|May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews||Film Music Editor: Ian
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
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Nicola PIOVANI Dear Diary (Caro Diaro) OST PACIFIC TIME PTE-8523-2 [26:31] Save around 22% with
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Short but sweet. This is an extraordinary but fascinating score for an equally extraordinary and fascinating (but ultimately frustrating) film. The film comprises three disparate episodes revealing the thoughts of the director, Nanni Moretti, who plays himself: on a Vespa tour of Rome, island hopping in Southern Italy and seeking medical counselling for an incurable itch that eventually is diagnosed as Hodgkinson's disease. Along the way, Moretti wryly comments on suburbia's stranglehold on cities, rampant tourism, his spite for film critics and the Italian obsession with American TV. He even manages to interview Jennifer Beals about her role in Flashdance Nicola Piovani responds with an inventive score proving, once again, that the Italians seem to be the only ones with truly original and inventive voices in film music just now. The album comprises only twelve cues, averaging two minutes long, built from the simplest of themes that are repeated over and over but made interesting by the use of imaginative combinations of small groups of instruments that enter at different intervals, and interesting modulations and vibrant rhythms. For the opening cue `Caro Diaro' piano, guitar and strings play an intimate little tune that has a sense of loneliness as Moretti rides through empty streets on his Vespa. When I saw the film I was struck how cleverly the music was attuned to the movements of the motorcycle and the surroundings. Each of the five little cues are appealing: some have a slight syncopation, one has a jazzy pizzicato effect and another, the more relaxed `Medici', has a lovely romantic melody. The second group of cues under the heading: `Palombella rossa', uses piano, cymbalon (or similar-sounding instrument), xylophone and accordion as well as some strings and a little brass. The music is by turn a little sad, swaggering, dance-like and carnival-grotesque - and very Italian! Again short repeated figures are used with great resource. The final three cues under the collective title, `La messa e' finita' exhibit more of the same with some dramatic, slightly sour material in the tango rhythms of the opening title cue. The second cue relaxes into waltz time coloured by Nino Rota/Fellini type clowning and for the final cue an echoing saxophone with piano and vibraphone embroiders the earlier tango stuff.
An interesting and perversely addictive score.
Collection: Adventures of Superman Music from the 1950s Television series VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6093 [72:17]
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Much more so than many other film or television music releases, how much you get from this album with probably depend on how old you were in one particular year - 1953. This is a very unusual disc to come from Varese Sarabande, who normally specialise in new soundtracks and re-recordings, and comes with extensive notes explaining the complex background to the scores, and a generous 72 minutes playing time. The music here is from the first season (26 episodes) of the 1950's George Reeves' staring Adventures of Superman American TV series, originally broadcast in 1953. Although the cover adds that it features music from Superman & The Mole Men, this is from the rescored TV two part version, rather than the theatrical release. This opening season of Superman was styled after film noir, and that's where the music mainly came from.
Until 1950 American television music was live music, and is reputed to have been blandly nondescript. In 1950 David Chundnow, described in the booklet notes as "a feisty packager of low-rent film scores" took on the might of the American Federation of Musicians by forming Mutel, dedicated to the distribution of canned, or what we would now call 'library' music. The Mutel sound did not consist of newly composed music, but rather was taken from the scores of B movies from the poverty-row studios. Some of it was taken directly from the original sound elements, some was re-arranged and re-recorded in Paris (to avoid union problems), with various French sounding pseudonyms concocted to protect the composer's from the wrath of the American Federation of Musicians. This Mutel music ended-up on the soundtracks of such early 50's TV shows as Racket Squad, Sky King, Captain Midnight, Space Patrol, and most successfully of all, The Adventures of Superman.
From this murky history it has not always been possible to identify the composer of certain sections, but the music for the first season of the show was taken mainly from The Guilty (composer Rudy Schrager), a 1947 Monogram thriller, Open Secret (composer Herschel Burke Gilbert), PRC 1948, and a third, unidentified score. This last score sounds like a collision between Prokofiev, Honegger and American Indian rhythm, and is explosive, atmospheric, suspense-filled music. It is suspected that it may have been written by Lan Adomian or Richard Mohaupt, and it may have been composed for a documentary about American Indians.
What the disc offers is the main and end title music from the show, the former with voice-over introduction. There is a Monkey Mystery suite and a Superman on Earth suite, two dances - a waltz and a tango and 22 other tracks for assorted episodes. To those who grew-up enthralled by The Adventures of Superman, this must be a particular treat. For other, younger Superman fans, for whom Christopher Reeve will forever be the Man of Steel, and John Williams the man who wrote his music, this may well sound more like what it really is - bold, rousing film noir music, with a strong dash of Stravinsky and fairly good mono sound. It does though make clearer the tradition Williams was following in creating his score for Superman (1978), and while Williams score is vastly superior to anything here, comicbook fans and anyone with an interest in the development of television music should find this release of interest. For those of a certain age, and therefore harbouring a nostalgic affection for show, this release becomes something altogether more special, a wonderful nostalgia trip. Superman proves once again that he can even turn back time.
