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Eloquence Collection form Universal: Film Music CD Reviews- January 2001

January 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /January/



The Eloquence collection comprises heavily promoted budget titles (£4.50), a collaborative attempt to capture a large corner of the bargain reissue market by Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips. All bear the AMSI (Ambient Surround Imagine) logo, though whether this means the original tracks have been remixed into true multi-channel sound or simply had digital processing added, the effect is more convincing than on some other surround CDs. Overall though I still prefer listening in stereo, creating the impression of being in front of the orchestra, rather than in the midst of it.

Gary goes on to review three of these Eloquence titles:-

(1) Various
American Classics  
Leonard BERNSTEIN - Candide, On the Town, West Side Story, America Medley, Wonderful Town, Divertimento for Orchestra (selection) * Aaron COPLAND - Fanfare for the Common Man * John KANDER - New York, New York * Henry MANCINI - The Pink Panther * Stephen SONDHEIM - A Little Night Music * Max STEINER - Gone With the Wind, A Summer Place * John WILLIAMS - America, The Dream Goes On
  John Williams conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra
  Eloquence (Philips) 468 156-2   [78:18]

(2) Various
Movie Classics  
2001: A Space Odyssey - Also Sprach Zarathustra - Richard Strauss * Last Action Hero - The Marriage of Figaro overture - Mozart * Wall Street - Rigoletto - Verdi * Out of Africa - Clarinet concerto in A major - Mozart * Shine - Polonaise No.6 - Chopin * A Room with a View - Gianni Schicchi - Puccini * Kolya - Serenade for Strings & Humoreske - Dvorak * Anna Karenina - Swan Lake - Tchaikovsky * The Untouchables - I Pagliacci - Leoncavallo * The Godfather Part III - Cavalleria Rusticana - Mascagni * Punchline - Sabre Dance - Khachaturian * Amadeus - Requiem - Mozart * The Ladykillers - String Quartet - Boccherini * Platoon - Adagio - Barber * JFK - Horn Concert No. 2 - Mozart * Shine - Gloria in D major, RV 589 - Vivaldi * A Clockwork Orange - Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 - Elgar * Excalibur - Carmina Burana - Orff
  various conductors, soloists and orchestras
  Eloquence (Philips) 468157-2   [75:48]

(3) Franz LEHAR
Die Lustige Witwe (highlights)  
Hilde Gueden, Per Grunden, Emmy Loose, Waldemar Kmentt
  Robert Stoltz conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus
  Eloquence (Decca) 467 430-2   [70:35]

Of most interest here for film music fans is American Classics, a programme drawn from various albums John Williams made between 1981-86 as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. The title is misleading, for this is not a collection American classical music, but of full orchestral arrangements of show and movie tunes; around 47 of the 78 minutes of the music being by one composer; Leonard Bernstein. With the 10th anniversary of Bernstein's death coming up in December these selections from Candide, West Side Story, On the Town, etc. make a good commemoration, and one can easily argue that Williams as a conductor is more in sympathy with the spirit of this music than many a through-and-through 'classical' conductor.

Film music is confined to the stalwarts of many a compilation album; Max Steiner's Gone With the Wind and A Summer Place themes given a typically lush Williams reading, and a spot on version of Henry Mancini's Pink Panther, delivered with just the right lightness of touch and rather more of a jazz sensibility than is often the case. Williams fans may be rather more interested in the one Williams piece here. America, The Dream Goes On sounds like a big, rousing production number from a Broadway musical. It's not a piece I've heard before, and it is as flag-wavingly patriotic as the title suggests. It's not the sort of thing to make the album an essential purchase for anyone other than Williams completists. The album is good value, but even at budget price there is no excuse of a total absence of liner notes, even to the extent that we are not told who is singing or where the song comes from.

Movie Classics is much more of a ragbag, offering 19 classical pieces and extracts from longer works which have at some time or other made it onto the soundtrack of a film. Of course quite a lot of these pieces have been featured in more than one movie, and some notes on the various ways these pieces have been employed would go a long way to making this more than just another cheap CD of 'famous-bits'. One good thing is that, being on the Philips label, one can been assured that the tracks here have all been taken from recordings by major conductors with leading orchestras. It's hard to know whether to recommend something like this or not. I suppose it depends on whether you want just the pieces used in the movies, or whether you want to the complete works. Whatever, this is a cheap way of rounding up a lot of music heard in such diverse films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Out of Africa, Platoon and Excalibur.

Finally, and of least interest to film music collectors but of most interest to readers of Classical Music on the Web, we have a disc of highlights from Franz Lehár's operetta Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow), taken from a 1958 recording with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Robert Stolz. This is almost complete, as the entire work can be fitted into 80 minutes, but is missing the ballroom music and the later additional music Lehár composed; three numbers in 1907 and the overture penned in 1940. Anyone interested in the development of the Hollywood musical could do much worse than add this enthusiastic, vibrant recording to their collection. Of course here the absence of any text really is a major drawback, especially as the singing is in German.

