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COMPETITION WIN a CD of your Choice from Crotchet
Editors Choice - CD of the Month February 1999
John WILLIAMS Stepmom Music composed and conducted by the composer (with Christopher Parkening, guitar) SONY SK 61649 [57:07]
I had heard whispers of controversy about this score before my copy of the album arrived for review. "Not the best John Williams...self-derivative...", I had heard. True that Stepmom does not have a theme that is immediately arresting and memorable; rather, this score is subtly understated with long-breathed melodies and easy-flowing impressionistic music that, nonetheless, should invidiously invade the listener's affections on repeated hearings. And yes, there are many self quotations from E.T., Superman, and The Accidental Tourist to name but three John Williams scores but his consummate artistry weaves his older material into this new score so graciously that instead of being irritated, one welcomes their return like old friends. The overall mood is of gentle romance and family compassion. This is easy-listening Williams not far removed from Sabrina or Stanley and Iris and none the worse for that. The writing for the featured guitar (Christopher Parkening is admirable, sensitive and poetic) is lovely and occasionally very imaginative. The beautiful oboe playing of John Ellis should also have been acknowledged more emphatically with a front page booklet credit.
Stepmom stars Susan Sarandon as an older woman, Jackie ,who is supplanted by new younger wife (of Luke played by Ed Harris), Isobel (Julia Roberts). Circumstances force the two women to put aside their differences for the sake of the family that they now must share.
The opening cue "Always and Always" opens with a celeste theme against strings which suggests cosy domestic bliss - very feminine: delicate, pink, dreamy, hazy. As the cue progresses the music proceeds hestitantly - almost prayer-like. "The Days Between" carries this mood forward but there is soon a brief Copland tinge before the music proceeds introspectively; the oboe singing a song verging on sadness and regret. In this lovely cue the music is very reminiscent of Finzi, Moeran and other British composers and there is a subtle recollection of the Stanley and Iris music. The music is subtly Ravelian impressionistic too and the entry of the guitar softly tinges the music appropriately Spanish-coloured. "Time Spins its Web" is very evocative - an insistent clock ticking rhythm on strings with web-spinning piano arpeggios and clever rhythmic twists as the cue develops - a clever little invention. "The Soccer Game" is a quietly exuberant creation for the children at play. Again there is clever cross-rhythm writing and quieter music as we see the children's game through the women's eyes and are touched by their emotions and, fleetingly, their concerns and anguish: here, John Williams's astringent writing for guitar (I think) is especially compelling
"A Christmas Quilt" is another exquisite cue; cosily romantic and warmly nostalgic. Finzi comes to mind once more and there is an allusion to a well known nursery tune. The magic of the E.T. score and the Close Encounters music is recalled. Once more the oboe writing impresses. "Isobel's Horse" is a short cue for strings alone and it mixes Copland with string writing styles of British composers such as Holst and Elgar. There are some nice humorous touches too. "Taking Pictures" is guitar-led with another ravishing long-breathed melody strongly featuring the oboe. "Snowy Night" is very evocative of gently falling, twisting snowflakes with nice writing for the celeste again and the oboe. I was very much reminded of the feeling of isolation and disorientation of The Accidental Tourist score at this point and there are also reminders the remote beauty of "The Fortress of Solitude" from Superman. "Ben's Antics" bring us down to earth again with childish pranks. The music for this cue chugs along happily and comically but there is also an edge as we share the women's views and conflicting emotions once more. "Isobel's Picture Gallery" is music that has a remoteness suggesting loss (The Accidental Tourist again comes to mind); but the temperature soon rises and the music becomes poignant. There is an endearing delicacy and fragility about this cue which includes an attractive Ravelian piano solo part.
In "Jackie and Isobel" Christopher Parkening plays the main theme against a most refulgently romantic string backing - a ravishingly beautiful track and worth the price of the album alone. "Jackie's Secret" is slow-treading music beneath a mournful oboe - this is the most introspective and dramatic cue. "Bonding" continues this mood; it begins pensively, almost eerily before the tempo quickens and the mood lightens allowing the music to dance along - if rather reflectively but not unattractively. This is thoughtful, quietly brooding material with a softly veiled magic. The penultimate cue is the obligatory pop song, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" but I cannot imagine it dinting the charts. The End Titles music rounds off the score magically with significant material for the guitar and oboe and piano.
Stepmom is not top drawer John Williams but it is nevertheless treasurable. I know this album is going to visit my CD drawer many times this year
But Jeffrey Wheeler is not so keen :-
For the man who reigns as undisputed composer & king of space opera music, it stands to reason that eventually he would tackle a subject slightly more earthly in nature... the soap opera!
Better than a typical underscore for "The Young and the Restless," "Stepmom" still cannot go beyond being John Williams' weakest since "Far & Away." Like "Far & Away," it is an enjoyable melodramatic score that nevertheless seems orchestrated with a paint-by-numbers kit close at hand. With kaleidoscopic musical effects recycled from "Always" (plus a metamorphosis from 'Follow Me' into 'Isebel's Horse and Buggy'), light comedic effects from "Sabrina," motifs lifted from "The Accidental Tourist," synthesizer elements carried from "Sleepers," a theme from an episode of "Amazing Stories," it plays like a compilation of John Williams' Dullest Hits. The redeeming highlights are the inviting guitar solos, superbly performed by Christopher Parkening, who regrettably appears on only four tracks and has an audible tendency to hum along that quickly becomes distracting.