Gary S. Dalkin
- but add points depending on affection for the show
Virgil THOMSON Louisiana Story; The Plow that Broke the Plains Ronald Corp conducts The New London Orchestra HYPERION CDA66576 [68:06] Save around 22% with
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Note: This is an established release - it was recorded in 1991
Not surprisingly Hollywood preferred to keep its film music composers close to. For composers who had other fish to fry - like Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Virgil Thomson life isolated in LA would have been intolerable and I feel sure that the outspoken Thomson would have given producers short shrift. This probably explains why Copland and Bernstein wrote so little for the screen (Bernstein contributing to only On The Waterfront). It is therefore interesting and significant that Virgil Thomson's music was for non-Hollywood films. It is also significant that Thomson's music was quite untypical for its day, for he eschewed the European Romantic tradition of Korngold and Steiner, in favour of a definitive American musical voice. Thomson's best-known film score and probably the most popular of all his works is that for Robert Flaherty's Louisiana Story (1948) which was about the invasion of oil prospectors into a young boy's idyllic rural family life. Thomson made two suites from his Pulitzer Prize-winning score: one (the `Suite') consists primarily of dramatic and descriptive episodes, while the other (`Acadian Songs and Dances') is self-descriptive. Acadian derives from an old Canadian-Indian word and Acadians were formerly inhabitants of Nova Scotia until they were displaced to Louisiana. `Suite' opens with `Pastoral - The bayou and the marsh buggy', a beautiful evocation of movement past 'moss-draped boughs, and of dappled sunshine filtering onto glittering waters. There is tender, homely, melodic material and a sense of lurking danger in this paradise. The Chorale (the derrick arrives) is more formal - Christopher Palmer aptly describes the oil derrick as floating down the Mississippi "in ceremonious solemnity". `Passacaglia - Robbing the alligator's nest' is a quiet stealthy creation, tense with snake-like, sinuous twistings and a dramatically loud eruption at the end, signifying the arrival of the outraged mother alligator. The final `Fugue - boy fights alligator', is thrilling - with the angry animal snapping and writhing before the boy's father comes to the rescue. The tunes Thomson uses in his second Louisiana Story suite are authentically Cajun in origin (the `Cajuns' are descendants of the re-settled Acadians). The songs and dances are a mix of sadness and jollity. `Papa's Tune' and `A Narrative' are lively and very engaging with some appealing pizzicato string writing and the amusing `The alligator and the 'coon has strutting figures and a lumbering gait for the crocodile but also a snappy climax. `The squeeze box' is a charming evocation. Ronald Corp and his New London Orchestra give a lively and beautifully shaped performance of this delightful music.
The Plow that Broke the Plains (1935) was a documentary, by Pare Lorentz, for the Farm Services Administration. When it was first exhibited it caused a sensation and it was so successful that it was decided to make a second conservationist documentary, The River (also scored by Thomson) about the damage done to the Mississippi by man. Hollywood became so alarmed about the success of the Farm Services Administration film unit, that it succeeded in closing it down! The Plow that Broke the Plains music opens with soft snare drum brushings creating a sort of misty early morning feeling before the music broadens out to take in wide plains vistas in the Copland manner laced with Hymn -like material. The suite covers many moods and styles, simple innocence of the farming community denoted by folk music played on homely instruments such as washboards and domestic implements; as well as some rudimentary jazz. There is also music that suggests the ravages of nature and its toll upon the community and the subsequent hardship of the people. The suite is in six movements and the score prefaces each with an evocative subscription: Prelude (...a country of high winds, and sun...); Pastorale, - vast grasslands; Cattle, come to the prairies; Blues, the growth of the wheat lands; Drought, the great dust bowl; Devastation, drought and mass emigration westwards. `Fugues and Cantilenas' from Power Among Men is a collection of six little lyrical pieces. Their structure may be formal but their execution is fun. They all brim with character and humour. There is much of the style of Louisiana Story about `Ruins and Jungles' but with pronounced Oriental inflections, and `The Squeeze Box' is a charming evocation. A most appealing programme played with dedication and enthusiasm.
Michael WHALEN Titanic: Anatomy of a Disaster Soundtrack of the Discovery Channel Documentary CENTAUR CRC-2380 [51:31] Save around 22% with
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Performed entirely by the composer ("synclavier, synthesizers, ewi, piano, percussion and programming," to cite the production notes), Michael Whalen's "Titanic: Anatomy of a Disaster" sounds like a modern adventure in the Atlantic, despite underscoring a documentary on the science and history of resolving a then 85-year-old mystery.
The synthesized orchestra and other musical effects are by turns aggressive and euphonious. The 'orchestrations' are august, the themes are basic and contemporary -- perfectly serviceable, but the contexts, rather than the statements, provide the interest. To achieve greater melodic depth it deserves the benefit of counterpoint. Motivic dynamics are almost required when dealing with issues of past and present as they suggest monumental things. Whalen's straightforward approach instead overextends itself at 51-and-a-half minutes... I become irritated about halfway through, but I cannot say exactly whether it is due to an overall lack of variety or simply because of the vertiginous synthesized patches. I suspect the latter is most liable.
One item that sticks out is the score's sense of place. It sounds nautical. It *sounds* like the Atlantic. Social conditioning obviously comes into effect, but how Whalen tapped into the phenomenon as deeply as he did is gratifying and auspicious. The album is not much but is sufficient, and the music within is generally better than a few higher-paid composers achieve.
Srdjan JACIMOVIC White Suit PROMO Save around 22% with
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Yugoslavian composer Srdjan Jacimovic presents us with both music from the feature film White Suit, as well as a selection of bonus tracks.
`Orchestral Tango' opens up the proceedings and this is very much what you might expect from the title. However, it does have the added attraction of a female voice (vaguely Morricone like) and is pleasant enough, but perhaps just a little overlong. Next up is `First Theme' with a raucous string sound that is somewhat grating, although the melody is moderately engaging, if repetitive. The jaunty, almost circus like `Aquarium' is a double-bass driven piece with again some tango elements. But unfortunately it is rather drawn-out, undermining whatever appeal it might have.
A number of very short cues pepper the CD with `Rising of the Thing', `Train 2' and `Bordel in Train' among them and while they appear to be well thought out, none provide too much in the way of entertainment. The first extra track not taken from White Suit itself is `Little Reg with Russian Spice', which has an almost experimental structure, with plucked strings and various violin flourishes. Very hard going unless you are into avant-garde performance music.
One of the more appealing cues from the film itself is `Love on First Sight' with its subtle string theme, but as it is quite short it doesn't really have time to build into anything substantial, which is a pity. Several pieces feature variations on themes already heard, such as `Marco's Condolence' reprising `First Theme' and `White Tango-Expressive', `White Tango-Depressive' recalling `Orchestral Tango'. Plaintive strings and acoustic guitar highlight `Scene with a Dog' and are effective in a low-key way. The more emotional theme that appears in `Love Declarations', despite more strident strings, is for me the best track included here and perhaps promises better things for the future.
