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FILM MUSIC RECORDINGS REVIEWS
April 1999 Part 1
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Editor's Choice - CD of the Month (1) - April 1999
Dramatic Score Category - 1999 Academy Award Winning Score
Nicola PIOVANI Life is Beautiful OST VIRGIN 47402 2 [41:18]
This is the Oscar-winning score that confounded us all on Film Music on theWeb (and, perhaps, many others?). Life is Beautiful is one of three 1999 Oscar-nominated scores for films set in World War II, but whereas Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line treat the tragedy seriously, Benigni's film (and Piovani's music) dares to look the horror in the eye and retaliate with comedy - albeit comedy underlined with sensitivity and poignancy so that it is no less damning of the evil. Not having seen the film yet, I have to confess that I approached this album with some trepidation, after all how could it have succeeded against the might of Hollywood - John Williams's Private Ryan and Zimmer's Thin Red Line, both highly acclaimed scores. But I, presumably like the music-category voting members of the Academy, was quickly won over by its charm and enchantment.
The opening cue 'Buon Giorno Principessa' states the main theme - a simple innocent melody of homely Italian charm with guitar, piccolo, accordion and mandolin prominent. This theme is then presented as a vivacious tango in 'La Vita È Bella' which follows. 'Viva Giosué' is slower more romantic with trumpet in Italian town-band style wryly commenting. 'Grand Hotel Valse' is an expansive quick waltz in the old Viennese style. 'La Notte Di Favola' is pensive and slightly sad and nostalgic before the tango rhythms take hold again. With tremolando strings opening 'La Notte Di Fuga' a note of menace and danger is introduced for the first time - and Piovani screws up the tension with some interesting orchestration colourings and, mercifully, without having to resort to synth screechings, hissings and wailings. With 'Le Uova Nel Cappello' the atmosphere warms up again and 'Grand Hotel Fox' presents the first of several wonderful parodies. This is a foxtrot very much in the style of the 1920s - one can visualise flappers tea-dancing in the Palm Court.
'Il Treno Nel Buio' plunges us back into despair - lurking threat and danger is palpable and made implicit by insistent percussion. 'Arriva Il Carro Armato' presents the main theme a pomposo as though played by a German military band. 'Valse Larmoyante' is a gentle, elegant but almost regretful slow waltz. 'L'Uovo Di Struzzo-Danza Etiope' is another wickedly funny parody of sensual Egyptian music complete with the dancing girls' litle cymbals, while 'Krautentang' is a tuba-led take-off of German beer-garden music. 'Il Gioco Di Giosué' is in the form of a folk dance. The only source music in the album follows: the Barcarolle from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman with singers Montserrat Caballé and Shirley Verrett.
'Guido E Ferruccio' presents the main theme hesitatingly but most appealingly - comedy from the trumpet laced by pathos from the remainder of the ensemble - a lovely track. The album closes with the 'Abbiamo Vinto' cue at first plaintive but then the main theme emerges strongly and emphatically - life endures.
A different and rewarding film musical experience
Editor's Choice - CD of the Month (2) - April 1999
1999 Academy Award Nominated Score
Hans ZIMMER The Thin Red Line OST RCA VICTOR 09026 63382 2 [58:56]
This new Oscar-nominated, Hans Zimmer score, like that of his rival nominee John Williams, for this years other much-praised World War II film, Saving Private Ryan, is sensitive and quietly understated. While it has nothing to equal the impact of Williamss "Hymn to the Fallen", taken as a whole, Zimmers score is the better and more interestingly varied of the two. Like John Williams, Zimmer prefers to keep battle at a distance. He is more concerned with the human scale; more concerned with the emotions and thoughts and fears of the soldiers, and of those caught up in the war. There are no heroics, no bombast. The music of the opening track creeps in slowly and quietly with ominous bass rumblings but it is as if the battles are distant, detached, unreal even: the horror, the cruelty, the pity of war muted but, in so being, made no less effective. Some cues are of considerable and impressive complexity and length (the first three are 8, 8:36 and 9:21 mins. respectively). Many tracks run into each other to form a long seamless elegy. It is a string-dominated score. There is much to admire. The opening cue, "The Coral Atoll" I have already mentioned but it also includes a beautifully subtle and muted reference to "Christian Race" an American folk hymn. "The Lagoon" which follows begins with deep ethnic bell tollings followed by local Pacific religious wailings and chantings before edgy string dronings intrude which uncannily suggest warring aircraft, then the music moves slowly forwards almost like a slow church processional in infinite sadness and compassion with the dronings by now becoming a very quiet ostinato and only occasionally rising above pp to suggest distant theatres of operations. The cue ends with slightly faster, warmer and more romantic music that develops into a waltz - thoughts of home? "Journey to the Line" opens most imaginatively with a quiet but persistent staccato running figure (almost Morse-code-like) with lower strings entering ominously below then gradually the music lifts itself above all conflict to reach the heavens. Here, Zimmer suddenly plucks the music from the low strings and flings it to his highest strings it is as if the sun suddenly bursts through the clouds. It is a beatific, mystical world partly Vaughan Williams partly Bruckner but wholly Zimmer. Cleverly this ecstatic mood is sustained through the next cue,"Light" which is haltingly beautiful. It is a sort of gentle Far Eastern pastoral picture (Elysian Fields?) with delectable harp figures. The writing here echoes Ravel and Puccini. This lovely track could stand as a charming little piece on its own. "Beam" brings us back down to earth with more insistent deep bell tollings that speak directly of death. This, and the next barbaric track "Air", is the closest we get to direct confrontation with the beast of war yet even here the barbarity is contrasted with the ethereal and mystical. "Stone in my Heart" is another stunning cue with Zimmer showing considerable skill in complex contrapuntal and cross-rhythmic writing. The advance and inexorable tread of weary battle-scarred, marching soldiers is vividly evoked and the ending violin solo adds just the right touch of pathos. "The Village" is another affecting hymn-like composition building slowly up to a passionate climax. "Silence", intensely sad mournful, continues very much in the same vein but ends with the sound of distant explosions. After an ethnic hymn sung by the choir , the final cue "Sit back and relax" is ironically named for this is music of horror and dissonance reminding us that the threat of the beast of war is ever present.
A wonderful score, to my mind Zimmers masterpiece to date and very deserving of its Oscar nomination.
And Paul Tonks agrees:-
It is extremely difficult to recognise this score as coming from Zimmer. Theres no accusation in that statement whatsoever. Im just stunned. Whats so very very wonderful, is that once youve seen the film, this score is impossible to forget. Not that theres any whistle-worthy melody you walk away with. It is just an absolutely perfect representation of how modern scoring techniques can work flawlessly in film.
As a superb example, the third cue on the disc ("Journey To The Line") is the closest the score gets to thematics. Its first 6 minutes (all the cues are lengthy) builds from a very subtle ticking beat into an enormous crescendo of sound. For the scene in question we are following the newly landed troop make their way to the holding point on an island. The voice-overs are specific, but the looks and body language are far more subtle at explaining that at any moment the tree-line may explode with enemy fire. This piece of music creates unbearable empathy from us towards the soldiers in this situation. Not by being eerie or anticipatory, but because like the main character we follow, it is a celebration of life. It speaks directly to the heart of the wonders of being alive and the tragedy of that being cut short.
Having mentioned the length of the cues, its to be noted that so often an album can sequence or edit cues together and be to the detriment of the listening experience. Mr Horners team I mean you ! Here, the time just flies and as with the film you could easily wallow at greater length in the company of the soundscapes and characters. The opening track ("The Coral Atoll") seems to have nothing happening for almost a minute. The ear perceives a low timbre rumble, but once the effect is expanded, on you are drawn into a whole world of expression.
The comparison I offer for consideration is with the work of Christopher Franke on the TV series Babylon 5. Not with any particular sounds or emotions. What they have in common is successfully immersing the listener into a tonal landscape for varying lengths of time (longer for the film inevitably).
With such a lot to cover, it is far better to spotlight particular moments. The lovely harp figures that open "Light" develop into the scores most ever so delicate piece. Huge crashes in "Air" are the direct opposite, but nevertheless conform to the surrounding placid textures. The bell and wailing male voice of "The Lagoon" are used to superb effect. Most delightful of all are the incorporated uses of American folk hymn "Christian Race".
Its a minor let down to note that having written hours of material, Zimmer still had to farm out one cue ("Beam") to fellow Media Ventures writer John Powell (Face/Off). The final cue ("Sit Back & Relax") is also from collaborator Francesco Lupica. It hardly matters though. As with all such circumstances, Zimmer oversaw their inclusions and worked them into being an integral part of the whole.
This is without doubt his masterpiece to date, and absolutely has to be seen with the film to be fully appreciated. It will take a truly great director to inspire Zimmer to further heights.
Editor's Choice - Classical Scores - April 1999
Victor YOUNG The Uninvited - The Classic Film Music of Victor Young The Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by William T. Stromberg MARCO POLO 8.225063 [69:31]
The team of Bill Stromberg & John Morgan appears incapable of doing film music any injustice. Classic filmusic is already made of gold, but these two squelch the mere attempt to tarnish it. The music of Victor Young, a paragon of the cinematic arts, receives faithful representation in their hands. The only selections, not previously unreleased, come from "Gulliver's Travels," and virtually everything is more than competent.
The sound for the album is authentic, as are the performances from the orchestra. It is difficult to believe that these are not remastered period recordings! The extensive, if sometimes unclear, liner notes by Bill Whitaker keep interest, and additional notes by John Morgan make reading the booklet a pleasure.
The album opens with Young's witty 'Prelude (March)' from "The Greatest Show On Earth." It is a sprightly, atypically fancy circus march, unmistakably the work of Victor Young and thus unapologetically entertaining.
Following is a suite of music (reconstructed by Mr. Morgan) from "The Uninvited," arguably the finest ghost movie yet. The lovely Rachmaninoff-styled main theme in the 'Prelude' would later transform into song standard form as 'Stella by Starlight,' but its appearances throughout the suite are bare icing on the metaphorical cake. 'The Squirrel Chase' is more humorous artistry from Young, its piano runs and brief pseudo-Romantic interludes sure to garner a smile, and 'The Village' is a short, soft-spoken journey introducing a delicately humanistic side to the score. 'The Sobbing Ghost' is first mysterious, for the presence of otherworldly inhabitants now known, but then it brightens into a modest melody of amenity. This leads the listener to 'Sunday Morning - Stella's Emotions.' The cue evolves into a smooth rendering of the film's theme for Stella, but -- opposite of the track before -- becomes more mysterious. 'The Cliff' offers a full version of the Stella theme amid cyclonic modulations and the suite's first musically threatening moment. The modulations reappear in 'Grandfather and the Cliff' and the mystery motifs develop as eerily as ever; a piercing horn & trumpet call gives insight to the nature of a clouded threat. Bringing perfect closure to the suite is 'End of Ghost - Finale,' with the capsulation of the film's principal material, and the glorious final, resounding statement of the Stella theme.
The suite from "Gulliver's Travels" (again, Mr. Morgan) is less substantial, concentrating more on pure entertainment than much else, but is immensely welcome nonetheless. 'Prelude - The Scroll and Storm' is a fine overture, presenting the central themes (most taken from songs by Leo Robin & Ralph Rainger) and Young's rich arrangements. One might hypothesise that the title 'Pussyfoot March' is so descriptive of the music that further comment is unnecessary... and one would be correct...(!) 'Giant in Tow' is, for the most part, cartoonish prattle -- only a playful ditty breaks apart some of the predictability. A lengthy track titled 'Gabby and the King - The Tower - The Archers' is more agreeable as the parts gel into a definite structure. 'Finale' does as a finale should in closing, but the Moscow Symphony Chorus sounds garbled, either a case of poor recording or poor diction.
A suite from "Bright Leaf" ends the disc. The 'Prelude - Welcome to Kingsmont' seems almost tailor-made for the concert hall. It is a nigh-on perfect musical portrait of the American South. 'Sonia' paints the picture of sombre beauty, whereas 'Machine Montage' goes for the jugular, assertively marching forward. It is in 'Margaret' that Young tries for a tone of paranoia, but eventually gives way to a seductive tune. 'Tobacco Montage,' like 'Machine,' is a rough piece, and surprisingly acute. 'Suicide' makes things rougher, as it delves into death and despair in classic Hollywood fashion. 'Sonia and the Wedding' offers more beauty and Southern charm, along with a snippet from Mendelssohn and sheer romanticism (saddened by oppressive overtones). The darkness of 'Southern Vengeance - The Fire - Finale' closes the disc, the finale giving satisfying, thrilling closure to the listening experience.
The album is proof of Victor Young's skill as more than just a composer of music for easy listening. It is heartily recommendable to anyone with an interest in good music, and is a must-hear compilation for Young fans. (Old ones, too...)
