December 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Curio Corner

Concert Works by Film Composers  
Fréderik DEVREESE Benvenuta: Suite; Astor PIAZZOLA Verano Porteño; Adrian WILLIAMS Jizo; Ennio MORRICONE Primo studio a
  New Art Trio (Vlad Weverbergh, clarinet; Vera Baliko, cello; Stefan Meylaers, pianoa)
  PHAEDRA 292013   [54:36]


Concert Works by Film Composers, the collective title of the present release, has more than a grain of truth, though Piazzola and, to a certain extent, Frederik Devreese may not entirely fit into this category. The other composers, however, have considerably contributed (and some still do) to that specific medium. All of them, anyway, have also written a good deal of concert works which are still too easily by-passed or frankly neglected.

Nino Rota, who may be primarily remembered as the composer of many original and highly effective scores for Fellini's films, has a substantial body of concert works to his credit ranging all the way from short piano pieces to full-evening operas. His lovely Trio for clarinet, cello and piano is an appealing example of his tuneful and colourful music in which most of his fingerprints are much in evidence: simple structures, economy of means, clarity as well as some light-hearted humour (as in the Poulenc-like third movement) and deeply felt emotion (as in the beautifully simple, song-like second movement).

Fréderik Devreese, too, has composed many fine concert works in an accessible 20th Century idiom as well as a lot of incidental music and a number of very fine film scores, particularly for the late André Delvaux for whose masterpiece L'Oeuvre au Noir he wrote a substantial score of which very little is actually heard in the film but that, fortunately enough, has been recorded complete. Delvaux's Benvenuta (1983) starring Fanny Ardant and Vittorio Gassman called for a more concentrated approach, the music being part of the setting, as it were, and more independent from what happens on the screen. The suite, made by Devreese, exists in several versions, including for violin and piano and for bass clarinet and marimba (the latter available on PHAEDRA 292005), for clarinet trio (heard here) and for orchestra (available on MARCO POLO 8.223681). It is in fact a dance suite (Habanera, Waltz and Tango) introduced by a sort of 'dream sequence'. The most remarkable thing about it is that all the movements are in fact highly imaginative variations on the same basic tango, stated in the introduction and which is turned into a nightmarish danse macabre and in a more aggressive dance number.

Piazzola will probably be best described as the man who transformed the often vulgar, popular Tango into a sophisticated art form, and Verano Porteño, which also exists in several instrumental versions, is a prime example of his approach.

Adrian Williams' trio Jizo was commissioned by the New Art Trio and was completed as recently as 2002, so that the present recording is also the world première of the piece. It is a suite of three concise, contrasted movements evoking three Japanese deities who, so we are told, protect children. So Jizo Bosatsu (peaceful god who saves children from hell), Sendan Kendatsuba (who kills demons attacking children) and Kariteimo who first devours children and then repents!). A superbly crafted piece of music in its own right eschewing any attempt at fake Orientalism.

Though much of his fame rests on his numerous film scores, some of them being real masterpieces in their own kind, Morricone, who was a pupil of Petrassi, also composed some considerable concert work. His Quattro Studi for piano were written between 1983 and 1989. A pity that the whole set has not been recorded here; but I can understand why the First Study was chosen. Its design has most Morricone hallmarks that make his music so unique: a few isolated notes, struck so that they resonate for some time, punctuate an ostinato that is subtly varied throughout the piece. (I really wonder what the other études sound like.)

Affectionate, dedicated and well recorded readings of a varied and attractive programme that vastly repays repeated hearings and that is well worth looking for.

Hubert Culot

[Not rated]

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