Perhaps the most spectacular track is "The Days Between." Of the music on this disc, the track stands as Grade-A Williams material. Its bright orchestrations revolve around the film's main theme (a lengthy but pleasing melody) -- beautifully played and recorded, this is the soundtrack's centerpiece. A breathy reprise occurs during the end credits with an expanded Parkening solo.
That said, "Stepmom" improves as its subtleties come into view, an anti-populist tradition many of Williams' recent scores observe. The result is an average score that clearly aims much higher. It receives extra credit for the noticeable attempt, but it does not quite attain the goal.
The album's packaging is fittingly Christmas-y, but more interesting are the somewhat erudite gush-notes by director Chris Columbus. Instrumental performances are top-notch, but oboist John Ellis steals the show; he brightens the soundscape whenever he has the chance.
EISLER The Hollywood Songbook Matthias Goerne (baritone) and Eric Schneider (piano) DECCA 460 582-2 [70:09]
Eisler is one of those composers I have been meaning to explore. I have been intrigued by reviews of two competing versions (CPO and Decca-London) of his Symphony No. 2, Eine Deutsches Symphonie. His music has also appeared on Eterna and Berlin Classics discs. Here, at the other end of the musical scale, are 46 brief ,lyrically jewelled, songs. When I saw the title of the disc I thought of the sophisticated and slightly burly Weill show songs but nothing of the sort. Neither is this a Gershwin songbook. The music is spiritually, 'from the Old Country'. We are used to the nostalgic lyricism of lieder: the wayfaring lad far from hearth, heimat and heavenly delights. The intensifying lens of distance through which the exile views these images idealises them and adds a keen-edged poignancy. This is the currency of the musician and of German romantics in particular. For all of Eisler's socialist credentials it is this Shropshire Lad wistfulness which comes across very strongly in these Schubertian songs written in the USA.
The settings are by the classic poets of the Wolf, Schubert and Schumann eras: Hölderlin, Mörike, Goethe and Eichendorff; but the lion's share of the songs are to words by Brecht (30 of the 47 tracks), a fellow exile in California looking for work and having to compromise artistic standards in order to survive. Some of their shared revulsion of Hollywood and its 'ideals' comes across in tracks 26 and 29. He had escaped from one deadly oppression to another. While one threatened life (contemporary events are shaped by the song Panzerschlacht) the other threatened the soul.
Within Eisler's style the range is quite wide. This varies from the whispers of "An den Kleine Apparatch"  to the sterner "Auf der flucht" . Only the piano accompaniment betrays (and then very rarely and subtly) his interest in atonality for example in two Pascal settings . There is an atmosphere of magical entrancement in "Uber den selbstmond"  and in  a dream dance suggests memories of 'The Land of Lost Content'. Matthias Goerne has the delightful gift, by no means to be taken for granted, of careful balance, variation and shading of dynamics? Listen to way he tiptoes through the notes in "Der Schatzgraber"  and plunges deep into the lyrical melos in .
Good liner notes and full texts of the songs with translations (a few of the songs are settings of English words). There are so many highlights on this rare and treasurable collection. These include echoing bird calls , "Hotelzimmer" 1942 unleashing an unbounded lyricism and the wondering tenderness of Goerne's voice . One of the supremely memorable moments is in "Später Triumph" with its declamatory storminess ending in a great Hokusai wave brought into our homes by Eric Schneider's vivid pianism.
Editor's Note: Eisler was amongst the many artists: painters, writers and musicians who fled hostile regimes in Europe for what they thought was artistic freedom in America. Many were drawn by the artistic lure of Hollywood. Only a few were as successsful as Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Waxman who had escaped Nazi tyranny in Vienna and Germany respectively. Fellow Austrian Max Steiner had arrived in America much earlier in 1914 as an emigré looking for a job in the music business in New York. Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Thomas Mann and many others lived in exile in Holywood, some made a fortune but most lived in conditions bordering on penury.
Hanns EISLER Orchestral suites Nos: 2 - 5 and songs performed by the
Ensemble Modern, chansonnier and conductor, H K Gruber. RCA Red Seal,
74321 56882 2 [70:03]
See also Hanns EISLER Orchesterwerke 1 [Suites for Orchestra Nos. 1 -4 ;
Theme and Variations 'Der Lange Marsch'; Kammer Symphonie] BERLIN Classics 0092282BC
This new Cd of music for silent and early sound films is of interest to film music enthusiasts for several reasons. First, little music survives from the European films of this period. Second, it includes documentaries - for which we have hardly any music. And, lastly it celebrates a "lost" film composer, a musician of considerable ability.
Eisler was a wonderful writer for voices, as we are now rediscovering with his Hollywood Songbook, his choral Deutsche Simfonie and his songs for the plays of Berthold Brecht - a few are included on this disc. He was also a talented orchestral composer but most of all he was a musician who believed that music should be at the service of everyone. Sadly, he had the great misfortune to be a German, a Jew, a communist and working in the middle years of this century. Consequently he managed to fall foul of the Nazis, the US un-American Activities Committee and finally, the East German Communists during a creative and productive life. A rotund and smiling little man, sometimes he had little to be happy about.
If he is known by film music lovers at all it is usually for the scores he wrote for RKO studios in Hollywood from 1943 to 1947. Or for his co-authorship of the 1947 book, Composing For the Films. Yet he had begun scoring in Germany in 1924 for a Walter Ruttmann experimental film and the Suites on this disc represent his main work immediately after that.
In Suite No. 2 the music from the 1931 pacifist story Niemandsland (GER.dir Viktor Trivas - all copies destroyed by the Nazis) establishes Eisler's pre-war style immediately. Jazzy, with atmospheric woodwind writing, black and white montages create themselves in your mind.