And Ian Lace adds:- I heartily agree with Jeffrey Wheelers overall assessment - - this is a first class collection of wonderful music from a sadly neglected Great of Hollywoods Golden Age. I always feel it was a great pity that the late great Charles Gerhardt did not manage to include a representative sample of Victor Youngs work in his pioneering Readers Digest/RCA Classic Film Score Series. Only isolated recordings of Youngs music were available until the mid-1990s. Then his thrilling and witty score for Scaramouche (reconstructed by William Stromberg) was included on "Captain Blood" (8.223607), an earlier, 1994, release in this Marco Polo series. I thought it was the best thing on that album and I believe BBC Radio 3 producers agreed because they chose to broadcast an excerpt from it on one of their Saturday morning new recordings reviews programmes. Then we had the Koch International 1996 release (3-7365-2HI) "A Tribute to Victor Young" which included music from Shane, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Samson and Delilah, The Quiet Man and Around the World in Eighty Days.
But to the music on this present album. I have heard some rather negative comments about the standard of playing by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra by some fellow critics but on this occasion they feel very much more secure (the enunciation of the Moscow chorus leaves something to be desired but I nitpick) and Victor Youngs opulent music sounds absolutely glorious. His truly memorable Stella by Starlight theme is only one element in a stunning atmospheric score for The Uninvited todays younger composers could take a few leaves from Youngs book on learning how to write effective thriller/horror music without having to resort to all those awful mechanical synth effects. And notice how well he evokes all the thrills of the high wire in his piccolo writing for The Greatest Show on Earth. Victor Youngs delightful and tuneful Gullivers Travels music was one of the first scores that made an impression on me as a child and I was struck by how well he embraced the special Warner Bros sound in his magnificent Bright Leaf score. I mean no disrespect to either composer when I say it sounds so like the music of Max Steiner (in fact Max had to assign the task to Young because of over-commitments). This is another magnificent score with some wonderfully souring romantic melodies and evocative writing in the three montage episodes. I should mention the 32 page booklet with movie stills, very good analytical notes by Bill Whitaker and interesting informative notes about the orchestrations of these scores (large orchestras were necessary to achieve Youngs rich opulent sound) by John Morgan.
Sir William WALTON Hamlet. As You Like It Michael Sheen (Narrator) RTÉ Concert Orchestra conducted by Andrew Penny NAXOS 8.553344 [52:43]
William Walton and Laurence Olivier first met in 1936 when Olivier co-starred in Paul Czinner's production of As You Like It with Elizabeth Bergner, Czinner's wife. In 1943 Olivier decided to put his Henry V on film and approached Walton to write the music. This was the first of three films on which Walton and Olivier collaborated together; the others were Hamlet, written in 1947 and released in 1948, and Richard III in 1955. The association was a happy one and Olivier said of Walton's music. 'I have always said that if it was not for the music, Henry V would not have been the success it was.'
Hamlet contained about fifty minutes of music from which Muir Mathieson, musical director of the film and a long-standing friend of the composer, edited two concert works: an orchestral poem called "Hamlet and Ophelia", and the "Funeral March", containing music from the opening and closing titles. Malcolm Sargent also collected and arranged isolated fanfares into a piece entitled Fanfare for a Great Occasion. In her book William Walton, Behind the Façade Susana, Lady Walton, lists the score of Hamlet (with a few exceptions) as one of Walton's missing scores. Nevertheless, the late Christopher Palmer, who served Walton so well as an arranger, has given us a forty-minute work entitled Hamlet (A Shakespeare Scenario in Nine Movements for Large Orchestra). These movements are 'Prelude;' 'Fanfare and Soliloquy,' in which Michael Sheen ably recreates the 'O! that this too too solid flesh would melt.' soliloquy; 'The Ghost;' 'Hamlet and Ophelia;' 'The Question,' which incorporates 'To be or not to be;' again spoken by Michael Sheen; 'The Mousetrap;' 'The Players-Entry of the Court;' 'The Play;' 'Ophelia's Death;' 'Retribution and Threnody;' and 'Finale (Funeral March)'. Some have called this music 'even finer than its predecessor, especially in the delicate use of motifs such as the poignant theme associated with Ophelia' (Gilliam Widdicombe, 1984, sleeve notes to the EMI LP entitled William Walton, Music for Shakespeare Films). I cannot agree, considering Henry V to be one of the finest of all film scores, but am profoundly grateful to have this music to add to the Walton discography.
All of the music in Hamlet displays the tragic nature of Shakespeare's play. 'The Ghost' is highly effective and eerie, as Hamlet becomes more agitated and bent on revenge, and the final moments of the Queen's retelling of Ophelia's death are decidedly poignant. The suite concludes with a threnody to those who have died and the 'Finale'-a dead march which incorporates elements of the opening Prelude.
The surprise on this CD was the suite from As You Like It, the second of four films Walton scored for Paul Czinner. The five movements of Christopher Palmer's suite (subtitled A Poem for Orchestra after Shakespeare), arranged in 1989 and played without break, are 'Prelude,' 'Moonlight,' 'Under the Greenwood Tree,' 'The Fountain,' and 'The Wedding Procession.' Appropriately satirical and pastoral, suiting the mood of the play, this is charming music written shortly after the completion of Walton's monumental 1st symphony. The French horn is effectively used in 'Moonlight,' which features exquisite use of key changes to suggest shifting light textures against a nocturnal background. Under the Greenwood Tree, omitted from the film, is restored here as the third movement sung by an unnamed soprano. 'The Fountain' depicts a delicate fountain, growing livelier, leading to the final 'Wedding Procession,' the sort of music at which Walton excels, as he was later to show in the 'Crown Imperial' and 'Orb and Sceptre' marches and such works as 'The Johannesburg Festival Overture.' This is splendid and unexpected Walton-a real find.
Andrew Penny and the RTÉ (Radio Telefís Éireann) Concert Orchestra give a good accounting on this fine CD. My only quibble would be the soprano in 'Under the Greenwood Tree,' whose voice was perhaps not quite up to the quality of the orchestral accompaniment and why I awarded four-and-a-half stars instead of five.
Music for the films of Johnny Depp An Occasional Series
Michael KAMEN Don Juan De Marco The London Metropolitan Orchestra conducted by the composer A&M 540 357-2 [45:44]
I found a copy of this 1995 album in a store in South London proving that you can find older OST recordings if you hunt hard enough! I have to confess to having enjoyed this fantasy movie very much and I reckon that this is one of Kamens best scores to date. His music is a perfect match for this slight parable. It treads, with ease, a very fine line between wry romantic comedy and bathos, helping to make the story of the young masked Zorro-like hero credible, and making us believe in the Dons sexual exploits and his search for true love - his Doña Ana. Depp as Don Juan is excellent with a large-framed Marlon Brando in top form as the psychiatrist assigned to the Dons case who comes to doubt the Dons insanity even if he, himself, is not quite so convincing in romancing his screen wife, Faye Dunaway.
Appropriate to its fantasy setting Kamen uses heavily romantic, fragrant even, Latin music employing guitars (Julian Bream is one of the listed players) plus sweet violins and cello soloists. The opening track, the song "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman", sung by Bryan Adams, is very much in keeping with the Dons philosophy and his opening-scene, "last" seduction. The remaining tracks are all instrumental and although there is little variety the colour, vivacity and charm of the music carries it triumphantly through.
The vibrant opening "Habanera" is, like the Don, proud and haughty, and tenderly romantic. Another luscious tango serves to characterise "Don Juan" and gives the violin soloist, Christopher Warren-Green, and the guitarists the opportunity to show off their virtuosity - and the cello solo adds a touch of warm nostalgia (but surely the soloists breathing could have been edited out). A sweetly romantic serenade with melodramatic overtones informs the witty Korngold-like "Love at First Sight (Mother and Father)" cue. "I was born in Mexico" has well-known Mexican folk material fragrantly embellished by guitars and cimbaloms (or mandolins?). Doña Julia and Don Alfonso have slightly darker, sensuous; and then sadder more melodramatic material appropriate to Julias seduction of the young Don and therefore the betrayal of Alfonso, her husband, the duelling, and the tragic deaths of Alfonso and the Dons father that ensue. Again, through both tracks there is plenty of opportunity for the soloists to show off their talents through Kamens colourful and dramatic but wittily ironic writing that includes a very obvious and appropriate reference to Bizets Carmen. These two tracks, in themselves, are worth the price of the CD.
Don Juans self-imposed exile in Arabia allows Kamen the opportunity to vary his palate to introduce material that suggests the heady atmosphere of the harem. It is not long before the Dons more Latin theme interjects, however, as he is pressed into service by not only one of the Sultans wives but the rest of the ladies of the harem. This is another very witty creation again brilliantly orchestrated.
"Don Octavio Del Flores", the Marlon Brando psychiatrists self-imposed persona, used originally to treat the Don, ultimately takes Brando over. This cue is his portrait. It not only underlines the loneliness and sadness of his character, as he faces the end of his career, but it also expresses the essential warmth and romanticism that Don Juan De Marco makes him discover within himself. This is manifested when he waltzes his wife around the Paradise where Don Juan is finally reunited with his "Doña Ana"
A magic album for incurable romantics and a wonderful souvenir of a lovely film.
I wish readers well in searching for their copy perhaps A&R might be persuaded to reissue it?
John BARRY Collection: ZULU The City of Prague Philharmonic conducted by Nic Raine SILVA SCREEN FILMXCD 305 [101:36]
Music from: Zulu; Sunsilk TV ad; The Specialist; The Cotton Club; King Rat; The Tamarind Seed; The Last Valley; Love Among The Ruins; Mercury Rising; Midnight Cowboy; King Kong; Frances; My Sisters Keeper; Hammett; Dances With Wolves; The Deep; Mister Moses. John BARRY Zulu Silva Screen
Essentially this is Silvas Classic John Barry Volume 3. A Producers Note from James Fitzpatrick explains a personal longing for a stereo version of Zulu, which explains the title change. Its also an acknowledgement of similar prominence on many a collectors wish list. So let me deal with the obvious first - yes, the stereo recording is superb. Barrys regular orchestrator Nic Raine does a great job conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic. Placed first, and with the special fan association, Zulu is the benchmark by which the album will stand or fall to its listeners. Thank goodness its been worth the wait.
By and large, this disc also addresses a mistake made elsewhere by the second Moviola album, which Barry insisted being subtitled as Action music. It seems achingly predictable that Barry collections are going to be made up of suites of the romantic main themes from chosen films. Of course, there is the fair share of that here, but since it also sells itself on previously unavailable material, it does well to showcase the ballsy unpredictable side of Barry too.
It is notable for being considerately sequenced. The flow from piece to piece is very easy on the ear. Some might argue that this is not too hard with Barry !
Collection: The GREAT BRITISH FILM MUSIC Album Various Orchestras SILVA SCREEN 2CDs FILMXCD 309 [153:13]
Music from: Frenzy (Ron Goodwin); Oliver Twist (Arnold Bax); Curse of the Werewolf (Benjamin Frankel); Hamlet (Patrick Doyle); A Night to Remember (William Alwyn); Coastal Command (Vaughan Williams); Stage Fright (Leighton Lucas); Far From the Madding Crowd (Richard Rodney Bennett); The Doctor from Seven Dials (Buxton Orr);The Battle of the Bulge (Benjamin Frankel; The Haunting (Humphrey Searle); Sink the Bismark! (Clifton Parker); The Dambusters (Eric Coates); Attack on the Iron Coast (Gerard Schurmann); The Sound Barrier (Malcolm Arnold); The Scars of Dracula (James Bernard); The Crimson Pirate (William Alwyn); The Red Shoes (Brian Easdale); Henry V (Patrick Doyle); The Lady Vanishes (Charles Williams/Louis Levy); Horrors of the Black Museum (Gerard Schurmann); Emma (Rachel Portman); Conquest of the Air (Arthur Bliss); The Duellists (Howard Blake); The Three Worlds of Gulliver (Bernard Herrmann); Quatermass III (James Bernard); Under Capricorn (Richard Addinsell); Malta G.C. (Arnold Bax).
The ideal freebie gift with this CD would have been a mini cut-out Union Jack flag to have waving beside your CD player. The venture positively reeks of jingoistic pride. Hurrah !
The "Prelude" from Ron Goodwins Frenzy was a great place to start really since it has that heraldic fanfare quality suiting the announcement of something grand. Its he first of several such patriotic marching fanfares. Later, theres Clifton Parkers "Overture" from Sink The Bismarck ! amongst so many more.
Arnold Baxs Oliver Twist suite is a real treat, with the requisite sprightly jollyness measured by the breathtaking "The Chase". Its nicely contrasted by the following suite from The Curse of the Werewolf, and thats really one of the albums strengths. The sequencing keeps you on your toes for constant surprises. On disc two, having The Lady Vanishes precede Horrors of the Black Museum is terrific jolt in style. The whole point of course, is that in celebrating Brit. produced scores this unequivocally shows its not just a nation of pastoral musical portraits.