Some more extra tracks not from the film are `Russian Piece for Clarinet', `Valce for the End of the War', `Yearn with Guitar' and `Bicycle, than (then?) Telegram' The first of these is a solo clarinet, jazz influenced composition that seems to last far longer than its three and a half minute running time! `Valce' utilises those plucked strings again with another wistful violin lead but does not register particularly strongly. `Yearn' and `Bicycle' are both dominated by acoustic guitar, the former a classical solo work that at five minutes plus could be criticised for being over-indulgent. The latter is a little more accessible with the inclusion of piano.
`Train from another Movie' and `A Bit of Melancholy' should also be mentioned (again not from White Suit) as they demonstrate a contrasting stylistic approach from the rest of the work here. Both feature various keyboard styles and sounds along with rhythm and bass guitar backing. But despite this change of pace I'm afraid to say they didn't make too much impression on me.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about this collection, but although there are a few moments of melodic interest, overall there is far too much introspective excess that may well showcase some accomplished playing, but is far from captivating for the casual listener.
Collection: Essential Soundtracks FilmFour4 2CDs [78:01] and [67:19] Save around 22% with
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This is the type of collection that normally would not be in our purview. An exception is being made because of the inherent interest of a minority of this source material and because we have the greatest admiration for the work of FilmFour in boosting new film production and for its dedicated film channel on satellite TV in the UK.
The source material has been used in such hit films as Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction, Shallow Grave, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Seven, Reservoir Digs, L.A. Confidential, The Full Monte and Four Weddings and a Funeral. There is surely material from this 40 piece collection to appeal to all tastes and all ages.
From CD1 the tracks I found the most appealing were: Al Green in `Let's Stay Together' from Pulp Fiction; the lovely Shirley Bassey belting out `Big Spender' (Little Voice); Orbital's take of The Saint theme; The Velvet Underground - Heroin from The Doors and Santana's `Oye Como va' from Jackie Brown.
CD2 was more to my liking and I favoured: Dusty Springfield's `Son of a Preacher Man' from Pulp Fiction; Marvin Gaye's `Trouble Man' from Seven; Lalo Schifrin's Main Theme from Bullitt and Angelo Badalamenti's `Laura Palmer's Theme' from TwinPeaks; Bobby Vinton singing Blue Velvet; Johnny Mercer's Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive from L.A. Confidential; Roger Miller's `King of the Road' from Swingers; and Barry White's seductive `You're the First, The Last and My Everything' from Four Weddings and a Funeral.
It will be recognised that this album has been in the shops for some months now. A new album has recently been released and we will be covering this next month. No rating applied.
Andreas VOLLENWEIDER (harp - with Carly Simon and various vocalists and instrumentalists) Cosmopoly SONY SK 89096 [57:54] Save around 22% with
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Roll up, roll up; get your tickets here for the round-the-world musical tour with your guide, harpist Andreas Vollenweider. In Cosmopoly `World Music' meets `Easy Listening' in an appealing blend that can be tasted as foreground or background listening.
Lest Carly Simon fans get too excited, I have to say that she appears on one short track only, `Your Silver Key' in which she is multi-tracked so that we have a number of Carlys sometimes quite disconcertingly echoing each other. Nevertheless, it is nicely romantic and ephemeral. Another vocal number `Cor Do Amor' impresses more, with Milton Nascimento singing most expressively, in Portuguese the lovely sensual song `Openhearted' (words in English are included in the booklet).
The seventeen numbers on this album are supposed to fall into three groups as shown in what is called `The Loop Map' on the back cover (see the illustration) - although the album omits any explanation of this map. Two songs are omitted from it - `Peachtree Valley' and `Bright Moon Still Shining' - both with pronounced Chinese inflections. On the other hand, two songs, `Capriccio' and `Vals Del Sur' appear in two loops; presumably forming some kind of link? There seem to be some puzzling anomalies. Why, for instance, should `Morning Poem' a nice misty evocation, for Celtic harp and low whistle, appear in the Sunset-Road-Loop?
Andreas Vollenweider, playing various harps, performs on every track supported by varying groups of vocalists and instrumentalists. In three breezy jazzy numbers numbers: `Elle Chelle' (in which far Eastern styles mingle with Afro music), `Capriccio' and the wonderfully evocative `The Fishbirdtree', there are the vocal gymnastics of Bobby McFerrin supported by harp and double-fish-clay-flute.
`Hush, My Heart, Be still' introduces a Duduk which is an Armenian wind instrument which produces a sort of hypnotic sentimental wailing. This number sounds very Middle Eastern and the vocals add considerably to its entrancing atmosphere.
The aforementioned Chinese style numbers are equally beguiling. `Peachtree Valley' has traditional Chinese forms played by Chinese nationals on Chinese instruments and `Bright Moon Be Still' is a very brief number with a chanting of a Zen poem.
The trombone is starred in a highly effective and somewhat witty and lugubrious way in a very imaginative jazzy number `Will-O-the Wisp.' More unusual, is the inclusion of the bagpipes to give a flavour of Scotland in `At the Forest Fountain' which begins as though it were in Tennessee before settling firmly in Scotland and Ireland with the usual associated figures subtly syncopated. `Under One Moon' is another interesting fusion of Celtic, American country and Far Eastern styles and includes various guitars, fiddle, bask accordion and whistles and pipes.
`Vals Del Sur' bows in the direction of the old fashioned waltz. But its elegance is lampooned by the string quartet and the ocarina (Italian clay flute) and even Vollenweider's harp glissandis sometimes verge on musical raspberries. Similarly the same instrumentalists' popular ballad style in `Long Road to You' has a biting sardonic edge. In contrast the bright and bouncy `Petit Smile' is fresh youthful innocence.