Suite No. 4 is from a 1932 documentary made by the great Dutch film maker, Joris Ivens. Called Pesn o gerojach in Russian [Heroes Song], it celebrates the Magnitostroj mines in the Urals. Eisler uses (as was usual in Soviet filmscoring) local songs as his inspiration. The result is a mixture of marches, heroics and jazzy Jewishness, both lively and tender.
Trivas is also the director for the 1933 French production Dans les Rues, which provides the music for Suite No 5. Its eight sections display a more reflective side to Eisler's writing to contrast with the brass scoring of the marches.
All the suites are interspersed with ballads and songs performed in a typical German cabaret-style which surely would have appealed to Eisler, cynicism mixed with a streetwise sadness, The disc's closing suite is No 3 from the 1931 film Kuhle Wampe (GER - Dir.Slatan Dudow). This tale of unemployment in Berlin is notable for being one of Brecht's few film scripts. Eisler's score drives the film along, giving the montage sections an optimism which sometimes contrasts with the events, notably in the 'searching for work' sequence - section  of this suite. It ends with an orchestral arrangement of the once world-famous up-beat 'Solidarity March', in this performance suitably bright and manic.
Some of the orchestral works exist on a Berlin Classics disc. But the bounce and tightness of the Ensemble Modern performances with their brisk tempos will appeal to today's audiences. And although the songs have no immediate movie connections as Gruber presents them they add a gutsy supporting period flavour to the whole collection. If you are exploring music as well as movie history this disc will repay your time.
Leonard BERNSTEIN - Reaching for the note - his life in music Compilation of excerpts DG 459-552-2 [155 mins]
This 2CD album of DG recordings made by Bernstein later in his career (he had previously recorded for RCA and CBS), supports the PBS-TV documentary, Leonard Bernstein - Reaching for the Note (it was screened on British TV over the Christmas period). It is also a very useful accompaniment to Paul Myers's book on the composer, published by Phaidon Press, recently reviewed on this site; and a valuable introduction, for younger listeners to the art and music of Leonard Bernstein. It is a superb collection of Bernstein's work as conductor, composer and pianist.
The first CD opens with a passionate and thrilling reading of Schumann's "Manfred" Overture. This is the first time that this recording has appeared on CD. Next we have Bernstein's view of Aaron Copland's El Salon Mexico which crackles with life and vitality. Lenny then plays George Gershwin's blues-based Prelude for Piano No. 2. The remaining tracks are devoted to Leonard Bernstein's own compositions. There are two high-spirited songs from the 1993 live recording of On the Town, made by Bernstein's protégé, Michael Tilson Thomas: "New York, New York", and "Carried Away". (On the Town was filmed, brilliantly, in 1949, with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin with Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Anne Miller.) From Leonard Bernstein's only original film music for On the Waterfront, we hear the beautiful Love Theme which is followed by the exuberant Candide Overture and June Anderson showing incredible vocal agility in her aria, "Glitter and be Gay" from that opera. From West Side Story (the 1985 recording with Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras), we have the Prologue, "Tonight", "America", and "Somewhere." The CD closes with "more difficult" Leonard Bernstein: The Prologue from his Symphony No. 2 "The Age of Anxiety"; and the Postlude to Act I of A Quiet Place.
CD2 opens with Kaddish 2 from Leonard Bernstein's moving Symphony No 3 "Kaddish", for orchestra, mixed chorus, boy's choir, speaker and soprano. The equally engaging and colourfully-dramatic, advanced rhythms of Psalm 23 from the Chichester Psalms follows for mixed choir, boy soloist and orchestra. We now turn to Leonard Bernstein as conductor of his beloved Mahler: first, the enchanting "Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht" from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Thomas Hampson and the Wiener Philharmoniker, then a live recording with Barbara Hendricks and Christa Ludwig with the New York Philharmonic in two glorious excerpts from Mahler's Symphony No 2 in C minor "Resurrection"; and, finally, the famous Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No 5 in C sharp minor. In contrast, we next hear the more strident and primitive dance rhythms from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Three works by Leonard Bernstein follow: "To What You Said..." from his Songfest - a cycle of American Poems for six singers and orchestra; "A Simple Song" from the Mass sung by Cheryl Studer with the London Symphony Orchestra; and the Waltz from Bernstein's Divertimento for Orchestra. The programme ends with excerpts from two works by Beethoven: the Allegretto from Symphony No.7 in A major; and the final chorus - "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Choral Symphony No 9 in D minor, associated in everybody's hearts and minds with the tearing-down of the Berlin Wall.
Needless to say all these performances are dazzling and all are recorded in superb sound.
Jerry GOLDSMITH Star Trek: Insurrection OST GNP Crescendo GNPD 8059 [44:46]
The philosophy in putting together this movie was to distance itself as far as possible from the scary darkness of the previous (First Contact). The shame is that no matter how commendable Paramounts thinking ever is behind the latest in the trek franchise, they still mess up at the script stage. All 3 of the Next Generation outings have been flawed, and this latest suffers most from the feel of merely watching an extended episode.
A personal observation of mine is that an opening credits sequence that runs titles over footage is a self-defeating mistake. Its understandable for a TV movie, which wants to cram as much into its time slot. A feature movie needs to hook its audience from the start. Independent title sequences allow for conversations to finish up and packets of edibles to be opened (groan). More relevant to the purpose of this review (!) is that it allows a composer to show off their colours. Insurrection opens on a touchy-feely community going about its bread baking, clothes
mending daily life. Cue one very tedious tinkling piece ("BaKu Village") from Trek regular Goldsmith. It immediately and unintentionally demonstrates how devoid of drama the film is going to be.