There are so many highlights to choose from. I particularly enjoyed the harp parts for the "Romanza" of James Bernards The Scars of Dracula, and again in Rachel Portmans regular lush style for Emma. The other "Rhapsody" of Leighton Lucas Stage Fright is equally lovely. Theres a great theremin sample for "The Red Shoes Ballet", as well as very subtle electronic augmentations in other cues.
About the biggest thing I have to thank this collection for is finally solving a mystery for me from last year. The grand regal march from David Newmans Anastasia at last revealed itself to me as from Herrmanns Three Worlds of Gulliver. Thanks for clearing that up Silva!
Jerry GOLDSMITH 100 Rifles OST FILM SCORE Silver Age Classics FSM Vol 2 No.1
Lukas Kendall and Jeff Bond of Film Score Monthly have produced a rip-roaring western score for collectors of gritty Cowboy film music. The score decorates and injects some bruising life into a late 1960s film much influenced by the spaghetti line. The heroes/anti-heroes are played by Jim Brown, Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch whose character, contrary to sun-splashed endings, dies towards the end of the film.
The score is brutal, intermittently dissonant, wild with the sounds of mariachi, the central American jungle (Villa-Lobos) and typically Far West Americana. The prelude rips and roars with the best - such snarlingly incisive brash horns! This mood returns. Bitterness distinguishes the hunt music when screaming trumpets calling in pain and relief arrives when the galloping, stirrup-ringing triumphalism of the prelude returns. Across the Plains, Ready for Ambush and Ill Go Back ride confidently, high and wide and Herb Alpert trumpets echo across a hundred mesa-dotted high chaparrals. The final track ends in an exuberantly confident snorting climax.
Subtler moods are there also. A sinister sourness pervades the music for the hanging of Saritas father. Marimbas and scraped gourd add to the poisonous tension. The Church uses marimba, flute and harp. Several times I was sure Goldsmith must have been listening to recordings of Sibelius (Luonnotar and The Bard). For the Cliff Fight there are very original howling flutes. In Burn and Pillage/Retribution there is a startling use of prepared piano and a touch of Elizabethan dance music! Mystery and threat roll over much of this music like black clouds over a landscape. This is leavened by the Aranjuez-evocative guitar and the slow warm seduction of summer evenings.
The recording includes the original surviving mono tracks from the film but some of these suffer from distortion. The stereo tracks have been mixed from the original material recorded for the film. They are predictably open. Sadly, not all of the original material survived. As a consequence you get 16 mono tracks and only 13 stereo tracks. To these are added two mariachi tracks, one each in mono and stereo as a reflection of Goldsmiths source music.
The recording is very well presented and superbly documented as you might expect from Kendall and Bond whose notes grace the sixteen page (English only) booklet which is mixed in with ten film or location stills. There are also small repros of the film poster art.
The CD is quite close to maximum playing time and generosity is always worth praise! All the more so when so many film music discs are very lightly filled! That said, the music is the important thing and the music is richly embroidered and gripping.
Editor's Note: This is a limited edition of 3,000 copies. Enquiries to Film Score Monthly - http://www.filmscoremonthly.com
Ennio MORRICONE Bulworth OST RCA Victor 09026 63253 2 [42:36]
I have no idea if the format of this album is a first for Morricone. Two generously lengthy suites seems more up Hans Zimmers strasse. The film all but tossed out the score, as reflected on a rap CD that you could easily purchase in error. Im sure that contributed in some way to editing the material together like this. The effect is astonishing.
"Suite One: BULWORTH Part 1" is a bittersweet adagio for the most part of its near 18 minutes. Four times in its duration, the voices of Amii Stewart and Edda DellOrso melt in with solo performances almost leaning toward gospel in their variation on the long-line melody. Towards the end, tremolo strings announce the lead-in towards the protracted climax. It culminates in the only vocal on disc - "Where is he?" - which is almost unintelligibly drawn out. A better title could probably have explained that all this angst describes Senator Bullworths suicidal tendencies.
"Suite Two: BULWORTH Part 2" isnt a much better title either ! In diametric opposition, this lengthier cue (24:41, and not 23:41 as credited) is an amalgam of the heated chase once Bullworths mistakes begin to follow him and the dangerous possibilities that threaten. Here the Morricone of the Spaghetti genre is perceivable, blended with a sound reminiscent of his The Untouchables march. About a third of the suite is made up by a charging repeating and accumulative phrase for piano, horn, guitar, and strings playing in an infectious staccato fashion.
The remaining material might be a little harder on the ear. Several dirge-like interludes quite spoil the momentum of the chase material. Also some heavily atonal passages. The grand finish is again a protracted piece on high-end strings, low-end piano, and skittering bass guitar. In fact, its a rather scary effect !
Neither suite references the other. Presumably that is intentional, considering the smaller tracks could have been edited together in all manner of different ways. So in all, its quite an aural test in many ways. I hope I can say I passed by saying I enjoyed it immensely.
Four Scores with African Themes:-
Rachel PORTMAN Beloved OST Ounou Sangare; La Troupe Makandal; The African Childrens Choir; ethnic instrumentalists EPIC /SONY 492679 2 [63:51]
Beloved is set just after the American Civil War and it is a supernatural tale which also deals with the grim psychological legacies of slavery. It is centred around Sethe, a former slave played by Oprah Winfrey who is haunted by violent memories of slavery and literally by the spirit of Beloved, her dead daughter. The film also stars Danny Glover.
Rachel Portman is the first, and, so far, the only woman to win the Oscar (in 1996 for Emma). For Beloved she has created a remarkable score concentrating on the use of instruments of African, Haitian and Brazilian descent. She also proves how well she writes for voices. Understandably, in view of the screenplay, the score is sad and melancholic, the music slow-moving.
She shares compositional honours with the singer Oumou Sangare for the opening and three or four other tracks all featuring Sangare. The use of ethnic instruments; one like an Indian or Chinese harp another like a cimbalom, adds colour and resonance. The textures and sounds in "Bluestone Road", for instance are as striking as they are unusual. The music is often appropriately coloured-church spiritual but there are also Irish Gaelic resonances. The most impressive track, "Thats Ohio" is also the longest. It begins with reflective "harp" figures before striking and affecting a capella choral music. Another memorable cue is "Uhuru" sung by The African Childrens Choir.
An interesting and unusual album; but do not attempt to listen to it all in one sitting, you might weary of its melancholy, and its lack of varied mood and tempo.
Mychael DANNA 8MM Eight Millimeter OST SILVA SCREEN FILMCD313
This film has yet to reach the UK and with its publicity machine some weeks away our knowledge about its plot is slim. As usual the booklet is no help at all and the news release sheet that accompanied the review copy just states - "8MM is a provocative story of a family man whose discovery of a small reel of film forces him to confront the darkest recesses of society. As his investigation leads him on a downward path of obsession, his traditional world falls away and, with it, his family is unalterably changed." Now I mention all this because much of this score is based on the music of North Africa (in fact Moroccan music consultants are credited in the CD booklet yet none of the illustrations give any clue as to this orientation rather they suggest a group of low-life undesirables (the on-screen characters, I hope) one of whom is wearing a shirt I would hate to see my worst enemy dead in!
Danna has created an aboveaverage score for the thriller genre. It is full of atmosphere and has plenty of menace and excitement with vibrant ethnic colour and energetic rhythms. The music vividly suggests mystery and intrigue one can imagine sultry and dangerously seductive dancing girls and an eye-patched portly villain wearing a fez practising espionage, drugs, white slavery, ritual sacrifice or worse. The opening cue "The Projector" mysterious, threatening and unsettling, with extraordinary effects suggesting rolling dice, immediately evokes this Moroccan locale. The music develops into the second cue "The House" which is more relaxed, cosy and homely piano and orchestral meanderings with a subtle tune leaning towards the exotic. The next two tracks dwell in dark places, piling on the mystery and menace with exotic ethnic instrumentation; the music moving forward slowly. "Cindy" is a poignant piano-led cue developing the theme first stated in "The House"; this material is further developed in "What would you choose". All three cues are worthy and introduce a welcome warmer human element.
"Missing Persons" is a substantial cue and one of the most mesmerising tracks on this disc mixing very effectively Western pop/jazz/orchestral styles with ethnic music (which quickly assumes the foreground). The orchestration is very colourful using some rare and very colourful percussive effects. The track is strongly rhythmical; the sense of encroaching menace is well sustained too. (Holsts Beni Mora is not far away in the closing pages of this cue). "Hollywood" never sounded like this, this is more "tribal-sounding" music again (but with a Western beat); its vibrant and includes voices and rhythmical clapping; one might imagine sultry dancing. The forces of evil seem to gather with "Unsee" and "Dance With the Devil" (the latter with hysterically insistent stick-like beating percussion over growling bass strings and native voices). We have met the weird electronic components of "The Third Man" and "Loft" (the latter accompanied by the sort of staccato string figures beloved by Herrmann) often enough before but they are imaginatively and atmospherically assembled. More weird electronics (some suggesting the distorted naggings of a shrewish wife), accompanied by ethnic dronings and percussion, inform "No answer". Moving over more weird and sinister electronics cues, sometimes with ethnic wailings, we arrive at another extraordinary six-minute cue: "Scene of the Crime". This track begins with sustained high-pitched, raw reeds with other curious wailing woodwinds below, arranged so that they suggest distant perspectives, but then they move forwards to occupy centre-stage where they dominate the music which is propelled forward ever more urgently by insistent drum rhythms reaching an almost hysterical peak in the next cue "Rainstorm". "Home" recaptures calm and serenity but there is a nervous enigmatic edge to the music which the concluding bitter-sweet melancholic "Dear Mr Wells" cue does little to dispel.
I asked James Fitzpatrick of Silva Screen if he could explain why the North African ethnic music was used: He replied "A very good question which I kept asking myself while watching the film! Basically I feel, as much of the film centres on the "porn low-life" of both NewYork and Los Angeles, Mychael Danna was trying to create a new "sound" rather than just go with traditional orchestrations."
Whatever, I think this is a most unusual, vividly-coloured and strongly rhythmical score.
HIDEOUS KINKY OST Various Artists SILVA SCREEN FILMCD311 [61:11]
A title like that just begs unkind jibes; but I will refrain. I felt compelled to write a short review of this disc having accepted Rachel Portmans Beloved score reviewed above. This album is comprised of about 50% source material, maybe more: songs performed by Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Richie Havens and others which are outside the scope of this site and which I do not feel qualified to judge. The remainder of the material is ethnic or hybrid instrumental music, some of which may or may not have been composed for the film. "Baba, Baba Mektoubi" performed by Jil Jilala is North African instrumental and vocal music that will be colourful or just monotonous wailing according to your taste. Western ears need to adjust to the colour and subtle harmonic and rhythmic shifts of this music. "Tortoise Song" is in similar territory while "Wishing Well" is an attractive, reflective guitar solo. There is no mention of any one composer on the front cover of the CD booklet so one cannot fire missives in any concentrated direction. John Keane , however seems to be responsible for the seven-minute title track "Hideous Kinky". This is something of a hybrid embracing Western, North African and, I think, Middle Eastern forms, together with those pipes which seem to invade every kind of score these days. It begins with melancholic wailings before the music grows more strongly rhythmical to become an exotic dance; then a piano enters playing Spanish/Moorish type material above a groaning ostinato. To conventional ears, this is the most interesting track on the CD.
Gabriel YARED The English Patient OST performed by Academy of St Martin in the Fields FANTASY FCD-16001 [75:11]
Yes, I know this is not a new album but we began operations of Film Music on the Web long after the release of the multi-Oscar winning film; and I have always wanted the excuse to include a brief review of it on this site. So here it is neatly rounding up our African section and placed immediately before Jeffrey Wheelers review of Yareds new Message in a Bottle score.
The music is a clever mosaic of North African and Hungarian and other styles of music plus source material (classic songs and Bachs Aria from The Goldberg Variations etc). In my mind Yareds haunting music will forever be inextricably linked with the beautifully photographed desert scenes, the doomed romance between the Ralph Fiennes and the Kristin Scott Thomas characters, and the flight of their stricken aircraft across rippling desert sands.
A marvellously evocative score which I have revisited on many occasions.
And it is still available in the shops.
Gabriel YARED Message in a Bottle OST ATLANTIC 83163 [73:58]
Not surprisingly, the soundtrack to "Message in a Bottle" is one of those vapid 'Music From And Inspired By' albums. I feel obligated as a reviewer to discuss the songs, but I dislike them and have no intention of wasting anyone's time in some half-wit validation of their existence. But as a courtesy, here is the song rundown: 'I Could Not Ask For More' performed by Edwin McCain, 'No Mermaid' by Sinead Lohan, 'Let Me Go' by Faith Hill, 'I Will Know Your Love' by Beth Nielsen Chapman, 'Only Lonely' by Hootie & The Blowfish, 'Don't' by Yve.n.Adam, 'Carolina' by Sheryl Crow, 'I Love You' by Sarah McLachlan, 'Fallen Angels' by Marc Cohn, 'Somewhere In The Middle' by Nine Sky Wonder, 'What Will I Do' by Clannad, and 'One More Time' by Laura Pausini. I have no use for this malodorous collection of generic pap. Those who do, have my sympathy. There is also an original song by Gabriel Yared & David Foster and Linda Thompson titled 'I'll Still Love You Then,' performed by Anna Nordell. It incorporates Yared's sweet main theme, coupled with typical Foster predictability, and unmemorable lyrics.
