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Collection - British Light Music Classics 3: Film Music CD Reviews- January 2001

January 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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British Light Music Classics 3  
  Royal Ballet Sinfonia , The BBC Concert Orchestra (Romeo & Juliet only) conducted by Barry Wordsworth.
  ASV CD WHL 2128   [71:01]

HRH The Duke of Cambridge March, Sir Malcolm Arnold * Divertissement, Bryan Kelly * Romeo and Juliet, Constant Lambert * Elegiac Blues, Constant Lambert * Three Dances for Orchestra, David Lyon * Promenade, Carlo Martelli * Overture for Farnham, Alan Rawsthorne * Celestial Fire, Patric Standford

This album continues in the vein of the preceding two volumes of British Light Music Discoveries, offering eight works which could as easily be considered 'classical' as 'light'. From the perspective of Film Music on the Web the disc is of associational interest, containing no film music, but music by several composers who have worked for the screen - Malcolm Arnold, Constant Lambert, David Lyon, Carlo Martelli and Alan Rawsthorne - and a considerable amount of melody which sounds as if it could have come from the cinema. In-fact, all of the music here could at sometime or other have fitted quite happily into a British film.

There are four short pieces and four longer works, the disc sequenced to alternate between these. The music is well documented, a good thing when most, if not all, of the pieces will be unfamiliar. The only puzzle is why all three albums carry covers depicting old-fashioned sporting scenes. Much as I try I can not make any association between any of this music and a football match.

Things get off to a rousing start with Sir Malcolm Arnold's irresistibly festive HRH The Duke of Cambridge March (1957), here arranged for orchestra by producer Philip Lane. This is a deliriously jaunty number, quite a contrast to the composer's The Bridge on the River Kwai March of the same year. It may all be over in three minutes, but it is a gem to be cherished. Constant Lambert's Elegiac Blues was written in memory of the singer Florence Mills in 1927 yet the mood is anything but mournful. It would seem this energetic and tuneful romp celebrated the singer's life, rather than commemorated her death. Alan Rawsthorne's Overture for Farnham was a commission for the 1967 Farnham Festival, and combines a neo-Handelian theme with a melody very much in the lineage of the film scores the composer wrote in the 1950's. By far the most recent work, Carlo Martelli's Promenade (1985) is a witty and flirtatious anachronism deliberately harking back to the 1950's, a piece which might have sprung from a worker's playtime or an Ealing comedy.

Bryan Kelly's Divertissment (1969) offers four movements, each based on a French folk song. The mood is essentially playful, and with the village brass band never far away one can easily imagine Jacques Tati getting into all sorts of trouble to this. Three Dances for Orchestra (1975) by David Lyon mixes jazz and theatre with robust melody suggestive of a CinemaScope canvas. The 'Pas de deux' offers romance from tentative to tender, and really does sound as if it should come from a film. A good one too. The finale, a 'Hornpipe' is full of the promise of adventure. Curiously, it would sound equally at home in Copland's West.

The Second Tableau from Constant Lambert's ballet, for Diaghilev, Romeo and Juliet (1926) is presented complete in 8 movements. Affirming that post-modernism was around long before it was supposed to be invented, this Romeo and Juliet is about a ballet company putting on a ballet of Romeo and Juliet, the events in the company coming to parallel those of the play, while the music offers a neo-classical reflection of the Italian Renaissance decades before Nino Rota drew on similar sources for the 1968 film version of the play. And proving this is a thoroughly modern reinterpretation, the lovers survive to elope by aeroplane. The music is appropriately full of vivacity, charm and cunning little jokes.

The album ends with at five movement suite from Patric Standford's 1968 ballet Celestial Fire. Despite the title, the scenario concerns an old exile looking back on his youth, and is therefore the most nostalgic and bitter-sweet work in the programme, the a pastoral waltz being a real highlight. The 'Doll's Dance' full of youthful charm and the exuberant 'Round Dance' provides a boisterous finale. It's not especially distinguished, but it is attractive while it lasts.

What more can be said other than that this is another enthusiastic and colourful tribute to an old too often overlooked aspect of British music? The sound is first rate and Barry Wordworth encourages excellent performances from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. Devotees of an earlier style of British film music should find much to delight.

Gary S. Dalkin


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