Finally the amorphous `Ancient Pulse' allows amiable piano meandering over a stricter, yet varied harp pulse while `Stella' has an engaging melody and breezy rhythms with Far East meeting the Afro style again in this glittering jazzy number.
The lavish booklet has illustrations of the instrumentalists associated with the numbers as shown here.
Patrick DOYLE, Wynton MARSALIS, and Edgar MEYER Listen to the Storyteller - A Trio of Musical Tales from Around The World - told by Kate Winslet, Wynton Marsalis and Graham Greene Joshua Bell (violin); Edgar Meyer (Bass solo); Jerry Douglas (Dobro solo)Orchestra of St. Lukes conducted by Robert Sadin (The Fiddler and the Dancin' Witch) and Steven Mercurio SONY SK 60283 [59:41] Save around 22% with
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With Patrick Doyle's music for one of these tales narrated by Kate Winslet, the movies connection is quite clear. These three enchanting tales are enhanced by music that heightens atmosphere character and action. I listened with my eleven-year-old step-granddaughter and I append her assessment as well as my own, plus her ratings.
Patrick Doyle - The Face in the Lake (narrated by Kate Winslet)
This story has the most lyrical music reminding one of Doyle's score for Much Ado About Nothing. The story is about the beautiful young maiden, Olwen who brings Spring. But she is imprisoned in the ice castle of Winter who is loth to loose his icy grip on the earth. How Winter's shy brother Jardur, helps her to escape and how Winter pursues them throwing great blizzards in their path, before they succeed in bringing warmth back to the world, is the essence of the story. Kate Winslet is an appealing and natural storyteller. Doyle's music is both appealingly romantic and chillingly atmospheric with some of the blizzard music strongly reminiscent of Kurt Atterberg.
Raya Verrecchia comments: This was my favourite of the three stories. The story had a pleasing plot. The storyteller was very good, the way she told it really involved you in the story. The music went very well with the story and what happened. At the beginning it was floaty and spring-like and when Winter arrived the music became more dramatic and darker.
Wynton Marsalis - The Fiddler and the Dancin' Witch Wynton Marsalis contributes a witty narration as well as more astringent but characterful music for this tale of the disobedient boy whose craving to play his father's violin, despite his parent's dire warnings, summons its former owner, a foul witch who demands her instrument back. The story tells how Simeon outwits her. Marsalis' music cleverly suggests the strictures and exasperation of the father, the headstrong attitude of Simeon and the spiteful wickedness of the witch. Joshua Bell has plenty of opportunity to show off his dazzling virtuosity especially in the frenzied witch's dance. The music is for violin and strings only and early on there is a vague resemblance to Bernard Herrmann's music for Hitchcock's Psycho and Vertigo to provide the necessary foreboding atmosphere.
Raya Verrechia comments: I liked this one the least, because there were too many pauses in the story line and Marsalis did not tell the story very well, he did not change the tone of his voice to suit the different characters. The music was very dramatic - too dramatic for the story. I thought the violinist was over enthusiastic and sounded rather vain.
Edgar Meyer - The Lesson of the Land (narrator: Graham Greene). This is a story about three young American Indian lads who set off on a quest to find their manhood.
Meyer's music is very evocative and atmospheric of the landscape and its wildlife. The music is simple but effective and it has, in places, an almost classical formality. Take for instance the use of canon in the passage descriptive of the boys' climb up the mountainside. Characterisation is sharp: the double bass is wittily used to depict the `mighty bear' that teaches Little Bear to fish and the darting fish in glittering waters is beautifully caught by the clarinet.
Raya Verrecchia comments: The music was very descriptive and very exciting. The story had a very good plot with an interesting twist and it was well told - although it was more for older children about ten because the words were rather hard. I enjoyed the music between the bits of storytelling.
Ratings: Raya Verrecchia
The Face in the Lake: Story Storyteller Music
The Fiddler and the Dancin' Witch: Story Storyteller Music
The Lesson of the Land: Story Storyteller Music
Jason HOWARD Make Believe: The Hollywood Baritones SILVA SCREEN RECORDS SILKD 6022 (71:15) Save around 22% with
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Knowing as I do that there are a large number of admirers of Hollywood musicals from the 1950s (not forgetting Look for the Silver Lining made in 1949 and also included here) it could be argued that perhaps I'm the wrong man to talk about this particular CD. The problem is that try as I might, I just didn't enjoy this collection of what are generally considered to be classic songs.
Apart from anything else, the nineteen tracks seem to almost merge into one long show-tune without appearing to offer (at least to my ears) much in the way of variety. Admittedly the material to some extent dictates that these pieces have a certain overall stylistic similarity and if you go in with a fondness for such music then you're sure to be thoroughly entertained. But for me, apart from one or two standards like I Only Have Eyes for You and You'll Never Walk Alone, I found it all fairly hard going.
With songs taken from such highly regarded films as Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Annie Get Your Gun and Carousel among others, familiarity was certainly a major consideration when the selections were made and at first glance this would appear to provide value for money, at least for the casual fan of this kind of work. Even so, I can't really imagine many serious aficionados being persuaded to rush out and purchase what is really a rather generic collection. Perhaps a few bolder song choices would have been a better strategy.
Which really leaves us with only the vocal talents of Jason Howard as the main selling point (along with a couple of duets with Jill Washington and Ria Jones). Mr. Howard is a Welsh baritone who has wide operatic and musical stage experience and has been building a reasonably avid following for himself over the last few years. Perhaps his acclaimed voice and `matinee-idol good looks' will be enough to win over some new fans with this offering. Unfortunately though, this particular listener will not be one of them.