The disc ends with 19 minutes and ten seconds of Yared's underscore. The music received countless negative reviews for its "bloated" contribution to the film, but on disc it fares reasonably well. Yared became a Hollywood commodity following his overrated wall of clichéd melodramatic sound for "The English Patient;" here he fails to dampen the melodrama or clichés adequately, but he does use some intelligence to polish them to a high shine.
The trio of score tracks share many of the same wistful orchestrations and somewhat ambiguous melodies, making the 19 minutes seem like one extended cue. Heavy on Vienna-like strings, guitar and piano, it bears some resemblance to John Williams' "Sabrina" and "Stepmom." The track 'Theresa & Garret' merely sets the foundation of Yared's music with the string, guitar, and piano themes. 'Message in a Bottle' builds on that foundation until it forms a mildly rhythmic dance that ultimately falls in upon itself, bringing the listener back where he began. 'Dear Catherine' again builds up from the base, but this time using wordless voices and melancholy chord progressions that slowly mutate into a vibrant finale.
Regrettably, the score tracks do not make the album as a whole worth recommending to anyone other than the soundtrack completist. However, it remains noteworthy that 19 minutes of capable music is worth a lot more than 55 minutes of that lesser kind.
Carter BURWELL Gods and Monsters OST RCA 09026 63356 2 [33:44]
At last! A film music CD with a booklet that offers an insight into the music and the composers intentions! Gods and Monsters could bring Oscar glory to Ian McKellan, as James Whale, the legendary Hollywood film director /producer of such classics of the horror genre as Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man. The director of the present film, Bill Condon, makes the point that when James Whale commissioned Franz Waxman to compose the music for The Bride of Frankenstein, he asked of Waxman, "Nothing will be resolved in this picture. Will you write an unresolved score for it?" Carter Burwell, one of Hollywoods more individual composers, and best known for his collaborations with the Coen brothers, has produced music that would have fulfilled this brief. Rather than going for the obvious variations on the original celebrated Franz Waxman score, or opting for electronics, he uses a spare palate, a restrained, understated, and string-driven score that is mostly melancholic and meditative, often employing long sustained chords.
Burwell cleverly creates a sad, demoralised, desolate waltz that he associates with the horrors of the trenches in World War II, and, by implication, it is a dirge for the old European culture that war destroyed. The waltz in "Lucky Man" seems to stick in one phrase and one note seems to be an anguished cry for help. It transmogrifies into another horror of Whales creation - Frankensteins monster. This metamorphosis becomes clear in the cue "Frankenwhale" which is the only real crescendo in the score with its heavy tread and suggestion of the threat of the monster and its awful power. It is only in the final cue "Friend?" that the waltz shows any warmth.
An imaginative score but not one that many would chose for repeated listening, as music per se, it is too gloomy and spends too much time dwelling in dark places.
Bruce BROUGHTON Lost In Space Bruce Broughton Conducts the Sinfonia of London INTRADA MAF 7086 [66:54]
Talk about your last minute success story. Having already replaced Jerry Goldsmith at a relatively late stage, Broughton bore the brunt if state-of-the-art effects and editing techniques dictating changes in the film right until the very last minute. Its incredible that such a coherent piece of music should result under such circumstances.
Without question the brief to Broughton was Star Wars. The style throughout is unmistakably Williams. A very obvious example being the string arrangements of "Robot Attack". The other stylistic give-away are the trumpet fanfares. All of which is absolutely spot on for the film of course. It did so try to set itself up as leading the way for a new franchise.
There is plenty to admire aside from a composer working under heavy scheduling. The music is delightfully over the top as a direct communication at just how kiddie an audience was being pandered to. Towards the end of the film and score, there are darker passages for what seem dire circumstances for the Jupiter II crew. In "Spider Smith" the score takes a step away from the Disney tones to explore the surprisingly sinister fate of the films protagonist.
Broughtons theme is certainly jolly enough. He wisely side-stepped any attempt at the Williams original (instead leaving that to the five minute fame of Apollo Four Forty). With the seriously expanded extra material here (from the song laden original I mean), this disc shows the theme to be nicely versatile. Sadly it doesnt eclipse much of his previous melodic spotlights, and the relative failure of the film wont propel him too far just yet. Well just have to continue enjoying his superior music for inferior films.
Chris BOARDMAN Payback Source material and OST VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD6003 [36:25]
An interesting collection of material which includes Chris Boardmans music for the film which is well worth listening to..
For any fan of the classic "singing legend" backed by Big Band or Large Orchestra, the first part of this album is a must. The tracks are:
1. Aint that a kick in the head Dean Martin
2. Its a Mans Mans Mans world James Brown
3. The thrill is gone B B King
4.Smoke gets in your eyes Vic Damone
5. If I had to live my life over. Lou Rawls
6. Luck be a lady Michael Civisca
7. Youre nobody till somebody loves you Dean Martin
8. Main Title Chris Boardman
9. Lynns Habit Chris Boardman
10. Porter Croaks Carter Chris Boardman
11.Warehouse/Finale Chris Bordman
It is a shame that the sleeve note for this album is so uninformative, not even the name of the Musical Director is given for the first seven tracks, let alone the names of any of the excellent studio musicians who perform on them. "Aint that a kick in the head?" is Dean Martin at his best singing with a top quality Big Band which is well recorded and well balanced. The trumpets are outstanding. James Browns backings on "Its a Mans, Mans, Mans World" are more orchestral in nature, but again very well executed. B B King is a classic Rhythm and Blues man, the backing to his track
has a heavy fourth beat in each bar! There is some good R&B guitar on this track called "The thrill is gone." Vic Damone has an excellent voice, although his vocals have less of a jazz feel than others on this album. "Smoke gets in your eyes" has him in good form, his intonation and diction on this fine old song are excellent.
Lou Rawls has a superb Big Band backing on "If I had my life to live over, the Rhythm Section has a Count Basie swing and feel about it. I liked this track a great deal. "Luck be a lady to-night" finds Michael Civisca, who I must admit is new to me, in good form. The track has an interesting backing, well scored and well performed.
The final vocal track brings back Dean Martin with "Youre Nobody till Somebody Loves You", complete with heavenly choir, I prefer the first track!
Chris Boardmans Main Title is a medium tempo Latin American theme, somewhat similar to other main title themes for similar movies. It is immaculately played by a large orchestra, the work of the Guitars and Percussion dominates. It patiently builds to a climax and then gradually fades away. I had not heard it before and I enjoyed it.
"Lynns Habit" should do well in the charts at present, Requiem music is all the vogue and you could not in any way call this track cheerful, although I am sure it caught the mood of the film.
Porter Croaks Carter has us back with the Latin Sound and as a track it is short but enjoyable. Warehouse/Finale closes the album, I found Chris Boardmans music interesting, quite complicated and very well played, it is easy to see how it would make a significant contribution to the enjoyment of the film.
Elliot GOLDENTHAL In Dreams OST VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD6001 [47:08]
Elliott Goldenthal is one of the most original voices in film music. His style is eclectic and he often surprises. Probably one of his strongest influences is the music of Bernard Herrmann; it is certainly very apparent in this new score. He also combines electronic with conventional music more successfully than most. In this instance, however, he is not always successful that is to say in creating a score to listen to as opposed to its primary purpose in supporting what looks like, from the pictures in the CD booklet, a dark and violent, psychological thriller. (Accepted that this may well be due more to this CDs production process.) With this thought in mind, I raise a point of general principal. I do wish that more producers would develop a more mature taste and edit out repetitive synth effects before they become tedious and threaten the poor listener with wracking headaches. This score, more than many, illustrates that acoustic music always wins hands down over synth. The inhuman mechanistic output of the latter (I hesitate to call it noise because when used imaginatively it can be very acceptable) has very marked expressive limitations.
To the music: Goldenthal imaginatively uses a string quartet as well as an orchestra and synth effects. The opening cue begins with the string ensemble playing spiky, angst-ridden material, reminiscent of Herrmann and Psycho, appropriate to the cues title, "Agitato Dolorosa". About half way into this cue, the orchestra enters adding weight and more gravitas, the material is black-shadowy with a hint of bats-wings flutterings. Its the stuff that nightmares are made of. The entry of the electronic material, for me, ruins the atmosphere. This feeling of being let down comes again later in an arresting cue "Scytheoplicity" in which racing string figures vividly suggest flight and fear but this inspiration descends into bathos when guitars enter to play some very banal material.
Lest I seem to be harping too much on the negative aspects of this score, I must add that there are undoubted strengths. I liked the meditative solo piano music that is "Claires Nocturne". "The Pull of Red" is strongly atmospheric and sinister; "Rubber Room Stomp" has saxophones arguing across the soundstage over agitated strings and soft muted brass growlings. "Rebeccas Abduction" mixes the serene with the starkly dramatic, a most violent cue. The combination of electronic and conventional music is most successfully achieved in cues like: "Premonition" (strongly featuring the String Quartet) and "While We Sleep". "The Andante" is anything but peaceful; the piano might meander serenely but below lurk agitated strings and synths representing the threat in the shadows, the only relief coming from occasional warmth provided by solo violin and cello. "Elegy Ostinato" is as the title suggests; another impressive and strongly accented cue building up to a big peroration.
The album is rounded off with source songs featuring Roy Orbison, The Andrews Sisters and Elizabeth Frazer.
An interesting score with some undeniable strengths
Paul Tonks adds:-
With apologies in advance, I disagree with the rave reviews I have seen for this score. Although I thoroughly appreciate the aural landscape style Goldenthal has cultivated I rather feel that this score offers little new in that department.
I adore his scratching and bleating as well as his angelic chorus and hugely tragic adagios. Something this time just doesnt hold it together for me. One major disturbance are the source songs thrown in the middle. After the mad, bad guitar thrashings of "Scytheoplicity" you really don't need to be crooned at by Roy Orbison with "In Dreams". Im surprised Varese of all labels dont appreciate the listeners preference to have these left for the end of the disc. Perhaps this was a deliberate design by Goldenthal. Sometimes a song can blend nicely into the scores framework. I must be missing something here though.
It all bears so much similarity to Heat, Interview With the Vampire, and other bits and bobs that its left me quite frustrated that the wonderful relationship he has with Neil Jordan might be leaking creative juices. Everyones entitled to an off day right ? Composers and reviewers both...
David WHITAKER The Sword And The Sorcerer Graunke SO/composer SUPER TRACKS STCD884 [69:35]
The early 1980s seems to have been a good time for sword and sorcery fantasy film epics. I wonder what was in the air? In any event the Conan films with their towering Poledouris scores date from that time as well. Whitaker is pretty good (though prone to eclecticism) but he is not in the Poledouris league.
The title track starts out like a Korngold tribute with a fine rollickingly confident theme. There is perhaps a touch of John Williams here as well. The Love Theme appears in a number of tracks is somewhat indebted to the great romantic theme in Rachmaninovs rather overlooked Third Symphony. Unfortunately the sound of the Graunke SO strings is nowhere near as opulent as this music demands. This is a pity because the other departments of the orchestra perform famously.
Whitaker is extremely resourceful and has a nice line in eerily slithering strings, Militaristic marches, a long theme that might have been an off-cut from a score by Malcolm Arnold , animal cries from the woodwind, archaic dance music and Valkyrie-like calls.
Whitakers name is not all that well known. The notes remind us that he wrote the music for Run Wild Run Free (1969), Scream and Scream Again (1970) and then a succession of horror films some for Hammer: Dr Jeckyll and Sister Hyde (1971), Vampire Circus, Old Dracula (1975), Death Wish II, Dominique, Vampira, Mistress Pamela, Blind Terror and Playbirds.
The notes are rather brief with the usual spattering of small stills from the movie. They tell us very little about the film.
The disc includes previously unreleased music and one track (Talon Kills Xusias) not used in the film. This is a worthwhile release, generously filled, and worth your valuable listening time.
© Rob Barnett
Joel MCNEELY Virus OST conducted by composer HIPPO HIPD-40119 [50:25]
Aliens, Back to the Future, LA Confidential - theyre all here. Yet this is a cracking piece of nonsense for a movie deserving of such. Male chorus, big brassy fanfares, and ear-splitting crashes of noise all conspire to convince of the end of the world. Perhaps when it does, McNeely might be considered the chap to compose an Armageddon Symphony. I simply have to mention "Typhoon Leah" which is one of the most coherent action cues Ive heard in some time. I remember recommendations for "Cadillac Freefall" from Terminal Velocity, and with the same degree of preposterousness about this movie, I suppose its fitting there should be something in common in musical approach too. You really can tell there was some fun had in going over the top here. Although Ive cited some obvious influences already, what their incorporation into McNeelys original music shows is just how damn fine an orchestrator he has in David Slonaker. Then it follows that it also shows how great a conductor he is - which we should already know from the Varese recordings.