It moves into some opportunity for dramatic writing however, but only minutes into the score its second major downfall is presented. That being exceedingly flat action writing, sounding oh-so reminiscent of the by-the-numbers drum n brass of recent offerings such as: US Marshals, Small Soldiers, and Air Force One.
Some overspill work on The Ghost & The Darkness clipped the amount of available time Goldsmith had on First Contact. An inspired collaboration resulted, with his son Joel providing excellent material for the enemy Borg. His pieces featured some terrific samples amongst the orchestra, but the use of electronics remains about the best that score had to offer. Now with Insurrection, Goldsmith Snr unfortunately demonstrates problem # 3 - a very poor use of electronics indeed. The one memorable piece he has crafted for the film is a romantic theme for Picards unrequited love, but in its most pleasing appearance ("New Sight") it is ruined at the end by some grating sound effects.
It seems inconceivable that the innovator behind the use of the Blaster Beam in The Motion Picture should consider wee-wee-wee noises appropriate for the shock appearance of a hidden science observatory. Yet there it is.
Mr Goldsmith had a very full year in 1998, and since that included Mulan and LA Confidential, well let this one slide.
Yet Ian Lace is more enthusiastic:
Although I would hesitate to claim that his new Jerry Goldsmith score is amongst his best, it does contain some very attractive material. The plot, with its emphasis on the philosophical contrasts between the enlightened peace loving Ba'kas and the antagonistic and vengeful Sona's, as much as the usual Gung-ho heroics, gives Goldsmith the opportunity of presenting a more varied and richer score than say that of Air Force One.
The opening cue "Ba'hu Village" opens, significantly, with an attractive serene theme before the score darkens to admit more threatening figures with music that has great vigour and rhythmic vivacity. I was struck by the subtlety of the electronics in this context; I was given a vivid impression of combat tracer fire patterns. Also in this multi-dimension cue (and in "End Credits") we have reprisals of Alexander Courage's original Star Trek theme and Jerry's theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture acting of course as thematic links in this continuing saga.
I was particularly drawn to the quieter cues, again using electronics sympathetically and unobtrusively integrated with the orchestra. "Childrens' Story" is a lovely, innocent impressionistic evocation. The beauty of "New Sight", the stand-out cue on the CD is again very impressionistic reminding me, in places, of the music of Debussy and Respighi; it has mystical connotations too. In both of these cues there is a sense of wonder with flutes, strings and harps magically combined with quietly tinkling electronics. Another impressive cue is "No Threat". It begins with an impressive combination of those tracer electronic patterns over percussive piano ostinatos and increasingly threatening horns before the music rides out in those interesting staccato cross-rhythms; but then the textures thin and you sense peace is restored. The point I am trying to make is that here we have here just one example of Goldsmith's superior film music craftsmanship: consider his control over weight and balance of texture and dynamics, the sheer richness of his harmonies, his great rhythmic drive and sense of dramatic timing and contrast.
Some of the combat music cues are less impressive and one can criticise some of the cloying sentimentality that spoils "The Healing Process". Nevertheless, there is enough in this Goldsmith score for me to reach it down and put it in my CD drawer more than once.
GNP Crescendo invite you to visit their site: http://www. gnpcrescendo.com
Basil POLEDOURIS Les Misérables OST MANDALAY/HOLLYWOOD 162 147-2 [49:17]
Any score by Basil Poledouris is worth the closest attention and this one again confirms his great strengths and high standing in the lists of feature film composers.
This recording is grouped into four tracks with one suite to each track. While the individual movements are listed on the sleeve they are not separately banded.
The first suite (Valjeans Journey) opens in a Sibelian rustling (En Saga). Soon an atmosphere of understated heroism is established by a robust theme (of which Poledouris makes extensive use throughout the score). The music is tense and is carried along by a glowing sea-swell. The melodic content is fine, wide and wandering and of epic quality. The tale of the big theme has a biblical edge, rather typical of the end of one of Rózsas big moments in a Middle East spectacular.
Vigau (Suite 2) has some of the same spirit that imbues the first suite as well as a piercing sensitivity. Paris (Suite 3) conjures up memories of the gentler parts of Poledouriss 1980s Conan scores. There is also a grand ball variant of the big theme contrasted with strong grand-stepping rondo straight out of the pages of Conan. Plangent harp work towards the end of suite makes an abiding impact. Suite 4 (The Barricades) spins the same big theme through the full grandiloquent treatment played over thunderous drums. This relaxes into angelic serenity (7:22).
It is worth mentioning that the orchestration is by Lawrence Ashmore whose characterful and sensitive work in providing orchestral accompaniment for the Gerald Finzi Five Bagatelles (originally for clarinet and piano) has been a great service to music. These have most recently appeared in a very good Finzi collection on Naxos (8.553566) but previously featured on an RCA collection where the solo was taken by Richard Stoltzman.
It is customary to provide deficient documentation for contemporary OST discs. Hollywood do not break from tradition. There are some good studio stills.
The film stars Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes and as far as I am aware has not as yet been released here. The release must be imminent.
The disc plays for over an hour and is well worth acquiring. The composer makes the most resourceful use of his material and there is a great deal more variety in this score than the recent Lonesome Dove collection from Sonic Images.
Ian Lace adds -
Another powerful and compelling score from Basil Poledouris for yet another version of Victor Hugo's classic novel. Poledouris's richly textured and beautifully crafted music is darkly dramatic, as befits the relentlessly tragic nature of Hugo's drama. Much of the score is taken over by relentlessly repetitive rhythms: cold, malicious and dark for the twisted obsessive nature of policeman Javert contrasted with warmer figures for the noble, honourable and compassionate Valjean.