Gary S. Dalkin

American Classics - ***(*)
Movie Classics - **(*)
Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) - ****

Mark Hockley reviews two others:-

(4) Collection:
Star Wars -The Sound of Hollywood  
John WILLIAMS: Star Wars - 'Throne Room' and 'Finale'; E.T.- Flying Theme; The Witches of Eastwick - Devil's Dance; Jurassic Park Main Title; Dracula - Night Journeys;
Bernard HERMANN: The Day the Earth Stood Still - 'Outer Space';
Jerry GOLDSMITH: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - Main Theme & March of the Klingons; The Omen - Main Title
Louis and Bebe BARRON: Forbidden Planet - 'Once Around Altair'
John CORIGLIANO: Altered States - Love Theme'
Alex NORTH: 2001: A Space Odyssey - Fanfare
Ennio MORRICONE: (Arr. T. Hattori) Cinema Paradiso Theme
Max STEINER: Now, Voyager Theme; King Kong - Overture
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD: Adventures of Robin Hood-Battle, Victory & Epilogue'
Richard RODGERS: The Sound of Music -Entr'acte
John BARRY: Dances with Wolves - John Dunbar Theme; Body Heat - Main Title

A vastly entertaining collection of classic film cues superbly performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the more than able direction of John Mauceri. While there are a few somewhat obvious choices like Williams' Star Wars and Goldsmith's Star Trek, there are still quite a number of more imaginative selections such as John Corigliano's 'Love Theme' from Altered States, a rather touching, emotional piece with a slight sixties feel (the film was released in 1980). Elsewhere, Herrmann's 'Outer Space' from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) gets a very credible reading of what is a difficult piece to recreate. It's quite simply a stunning piece of masterful, supremely intelligent film music.

But this is a CD of many pleasures, from the striking fanfare taken from Alex North's rejected score for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to Max Steiner's fine 'Overture' from King Kong (1933) (which has stood the test of time rather well). In fact so much of what's on offer here is praiseworthy that it's difficult to find anything to complain about. The one glaring error of judgement must be the inclusion of the brief, droning electronics of 'Once Around Altair' taken from Forbidden Planet (1956), as sadly this amounts to no more than just a sound effect. But this is a very minor quibble and there are numerous highlights, concluding with the extraordinary 'Main Title' from The Omen (1976) by Jerry Goldsmith. A fine rendition of a work of unquestionable genius!

With its strong selections and excellent performances and sound, this new compilation is a delight. Add to that the fact that this is a budget range CD designed to go easy on your pocket and we have a definite recipe for success. Bravo!

Mark Hockley


Tonight - Hits from the Musicals Various artists (see below)  

1) 'Tonight' from West Side Story
2) 'I Got Rhythm' from Girl Crazy
3)'Ol' Man River' from Show Boat
4) 'Oklahoma' from Oklahoma!
5) 'All the Things you are' from Very Warm for May
6) 'Over the Rainbow' from The Wizard of Oz
7) 'Memory' from Cats
8) 'I Could have Danced all Night' from My Fair Lady
9) 'On the Street where you Live' from My Fair Lady
10) 'September Song' from Knickerbocker Holiday
11) 'The Man I Love' from Lady, Be Good
12) 'Stormy Weather' from Cotton Club Paradise
13) 'The Impossible Dream' from Man of La Mancha
14) 'So in Love' from Kiss me Kate
15) 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from Carousel
José Carreras/Robert Farnon and his Orchestra 1, 7, 13
Barbara Hendricks/Katia & Marielle Labèque, piano 2, 11
Simon Estes/Munich Radio Orchestra-Willie Anthony Waters 3, 4, 10, 15
Sylvia McNair/André Previn, piano/David Finck, double bass 5, 6, 12
Kiri Te Kanawa/Jerry Hadley/London Symphony Orchestra-John Mauceri 8, 9
Kiri te Kanawa/Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra 14

Fans of movie and stage musicals will probably enjoy this, especially with its 'Ambient Surround Imaging' to give 'greater presence, brilliance and a stereophonically refined panorama of sound'(as the blurb on the CD states). But I'm less enthusiastic. Despite the fact that many popular songs have been included, all too often I found the interpretations unsatisfying. Great songs like 'Over the Rainbow' don't seem to have the emotional power they should and I was uneasy about José Carreras' rendering of both 'Memory' and the truly wonderful 'The Impossible Dream'.

At the risk of setting myself up for criticism (but isn't that what I'm here for!), my feeling is that the vocal performances in general leave something to be desired, not from a technical point of view but from a stylistic one. I would concede however that Kiri Te Kanawa gives a restrained, likeable rendition of 'So in Love', but there are several cases where a particular voice doesn't appear to do best justice to the song.

To be fair, if you like this kind of thing and enjoy the work of this group of vocalists, no doubt you'll get more out of it than I did.

Mark Hockley


Ian Lace adds:-

Lehar's The Merry Widow has been filmed at least twice: in 1934 with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, and less successfully with Lana Turner and Fernando Lamas in 1952. The 1958 Stolz Merry Widow recording starring Hilde Guerden is somewhat uneven. The orchestra although sounding a little thin, provides plenty of exuberance if not the extra sparkle and insight that Matacic brought to his classic EMI set featuring Elizabeth Schwarzkopf as a truly memorable Hanna. Gueden's 'Vilja', if a little insecure, is beautifully expressive you really feel the lovelorn huntsman's anguish. Emmy Loose and Waldemar Kmentt are memorable as Valencienne and Camille.

I understand Mark's trepidation about the Tonight album. Too often opera singers are not successful in cross-over material. I have observed elsewhere that their singing is usually 'big'. While this is acceptable on the operatic stage, in the more intimate atmosphere of musical comedy it is inappropriate and in fact it sounds pompous and insincere.

John Mercauri's Star Wars - The Sound of Hollywood is, as Mark says, an album of many pleasures; but the Eloquence CD that impressed me most was the American Classics album. I agree with everything Gary has said and one cannot but admire the sheer exuberance of John Williams's reading of the Leonard Bernstein pieces - rarely have I heard Candide and On the Town sounding so colourful and exuberant.

Ian Lace

The Merry Widow: ***(*)
Tonight **
Star Wars - The Sound of Hollywood: ***(*)
American Classics: ****(*)

Reviews from previous months

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