This will never be music to relax to Im afraid. You need an occasion about which you need to be considerably fired up up to really appreciate it. I recommend listening to it while youre about to review a CD !
And Rob Barnett adds:-
Violence (Squeaky Gets Creased - track 5), threat and paranoia run through the veins of this music like an infection. This is no criticism. Although there do seem to be many scores occupying this territory Joel McNeelys is an estimable effort. The sense of panic and horror running amok in the streets is strong in Seven Footer Chase. At just over fifty minutes the pretty consistent atmosphere is nicely calculated. The music is quite fresh which is a tribute to composer and orchestrator in a world of conveyor-belt scores written down to deadlines. There is a totally unexpected (spoilt it for you now) Russian choir in the end-titles. This final track is rather a welcome relaxing contrast with all that has gone before.
The notes are non-existent. There are the accustomed stills from the film and a list of personnel together with other scores from the Hippo stable.
Joel McNeely is active both as composer and conductor. His revivals of Herrmann scores on Varese Sarabande have been especially fine. He is also a composer of considerable strengths and promise. I would not be surprised if he does not produce at least one all-time great over the next decade. Until then this CD is worth hearing but is not outstanding.
Clint MANSELL Pi Music from the motion Picture SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 312
Composers and Artists: Clint Mansell, Massive Attack, Aphex Twin, David Holmes, Orbital, Autechre, Roni Size, Banco de Gaia, Gus Gus, Psilonaut, Spacetime Continuum
As easy as Pi? No, not quite!
Pi is the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, it is also the symbol that represents the world's oldest mathematical mystery; the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.
Now pi is a movie.
Since 1794, people have been searching for a pattern in the endless string of numbers associated with the value of pi. To date it has been calculated to over 51 billion digits and the current world record for reciting the value of pi from memory was made in 1995, when a Japanese man recited 42,000 digits in nine hours. Thankfully this accurate, though somewhat uninteresting recitation was not included on the soundtrack of the movie!
Pi, the film from Artisan Entertainments, is centred around Max Cohen, a mathematical theorist obsessed with the value of Pi. Max's computer, Euclid, pays a pivotal role in the search for the seemingly irresolvable answer. The numerical connection of Pi between spirituality, the whirling of galaxies, the stock market, our DNA and all things chaotic are mixed in this taught 16mm black and white film. This search for the infinite is psychodrama at its most claustrophobic.
The soundtrack of the movie is the latest incarnation of the electronica genre of popular music. Its roots can been witnessed in the evolution of electronic music from the avant garde of Kraftwerk and Africa Bambataa through to the more dance oriented manifestations like Acid House, Ambient, Dub and Jungle.
Original music for the movie was composed by Clint Mansell who was the front-man for the popular british band "Pop Will Eat Itself", playing guitar and keyboard from 1986-1996. Originally from Stourbridge, UK, he went to America in 1996, where he met and collaborated with Darren Aronofsky (writer and director of pi) on the soundscape for the film.
"The powerful visual effect of the film challenged me to create music equally as poignant and inspiring," Mansell says of his work.
The movie CD has an engaging format with tracks generally finishing with spoken dialogue of an apocalyptic and quasi-philosophical nature. For example "one- mathematics is the language of nature", "so what about the stock market", "evidence - the rise and fall of the Nile". These links add context to the music and are quaint in a way, but became a little irritating on repeated listening.
Mansell's eponymous opening track starts a sonic landscape of rhythmic complexity that develops with a phased, synthesised motif drawing in the listener. Just as you are expecting the motif to develop further, the drum part enters in a laid back way, pausing for breath then returning with a hard driving intensity. Pauses in the arrangement and surprising use of deep resonant bass patches keep the palette of sound exciting and interesting.
The spoken link to track two, "Petrol" by Orbital drops in to a gong sounding bright against a tense introduction with a distinct metallic tonality across the piece, the drum parts again coming in with a hard compressed urgency. The use of "riffs" (repetitive note patterns across two bars or four bars) begins an ambience that manifests itself across the CD with the use of a spanish or moorish scale towards the end the track adding drama and "eastern-ness". The very musical use of a sound that can only be described as someone running their fingers across an over-inflated metal balloon really catches the attention!.
"Kalpol Intro" by Autechre leads in with a descending bass riff covered by a soft string patch gliding across warm tones, percussion is less obtrusive with closed cymbal-like sounds and industrial steam patterns interwoven in slight variations that keep the attention focussed.
"Bucephalous Bouncing Ball" by Aphex Twin conjures the alliteration of the title and is unusual with the complexity of the percussion bringing bouncy stuff to the mind'e eye. "Watching Windows" by Roni Size has a tense intro and utilises a zither sound to great dramatic effect. The vocal is highly processed adding to the ethereal but slightly menacing mood of the track. The vocal melody incorporates indian scales and leads into a trancing two bar bass riff that is underscored by high complexity drum parts. A chromatic descending semiquaver run (a bit like a plucked mandolin) appears to counter the end phrasing of the vocal lines at times.
"Angel" by Massive Attack starts with a simple drum riff and convincing "electric bass played with a plectrum" lines. Vocals and modulated guitar chords enter and the track builds with a slow crescendo where the drums become more defined and the guitar more prominent. The continuos build is excellently executed and the sonic layering and imaginative use of percussion is well defined. Next is "We got the gun" by Clint Mansell which utilises almost "moog" synth sounds, oscillated across a powerful percussion track. A harsher track this one with gritty lyrics and a powerful riff structure, effective but painful in parts.
"No man's Land" by David Holmes is a heart-beat percussion with a riff that wouldn't be out of place in a spaghetti western, attractively countered by smooth string layers and washes of sound building slowly. "Anthem" by Gus Gus starts with delayed piano then moves rapidly into an almost Jarre-like arpeggiation building slowly with percussion emphasising mainly off-beats. The layering and crescendo are once again well executed. The next track "Drippy" by Banco de Gaia is alliterative and is an electronic potrayal of dripping things in tight synchopation, once more the crescendo to a dance drum beat. Some complex riffing here with a four beat riff across an eight beat riff that wouldn't be out of place as Tutankhumen's favourite tune. At 4:23 into the track the best bass line on the cd starts and should have all our heads nodding away like "flat eric" in the "sta-prest" advert, truly inspired. More eastern style vocal runs the track to a quieter ending on cello and bass synth with simpler percussion and distant vocals.
"Third from the Sun" by Psilonaut is more simplistic and repetitive with noises off across a basic synth bass and percussion. A slow builder again but more of respite from the intellectual challenge of the previous track. "A low Frequency Inversion Field" by Spacetime Continuum is more spiky and busy with spoken words across layered synth sounds, it lost its way a little and didn't have the same tighter feel that the previous pieces have. It felt improvised and unsure. The last track,another eponymous Mansell piece of "pi", is a reprise of the first tracks riff structure and driving percussion and rounds off the cd with a hanging synth note and a final touch of the introductory riff.
This CD grows on you and after repeated listening I would highly recommend it both as an adjunct to the movie and as a quality collection of electronic music in it's own right. If you have never had the courage to listen to what the tranced out teenager listens to then dare to listen to this.
David ARNOLD (Theme) and Kevin KINER Wing Commander OST SONIC IMAGES SID-8905 [37:11]
The CD booklet suggests that the composers were required to produce a score suggestive of the World War IIbased film scores, the sort of music that Eric Coates wrote for The dam Busters and Ron Goodwin composed for 633 Squadron. They certainly obliged with music that has heroic sweep and movement for this sci-fi adventure which to judge by the booklet illustrations, swops battling aeroplanes for duelling spaceships. The theme from David Arnold (Stargate and Independence Day) is powerful and stirring enough with heroically insistent snare drums but its melody that is not strong enough to linger in the memory and certainly not in the same league as the Coates and Goodwin works already quoted.
I wonder why Arnold did not complete the score? There is some interest in the more quietly reflective cues like "Pod Scene" and the hymn-like choral and string writing for "Pilgrims". The score, for the most part, however, is a sort of collection of familiar snippets of themes, effects and colour so often associated with the heroic, romantic, and noble etc elements of this sort of action screenplay there is even some hard rock material used in the worst cue, "Hot Dogs". A large orchestra with a little electronic stiffening is used. It is all assembled professionally with good orchestrations and rich harmonisation in stunning sound. Sci-fi fans will be thrilled with it but they will need indulgent neighbours to tolerate the none-stop battle batterings of the last few tracks.
Shaun DAVEY Waking Ned OST - various artists including orchestra conducted by Fiachra Trench various singers including Rita Connolly.Fishermans Blues - The Waterboys DECCA 460 939-2 [62:11]
What is it about Celtic or pseudo-Celtic music that has found an echo in the 1990s? Mysticism and passion melting in and out of the commonplace is perhaps the answer. These qualities were not to the fore during the 70s and 80s. I have not seen the film but judging by the sketchy blurb and pictures which decorate the album insert the film centres around a celebration of Irish weirdness, Guinness, nostalgia and sentimentality sloshing together in a tearful poteen. Sounds good to me!
Shaun Davey has enjoyed some success off the back of the River Dance/Titanic trend. His album (really a song-cycle though darent call it that for fear off putting off the punters) Granuaile is one of the enduring classic sleepers of the 1970s. Symphonic, poetic, popular, blazingly inspired, Granuaile, a song cycle for Rita Connollys dreamily perfect and raspingly memorable voice is unmatched in all the hoo-hah around the Celtic commercial revival. It stands head and shoulders above the rest.
So, after this prelude, what about this misty slice of music? Well, it is good, but not in the Granuaile league. This is a real Celtic mosaic. There is nothing here to really take issue with except the sad aping of American accents and styles in The Waterboys Fishermans Blues. There is enough in Irish music on which to draw and develop without this cap-in-hand commercial tribute to the U.S. Deep South. As for the rest we get a wild amalgam of tom-toms, bongos, the occasional Quadrophenia recollection (try Let the Draw Begin if you dont believe me), bubblingly extrovert pipes, wild fiddle (played by the effervescently stylish Nollaig Casey - sigh!), heavenly choirs, statutory (and irresistible) uillean pipes (the one that make the score for Titanic memorable) and wild wild reels. Rita Connolly blessèd voice is none too prominent which is always a disappointment. Now has anyone ever thought of an album coupling Rita Connollys singing with that of the other Celtic angel, Karen Matheson (of Capercaillie). There is a big choral conclusion and intermittently engaging music along the way. However nothing remarkable (at least nothing to match Granuaile) taking the music by itself. I am sure that the music will meld wonderfully with the film.
Out of context it does not hold the attention. However watch out for Shaun Connolly. He is an enduringly strong composer with a fine handle on poetry. Perhaps one of these days I will get to hear Granuaile live.
John WILLIAMS, Jerry GOLDSMITH, Quincy JONES: Collection: The Great Movie Scores from the films of Steven Spielberg Eric Kunzel conducts the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra TELARC CD-80495 [78:30]
John Williams: Sugarland Express; Jaws; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; 1941 - March; Raiders of the Lost Ark; E.T.; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; Empire of the Sun; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Always; Hook; Jurassic Park; Schindlers List; The Lost World; Amistad; Saving Private Ryan.
Jerry Goldsmith: Poltergeist; Twilight Zone (The Movie)
Quincy Jones: The Colour Purple
The dedicated film music fans regularly visiting this site will no doubt have most, if not all of these scores already in their collection so the performances have got to be something special to tempt further investment. The answer, sadly, is that they are not.
On the credit side, there are some valuable inclusions including John Williamss early music from Sugarland Express and Jerry Goldsmiths lovely Carol Annes theme from Poltergeist performed here with childrens choir and the 1941 March. But too often, (presumably because copyright requirements dictate arrangements such as these?), the charm and emotional directness of the originals is lost. I was especially disappointed with Kunzels treatment of Jaws (heavy dynamics at the expense of an atmosphere true horror , E.T., Close Encounters , Empire of the Sun (all without charm and too heavy-handed) and, particularly, the "Hymn to the Fallen" from Saving Private Ryan that failed to move me as John Williamss original OST recording did I return to a well-worn theme of mine, you cannot improve on the originals especially when the originals are created by such masters as John Williams. Buyers should also be aware that some of the tracks have been previously issued. Disappointing.
Collections: SCI-FI's GREATEST HITS
Vol. 1 Final Frontiers edel 0044262ERE [70:13]
Music from: 2001: A Space Odyssey; Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi; Star Trek; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Lost in Space (1965 and 1967 TV themes and film); Battleship Galactica; Space:1999; Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; Babylon 5; The Black Hole; Alien; The Abyss; Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; Journey to the Centre of the Earth; Land of the Giants; Planet of the Apes; Time Tunnel; Fireball XL-5; Dr. Who; Stargate; Total Recall; Blade Runner; Tron; Strange Days; VR-5; Space Above and Beyond; Inside Space; Welcome to Paradox; Mission Genesis.