The musical cues are divided into four suites of unequal lengths roughly following the four main episodes of the story: Valjean's Journey in which Valjean steals bread out of sheer necessity and Javert begins his savage and persistent pursuit; Vigau in which Valjean attempts to carve a new life for himself, cares for the poor Fantine, rises to a position of civic responsibility but has to flee when Javert is hot on his trail, Paris where he his daughter Cosette is now a young beautiful woman, and The Barricades in which Valjean is caught up in the insurrection in the streets of Paris and where he has his final confrontation with Javert. This splitting of the music into suites is a new presentation affectation; I first encountered it with Varese Sarabande's The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. I cannot say I am thrilled with it. Unless the CD player display tells you which of the sub-cues within each of the suites you are listening to, this arrangement can be annoying. My player only recognised four cues for the four suites. (Yes, I know there are pauses in the flow of the music to indicate where one sub-cue ends and the next begins but often a listening experience of twenty minutes is interrupted)
The first suite opens with a plaintive oboe melody over quietly pulsating strings, sadness and a sense of hopelessness is communicated before stronger more heroic material enters suggesting fortitude and resistance against injustice and a malign fate The music of this opening cue maintains this sense of conflict and it carries over into Suite 2 as Javert is consumed with suspicion when he is in Vigau but most of the material of this suite is warmer underscoring Valjean's compassion and love for the poor Fantine. Snare and bass drum figures suggest a cold, ruthless machinery of justice as represented by Javert's sneering pursuit. Suite three contains some of Poledouris's most attractive music scored brilliantly for harp and woodwinds to describe Fantine's daughter now a lovely young woman and with Valjean in Paris. Suite Four has stirring, heroic music for the Parisian street battles and Poledouris cleverly underlines the emotional complexity of Valjean's final confrontation with Javert when the latter finally realises the injustice and utter madness and futility of his pursuit and the shock of the revelation sends him over the edge and compels him to commit suicide.
Miklos ROZSA The Golden Voyage of Sinbad OST Music by the Rome Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer PROMETHEUS PCD 148 [54:07]
This is the CD version of the original OST LP album from the 1973 Columbia film. Interestingly the producers wanted to have Bernard Herrmann, who had worked with Ray Harryhausen on his animated fantasies, to score the film but by this time Herrmann was tired of the genre and declined the offer. Rozsa, of course, had experience of Arabian Nights fantasies through his score for Korda's The Thief of Bagdad. In his interesting preface to the analysis of this score, Rozsa relates how he managed to diplomatically steer the producers away from the notion of a more commercial "Pop- based" Main Title cue. He points out the difference as he saw it between the two films and the two scores. "Although both pictures were inspired by the same source, they were basically different. The first (The Thief of Bagdad) was a romantic tale, full of poetry, not lacking of course the fantastic elements like ...the Djinie who lived in a bottle. The new Sinbad lacks romance and poetry, but makes up for it in adventures and with animated monsters brought to life by the brilliant Ray Harryhausen...The first part of the picture takes place in Arabia, therefore the music has an Arabian character, but then Sinbad navigates towards India, so the music changes to the style of the Indian ragas, but of course both highly stylised, because we are in the land of fantasy. All situations and personages have their distinctive identifying themes throughout the picture."
The early music is very reminiscent of Rozsa's scores for his Biblical and historical epics. His film noire scores are also recalled in the music associated with the evil wizard, Prince Koura. The score is not as melodic as much of Rozsa's work. Melody is reserved for Sinbad and the heroine, Margiana. It seems that the influence of Herrmann rubbed off on this score for the motifs that are used for the monsters are brief and often dissonantly pointed and blended into fast moving action or darkly dramatic music; however, overall, the familiar Rozsa fingerprints are clearly discernible. Indeed, it is interesting to compare this score with, for instance, Bernard Herrmann's music for Ray Harryhausen's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
The opening main titles is pure opulent Rozsa garnished with quasi-Eastern mysticism. Cue 2 uses a synthesiser to startling dramatic effect to evoke a strange flying creature that swoops over Sinbad's ship to drop a golden amulet on the deck. In "The Dream" Rozsa uses harp glissandi and eerie strings with woodwinds and sinister brass figures to illustrate the myriad images that Sinbad sees in his vision. "The Storm" is another powerful evocation of turbulence at sea, you feel not only strong gales shredding sails and torrents of rain lashing the ship, but also an evil machination behind it all. Cue five is more reflective as Sinbad ponders over these events and the ship anchors before Sinbad swims ashore. The next cue, with some interesting brass writing, concerns Sinbad's first confrontation with the evil Prince Koura. The meeting with the Grand Vizier whose face has been mutilated is the subject of the next cue dominated by tremolando strings to turn the music creepily malignant; yet at the same time there is a poignant edge to it. Cue 8 is more placid and romantic for the beautiful slave girl, Margiana, one of Rozsa's lovely lyrical creations, but at length, clouds gather and the music grows increasingly threatening. Back aboard the ship, the evil Koura brings the Siren figurehead of Sinbad's ship to life and to Rozsa's dangerously sultry music, she fights the crew to steal the chart to the treasure of Lemuria Island. Rozsa uses xylophone, nasally muted brass and frenzied swirling strings to depict the conflict on the ship before the Siren makes off with the chart before deep bass chords signify her sinking into the ocean.