British Light Music Classics Vol 3New London Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp
Hyperion CDA67148 [78:45]Includes: Portrait of a Flirt; In a Persian Market; Montmartre, In Party Mood; Theatreland; Rediffusion March, Miss Melanie; On a Spring note; Melody on the Move; Little Serenade; Woodland Revel; Soldiers in the Park; In Party Mood; Valse Septembre;
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Hyperion's first two volumes in this series were outstandingly successful and helped to restore light music to popularity and to introduce the genre to younger audiences who never had the chance to enjoy pre-television radio entertainment. Volumes 1 and 2 in the series were followed with an album of American Light Music Classics and another of European Light Music Classics.
I have to say that I was somewhat disheartened about the playing of some of the pieces on the first two volumes; I remember being concerned about slow tempi and lack of sparkle. This latest volume shows much improvement and I am nearly convinced but not quite You see I cannot forget the intense joie de vivre with which these pieces were played in the old days on the radio. You were really carried away with an incredible sense of joyousness. Perhaps it is because Corp's young players never really had the chance to appreciate that style of playing which may well be lost? Perhaps the spontaneity of a live performance is missing? Take Haydn Wood's Montmartre, which opens the programme, for instance the tempi are OK, the characterisation is splendid but half way through it tends to sag a bit. The old zest seems to be missing. Personally, I think it's a matter of articulation. The same comment is applicable to the concluding number if you have heard Eric Coates conducting his own Rediffusion March you will know what I mean.
Now lest I deter you, I hasten to add that performances are generally very good throughout and there is much to enjoy in this collection. As before, in Volumes 1 and 2, many of these tunes will be easily recognised, if not by name. A number were associated with films and radio programmes. Sidney Torch's jolly and exuberant, On A Spring Note performed here with commendable vigour and panache was used in the cinema for Pathé Gazette; and the perky In Party Mood introduced BBC Light Programme's `Housewives' Choice'. Clive Richardson's breezy, tuneful Melody on the Move with it quirky vibraphone figures, gave its name to a radio series.One of the album's delights is Ronald Binge's delicate, fun-loving and thoroughly charming Miss Melanie with its very distinctive string figures and quirky rhythms. So too is Robert Farnon's sparkling, skittish Portrait of a Flirt, which I seem to remember being used quite often as source music for films. Jack Strachey's zestful Theatreland has all its associated glitter and glamour while Harry Dexter's evocative Siciliano has a laid back rural charm, and Vivian Ellis' Alpine Pastures is just as carefree with its yodellings and perhaps, flirtings of shepherd and dairy-maid. And one must not forget the plaintive charm of Ernest Tomlinson's lovely, fragile Little Serenade.
Old fashioned Victorian/Edwardian charm is served up in two or three numbers like Godin's sentimental Valse Septembre which was featured in the film Titanic, and Ivan Carlisle's elegant and nostalgically romantic, but rather proper Pink Lady Waltz. Albert Ketèlbey's In A Persian Market has a colourful and evocative rendering with added choir but Corp just misses capturing that je ne sai quoi of Ketèlbey that Lanchbery so magically captured in his 1977 recording with the Philharmonia.
Very entertaining and a confident recommendation
Joseph HOLBROOKE Piano Concerto No. 1 `The Song of Gwyn ap Nudd'
Haydn WOOD Piano Concerto in D minor (first recording) Hamish Milne (piano) BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins. Hyperion CDA67127 [69:19]
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This album could almost qualify to be included in `If Only They Had Written for Films...' for Joseph Holbrooke's Piano Concerto No. 1 `The Song of Gwyn ap Nudd' sounds very much like a film score. Indeed, Lewis Foreman, in his perceptive notes, remarks that Holbrooke's music, in covering the changing scenes of the narrative of the Welsh legend as retold by Lord Howard de Walden (T E Ellis), "almost anticipates `cross-cutting as in the cinema." The story of the poem is about risen spirits, Gwyn ap Nudd the King of the Faerie and his rival Gwythyr ap Greidawl, who are condemned to battle over the fair Cordelia on the night of the first of May every year. (It brings to mind the recent film SleepyHollow based on the story of Washington Irving)
Holbrooke's music is linked to the text in the booklet by a series of 22 cues so that one can follow the story line-by-line through its musical evocations. The first movement covers the rising and arming of Gwyn ap Nudd and there is reference to the reason for his warring - the fair Cordelia. Holbrooke's music is dramatic, even melodramatic and very much in the red-blooded late Romantic tradition with heavily atmospheric misty moonlight and woodlands music; and material suggesting medieval chivalry and combat, contrasted with a broad romantic melody associated with Cordelia that Max Steiner would not have sniffed at. The second movement, associated with phantom memories of Cordelia begins with mordant horn calls answered by muted strings to give the music a spectral, twilight quality. The music then lightens to become almost salon music and assumes the style of a waltz before the movement ends with darker elements announcing the combat that is furious indeed. It dies away as dawn approaches and the combatants retreat until another year's summons and we hear a reprise of much of the foregoing material culminating in an exultant rendering of the Cordelia theme (quite Rachmaninov-like), the Sing of Gwyn ap Nudd!
The Haydn Wood Concerto comes as something of a surprise too - one is so used to thinking of Wood in terms of light music and categorising him as the leader in this genre together with Eric Coates and Montague Philips. His Concerto is a very considerable work of some 33 minutes duration. It has great power; watch your floorboards quiver! Again one could consider its passionate, romantic language very suitable for the screen. Why British studios overlooked it, is a mystery - it would have been perfect for one of those Gainsborough films of the 1940s. The opening movement begins very dramatically but there is also music of grace and tenderness. The influence of the Russian romantics is apparent - especially Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov - in the glorious romantic melodies of the opening movement. The second movement is ushered in by muted strings in contemplative mood with the piano embroidering their wistfulness. This is autumnal music of melancholy nostalgia and regret. The Finale returns to the more overt drama and romance of the opening movement. And again there is a big romantic tune to appeal to film producers. The whole work offers an opportunity for pianists to display their virtuosity and Hamish Milne grasps it with both hands. Haydn Wood was also an accomplished orchestrator; he does not forget to write interesting material for each section of the orchestra and the BBC Scottish Orchestra respond warmly with a truly committed performance.