Vol. 2 The Dark Side edel 0044272ERE [72:11]
Music from: The Outer Limits; The Twilight Zone; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Dark Shadows; Night Gallery; Kolchak: The Night Stalker; Ripley's Believe it or Not; Creepshow; Tales from the Darkside; Tales from the Crypt; The Incredible Shrinking Man; Scanners; The Fly; Videodrome; A Clockwork Orange; The Omen; Halloween; Hellraiser; Suspira; Poltergeist; Dracula: The Series; Forever Knight; The Hunger; 12 Monkeys; The Prisoner; Nowhere Man; Friday 13th: The Series; Beyond Reality; The Odyssey; The Outer Limits; Dark City; Beetlejuice; Edward Scissorhands; Labrynth; Mystery Science Theatre 3000; The X-Files
Vol. 3: The Uninvited edel 0044282ERE [63:01]
Music from: War of the Worlds (excerpts from: Orson Welles' historic radio broadcast); The day the Earth Stood Still; It Came from Outer Space; The Invaders; V: The Series; Mars Attacks; Independence Day; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial; Starman; Alien Nation (TV and film); The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms; Predator; Jaws; The creature from the Black Lagoon; Them!; Tarantula; Jurassic Park; Gremlins; UFO; Killer Clowns From Outer Space; Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
Vol. 4: Defenders of Justice edel 0044292ERE B[68:10]
Music from: Astro Boy; Gigantor; Speed Racer; Thunderbirds; Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons; Captain Video and his Video Rangers; Tom Corbett, Space Cadet; Space Patrol; Underdog; Atom Ant; Batman (TV and film); Batman Returns; Batman: The Animated Series; Superman; Lois and Clark - The New Adventures of Superman; The Green Hornet; The Amazing Spider-man; Spider-Woman; Wonder Woman; The Flash; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; The Tick; X-Men; The Six Billion Dollar Man; The Bionic Woman; The Increible Hulk; Knight Rider; Max Headroom; The Terminator; Robocop; Robocop - The Series; Quantum Leap; Escape from New York; The Road Warrior; Mortal Kombat.
Rob Barnett looks at Volumes 1 and 3:-
Volumes 1 and 3 parallel the approach of Silva Screen's own cult TV/film collection (2 volumes: 2 discs in each). Silva re-recorded their material whereas in general Edel (who seem to be connected with satellite Sci-Fi Channel) have used original soundtracks. Vol. 1 has only 4 tracks and Vol. 3 only one track comprising re-recorded material and in each case the performance is a good aural approximation of the original. This brings bonuses and drawbacks.
The main drawback of the Edel approach is the occasionally 'stressed' sound quality. This is largely an advantage in capturing the original experience. While the tracks sound very good, one disappointed. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (vol. 1 ) sounded as if it had been recorded with a microphone held against a TV loudspeaker playing a rather worn video cassette. Advantages include a great feeling of authenticity and the original experience comes flooding back in a wave of nostalgia. The music featured is overwhelmingly from US TV and films but Vol. 3 has three tracks from British products including Doctor Who.
Volume 1 has Paul Sawtell's fine sea-spattered title music for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. John Williams' Lost in Space music (1967 version) is superbly characterful inventively catching the lightness of the show. Fireball XL5 by Barry Gray is wince-making now but the show did date from 35 years ago. Film music predominates with plenty of John Williams and a good selection from the commercial cinema sci-fi of the 1980s and 1990s.
Vol. 3 is notable for sizeable chunks from the original CBS broadcast of Orson Welles' invasion spoof The War of the Worlds. Along the way you also get music from CE3K (where would we be without John Williams?), Herrmann (just one sizeable track The Day the Earth Stood Still) and again a decent spread of music from the commercial cinema of recent years.
All credit to Edel for getting the necessary permissions to issue so much original material. Edel seem to be linked with the satellite Sci-Fi Channel and this may well have given them the necessary 'clout' to agree licences and waivers.
The notes (English only) for all four volumes are by Tim Brooks, clearly one of the leading authorities on prime-time TV show, are concerned rather with the shows than the music.
As a nostalgia 'fix' these collections of music-bytes (often quite brief) are handsome. Those new to sci-fi will also find this material a fine introduction. Film music fans will already have much of the music (and they are frankly not an essential addition to the music collectors shelves) but to hear so many tracks from the originals and in very decent sound is quite an experience. The packaging is gaudy but don't let that put you off if you are in the market for some time travelling of your own. Everyone will fin something enjoyable here. You will also find the abysmal rubbing shoulders with the best. For me the depths of the trash heap are represented by Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
Now excuse me while I listen again to John Williams' 1967 theme from Lost in Space.
Ian Lace looks at Volumes 2 and 4:-
The Dark Skies collection which is Volume 2 is as variable as the rest. But stand-out tracks for me were: the two by Jerry Goldsmith his demonic choral and orchestral piece, Ave Santini, from The Omen and the End Title and the poignant little girl, Caro Annes theme from Poltergeist; Danny Elfmans clownish figures from Beetlejuice; and his OTT ghoulish theme for Tales from the Crypt; and Elfmans Main Title music from his classic score for Edward Scissorhands ; Dario Argento and Goblin in the Satan-like Suspira; Gounods Funeral March of a Marionette as used in Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Gil Melles whistler theme for Kolchak: The Night Stalker; plus the tango-orientated music of Piazzolla for 12 Monkeys. I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for some of the older TV themes in Vol 4 Defenders of Justice. Many of the early TV series themes are here with their unsophisticated vocals. In those days themes for such series as Astro Boy, Underdog (theres no need to fear Underdog is here!), and Atom Ant (hes rough and tough and bad guys yell enough when hes up and at em Atom Ant!) made one cringe with embarrassment but now they tend to be bathed in some fond nostalgic glow a case of distance certainly lending enchantment to the view. Tim Corbett, Space Cadet is a grand Sousa pastiche. All the best Batman, Superman themes are included together with the music for the more weird fantasies such as The Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man. I will not be visiting some tracks again like The Tick, those mutant turtles or the Power Rangers but all in all this is a wonderful indulgence.
Vol 1 Rob Barnett Ian Lace Vol 2 Ian Lace Rob Barnett Vol 3 Rob Barnett Ian Lace Vol 4 Ian Lace Rob Barnett Nostalgia Rating: Rob Barnett and Ian Lace
Collection: IRVING BERLIN IN HOLLYWOOD RHINO/TURNER R275 614 [77:44]
The Hostess With the Mostest (Ethel Merman); Steppin' Out With My Baby (Fred Astaire); I Got the Sun in the Morning (Betty Hutton); Mandy! (Eddie Cantor, Ethel Merman, George Murphy, Ann Sothern); Blue Skies (Al Jolson); Isn't This a Lovely Day [To Be Caught in the Rain] (Fred Astaire); Shaking the Blues Away (Ann Miller); Heat Wave (Ethel Merman); Vaudeville Medley from Easter Parade (Judy Garland and Fred Astaire); Let Me Sing and I'm Happy (Al Jolson); A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody (Allan Jones [for Denis Morgan]); Top Hat, White Tie and Tails (Fred Astaire); Colonel Buffalo Bill - [Outtake]; Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn and Geraldine Wall); You Can't Get a Man With a Gun (Betty Hutton); Marching Along with Time [Outtake] Ethel Merman; They Say It's Wonderful [Outtake] (Judy Garland and Howard Keel); Cheek to Cheek (Fred Astaire); After You Get What You Want, You Don't Want It (Marilyn Monroe); Anything You Can Do [Outtake] (Judy Garland and Howard Keel); You're Just in Love (Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor); Let's Face the Music and Dance (Fred Astaire); Easter Parade (Fred Astaire and Judy Garland); There's No Business Like Show Business (Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn and Louis Calhern); Alexander's Ragtime Band (Alice Faye)
Just a glance at the list of songs and artists above is enough to make the mouth water. These are, of course, classics and treasured memories for so many film fans so they are above criticism. Highlights for me must be all the Fred Astaire and Judy Garland songs plus "The Hostess with the Mostess" and "You're Just in Love" belted out by the great Ethel Merman and the Marilyn Monroe number. Some tracks are making their first CD appearance and many are in stereo for the first time. Many of the outtakes must be the most interesting items in this collection. As usual the Rhino documentation is very impressive - a 24 page booklet crammed with interesting notes and lots of pictures.
More information about Turner Classic Movies and its program schedule can be found at <http://tcm.turner.com> while information about this and all other TCM/Rhino soundtrack releases can be obtained from Stephen K. Peeples e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE LION KING Collection: The Lion King; Simbas Pride; Rhythm of the Pridelands Tina Turner; Elton John; Lebo M & The South African Choir; The Ladysmith Black Mambazo; Original Casts & Choruses. Edel 0101502DNY [72:07]
This album is, strictly speaking, outside our purview but the material is so exhilarating that we just had to include a short review of it. The original film, The Lion King, was, of course, one of Disneys biggest successes and perhaps Simbas Pride will be equally successful. The albums music is a comfortable mix of ethnic African and Western Pop styles together with songs with the original cast from the films. Both Tina Turner and Elton John relish their material but it is The South African Choirs sheer joy of singing that makes this album so attractive. Ideal for cheering up a long car journey.
Nicola PIOVANI Music From The Cinema (Vol I) PACIFIC TIME PTE-8501-2 [54:31]
More and more, I come to admire whats being written on the Continent for film. There really is a whole other world of music out there to explore, and Hollywood would like to think its got it licked but as composers like Piovani show there are always new ways to skin a cat.
Franco-Italian style oozes out of every Olive Oil infused pore of this album. You would have absolutely no trouble in identifying this as for either European cinema market. The point though is just how gloriously melodic it all is, and as a collection makes for a wonderful hours entertainment. Much of the style looks ahead to the score he will now undoubtedly be associated with - La Vita E Bella (Life Is Beautiful). Coincidentally the first cue is the most reminiscent, with its accordion, guitar, and presumably a real cimbalom. "Polombella Rossa" is followed by an equally lovely tune in "Le mamme ci asciugavano I capelli". These are capped by a sombre combination in "Il sol dellavvenir" to complete a memorable triplet from the film Palombella Rossa. Nine more scores are subsequently represented.
Id like to mention the use of voice in some definite highlights. "Mon beau voyage" from Fiorile has an almost Russian male chorus singing in French without accompaniment. It works beautifully followed by the solo fiddle of "La memoria di Jean", and preceded by the rock and roll of "Rock mediceo". The male chorus for "In nome del popolo sovrano" (from the film of the same name) is used very differently to a militaristic tempo, with snares and brassy fanfares. Down a generation to a boys choir for "Domani accadrà", and across the tracks for the lovely breathy vocals of Angela Pagano for O Re.
Theres an orchestra of guitars to admire in Speriamo Che Sia Femmina, electric guitar and bongos in I Cammelli, a dark string waltz in Il Sole Anche Di Notte, and bittersweet guitar and piano combination that ends the disc in Caro Diario.
You really need to hear what else is out there, and here it is in digestible chunks. Enjoy.
Pino DONNAGIO Music From The Cinema (Vol II) PACIFIC TIME PTE-8502-2 [73:07]
For anyone making the immediate Brian DePalma connection and little else, this is an essential listen. Like the Piovani collection, this is a nice cross range of stylistic moods and a terrific promo ! There are 6 films represented, and a 73 minute running time allows generous opportunity to showcase them.
Il Carniere is a broad beginning. The titular cue mournfully merges strings with guitar, while "La radura dei palchi" surprises in contrast by pan pipes and a wailing female voice. Theyre followed by a relentless hurtling string passage in "Fucili pronti", a variety of ethnic instruments in "Alba Slovena", and a sweet harmonica backing strings for the gentle finale to the suite. All this in just the one score too.
There are several cues for electronics elsewhere on the album. If Im honest I have to admit they sound dated. Sometimes that endears you even more; theyll sound quaint perhaps. To my ear theres something about keyboard sounds from the 70s and 80s that often sounds very chintzy - and not in a good way.
Its time to note that the packaging of these two releases is rather different. The covers are striking if a little abstract, but the booklets leave a little to be desired. Weve come across the empty pages before, but the pain in these cases are that soloists go uncredited. In the case of the female voice in "La Comunione" from La Monaca Di Monza thats an absolute crime. The operatics of this suite, complete with church organ are quite extraordinary.
The final score is Squillo which presents the most dramatic change in styles of one cue Ive heard in a while. "Polands Fields" starts with a jig for piano and fiddle, then suddenly bursts into a synth drum beat with guitars and keyboards. The melody is continued, but its quite a shock. Thankfully it all ends with "Love, passion, and death" which soothes the shock away with a lovely saxophone line.
Its not as easy a listen as the Piovani collection, but still as much of an education.