The bringing to life of the bat-like monster, the Homunculus is very imaginative, its abominable screechings created with a judicious use of the ondes martenot (which Rozsa had used to such wonderful effect for The Lost Weekend and Spellbound) intermingled with eerie woodwind and string figures. The "Arrival on the Island of Lemur" prompts music of Indian rhythms; this is music of caution and curiosity as Sinbad's crew explore the island and then unresolved high-pitched string figures to represent the "Temple Keeper" summoning the oracle. Weird staccato effects and synthesiser mix with Sinbad's theme when the Homunculus attacks the party in "Escape from the Temple" After beating off Homunculus, another threat appears in the shape of the six-armed statue of the Goddess Kali brought to life by Koura. Rozsa makes her sensual and powerfully dangerous and her combat with Sinbad is intense and close-fought before Sinbad triumphs Bells and cymbals accentuate the miraculous nature of the "Fountain of Destiny" with Rozsa in full romantic flow again then darkly dramatic as Koura is rejuvenated by its waters. A cavernous four-note tuba motif introduces the Centaur and horns announce the winged Gryphon The beasts engage in combat to the death with the Centaur victorious - Rozsa's music recalls his Quo Vadis score here in addition to more lumbering figures and grotesque orchestral slides for the heaving efforts of the gigantic monsters. The Centaur then turns his attention to Sinbad but is bested by the hero. In the penultimate cue Koura is confronted by Sinbad for the last time and the evil Prince killed. The music here is sly and slitheringly sinister, mixed with very realistic sounding parry and thrust sword-play figures. The final cue is of splendour and celebration as the Grand Vizier regains his crown and Sinbad sets sail for home with Margiana at his side.
The CD's documentation is exemplary with good track analyses (although there are 18 not 20 as published with two cues combined not separated as announced). A valuable addition to the Rozsa discography.
Geoffrey BURGON Television Scores: Cider with Rosie; When Trumpets Fade; Silent Witness; Turning World OST conducted by the composer SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 306
Burgon is very much associated with melodic-impressionistic (often slow-paced) music for British television dramas from Brideshead Revisited (his most famous score) and Testament of Youth to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The music is sweetly tuneful with tart textures.
This disc has as its focus Burgon's incidental score for the Christmas season broadcast of a new adaptation of Laurie Lee's book. This has been done previously and with considerable success though why someone hasnt selected :Lees sequel 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning' I do not know. An imaginative though expensive decision given that the As I Walked . would have involved filming in Spain. The longest of the Laurie Lee tracks is just under three minutes and most are between one and two minutes. These 'building blocks' act as atmosphere builders and texture fillers. In the first track, Lee, who died shortly after the recording sessions, reads a section of his book. Burgon is a master at summoning the shimmer of summer days  and the urgent buzzing of insects . Light , Finzian contemplation [Laurie and Jo] and heat-hazed landscapes all rise up in front of us. Japanese harp chords counterpoint Bachian tectonics of shifting string strata.Track  is a bucolic brass-band march partnering track  a village dance with the deep rumbling of a bass drum, a panoply of rustic characters and the subdued bustle of the village market place. In track  a light summer wind gently stirs the green leaves. The bittersweet music of track  offer a memory of The Lark Ascending. This predominantly slow-paced score is closed with the sorrowful "Laurie Leaves Home".
When Trumpets Fade is more urgent. The tart textures of brass and sax over subdued percussion hint at an underlying tension and then conflict. The developing urgency of the sax betrays a pulse worthy of Nyman.. The compilation of sax and flute is striking. In this score Burgon throws off his reputation for slow-paced music adopting a lively life-intense approach with a paean for brass and drums.
Silent Witness (a series about a police scientist) uses the sinister and chaste effect of the human voice. Track 21 has a wailing effect like the sirens associated with events whose legacy she investigates. The other tracks are sinuous, bright, sinister and finally the selection closes with a piano solo dance prelude. In The Turning World a psychiatrist from India is seen working in the southern counties, forgetting his past and having it catch up with him. Predictably (but still effectively) Burgon deploys various Indian effects and instruments. In track 32 a buzzing turbulence and eldritch shuddering produce a powerful effect suggestive of a nightmare transformed into reality.
It is a pity when so much attention is given to Cider With Rosie that fans of Silent Witness and the other two features may overlook the album. There are brief but reasonably adequate notes. The orchestra is unidentified - no doubt a contract ensemble. Although the CD is not as extensively-filled as many this is a very fine recording of attractive music in brightly minted sound.
Ian Lace adds:-
One of the delights of this album is the reading by the late Laurie Lee, himself, recollecting his first sexual encounter - with Rosie. Cider with Rosie was screened on UK television over Christmas just past. Burgon's music evokes a quiet secluded English countryside that just about persisted through to the end of World War I and a little beyond before the motor car, the cinema and the radio (known as the wireless then) swept away the old world forever. This suite, performed by a small chamber ensemble, with often an accent on the brass for colour and character, comprises 12 short movements. The music nicely reflects the innocence, sadness and tragedy of those times. The Introduction sets the scene with broad pastoral music at once nostalgic and sad as the family arrive at their new country home with their belongings piled high on a cart. 'Our Mother' a poignant cue for strings tells us much about Laurie's pleasant, capable and optimistic but delightfully/tragically naive and gullible mother. "The Outing" is a fine piece of character comic writing for the charabanc (coach) outing to the seaside complete with inebriated driver. Strong, agitated string writing, with a comic end piece, informs "Sid Does it Again." The music for the mad "Miss Flynn", a rather pre-Raphaelite-looking figure, with her flowing red hair and long velvet gown is one of the highlights of the score - delicate harp pizzicati stress her beauty and sad vulnerability while high string figures and steely, edgy strings, low bassoon musings and isolated percussion strokes show her mental disorientation. The music for "Sent to the Workhouse" accompanying scenes where an old couple, who have lived together for forty years but are no longer able to look after themselves, are sent to the workhouse where they are separated and die only days afterwards, is most sympathetic. The suite ends gloriously with "Cider with Rosie" then with a soft nostalgic glow, in the final cue, as Laurie reaches early manhood and prepares to leave his family to make his own way in the world.
