Storm" basically panders to shallow musical standards. Let us start with the main theme. James Horner is the master of the complaining melody. It starts flatly in the middle range, moves up the scale to state a truly obnoxious phrase, returns to the tonal center, and then repeats its "I want! I want! I want!" styled refrain. It is a juvenile motif overused by track five (a patchwork cue virtually guaranteed to have those knowledgeable of classical music screaming, by the way), yet the orchestration shimmers! Shortly thereafter Horner introduces a secondary theme where it is the orchestration that dries and shrivels. He strips it down to the string section, accented horribly by arpeggios awkwardly played on piano. The action/tension music is uniformly exciting but ludicrously derivative... to the point of abstraction. Quiet moments and a handful of symphonic lightening bolts are what provide the core interest. Thus between a stormy sense of deja vu and the infrequency of themes meeting variations, the successes within the recording attract attention to just how washed-up it is overall.

Oh, and John Mellencamp sings the theme song.


Jeffrey Wheeler

Chicken Run
RCA VICTOR 09026-63702-2 [63:04]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Nick Park always insisted on eschewing the traditional Tom & Jerry approach when it came to music for his Wallace and Gromit films in favour of music that might be applied to any feature film. As he observed, his were real characters, in real, well quite real, situations with real feelings. He maintains the same philosophy for Chicken Run and Powell and Gregson-Williams deliver a gung-ho heroic score very much in the mould of A Close Shave.

The score is an eclectic patchwork quilt of material reminiscent of Ron Goodwin in Where Eagles Dare mode, Jerome Moross's The Big Country, Eric Coates in The Dam Busters mode, and Elmer Bernstein's The Great Escape etc. It is a kaleidoscope of many styles which I am sure work well with the animation: Scottish, Celtic/Irish, Country and Western/hoe-down , the rumba, waltz, vaudeville and Italian etc. etc. There is much military music with heroic brass and snare drum flourishes; and hot swing and fowl jazz if you will allow the pun. There is a real confusion - sorry, profusion of styles. Most tracks are taken at a hectic pace with only one or two pauses for breath to signify some sentimental or romantic episode. Two songs are included, both quite appealing: 'Flip, Flop and Fly', performed by Ellis Hall and 'The Wanderer' by Dion.

Fun but exhausting


Ian Lace

Maurice JARRE

MILAN 73138 35902 [36:05]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Maurice Jarre is not one of my favorite composers. He plagiarizes. He often drags his themes out as far as he can and shoves them beyond. He depends on orchestrators too heavily for my tastes. He cozens his listeners.

Yet, "Sunshine" makes me re-examine that. It is politically incorrect to say an artist is maturing, as that implies his past works are immature, but Jarre has certainly grown. "Sunshine" bears similarities to past works, such as his own "Ghost" apparent in an airy leitmotif, but the familiarity is hardly the distraction less talented composers proffer, or that troubled his younger career. He continues to milk his themes for all they are worth, but they seem worth more in our increasingly unsentimental culture (when we bother to hear them). According to associates, and confirmed by the consistency of Jarre's style, his symphonic ear is keener than it was in his "Doctor Zhivago" days. And as for the wheedling, we know the tricks now and are nevertheless moved, so there is a gap in the complaint.

"Sunshine" is beautiful music. The context is "an epic period piece spanning three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family trying to gain acceptance in their turbulent homeland..." says the media release. Strong scores defy an attendant condition, because they are dramatically assured enough to attract our own condition. The resulting soundtrack albums often seem too short for the imposing compositions. That feels true here, and conjecture adds to the notion: I am told "Sunshine" is a few hours long and that the album hardly touches on the full majesty of the score... True or not, the soundtrack as a publicity tool serves its purpose, as I look forward to seeing and hearing the feature.

