This album is a fantastic celebration of
mankind’s remarkable conquest of aviation in the medium of cinema. It also
marks Varese Sarabande’s dazzling return to the world of re-recordings after
the completion of their highly acclaimed Classic Film Music series.
On a first glance this a typical film music
compilation of both classic and contemporary movie themes associated with
flight and the fantastic. Some titles are actual cues, and others are concert
arrangements that include several cues joined in a suite like fashion. The
themes have been heard before, but the dynamic tour de force performance of the
musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of ace
conductor Richard Kaufman makes this album a must have.
These are all new digital recordings
performed in wonderful close-miked technique that is leap years ahead of the
previous Varese classic re-recordings sound. The sound is warmer and avoids the
concert hall acoustics for which early Varese re-recordings were endlessly
criticized for. (Just compare the ‘Flying Over Africa’ cue from Out of
Africa (1985) with the Varese’s own complete re-recording of the full score
and you will notice the difference.)
The performances deliver a certain energy
and due reverence for the subject and it shows. A thunderous performance of
themes from Dimitri Tiomkin’s The High and The Mighty (1954) is a good
start for the album. Here Tiomkin’s stirring themes work their evocative charm.
Two cues from Williams Walton’s Spitfire (1942, aka The First and the
Few) are featured but, and the energetic performance of the ‘Fugue’ is
easily the highlight of the album. Swirling strings and busy arpeggios
contrasted with ascending and descending notes give a unique character to the
winged fighter. A faithful performance of John Williams classic ‘Flying’ cue
from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) is done with finesse but
somewhat lacking the dexterity that Williams has already perfected in his
various re-recordings on Sony Classical and Philips label cds.
Those Magnificent Men In their Flying
Machines (1965) and The Great Waldo Pepper
(1975) lighten the program a little. ‘Main Title’ from the thrilling 633
Squadron (1964) gives the ensemble cast of brass and percussion a workout.
It’s a powerful performance and the LSO shines. Pseudo romantic themes from
Bruce Broughton’s The Boy Who Could Fly (1986) and aerial romanticism in
Out of Africa follow – both breath-taking compositions. The Oscar award
winning Africa cue omits the choral section, the orchestra-only
rendition of the music almost hymnal in feel.
One of the most enjoyable suites is Elmer
Bernstein’s Airplane! (1980). The film parodies the earlier plane and
airport scenes from many other films, and the composer joins the fun with a
basketful of musical parodies. From the rhythmic ostinati percussion to the
over-the-top choral parts, everything is done in ship shape fashion.
space flight is Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek-The Motion Picture (1979).
Alexander Courage’s opening fanfare from the TV series is presented in a
much faster tempo before segueing to Goldsmith’s music in a new arrangement of
the end title music. (I do wish they’d used the cue ‘The Enterprise’ from the
same score instead though.) Another thrilling theme is the march from Craig
Safan’s The Last Starfighter (1984), the stout aggressive performance
recalling the charms of the 1980s score. A brief suite from Lee Holderige’s The
Tuskegee Airmen (1995) is also represented. The album concludes with an
especially commissioned composition from composer Brian Shyer, ‘A
Century Of Flight’. A beautiful cue that captures the exhilaration and serenity
of flight in swirling strings and crashing brass.
covers a wide array of genres and composers from different eras. The cues are
compiled in such a way that they offer a gratifying and cohesive listening
experience, making this album a must have. Beautiful
artwork by frequent Varese collaborator Matthew Joseph Peak adorns both front
and back covers. Detailed liner notes on each film and composer make for an
hope there will be more cds of this sort from Varese. There were many titles
that were left out from the series, some of the obligatory choices such as The
Blue Max, Superman, The Aviator, Space Camp, Supergirl, Empire of The
Sun, Explorers, The Terminal and Air Force One would have been nice.
But lets hope there will be a second volume to lead the series on a new