May 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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CURIO CORNER

Compilation: Ivor Novello (1893-1951)
Shine Through My Dreams  
  Original recordings 1917-1950
  NAXOS 8.120600   [67:00]

Ivor Novello

Deep in my heart; Fold your wings; The radiance of your eyes; Every bit of loving in the world; The thought never entered my head; Give me back my heart; Scene from Act I of Murder in Mayfair; When the gypsy played; The girl I knew; Shine through my dreams; If you only knew; My dearest dear; The leap year waltz; Dark music; We'll gather lilacs; I can giove you the starlight; Waltz of my heart; Keep the home fires burning.

Jeremy Northam's impressive impersonation of Ivor Novello in the film, Gosford Park, has naturally focussed attention again on the music of Novello. This new Naxos release follows hard on the heels of a similar album released by ASV last year (reviewed on this site) as a 50th anniversary (of his death on March 6th 1951) tribute. Both discs were produced by Peter Dempsey. He was responsible for the digital transfers and restoration for this Naxos release.

Alas, when so many Ivor Novello songs are crying out to be covered including the divine 'Fly Home Little Heart' from King's Rhapsody, this new album covers too much of the same ground of the ASV release. Indeed, there are exact duplications: Mary Ellis singing 'Deep in My Heart', 'When the Gypsy Played' and 'My Dearest Dear' (with Ivor himself accompanying and in a speaking role, this duplication can readily be forgiven); Trefor Jones rendering of 'Shine through my Dreams' and Elisabeth Welch singing 'Dark Music'. That is five numbers out of eighteen, nearly a third of the album, really too much!

Granted there are different interpretations of some Novello favourites as listed in the heading so one has the opportunity of comparing, for instance, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth's 'Deep in My Heart' with the singing of Mary Ellis and Trefor Jones.

Lest it seems that I am all carp, there are, on the credit side, a number of numbers that are less familiar and therefore of greater value in this collection. Peggy Wood enchants in 'Give Me Back Heart' (with the delicious ironic last line "…you might be wanting it again") from Symphony in Two Flats which was filmed in 1930. 'The Radiance in Your Eyes' is sung in the 'stuffed-shirt' drawing room style of the period caught in this 1917 recording, the earliest in the compilation. 'Every Bit of Loving', is warbled sentimentally, in 1921, by Frances Alda with the typical accompaniment of the period that sounds like a scaled down, bottom-heavy town band. Then from 1929, in immeasurably better sound, we hear Winnie Melville and the 'terribly, terribly' Derek Oldham (sounding more like Noel Coward than Noel Coward) in 'The Thought Never Entered My Head'; a real hoot this one! Elisabeth Welch is all of a quiver ("…close to youoooo…") through 'The Girl I Knew' one of the jewels from Glamorous Night –nevertheless this is another haunting number appreciated more and more on successive hearings. Dorothy Dickson with male chorus, effulgent and sounding like something from an MGM musical, sing 'If You Only Knew' from Crest of the Wave, one of Ivor's lovely lush waltzes. Gisèle Préville's slight accent and lilt lifts 'Waltz of My Heart' and 'I Can Give You the Starlight' both from The Dancing Years - and with the latter we are back to Jeremy Northam and Gosford Park.

One of the most interesting tracks is an excerpt from Act I of Murder in Mayfair with Ivor at the piano and in amusing dialogue with Edna Best: "Are you here for long?""No just two or three days, I shall visit my tailor, he must think I am dead…"and a discussion about the merits of Fauré's and Ravel's Pavanes before memories of concerts and kisses.

[Ivor Novello was much loved as composer, playright, actor, producer and matinee-idol; his songs and shows highly popular in the 1930s and 1940s. It is often forgotten that he was once a successful film star and was perceived as a likely successor to Richard Barthelmess or Ramon Navarro. His silent screen appearances included: The Man Without Desire (1923), The Rat (1925), The Constant Nymph and The Vortex (both 1928). But it is for his tremendously successful stage productions that he will be remembered. His first great musical success came in 1935 with Glamorous Night followed by The Dancing Years (1939) Perchance to Dream (1945) and King's Rhapsody (1949 later filmed with Errol Flynn and Anna Neagle).

Despite the duplications with last year's ASV Novello release, this is a highly recommended nostalgic wallow

Ian Lace

See also review by Tony Duggan

[not rated]

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