The soundtrack as an entertaining accompaniment is a nobler state of being. Its central, culturally orientated theme does joins the various motifs together. A first-rate example is the final track, 'The Sonnenschiens,' in which a theatrical piano solo from Holger Groschopp ties to a very cinematic choral from the Metro Voices to the "Ghost"-like charm and massive orchestral coda from the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (a version without choir, and with a very ugly crossfade, opens the disc). Let the trumpets sound, and may the singers shout, "He left his synthesizers elsewhere!" Through the recording's short running time Jarre touches on many facets of Hungarian music, from folk simplicity to military stridency to classical complexity. Even a saxophone nudges in on the action.

The work is epic regardless of whether there is a presentation to match. This is a gorgeous stand-alone, and for those who question the use of filmusic independently I respond that music, "the organization of sounds with some degree of rhythm, melody, and harmony," can be shaped by, but not defined by, unspooling celluloid. Maurice Jarre *composed* this, and its success or failure in theater or CD player forever depends on its degree of rhythm, melody, and harmony.

Here. Right now. It succeeds.


Jeffrey Wheeler



Hans J. SALTER and Frank SKINNER
Mystery and Horror
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by William T. Stromberg
MARCO POLO 8.225124 [67:33]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

I understand the reasoning behind releasing an album of suspense scores by Hans J. Salter and others. The composers are unfairly underrepresented in record stores. "Universal's Classic Scores of Mystery and Horror" is a step toward remedying that. There are some wonderful orchestral scores presented, and the cheerful exclamation of "John Morgan and Bill Stromberg, keep it going!" is perpetually appropriate.

Following Jimmy McHugh's classic Universal fanfare, the heart of the album begins with the second re-recording of Hans Salter's "The Ghost of Frankenstein," expanded to a very exciting 45 minutes. "The Ghost of Frankenstein" is unexpectedly passionate, and through the considerable forward momentum and mettlesome bombast there are no regrets about Hollywood romanticism. The story of Frankenstein's creation is slick melodrama, aimed at exposing social biases, assisting the suicide of terminally ill political agendas, and serving a catalyst for religious thought. Salter mirrors these ideas with great music. Where the score may raise eyebrows is with its derivativeness, including what is quite possibly the first filmusic nods to Gustav Holst's 'Mars, Bringer of War' and Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." The music leans to repetition, too, but of the evolving, involving sort that rarely grows tiresome.

My favorite track, the "Son of Dracula" 'Main Title,' is also the briefest film score portrayal on this disc. In one minute, Salter has me shouting (figuratively, of course) for more as he again moves from horror-filled dissonance to gothic mystery to tragic melody.

Regrettably, the score proper mostly borrowed from Universal's music library.

The unmemorable 'Hypnosis' from "Black Friday" by Salter, Charles Henderson, and Charles Previn falls on a similarly short side. After an intro that clearly foreshadows the transitional music Herrmann would later use in "Psycho," the weakest selection of "Mystery and Horror" spends the bulk of its tiny time emptily moiling, growling, and blasting dreary chords.

If the talk in various filmusic discussion groups is any indication, the two cues from Hans J. Salter's "Man Made Monster" are the recording's surefire pleasures. These are quite grand (and are exceptional treats following a 'Hypnosis'), sparkling bright with volant orchestrations and musical humor... 'Corky' introduces a frolicking motif in full scherzo form; it took me awhile to get this tune out of my head, and courtesy of writing this critique I must recall it again. Corky's theme gets a few more variations in "Electo-Biology" before the music develops a secluded, then demented taste, reaching an apex in a delightful counterpoint for... xylophone!

A premiere recording of Frank Skinner's "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" is the closing suite. The ponderous moments thrown in with classical turmoil are initially disappointing, but disinterest fades away as Skinner unwinds a solid British verve. The score is sinister and suspenseful, giving away to the occasional tourbillion of crazed excitement. The suite notably includes a musical cameo from one Hans J. Salter (does the name seem vaguely familiar?) as 'The Spider,' a cue tracked from the later "Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman."