Collection: Amore - Great Italian Love Arias (Various artists) SONY SFK 89224 Save around 22% with
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This album contains the following arias from Italian Operas:-
`O mio baabino caro' from Gianni Schicchi
`Chi il bel sogno di Doretta' from La Rondine
`Quando m'en vo' from La bohème
`Vissi d'arte' from Tosca Kiri Te Kanawa with the LPO conducted by Sir John Pritchard
`Mi chiamano Mimi' from La bohème
`Donde lieta uscì' from La bohème
`Tu, che di gel sei cinta' from Turandot Eva Marton with the Munich Radio Orchestra conducted by Giuseppe Patané
`Un bel di' from Madama Butterfly
`Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia' from Madama Butterfly Ying Huang with Orchestre de Paris conducted by James Conlon
`Dammi colori...Recondita armonia' from Tosca *
`Nessun dorma!' from Turandot?
José Carreras with * Hungarian State Orch. Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Lorin Maazel
`La donna è mobile' from Rigoletto
`Lunge da lei...De' miei bollenti spiriti ...oh mio rimorso' from La Traviata Marcello Álvarez with Orch. Of Welsh National Opera cond. by Carlo Rizzi
`Caro Nome' from Rigoletto Ileana Cotrubas with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by John Pritchard
`Celeste Aida' from Aida Richard Tucker with Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Nello Santi
`Prendi, per me sei libero' from L'elisir d'amore
`Quel guardo il cavaliere from Don Pasquale Andrea Rost with the RPO conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras
`Una furtiva lagrima' from L'elisir d'amore Marcelo Álvarez with Orchestra of the National Welsh Opera cond. Carlo Rizzi
Many of these operatic arias have, of course, been featured in Hollywood films over the years. This album of popular arias is an ideal introduction for those new to opera, although there is much to enjoy here for the more experienced listener.
Many of the best-loved Puccini arias are here from his most popular operas. Kiri Te Kanawa sings warmly and appealingly to her beloved father in the Gianni Schicchi number, and she is suitably coquettish in Musetta's Waltz Song from La Bohème. I was delighted that Sony has chosen to include her singing the charming `Chi il bel sogno di Doretta' from the shamefully under-rated La Rondine. (A special feature review of Te Kanawa's complete recording of this Puccini opera, together with its rival EMI Alagna/Gheorghiu version is to be found this month on Classical Music on the Web). José Carreras is of course justly famous for his `Nessun Dorma!' from Turnadot beloved of football fans the world over. Ying Huang' s youth, purity of vocal line and dramatic intensity informs her two arias from Madam Butterfly, in the second of these, the gloriou love duet `Bimb dagli occhi pieni di malia', with the equally appealingly ardent Richard Troxell.
Of the Verdi and Donizetti arias, Marcello Álvarez impresses strongly in all his arias particularly from Rigoletto and L'elisir d'amore. His is a voice has a timbre that suggests virility and sensitivity. The oaken-voiced Richard Tucker's `Celeste Aida' is another highlight and Andrea Rost's coloratura Donizetti arias are silken perfection.
But really all the tracks on this compilation impress. An album for lovers and lovers of opera
Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT
The DVD and Book:
Eyes Wide Shut A screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Frederick Raphael and its inspiration Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzle Penguin Paperback 186 pages Save around 22% with
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With the release of the DVD version of Kubrick's last film this little volume makes fascinating reading.
The DVD to which I referred, not only has Kubrick's film in the ratio he proscribed so that you actually see more than you would have done in the theatres, but it contains interviews with Cruise and Kidman and Steven Spielberg. While Cruise mumbles, Kidman is articulate and clearly very moved by the untimely death of Kubrick. (He died soon after the film was completed). But it is the interview with Spielberg that is so revealing. Spielberg is quite open about the creative debt he owes to Kubrick and he reminds us of the great director's meticulousness and immense technical skills, so imaginatively deployed. Spielberg also reminds us of the richness of Kubrick's vision, that is only fully appreciated on repeated viewings of his films. Eyes Wide Shut, which was mauled by a number of critics, is no exception. This highly unusual film, I believe, will be fully appreciated in years to come as one of Kubrick's masterworks (granted a flawed one). The DVD sound also allows a maximum appreciation of the music - especially that chosen for the orgy scenes is most effective and chilling so too are those short stabbing solo piano chords. I am not so sure about the appropriateness of the Shostakovich Waltz 2 from his Jazz Suite.
The inclusion of Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle (Dream Story) is inspired. One can appreciate from the beauty of the writing and its vision, how Kubrick must have been drawn to it. It is a simple yet paradoxically complex story, almost a parable, of universal truths, of dreams and the tensions and pressures found in all relationships. Kubrick and Raphael have transferred and updated the action adding the detail of the drug-addicted hooker at the Ziegler's party and Ziegler's ultimate explanation of her demise and the circumstances of the orgy. Otherwise screenplay and short novella are remarkably similar. The inclusion of the screenplay of course allows one to appreciate its strengths and structure at leisure. The full credits list is included at the end of the screenplay including all the music, both original and source material. The review of the CD originally released last year to coincide with the theatrical release of the film, is reinstated below:-
Jocelyn POOK Eyes Wide Shut OST WARNER Sunset/ Reprise 9362-47450-2 [57:50]
If you remember his choice of music for his other films, you will not be surprised that Kubrick opted for a wide range of source music together with vivid and varied original music by Jocelyn Pook. Her contribution is limited to four remarkable cues. 'Naval Officer,' the subject of Nicole Kidman's erotic fantasies, is very interesting and technically accomplished writing for a modest string ensemble. It has a quality of spaciousness, vast sea vistas and rolling waves over deep waters - and loneliness. It is a highly evocative, polytonal, mini tone poem. 'The Dream' seems to be an extension of 'Naval Officer' with a high-pitched eerie tone and uncomfortable string glissandos that imply that this is not a pleasant or logical dream. It begins with a most uncomfortable chord that one recognises as the wiry humming noise one experiences in the head as one regains consciousness after a fainting spell. Extraordinary and disturbing. So, too, is 'Masked Ball' which introduces timps at the beginning of what sounds like an orchestral tuning up session, before a ghostly bass voice enters moaning in some arcane tongue to be joined by a tenor later with strings commenting darkly beneath. This is the music underscores the mysterious crimson-cloaked and masked figure that directs the ring of masked naked females out of the ring to their partners for the night in the Orgy scene and very effective it is too. 'Migrations' (composed by Jocelyn Pook and Harvey Brough), again for the orgy scenes, is a more exotic, strongly but insistent rhythmic, ethnic creation for colourful percussion, bass guitar and soprano with North African-type wailings from a tenor voice.