When Trumpets Fade is scored mostly for brass: trumpets, trombones and tuba with saxophones, with percussion, often combined grotesquely, frequently in distorted jazz rhythms for this story about an infamous World War II battle in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany in which thousands of men met their deaths pointlessly. Strings, in the last cues balance military madness with sanity, humanity and poignancy but in the main, the music is brutal, dissonant and sometimes darkly comic. It certainly fulfills its mission to underline the senselessness and waste of war.
Silent Witness is the BBC TV series about the work of and life of a pathologist. Again Burgon uses limited resources to wonderful effect. (One wonders how much more he could achieve if he were given a bigger budget and a larger ensemble for his television scores - see my comments on television scores in my Master of Ballantrae review in the January reviews on Film Music on the Web). This is full-blooded, scary, horror music. "Requiem" the opening cue sets the mood - voices wail over dark, brooding and shadowy figures. "Death in the Shower" begins in a slightly more upbeat manner with an insistent rhythm which has a hysterical edge but then horror arrives with dark slithery stealth followed by sudden violence and cold death. "Silent Nocturne" is again full of creepy-crawlies. The remaining tracks, some scored with warmer music for relief like "Waiting" with its attractive piano solo, are all very cleverly scored are in the same broad vein.
Turning World is about the life of a Pakistani psychiatrist working in a mental hospital in the south of England. Burgon writes a darkening dramatic score that nicely balances and contrasts Asian ethnic music with conventional western modes to illustrate the character and neuroses of the psychiatrist's patients and the growing pressure on himself that will eventually push him over the edge into madness.
An adventurous collection.
Lalo SCHIFRIN Rush Hour OST ALEPH 005 [47:22]
Director Brett Ratner took on this film seeing it as an opportunity to pay homage to his all-time favourite - Enter The Dragon. Where exactly that is paid off on the movie Im not sure. Its got Jackie Chan, and lots of oriental references, plus the innovative fight sequences. Principally what Ratner meant was the opportunity to re-visit Dragon musically by capitalising on the relationship hed established with Schifrin from their collaboration on Money Talks (also with Chris Tucker). He purposely cut the opening of the film & temped it with the Dragon theme, so that Schifrin would create a 90s twist on his classic. This kind of attention to and reverence of film music is pretty much unheard of today. A shame, since this score proves just how beneficial that kind of thinking can be.
The "Main Title" bears a passing familiarity with Dragons, but is based around a much longer melodic line. It is hugely memorable, and is backed by all manner of percussive rhythms and Chinese instrumentation. It is a template for the body of the score; lots of brassy calls backed by rumbling drumrolls and picked out by numerous rattling live or sampled ethnic beats. "Fight At The Harbour" is an early example of the textured writing. In "Chasing Sang", the thrashed out beats are heart-pounding. Alongside the unpredictability of where the percussive line is going, this is Schifrin to a tee.
Other highs for the chopsocky action come in "Lee Arrives In LA" (which includes a phrase most closely ascribable to Dragon). This cue swings back and forth between variations on the main theme, & funky grooves on guitar for Tuckers wise-cracking character. "Battle At Juntaos" features elongated sweeps from both orchestra and samples, and in "On Juntaos Heels" its a case of Holst meets Wagner. Mars unmistakable rhythm introduces and is then overtaken by the salutary fanfare of the Valkyries. Quite a mix !
It is not all tam tam crashes and guitar wailing though. "Soo Yungs Theme" is for the young girl kidnapped. Although it opens somewhat covered in sugar, the sampled flute gives way to an oriental style that again carves out a memorable melody. "Lees Sadness" is a very touching piece of melancholia for subtle strings, which helped pave over any excesses in Chans acting in the film.
All the way through you cant help but be impressed by ways in which Schifrin weaves the main theme into the whole. "Sweet And Sour" contains almost subliminally subtle arrangements for strings. By the time the reprise for the "End Titles" comes around, it is inconceivable that it wont have been indelibly implanted in your head.
Martin KISZKO The Battle of the Sexes Incidental Music to the BBC wild life documentary series on The Natural History of Sex City of Prague PO/Harry Rabinowitz BBC MK1103 (distributed by Silva Screen) 60:57
Martin Kiszko has previously contributed highly effective music to the British TV series Alien Empire, The Realm of the Russian bear and Land of the Eagle. Here his music graces (and that is the word) the BBC Natural History Units latest 6 part documentary which examines the sexual act in all its forms. Kiszko assisted Edward Williams in the score for David Attenboroughs Life on Earth series from 1980.
The title track is stormy and features a grand theme. A whooping clarinet cutting right through the texture at one point is a very memorable touch. There is a gutsy turbulence in the skirling horns and a hint of what you might call Hollywood Red Indian music adding a dimension of threat. In Another world (2) there are hints of John Barry but I do not want to take away from the fine inspiration which pervades deeply velvet, romantically tender harp and flute dialogue and gentlest touch of the strings. This also surfaces elsewhere notably in tracks 4 and the final track interspersed with birdsong. Forays And Foreplays (11) has a decidedly Stravinskian tinkling motif which return in track 17. A jazzy, sinuous and slightly sleazy clarinet slides in Gershwinnying fashion up and down the scales in Jazzed-Up Males. In Reluctant Hunters a solemn cello soliloquy takes centre stage. The cool, concentrated and immanent threat in of The Deep comes over strongly in track 10. Track 12 is notable for the insistent little rhythmic figure for higher woodwind. In track 17 Kiszko produces an excellent warlike mongol horde type theme.