The liner notes by Bill Whitaker are magnificent -- well written, meticulously researched, insightful, entertaining, and directly relevant to the current state of filmusic use & appreciation. Conductor Stromberg summons brisk, energetic performances from the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (subbing for the Moscow Symphony, and doing a lovely job of it). This album's technical production is extraordinary and rates alongside the team's most 'authentic' re-recordings.


Jeffrey Wheeler



Music for the films of Val Lewton:
Cat People; The Seventh Victim; The Body Snatcher; I Walked With A Zombie

Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) William T. Stromberg
Marco Polo 8.225125 [69:53]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Of all the film music discs produced by Marco Polo and conducted by William Stromberg, this is, in my opinion, the most important. I am aware of only one other disc devoted to the music of Roy Webb and that was a release of original soundtracks on the Silva Screen label (CNS 5008). It is an essential buy but it contains only one extended suite (the marvelous Curse of the Cat People). Most of the cues last only a couple of minutes and offer a mere sampling of the work Webb was doing at RKO during the 1940s. The sound of these recordings is in mono but is excellent nonetheless. Aside from the Silva disc and a couple of re-recorded suites (Notorious on Varese Sarabande and The Seventh Victim on a long-out-of-print Decca album entitled Satan Superstar!), Webb's music has been largely ignored. Why this is may have to do with the nature of Webb's scoring which is unusually restrained when compared with that of his contemporaries. I've often noticed how a Webb score lurks in the background--an ominous presence more felt than heard.

What happens when you pull this music away from its source and bring it out into the light? To me the result is a revelation. Far from being just a series of chromatic chords and orchestral effects, Webb's music is multi-layered; relying on complex counterpoint, impressionist-like harmonies and thoroughly-worked thematic development for its effect. He's been described as a composer ahead of his time and I can understand why. His methods of scoring resemble those more commonly used in the 1950s and 60s when composers such as North, Friedhofer, Bernstein and Goldsmith were paring down the rhetoric and bombast that had afflicted so many scores during Hollywood's "Golden Age". Webb seems to have led the way in this regard and its sad that he has lingered in near obscurity for so long.

I should have known that John Morgan and Bill Stromberg would come to the rescue. They have similarly served other underrated composers such as H.J. Salter, Frank Skinner and Hugo Friedhofer and their discs devoted to these composers have been the highlights of the Marco Polo series. This new Webb disc is now my absolute favorite. Aside from the fact that the music is extraordinarily good, I also feel this disc features Bill Stromberg's very best and most sensitive conducting captured in sound that is superior to other issues in this series. That may be the result of a change of recording venues for this disc, along with the brilliant new recording of mystery and horror scores by Salter and Skinner, was recorded using the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra rather than the usual Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The war in Serbia evidently made it impossible for Morgan and Stromberg to get to Moscow at the time these recordings were made. I was initially disappointed when I learned that Marco Polo had chosen Bratislava and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra because I haven't been too impressed with that orchestra's playing on other Marco Polo discs - especially those conducted by Adriano. Here they sound completely in sync with Webb's idiom. I can only guess that the combination of the music and Stromberg's inspired musical leadership drew from them their very best playing.

As is usually the case with these old scores, Morgan had to rely on piano reductions and his extraordinary ears to reconstruct the music. Webb's scoring is much more subtle and chamber-like and Morgan has resisted the temptation to beef it up. There were only a few places where I felt a fuller string sound would have helped such as in the main titles for Bedlam and The Seventh Victim, otherwise the reconstructions sound note perfect to my ears. Morgan had literally hundreds of Webb scores to chose from when compiling this disc but he selected a few that Webb wrote for RKO producer Val Lewton. It was the perfect choice. The Lewton/Webb partnership is one of the less lauded but most significant in the history of film. Lewton's films are frequently described as psychological horror films and almost all contain a "walk" or long stretch during which one of the characters travels through some ominous landscape to escape danger or resolve a conflict. The most famous example may be the walk through the sugar canes in I Walked With A Zombie or little Teresa's evening journey to buy flour in The Leopard Man. These segments are devoid of dialogue. A less sophisticated composer may have papered such delicate scenes with layers of music but not Roy Webb. His scoring, when it's used, is subtly integrated into all the other elements of the scene in a way uncommon with film scoring during that time. Lewton was extremely fortunate to have had access to a composer whose understated style so beautifully reflected his own.