Christopher FRANKE Episodic Babylon 5 CD's
Falling towards Apotheosis Sonic Images SID-0404 [23.03] Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK) Darkness Ascending Sonic Images SID-0516 [25.35] Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK) Sleeping in Light Sonic Images SID-0523 [24.43] Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK) Objects at Rest Sonic Images SID-0522 [27.55]. Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK)
These four releases are part of a larger set of episodic cd's composed and produced by Christopher Franke as the soundtracks for individual episodes of the Science Fiction television series Babylon 5.
The genre of television science fiction drama is uniquely exemplified in Babylon 5 and it's use of state of the art digital effects and graphics sets it apart from the more traditional sci-fi soaps like Star Trek and its spin-offs. The series has always been visually stunning and the extensive use of computer generated images has helped move it to cult status. Babylon 5 is set in a far future where a gigantic space station holds the last hope of mankind and extra-terrestrial races co-existing in peace. Each episode of the series is a self contained story with thematic continuity through each season. Key to the series retaining its fans is the highly creative evolution of the characters and story lines.
In keeping with the unique visual impact of the programme, the soundtrack adds the dramatic counterpoint exactly where it should be. Emphasis and musical alliteration abound in a way that must be described as Babylonian, each scene is interlaced with familiar musical threads and a lot of surprises.
The composer and producer of the work, Christopher Franke, is now in the fourth season of writing for the series and finds the evolution of the story lines an inspiration that keeps the work fresh and interesting. He writes and performs most of his soundtracks solo with his Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra. By adopting state of the art technology, composing and keyboard work takes place in Los Angeles, while the orchestra is conducted in Germany. Perhaps his use and grasp of digital technology on this planet and in this time provides a link to the future and its barely imaginable possibilities.
The use of the orchestra is blended with synthesised sounds so seamlessly that it requires careful listening to distinguish synthesised sounds from real ones. The low bass of a bowed cello and warm, lush strings meld wonderfully with sparkling synthesised sounds that speak of crystals and brightness.
A full sonic palette greets the ear and although the music can be edgy and pensive at times, there much reflective and softer imagery to experience. The Babylon 5 main theme is repeated with variations that keep it alive and powerful timpanic drum parts set against moving synth bass lines drive the listener forward with a sense of anticipation and determination.
The use of a military style snare drum with what sounded like plucked cello and electric bass gave echoes of Mars from the ubiquitous planet suite and kept the imagery changing from moment to moment.
At times a Moorish influence could be heard and this gave an eastern presence than contrasted well with a later use of harp sounds in a more conventional tonality.
Some of the themes are reminiscent of a film score for a block- buster western, others for a marching marine band. Occasionally a sound like a hammer hitting an anvil was employed and this is only one example that demonstrates the composer's wide inventiveness and creativity within the sounds employed.
The tracks play out in the order they were aired and most of time this works with no great jarring contrasts. The cd's do sound similar to each other and one would have to live with them for a while before easily identify pieces from cd to cd.
Overall the compositions are worthy of merit, the quality of the recordings being up to projecting the wider frequencies employed by the synthesised high end and low basses. If you have a sub-woofer on your hi-fi system, be careful of the transient bass and low drum sounds that will have your teeth rattling but are really exciting and powerful.
For someone who is a Babylon 5 fan, or has watched the TV series then it is very easy to relate to the music in this collection. To take the music in isolation from the imagery it was written for makes it more of a challenge for the listener but possibly more rewarding.
see also http://www.babylon5.com
Sir Arnold BAX In Memoriam/Concertante for Piano (Left Hand) and Orchestra The Bard of the Dimbovitza Jean Rigby (soprano); Margaret Fingerhut (piano) BBC Philharmonic conducted by Vernon Handley CHANDOS CHAN 9715 [76:40]
Bax was asked to write the music for David Leans Oliver Twist. One of the most memorable themes from that score was that for Mr Brownlow. Here it is treated with that extra passion and deeper conviction appropriate to Pearse and those who died in the reprisals following the ill-fated Easter uprising in Dublin in 1916. In Memoriam commemorates Pearse and how splendid it sounds in this spine-tingling performance by Vernon Handley and the BBC Philharmonic. Bax was clearly greatly moved when writing this music it conveys all the anguish he felt at learning about all the suffering in his beloved. Ireland. In Memoriam is part-elegy, part-funeral march, and partly a furious remonstration against a cruelly suppressed bid for Irish independence. Marching rhythms with insistent side drum and bugle calls contrast with music that suggests Irish Elysian Fields fit for heroes. A wonderful musical experience. This would have been ideal source music for Michael Collins - or for any drama dealing with The Troubles. Baxs music is vivid and colourful and highly romantic and dramatic, ideal as screenplay source material.
The Concertante for Piano (Left Hand) and Orchestra written for Harriet Cohen who had injured her right hand is an undemanding work with first movement theme that could have been used in a Western! The Bard of the Dimbovitza clearly shows the influence of the Russian composers, that so impressed Bax in his earlier years, as well as the French impressionists. It is a colourful song cycle for soprano and orchestra from Romanian Folk Verses. They vary in mood from the eerie and ghostly to the romantic and the sardonic. A fuller review of this excellent release can be found on our associated Classical Music on the Web site
Victor HERBERT Babes in Toyland; The Red Mill Keith Brion conducting the Razumovsky Orchestra. MARCO POLO 8.223843 [56:50]
Victor Herberts music including his well-known and rousing March of the Toys graced the 1934 Laurel and Hardy classic Babes in Toyland which was greeted by Variety thus: "It is amusing enough to entertain older persons who remember when they were young." The original stage production of Babes in Toyland was written, in 1904, towards the end of Herberts tenure as conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Victor Herbert was born in Dublin, moved to Germany and after marrying a singer at the Stuttgart opera, moved with her to America so that she could pursue her career with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. His own career blossomed in consequence. Victor Herbert, cellist, composer and conductor played an important part in the development of music in the United States. The popular extravaganzas Babes in Toyland and The Red Mill belong to the world of operetta, and are examples of forty such works. (He also composed two operas and two Cello Concertos etc.)
The title Babes in Toyland might infer that its music is twee or fey. It isnt. It is full of period charm and contains many delightful numbers: waltzes, gavottes and marches that combine the best of both French and Viennese operettas. Played here for the first time is the 15 minute Prelude that had to be dropped from performances because of its magnitude. The music is witty and dramatic in that it includes sinister and darker elements in its portrayal of the childrens wicked Uncle Barnaby and the storm at sea and shipwreck. (The latter material has some subtle melodramatic/pantomime overtones appropriate to the spirit of the production). The Red Mill (the name of an inn which appears to have some ghostly associations) is a more modern score and one can see that Herbert is moving the genre forward by introducing a lot of syncopation into his music.
The Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra which consists of the cream of the Naxos and Marco Polo Czech recording orchestras enter into the spirit of the music and give energetic and vivacious readings under the experienced baton of Keith Brion who is director of his own Victor Herbert Orchestra and New Sousa Band. Great fun
TANGO TOTAL Homage to the Worlds Most Beautiful Tangos Werner Thomas-Bifune (cello); Carmen Piazzini (piano); Alfredo Marucci (bandoneon) KOCH 3-6994 [63:50]
Rudolf Valentino, George Raft, Al Pacino - theyve all strutted their stuff through the tango and Bernard Herrmann has stirred up his mix of mystery and suspense with the use of the habanera (in Vertigo particularly) which, as we learn from the fascinating booklet notes that trace the derivations and history of the dance form, was the precurser of the tango. This vibrant collection of 21 numbers includes works of Ravel (Pièce en forme de Habanera); Albéniz (Tango) Ginastera (Milonga); Milhaud (Tango des Fratellini from Le boeuf sur le toit); and Debussy (La Soireé dans Grenade). They are played with great élan by Carmen Piazzini (piano) Werner Thomas-Mifune (cello) who, himself, contributes an amusing caricature of the tango (you can imagine the couple on the CD cover dancing to this number). The tangos vary widely in mood embracing the proud and haughty, the soft and languid, the gently reflective and the wild and abandoned. In the later tangos in the collection, including Astor Piazzollas Michelangelo, they are joined by Alfredo Marcucci playing the bandoneon. This instrument which is usually identified with the tango is actually of German origin. Recommended
Youd be SURPRISED Barbara Kennedy with Peter Lockwood (piano) GLOBE GLO 6045 [55:03]
Songs of Love and Laughter by Irving Berlin; George Gershwin; Marve Fisher; Cole Porter; Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern; Noel Coward; Stephen Sondheim; and Flanders and Swann.
This is a delicious treat of often naughty songs sung with great sly, coy wit by Barbara Kennedy, an experienced opera and operetta singer. How seductively she sings, " I love to run my fingers over the keys" and " Oh! Oh! I love an upright " in the opening number - Irving Berlins I love a piano. Then she complains in Cole Porters The Physician that " he looked after my physical condition and his bedside manner was great he said my bronchial tubes were entrancing but he never said he loved me!" Returning to Irving Berlin we have the title song, Youd Be Surprised in which we learn that although Johnny is bashful " when you get him alone you cant judge a book by its cover Youd be Surprised!".
George and Ira Gershwins My Cousin in Milwaukee had boy friends by the dozen and " when she sings hot, you cant be solemn, it sends shivers up and down your spinal column..." Barbara then assures that she is Just an old-fashioned girl in Marve Fishers song but she dreams of being supported by an old fashioned millionaire. Let Me Sing and Im Happy she then pleads to Irving Berlins music. Kurt Weills The Saga of Jenny tells of headstrong Jenny who leaves a trail of devastation behind her as she advances through life "Jenny made her mind up at twenty-two that to get a husband was the thing to do she got herself a husband but it wasnt hers " Jerome Kern is represented by his sentimental, Bill.
Two numbers from Cole Porters Kiss Me Kate are included: So in Love sung and played with heavy irony and I hate Men - " In our democracy I hate the most the athlete with his manner bold and brassy, he may have hairs upon his chest, but, sisters, so has Lassie!" Porters My Heart Belongs To Daddy has Kennedy getting her comfortable priorities right. Flanders and Swanns A Word in My Ear (" Im lauded, applauded, recorded but they seem to have missed that Im Tone Death") is a brilliantly funny take-off of musical mannerisms. Noel Coward says We must all be very kind to Auntie Jessie for she has never been a mother or a wife. Stephen Sondheim is represented by two numbers. Losing My Mind is a song about loneliness and unrequited love sung by Kennedy with understated yet affecting poignancy. I Never Do Anything Twice is another comic pearl - " no matter how nice, I never do anything twice once, yes, once is delicious; but twice would be vicious or merely repetitious."
Eileen IVERS CROSSING THE BRIDGE Eileen Ivers and instrumentalists SONY SK 60746 [56:44]
This album will appeal to all those who love Gaelic music, Riverdance, and the fashion set by so many James Horner scores; (in fact Ivers plays Nearer My God to Thee which was featured in Titanic as a solo on this album).
Eileen Ivers is to Irish music as Michael Flatley is to Irish dance. In this, her fourth album, Eileen takes us on a musical journey around the world with a plethora of musical styles on the way: Spain, Africa, West Indies, Cuba, and, of course, Ireland with jazz, jigs, reggae, flamenco, bluegrass, even shades of the Mexican Tijuana brass. Ivers plays in typical Irish vein throughout but in a few numbers she shows off some wider virtuosity. A very pleasant listening experience and ideal in-car entertainment
Richard RODGERS and Oscar HAMMERSTEIN South Pacific Original Broadway Cast recording featuring Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza SONY SMK 60722 [56:44] (mid-price)
The film version of South Pacific disappointed. The casting was uninspired especially the wooden Rossano Brazzi. The soundtrack album was so-so. This is the real thing the brilliantly vibrant Original Broadway cast recording with Mary Martin in sparkling form and gravelly voiced Ezio Pinza espying her "One enchanted evening across a crowded room." South Pacific was one of Rodgers and Hammersteins greatest hits. It opened in New York in April 1949 and ran for 1,925 performances. The songs were marvellous: they tumbled over each other in rich profusion - all scintillating, all memorable. Many were richly romantic like "Younger than Springtime", and "This Nearly Was Mine". Others were dreamily evocative, for instance Juanita Hall, as Bloody Mary, in singing the words "Most people live on a lonely island lost in the middle of a foggy sea . Most people long for another island where they know they would like to be " and then evokes the dream island "Bali HaI" (your own special island)." Others were wickedly humorous as when Mary Martin and the nurses agreed to "weep no more show him what the door is for " and "Im Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair" while the sailors agreed that " nothing else is built the same, has a soft and wavy frame like the silhouette of a dame" in their song "There is Nothin Like A Dame".
The refurbished sound is very good, the documentation thorough with plenty of pictures and there are some bonus tracks: two songs "Loneliness of the Evening" and "My Girl Back Home" both sung by Mary Martin and a reprise of Bali Hai sung by Ezio Pinza and orchestrator Richard Rodney Bennetts Symphonic Scenario for Concert Orchestra played by André Kostelanetz and the Philadelphia Orchestra "Pops."