The source music. As for 2001, A Space Odyssey, Kubrick, chooses György Ligeti, but this time for some piano music called Musica Ricercata II (Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale). This is just a 'high-falutin' name for a collection of well-spaced, one-chord keyboard hammerings and what sounds like basic piano exercises but again, they are disturbingly and chillingly effective in the context of the film. Much more impressive (as music) is Shostakovich's Waltz 2 from his Jazz Suite played with sardonic élan by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly. The other piece of classical source music is Liszt's Grey Clouds performed by Dominic Harlan (who also plays the Ligeti piece. There is also jazz from Chris Isaak - 'Baby did a bad thing,' plus the strict tempo of 'When I fall in love,' as performed by The Victor Silvester Orchestra and Duke Ellington's 'I Got it Bad' as performed by the Oscar Peterson Trio.
Other source music: 'If I had You,' performed by Roy Gerson; 'Stranger's in the Night,' performed by the Peter Hughes Orchestra; and 'Blame it on my youth' played by Brad Mehldau;
For Pook's music -
The 10th Kingdom
The 10th Kingdom by Kathryn Wesley Harper Collins Entertainment Paperback 430 pages ISBN 0-00-710265-8 £6:99 Save around 22% with
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The 10th Kingdom is a modern-day fairy tale. Well, at least it begins in Manhattan for its waitress heroine Virginia Lewis and her feckless janitor father Tony. The main thrust of the story concerns their transportation via a magic mirror to the fairy tale Nine Kingdoms to rescue the throne of Prince Wendell from the evil machinations of the Queen his wicked step-mother who is bent on destroying the House of White (yes, Snow White). The Queen had been released from the Snow White Memorial Prison by three gormless trolls: Blabberwort, Bluebell and Burly. (These trolls all share a shoe fetish and are particularly fond of the music of the Bee Gees.) The Queen had then used her magic to transform Prince Wendell into the shape of her dog (with the Queen's dog correspondingly changed into the shape of the Prince). But the dog Prince escaped via the mirror into New York's Central Park hotly pursued by the trolls and Wolf (half man-half wolf) who is also in the service of the Queen.
Wolf promptly falls in love with Virginia and is torn between making a meal of her and making love to her. The early scenes in New York when he has a session (by mistake) with a psychiatrist and tries to cook Virginia's grandmother are hilarious. So too are the scenes where Tony eats Wolf's magic bean that grants him three wishes. His employers become his slaves, his refrigerator delivers bottles of coke non-stop, his vacuum cleaner cannot stop cleaning his apartment to the extent of eating his drapes and a bag of $1 million is left outside his door. But the police think he has stolen it and chase him across Central Park together with Virginia, the trolls, Prince and Wolf. They all pass through the mirror and back into Snow White Memorial Prison.
The story then takes in the escape from the prison, and the quest to thwart the evil Queen's plans although, at first, Tony and Virginia are only keen to get back home. Their adventures through the fantasy worlds of the Nine Kingdoms are a colourful mix of adventure and comedy. On their way they meet many of the characters and places made familiar in so many nursery stories and the implicit horrors behind so many of them are manifested here. There is a magic fish that allows its captors to turn the first thing they touch to gold, there is the huntsman determined to track down and kill Virginia. There is the magic spell that makes Virginia's hair grow and grow and grow until Rapunzel-like she can let it down over some sixty feet of tree-trunk to allow her to be rescued from the Huntsman. There is the Little Lamb Village with the sexy Sally Peep who declares of Wolf, "I'd be scared you'd come into my house and huff and puff and blow my clothes off."
The 10th Kingdom has been compared with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. There is no comparison; Tolkien's work was a 20th century literary masterpiece. This is superficial unevenly inspired entertainment in comparison. Having said that it develops its intriguing idea quite well so that one's interest is sustained throughout. Indeed, it is difficult to put this book down and adult readers may well have a sense of guilt about being ensnared by so much twaddle. The writing is racy and narrative-led. Characterisation and character development is generally good sometimes excellent, especially that of Wolf.
Author Kathryn Wesley apparently is the pen name of two best selling authors who "live in the magical kingdom of the Oregon Coast with seven cats".
The Video Review
The 10th Kingdom - The entire series on three tapes plus The Making of The
WARNER Vision International 8573-82728-3 [7½hrs +]
The 10th Kingdom - the whole mini-series comes in a handsome box presentation, that
comprises three videos, splitting 7½ hours of programming to place two episodes on each of the first two tapes and the final episode plus "The Making of the 10th Kingdom" on te third.
Here in the United Kingdom, the mini-series was screened in five 2-hour episodes (including of course commercial breaks), on SKY One, which is a satellite channel and therefore cannot command such a huge audience as the popular five terrestrial channels. My guess is that The 10th Kingdom will make a re-appearance on one of these channels before long to catch a larger audience.