This disc contains extended suites from Cat People and The Seventh Victim and shorter suites from Bedlam, The Body Snatcher and I Walked With A Zombie. It's a generously filled disc (70 minutes) and Morgan has done his usual masterful job in putting the suites together. I'm especially pleased that he has given us so much of the score for The Seventh Victim. It is an absolute masterpiece and the highlight of this disc. The film itself is Lewton's darkest and Webb's score is mesmerizing in the way that it is manages to be both eerily beautiful and deeply unsettling. Listen to the cues "The Palladists' Trial", "The Chase" and "Desirous of Death" and you'll hear Webb's art at its absolute zenith. His use of instrumental color is as original as Bernard Herrmann's but a good deal more subtle. His use of whirling counterpoint disturbed by occasional flashes of harsh dissonance is typical as is the emphasis on harmony and instrumental sonority. In this regard, Webb's music sounds very impressionistic but he is more of the English than French school, I believe.

Webb's music does at times remind me of the music of Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge and John Ireland and I like to think that hearing these scores gives us some idea of what those masters might have written if they had ever composed music for a horror film.

My only complaint about this Seventh Victim suite is that it omits the tender music for the scene where Jason and Mary view the search light outside his apartment window. It was included in Christopher Palmer's much briefer suite recorded by Stanley Black but that recording is long out of print. I suspect there was enough time available to include it here but its absence is sorely felt.

We do get a lengthy suite from Cat People and that music has its moments of menace but the overall tone is tragic for it expresses the conflicted emotions of the film's protagonist, the haunted Irena, so beautifully played by the great Simone Simon. Also beautiful is the score for I Walked With A Zombie.

Morgan assembled a small chorus of basses for the "Zombie Chant" and their inclusion is indicative of the care and attention given to recreating these scores for recording. They've also included the street beggar's ballad from The Body Snatcher sung by Maria Knapkova. Her diction is a little awkward but she captures the spirit of the song and it adds immensely to the suite. I hope Morgan and Stromberg can be convinced to give us the complete score to The Body Snatcher for it is another masterwork and there is much great music not included in this suite. I would recommend Webb's score for Curse of The Cat

People as a companion. I'd love to hear what Morgan and Stromberg would do with that gorgeous music. The Slovak orchestra plays these scores with tremendous sensitivity. Bill Stromberg captures the atmosphere and mood of the music without allowing it to become staid or monotonous. He has really developed into a fine conductor and I'm delighted to see him branching out into recording concert music as well. I can't imagine his performances of this music ever being bettered and I suspect Roy Webb would have been thrilled if he had lived long enough to hear it. I hope having more of his music available will bring about a renewed interest in his music for he was one of the greatest and most original practitioner in his field. This disc receives my highest possible recommendation.


Richard R. Adams

The Barber of Siberia

SONY SK 61802 [66:20]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

This historical drama was clearly a composer's dream. Lush scenery, epic themes (and length - 185 minutes!), set-piece scenes (e.g. a carnival on a frozen lake), and Richard Harris as a slightly mad inventor. There's a large variety in style from Artemyev, but not so much that this feels like a range-demonstrating demo.Most lastingly impressive for this reviewer is the sumptuous waltz of "Surprise At The Ball", but the jaunty scherzo of "Cadets and Maidens", the orchestrated so as to be geographically correct "Welcome To Russia", and the imposing weight of "The Prisoner's March" should not be forgotten either.

This is to be recommended as something decidedly outside of the Hollywood norm.


