June 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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British Film Composers in Concert  

  • Clifton Parker (1905-1989)
    • Thieves Carnival – Overture (1959)
    • Two Choreographic Studies: Alla spagnola and Alla cubana (1940)
  • Leighton Lucas (1903-1982)
    • Ballet de la Reine (1949 rev 1957)
      • Entrée et pavan
      • Air de luth
      • Courante
      • Tordion
      • Sarabande
      • Bransles
  • Anthony Collins (1892-1964)
    • Eire Suite (1938)
      • Battle March
      • To the Mourne Mountains (Reverie)
      • Fluter’s Hooley (Reel)
  • Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978)
    • Scottish Aubade
    • Scottish Lullaby
  • Eric Rogers (1921-1981)
    • Palladium Symphony
      • First Movement – Rhapsody
      • Second Movement – Spring-time
      • Third Movement – Scherzo
      • Fourth Movement – Finale
  Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sunderland
(Recorded 16-18 September 2002 at The Warehouse, London)
  Available on ASV White Line CD WHL 2145  
Running time: 71.48
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british film composers

This interesting compilation covers the work of less celebrated British film composers. Some of the pieces have theatre/ballet connotations hence presumably the interest of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Covering the Eric Rogers work first which is the most substantial on this CD (approx. 24 minutes) - Rogers is best remembered for his music for the British Carry On series of broad comedies. His Palladium Symphony, ostensibly influenced by the variety theatre (it was dedicated to his wife Betty who was a dancer) it might also be regarded as a brilliant parody of Hollywood film music. It’s opening movement ‘Rhapsody’ opens with the sort of sweeping music one associated with Max Steiner in full romantic flow continuing with Mickey-Mouse material that might have been used for some slapstick routine. ‘Spring-time’, the second movement, has lush Korngold/ Steiner extravagance and the Scherzo is almost laughing, set to music influenced perhaps inspired by Korngold buffoonery or Ealing comedy music. The ‘Finale’ conjures up memories of the sort of towering dramatic scores Max Steiner created for Bette Davis’s pictures. Great fun.

However, the programme kicks off with Clifton Parker’s Thieves Carnival, a cocky, cheeky piece reminiscent of Constant Lambert. Two bright castanet-filled, Latin pieces, by Parker, follow: ‘Alla spagnola’ is perky and sexy while the less frenetic ‘Alla cuba’ has Ravelian echoes is more wistful and tender. Parker’s film score credits include: The Blue Lagoon (1948); Treasure Island (1949); The Wooden Horse (1950) and Sink the Bismark (1959).

Leighton Lucas was a largely self-taught composer and initially a ballet dancer. He was part of Louis Levy’s ‘school’ at Gainsborough before branching out on his own with films like Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950) and a number of war epics like The Dam Busters (1954) and Ice Cold in Alex (1958). His Ballet de la Reine is a suite taken from sketches for an unperformed ballet, composed in 1949, and intended for the Edinburgh Ballet Club. The composer retains a 16th century flavour to the dances, many of the melodies being paraphrases of Dowland and other lutenists of the period while still retaining originality. As Philip Lane says in his valuable notes, this music is a gentle mix of Warlock’s Capriol Suite and Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin. The suite commences in majesty with ‘Entrée et pavan’. ‘Air de luth’ is a delicious confection with beguiling material for harp and oboe. ‘Courante’ is serenely pastoral, a gentle rustic dance ending in a sigh. ‘Tordion’ is a softly lilting enchantment and ‘Sarabande’ a stately deeply felt progression (very much ‘period Gainsborough’ film music this movement). Finally ending in upbeat merriment, ‘Bransles’ is a dance with Gaelic overtones.

Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia give a lusty reading of Anthony Collins’ very stirring ‘Battle March’ that forms the first movement Eire Suite. The lovely Reverie that follows recalls, in sentimental nostalgic mood, the misty Mountains of Mourne – in a gorgeous arrangement of the famous Irish melody. And it is another arrangement of another well-known Irish tune, the jolly ‘Phil the Fluter’s Ball’ that rounds off the suite.

Anthony Collins recorded a wonderful set of Sibelius symphonies for Decca and wrote some memorable light music miniatures like Vanity Fair. His film music credits include: Victoria the Great (1937), Nurse Edith Cavell (AAN 1939), Irene (AAN 1940), Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1940) and The Lady with the Lamp (1951).

Like Eric Rogers, Bruce Montgomery was associated with the Carry On series. His Scottish Aubade and Scottish Lullaby are concert works derived from two films, a documentary, Scottish Highlands (1952) and The Kidnappers (1953) set in Nova Scotia. The Aubade is nicely evocative and lyrical with material of shimmering beauty and suggestive of dramatic vistas. The Lullaby is frolicsome and sentimental.

Delightful light music by less celebrated British film composers.

Ian Lace

**** 4

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