Stephen SONDHEIM Company Original Broadway Cast recording featuring Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza SONY SMK 65283 [62:06] (mid-price)
Sophisticated and urbane, Company ran in New York for 690 performances. It was a hit and it wasnt. Star Dean Jones, featured on this recording, was cast as the hapless Robert. Jones was loved by the critics, but he remained in the cast for only the first few performances. The plot is non-existent. It is just a collection of scenes centring around Robert, a bachelor who cannot quite bring himself to commit to marriage. Amongst his friends are a number of married couples. Many of the numbers, which are rhythmically arresting with wonderful, memorable sardonically witty lyrics, are about relationships mostly failed ones. All Roberts friends are keen to introduce him to an ideal girl: the wives want to see him happily settled down but bemoan their own married state; while the husbands, jealous of his independence, want to see him shackled too ("Have I got a Girl for You"). Heard amongst the brilliant cast are the unmistakable and wittily strident tones of Elaine Stritch. (The Little Things You Do Together). This CD is warmly recommended.
Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy When Im Calling You ASV CD AJA 5124 [75:09]
Indian Love Call; Rose Marie; The Mounties; March of the Grenadiers; Beyond the Blue Horizon; Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life; Im Falling in Love With Someone; Tramp, Tramp, Tramp Along the Highway; Dear, When I Met You; One Hour With You; At the Balalaika; Isnt It Romantic?: Vilja; Toreadors Song; Waltz Aria; Farewell to Dreams; Will You Remember?; Sun-up to Sundown; One Kiss; Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise; Lover, Come Back to Me; Smilin Through
Nelson Eddy Through the Years ASV CD AJA 5254 [78:01]
Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life; When I Grow Too Old to Dream; Dusty Road; Through the Years; Smilin Through; At Dawning; Trees; Thy Beaming Eyes; The Hills of Home; Sylvia; Señorita; Who Are We To Say; Kashmiri Song; Ride, Cossack, Ride; Stout-Hearted Men; Wanting You; Dear Little Café; Tokay; I Married an Angel; Strange Music; Without a Song; Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin; Nearer and Dearer; Love is the Time; In the Still of the Night.
I have to confess to a nostalgic affection for the singing of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Rose Marie was the first film I ever saw - in the company of my parents when I was about five. (I hasten to add that I saw it during one of its frequent re-releases in the early 1940s!) Eddy and MacDonald were rudely known in some quarters as The Singing Capon and the Iron Butterfly but this does the very popular duo that made eight films together, most of which swelled MGMs coffers, a grave injustice.
Jeanette MacDonald (1903- 1965), with that lovely shock of red hair (only seen in her later colour films), and big toothy smile, had a silvery light lyric soprano voice which was very much of its era. Her style of delivery, timbre and pitch is dated now. Before she teamed with Eddy she had appeared in a number of successful Hollywood musicals for Paramount directed by the great Arthur Lubitsch and Mamoulian opposite Maurice Chevalier. In the When Im Calling You album (released in 1994), there are two songs from this era: "March of the Grenadiers" (The Love Parade) and "Beyond the Blue Horizon" (Monte Carlo).
Nelson Eddy (1901-1967) arrived in Hollywood in the wake of a very successful career on commercial radio. He had also sung art songs and had appeared in opera including works by Richard Strauss and Berg. Writing about him in the new Through the Years CD just released, Peter Dempsey says: " without celluloid, his rating would have been less universal for, while certainly stylish, virile and appealing and a self-critical artist, in voice and range Nelson was no Richard Bonelli, no John Charles Thomas nor (more particularly) a Lawrence Tibbett, the long-resident star of the New York Met who had preceded him as a baritone screen-idol. That he early realised certain limitations in no way diminishes his achievement. Rather, it is to his credit for, despite the uniform volume and restricted top register, the fixed "forward", slightly nasal production and comfortably predictable colour, the melodious, forthright, manly sincerity of Eddys ballad-singing can never be underrated.
The first 1994 album includes the immortal duet the Indian Love Call (When Im Calling You) from Rose Marie plus MacDonald and Eddy singing together in "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" from Naughty Marietta and "Will You Remember" from Maytime. The 22 numbers that comprise this first album also include many popular MacDonald solos including: "Dear When I met You", "One Kiss" from The New Moon and Vilja from The Merry Widow. Eddy thrills with his renderings of "Rose Marie", "At the Balalaika" from Balalaika, and "Lover, Come Back to Me" from The New Moon etc.
The new album comprises 25 Nelson Eddy solos ranging from the stirring "Ride Cossack, Ride", "Stout-Hearted Men" from The New Moon and "Tokay" from "Bitter Sweet" to the romantic "Smilin Through" and "Wanting You" from The New Moon, and Cole Porters "In the Still of the Night." One or two art songs are included including Amy Woodforde-Findons, Kashmiri Love Song and songs from shows in which Eddy did not appear including "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma.
When Im Calling You
Through the Years
THE BARTÓK ALBUM Muzsikás featuring Márta Sebestyén (vocals) and Alexander Balanescu (violin) Hannibal HNCD1439
Bartók deeply identified with the indigenous folk-music of Hungary and its influence can be heard in many of his works - not just the actual tunes or rhythms but, as he said in 1927, 'I place great emphasis on the work of technical arrangement .... I do not like to repeat an idea without change and I do not bring back one single part in exactly the same way. This method arises out of my tendency to vary and transform the theme ... the extremes of variation, which are so characteristic of our folk-music are at the same time the expression of my own nature' (Ujfalussy: Bela Bartók quoted in McCabe Bartók Orchestral Music, BBC publications 1974). Hungarian folk song was virtually unknown to the middle classes in which Bartók grew up, apart from the use made of them by Liszt and Brahms. However, in 1904 Bartók became interested having heard his neighbour's maid singing The red apple has fallen in the mud. He was so taken by the song that he composed his own version of it and arranged for the original to be published too. He then set out with a portable phonograph to collect thousands of the folk songs of his native Hungary. In this he was assisted by Kodaly. At almost exactly the same time, Holst and Vaughan Williams were doing the same for British Folk song.
There have been various revivals of interest in folk music with the advent of the tape rercoder , cine and video and the general popular youth interest in folk music in the 1960s and 70s. The members of the performing group Muszikás were among them, and went out into the villages of Hungary to learn the instrumental techniques. 'We found ourselves fascinated by the beauty and richness of folk art - and this experience changed our lives'. With the growth of the Dance House Movement Muszikás found themselves being invited to play around the world. Having performed at a Bartók festival in New York, where Bartók's music was well known but the folk music was a new encounter, the group decided to make this record.
On this disc we have three things: some of the original field recordings made by Bartók, reinterpretations of these by Muszikás retaining the folk presentation and finally examples of Bartók's own music that incorporated the folk tunes he collected. This is a great idea and it works very well.
The disc opens with a whirling csárdás of increasing speed - Dunántúli friss csáardások (Transdanubian fast csárdás) . Muszikás learned this from a band in Bogyisla and it contains four melodies which Bartók would have known well, the last of which he incorporated into his Hungarian Peasant songs for Piano op 20. This gets the disc off to a wonderful, rustic start.
There follows an original phonograph recording of a traditional Romanian song, Jocul Bãrbãtesc, which he collected from a country village in Máramaros (Maramures). This melody was used in Violin duo No.32 'Dance of Maramaros' which is then played by a folk fiddler, Mihály Sipos and the classical violinist, Alexander Balanescu. Finally ,Muszikás let rip in their own style with vocal by Márta Sebestyén -
Hey, my little lover,
Don't be shivering so hard
For you're yellow-hued as wax
Don't be shuddering so sorely.
That is the format on the disc and to fully detail it would be to reproduce the accompanying booklet notes. In summary similar treatment is given to:
On the Rivers Bank - a Csango Hungarian tune
Swineherd's Dance for two violins - a leaping dance for Michaelmas when the shepherds received their pay - used by Bartók in For Children
Dunántúli ugrósok ( a Transunabian ugrós) 2 violins, viola, bass and tambura (a plucked string instument)
Shepherd's flute song played by Zoltán Juhász on a very breathy long flute which gives it almost a didjeridu flavour.
Muszikás then play a Forgácskúti lad's dance followed by an original phonograph recording of My Horse's shoe and Bartók's rather melancholic Violin Duo No 28 'Sorrow'. This is rounded off by Muszikás performing a Slow Lad's Dance from Bonchida (2 violin, viola, bass and cimbalon giving a Hungarian flavour)
Things liven again with Magyarbece csárdás with Márta Sebestyén's nasal singing. This old-style melody came from Southern Transylvania which Bartók used in the fourth of his 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs.
This is followed by an ordinary flute but played in a similar style to the long flute, a sound produced by both blowing and singing into the instrument, in this instance accompanied by the sound of dancing.
Violin, viola and bass play a whistful Bota Dance which is a male stick dance from Upper Marosvidék in Tranyslvania used in Bartók's Rhapsody for violin and Piano. The mode of playing the viola and bass is to give the effect of violin with accordian accompaniment.
In 1912 Bartók was inspired by a melody from Petrovasile in Torontál to write the 44 Violin Duos. We hear Muszikás play the Torontál Dance - a slow csárdás - and the original (rather warbling) phonograph recording leads to a performance of the 44th duo 'Transylvanian Dance' with Muszikás rounding off with Lad's Dance from the Fuzes which has a similar halting rhythm.
Another lamenting graveyard song follows: 'The Churchyard gate is finally open' . This type of melody is known as dawn song. The mood lightens with a vocal Kalotaszeg dances - Bartók frequently wore waistcoats from the Kalotaszeg region where he found that virtually every village had its own string band.
The last track is the first recording that Bartók made in 1906: 'I left my Homeland' sung by András Borek . This was the song that profoundly altered Bartók's career ,which he then reworked into Hungarian Folksongs 1. It was this melody that was sung to him by the audience at his last appearance at the Music Academy before he emigrated to America:
I set out from my homeland,
From famous, little Hungary
I looked back when I reached halfway
And the tears spilled from my eyes.
I have found this sensitively assembled recording illuminating, instructive and vastly entertaining. My enjoyment has been enhanced by the extraordinarily detailed, 24-page booklet (English only) compiled by Muszikás - clearly a labour of love and without which I could not have written this review.
Now how about that follow-up demonstrating Vaughan Williams and Holst's use of indigenous folksong?
Mario Lanza died, at the tragically early age of thirty-eight, on Wednesday 7th October 1959. He had been hospitalised in Rome with phlebitis. A substantial piece of clot had broken away and lodged in his pulmonary artery. The death was listed as a heart attack. Several days later his body was flown home to America first to his home city of Philadelphia and then to Los Angeles.
His death was mourned by countless fans around the globe. Truly one of the greatest tenors of the century, his achievements are venerated by the Three Tenors: Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras who have all praised his influence on their careers.
Yet Lanza was a controversial figure and Bessette does not shrink from sketching in the dark side of his turbulent life. Born in South Philadelphia of Italian parentage, he was undisciplined and self-indulgent, spoilt from the start by a doting mother. He learnt by emulation, listening over and over to gramophone records of opera stars; he never learnt to sight read. But the voice was prodigious enough, in tone, strength and range, to impress the notoriously demanding conductor Koussevitzky at the beginning of his career.
The book tells of Lanza's meteoric rise to stardom first in concert, then through radio, and recordings for RCA, through to films. His record royalties approached $1 million per year. His career in Hollywood peaked early with his third film The Great Caruso which turned out to be MGM's biggest money-maker for 1951 and one of its most profitable films of all time. Yet his rude, crude, boorish behaviour on-set antagonised too many people: he would get into fights, curse and shout at technicians, insult his leading ladies, and urinate anywhere that was handy including, on one occasion, a lagoon that had to be refreshed, etc. Property owners came to regret Lanza as a tenant because of his wrecking sprees. Ultimately all Hollywood studios were loathe to hire him and he was obliged to move to Italy where his last two films were made (he made only eight films). He was self indulgent in terms of food (his figure ballooned alarmingly and he was endlessly working out and dieting), alcohol and women. Bette Lanza, his wife, unable to cope with his seductions of countless women, the competition from his domineering mother and the pressures of a successful Hollywood career, sought solace in drink and drugs and continually berated Mario instead of supporting him. Lanza was basically insecure and subject to fits of intense depression and paranoia which, coupled with weight and drink problems, caused him to cancel many engagements and to funk appearances including a lucrative and crucial engagement at Las Vegas. All this behaviour Bessette puts down to the clinical condition, manic depression.
One wonders what further miracles of singing might have been achieved not only in the films (Lanza had a flair for comedy), records and in concert but also in opera had the talent been studied, directed, and disciplined but then the raw energy, sensuality and spontaneity might have been sacrificed? A compulsive, yet often harrowing read, the book includes a selected bibliography, a compact disc discography and a filmography.
© Film Music on the Web 1998. All rights retained. Reviewers retain copyright on their reviews.
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