Paul Tonks

Don Quixote
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Richard Hartley has conceived a delightful score for John Mortimer's television series based on the famous novel by Miguel de Cervantes starring John Lithgow as Quixote and Bob Hoskins as Sancho Panza. Hartley's music is sensitive to the complex character of the eccentric ageing knight. It is colourful and vibrant; atmospheric and evocative. It is just a pity that there is not a theme that really lingers in the memory. The material and treatment: colour, orchestrations, rhythms etc - all are familiar. The strongest impression is of the music of Rodrigo. Yet it is Hartley's immaculate taste and skill that weaves the widely varying material into a most satisfying whole and Varèse have been unusually generous in providing an album of 72 minutes allowing Hartley's creation space to breathe and follow the development of Cervantes story.

The album consists of nearly 40 cues mostly quite short, on average about 2 minutes but with two more substantial tracks: 'Down the Well', mysterious, subterranean agitated string swirlings that contrast with the heavenly serenity and wide cosmic vistas of 'Journey Beyond the Stars' with its mystical overtones overlaid with references to the noble and virtuous side of the Don's character. Other cues are concerned with the pastoral backgrounds to the story. Others have proud fanfares to accompany the jousts. Energetic dance rhythms and sultry love music underscore the more romantic moments and there are very evocative pieces for such episodes as 'Tilting at Windmills' in which the turning of the windmill sails are splendidly realised.

Although it could be said that there is a certain amount of sameness running through this album, it is nevertheless colourful and entertaining.


Ian Lace



Children of a Lesser God
GNP Crescendo GNPD-8007 [33:27]
[This album is an existing release; the original recording was released in 1986]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Two films I can see over and over are The Accidental Tourist and Children of a Lesser God both starring William Hurt (what has become of his fine talent of late?). Both films had hauntingly beautiful yet melancholy scores that added immeasurably to the dramatic and emotional impact of the films: the former by John Williams and this music by Michael Convertino. Convertino creates a bitter-sweet, gentle, slow moving score, written mainly for high strings but including synth material sensitively mixed within the texture (an object lesson in the technique).

Children of a Lesser God, based on the acclaimed stage play by Mark Medoff, was released by Paramount in 1986. William Hurt won an Oscar nomination for his warm portrayal of James the teacher of the deaf in an isolted specialist school. Other Oscar nominations went to the film itself as best picture, Mark Medoff for his screenplay and Piper Laurie for her role as the mother of the deaf Sarah played by the stunningly beautiful Marlee Maplin who won the Best Actress Oscar for her remarkable performance. Although it can be said the film did not have the bite of the stage play, the central romance between the teacher and the irascible, disillusioned and bitter Sarah, the college's former pupil, now the janitor, is most sensitively handled.

The Main Title music introduces the haunting bitter-sweet theme for the romance between James and Sarah. It speaks eloquently of their tenderness yet trepidation and hesitation and much about the vulnerability of Sarah. This lovely tune fully flowers in End Title after the estranged lovers have come back together to find a mutual and satisfying method of communicating and expressing their love. There is something of a pastoral nature too in the Main Title, expressive of the cool northern watery beauty of the New Brunswick setting with its soft golden light. For much of the album the music moves slowly, ebbing and flowing, moving in slow but complex cross-currents, high strings cascading, glistening, with pointillistic piano and synth notes and anchored by long held lower string chords. The music cleverly points up not only the setting, but the plight, the isolation of the young people under James supervision, locked within themselves and within their deafness. 'Sarah Sleeping' introduces muted and distant voices and whistling to subtly suggest her disorientation. Just two trumpet chords in something of a Last Post mode, indicating James's sorrow and despair sound out from the pervading string texture in 'Searching for Sarah' and cool piano ripples cross 'Love on the Couch' suggest a tentative reaching out for tenderness.

In contrast to all the slow moving material there is 'Boomerang' a more energetic and gaudy pop tune organised for the students by James to encourage them to speak; and the second movement of Bach's Double Concerto for two violins which James plays in the privacy of his rooms.

This is quiet music beautifully crafted that grows on you. Away from the film, it can be enjoyed as a calming, soothing soundstream.


Ian Lace

GNP Crescendo's web site is:- www.gnpcrescendo.com

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