Clearly with such a pacing, the directors had the opportunity to capture fully the essence of the book and this is one of those rare occasions when one is delighted to report that not only are all the events covered but practically all of the dialogue too. In fact the screen version improves upon the book. Which brings one to a rather vexed question. The book's authors have written under a combined pen name as Kathryn Wesley, yet the video makes no reference to an adaptation from this book but claims that the writer is Simon Moore who is credited as such in the documentary of the making of the programme. Is Simon Moore, Simon Moore? Is Simon Moore one half of Kathryn Wesley? Which came first the video or the novel? Intriguing!
No matter, this mini-series is likely to appeal to all ages. With few exceptions (see below) forget the acting, concentrate on the concept. The story is magical; the pace, fast moving; and the special effects, jaw-dropping - particularly the opening credits sequence in which New York is transformed into the fairyland of The Nine Kingdoms. The sets and costumes are all lavish - take the sumptuous climactic ballroom scene for instance. The fascinating documentary details all the many American and European locations in which the mini-series was filmed and the immense pains the production team took - including lugging up the dead dragon's skeleton, that forms the entrance to the dwarves mirror mines, high up into the Austrian mountains.
Fairyland is brutal as we can all recall from our childhood. Who did not hide their eyes when Disney's wicked witch appeared before Snow White? Directors, David Carson and Herbert Wise, astutely point up the underlying psychological elements in the story particularly the parallel in the relationship between Virginia and her mother, and Snow White and her step-mother. If I was asked which actor had made the biggest impression and who might go on to bigger things from this film, then I have to say it must be Scott Cohen as Wolf. But then his, is the most appealing and strongest character in the story although Cohen cleverly uses an array of subtle wolf-like mannerisms to deepen his portrayal. Ann-Margaret makes an impact in her small role as a 200 year-old Cinderella. Rutger Hauer dons his well-worn sinister garb as The Huntsman. Diane Wiest is, perhaps, too nice to be a really chilling Queen; yet she shows the vulnerability of her character (who has lost her soul) well enough. A number of well known British character actors pass through the story including Robert Hardy who plays a suspicious courtier sniffing out the Queen's diabolical plot.
To Anne Dudley's music, as featured in the film. I saw the videos some weeks after listening to the CD and my revised comments are added to my original review that appears again below. I would just add that some material is repeated ad nauseum especially the sinister synth figure used to signal anything menacing that is about to occur. This uses the leitmotif technique in quite the wrong way with no subtly, no shading and really shows up the inadequacies and severe limitations of synth scoring.
Daft but utterly compelling viewing, I loved every minute of it
Anne DUDLEY The 10th Kingdom OST VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD 6115 [54:12]
Yes, we're including this review again, repeating it from last month but now that I have had a chance to see the mini-series, I can appreciate the music more as music for the film. In this it succeeds rather well in supporting action, creating the magical or threatening atmospheres and filling out characterisations but my principal observations remain unaffected.
Anne Dudley fashions a broad romantic score putting some new spin on all the treasured clichés the genre demands: romantic yearnings, magical little bells/stardust awe and wonder material, brooding, eerie atmospherics, comic, rumbustous stuff and of course the nasty menacing monsters music - seasoned with the magical or menacing synths.
The opening cue, `The 4 Who Saved Nine Kingdoms' captures all the score's essence, a broad romantic bit of a theme (I'll elaborate on this remark later) frog-croaking-like electronic antics and swirling eerie evil troll-like menaces. I will not go into detail about the rather repetitive score but just select one or two of the more interesting cues on which to comment. `Six Glorious Wishes' is great galumphing fun with xylophone and woodwinds and percussion enjoying a merry, swaggering ride. `Addicted to Magic' is sheer sparkling enchantment with a hint of a modern beat and agitated tremolandos and glissandi all adding to a rich, magical cue. `A Stepmother's Curse' is a vivid devil's kitchen of a concoction with what sound like pots and pans being bashed about amongst swirling mists and witches howlings; scary, scary (not for little one's ears!).
Generally speaking Anne Dudley's score is big on atmosphere and characterisation. However, unlike George Fenton in similar Ever After mode, she cannot spin out a memorable melody; all we get is some meanderings around material that could and should comprise a melody. If Dudley can hone this facility for writing a truly memorable melody she could have a great future.
C.S. LEWIS The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (with illustrations, hand coloured by the artist, Pauline Baynes and an Introduction by Brian Sibley)Comprising:- The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of "The Dawn Treader", The Silver Chair, The Last Battle
And the book that started all the Narnia adventures -The Magician's Nephew
Harper Collins - Hardback 8½" X 11¼", 522 pages. ISBN 0-00-185713-4 £29:99
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Being a child of the 1940s, I missed the Narnia phenomenon. The first book, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950. It was subsequently filmed as a cartoon and then BBC TV produced all the books (except The Magician's Nephew and The LastBattle as I recall) as a saga through the late 1980s. It was these splendid dramatisations (please, BBC retransmit them!) that persuaded to me to read the books when I was in my fifties. (They are just as rewarding for grown-ups, who can appreciate their mysticism and subtleties.).
When I saw this splendid compilation, I snapped it up as a birthday present for a young relation of mine and I will confess that before I handed it over, I enjoyed reacquainting myself with these delightful stories. C.S. Lewis's warmth and understanding of human strengths and frailties fill these pages; his fertile imagination, his exciting adventures and colourful characters appeal to the child in us all. It would be interesting to know though, what the super-sophisticates, who are the children of today think of them. I cannot believe that they will not fall in love with them as their parents and grandparents did.
The charming original illustrations, now hand painted by the artist, Pauline Baines are included and commingled with the text. Brian Sibley offers some interesting insights on the influences that guided Lewis's inspiration in writing the stories and he explains how
The Magician's Nephew came to be written to explain how Aslan founded Narnia.
A footnote: readers may recall the film Shadowlands (with an affecting score by George Fenton) in which Anthony Hopkins played C.S. Lewis. It is the story about him entering a marriage of convenience to an American lady (touchingly played by Debra Winger), whom he grows to love, only to learn she has terminal cancer.
A wonderful present for any child but be warned buy it well in advance of the day because you will be captivated yourself.
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