This is a classy, straightforward and richly impressionistic score which remains entertaining and even when separated from its images.
The notes are good. They include discographic information, compact information about the series by its executive producer, an ideally balanced note by the composer and a profile of the composer. I hope that before too long Martin Kiszko will become a name we associate with feature film scores as well as TV.
Stephen WARBECK Shakespeare in Love OST SONY SK63387 [55:27]
Going by the trailer (not always the safest of things to do) this is the sort of film which could only be made here and which may well catch the imagination. Perhaps people who were attracted by the recent film Elizabeth will be intrigued enough by the Elizabethan era to want to explore another window onto that era.
What of the music. It is melodious, insistent and atmospheric. The style mixes elements of Patrick Doyle (nobility), Nyman (urgency) and Geoffrey Burgon (Brideshead Revisited). All three composers are represented in the title track which is both sorrowing and dynamic. The music of the first track recurs often notably in track 11 which includes a swift change from mezzo forte to whisper quiet playing. This is striking. Utterly compelling. Hesitancy and tenderness are represented in Violas Audition followed by a return to urgency - an urgency suggestive of Shakespeares creativity. If occasionally I thought of parts of Beethovens Ode to Joy this is no weakness.
Tracks 4-6 and 10 had what I had feared: insufferable Elizabethan court dances, lutenist airs, sad dumpes and Elizabethan elegy. Not compelling, I am afraid. In track 7 there is something of the title music. Somnolent clouds appear to chase across the cold moonlit sky and this picture carries over nicely into the concentrated reflection of Love and the Rehearsal. Reflection returns for track 16 with its steady piano notes and vocalising solo soprano.
Pulsing dynamism is recaptured in tracks 12-14 which are insistently dark, sturdy and driven. In News of Marlowes Death the sturdiness and subdued colours of the music hint that Warbeck may well have listened to Edmund Rubbras fine symphonies especially No. 4. Track 15 represents a dark midnight of the soul and a running battle with all its chaos and confusion.
Track 18 projects a ghastly twilight. The last four tracks are possibly the most impressive of all. They establish a spirit of success and satisfied rest. Track 20 for example musically wraps around the listener an aural quilt of surpassing softness and warmth and in track 22 tired summation pervades all. The ending of the final track is quiet. A nicely rounded sunset close to this bejewelled and subtle score. The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck and Judi Dench.
The notes are skeletal with some nice publicity stills but in years to come someone picking up this disc will know little about the film or the music or Stephen Warbeck if they have to rely on the CD insert. The disc is not of a generous length but the playing time is about the standard for the CD of a contemporary film release. A good score with many imaginative touches especially within the last ten affecting minutes. Star rating applied with reference to the rather twee Elizabethan dance tracks.
Compilation: REEL LOVE - Great Romantic Movie Themes RYKO RCD 10742 [47:20]
Music from: Goodbye Again; The Misfits; Two for the Seesaw; Irma La Douce; Live for Life; Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell; Gaily, Gaily; The Happy Ending; Love is a Funny Thing; Last Tango in Paris.
As the (uncredited) perceptive and intelligent CD notes to this album observes, after the broad, lush romantic themes of the 1940s and '50s, written by the greats like Korngold and Steiner, music for the screen romances of the 1960s changed to accommodate the jazz, pop and rock fashions of those days. This compilation reflects that change.
The album opens with music for Goodbye Again (1961), starring Anthony Perkins and Ingrid Bergman, by French composer Georges Auric who already had an accomplished career behind him scoring such films as Beauty and the Beast, The Lavender Hill Mob and Moulin Rouge. Auric's Main Theme straddles many dramatic and romantic moods and commences with sweeping, diving string glissandi and powerful brass statements before the rich romantic theme sounds out on strings and brass. "Mon Paris" has a tango-like rhythm under a slow unwinding bluesy melody for woodwinds.
Rob Barnett reviewed the recent Ryko release of the Alex North's The Misfits (1961) on this site recently (RCD 10735). From that score we have "Love's Reverie" a complex little bitter-sweet jazz-based composition which is harmonically striking. It is, in turn, blowsy and sweetly romantic and its often poignant turns of phrase suggest vulnerability.
Two scores by André Previn come next. The Main Title theme Two for the Seesaw (1962) that starred Shirley Maclaine and Robert Mitchum, Previn, has a smoochy, moody duet between horn and trumpet that gives way to strings with trumpet intoning over a softly brushed percussion rhythm. Previn adopted the lovely "Our Language of Love" from the stage musical of Irma La Douce for the 1963 Billy Wilder romantic comedy film starring Shirley MacLaine - this time with Jack Lemon. The song from the Ryko CD (RCD 10729) that I reviewed recently on this site, is presented here beginning with a scintillating accordion accompaniment (very Parisian) and later taken up by violin d' amour with accordion in counterpoint.
Francis Lai is represented by two scores too. For the sequel to the very popular A Man And A Woman, Live for Life (1967), comes "Live for Life" and "Theme to Catherine". The former employs a persistently repetitive, ardent/yearning piano rhythm and some electronic keyboard filigree patterns while the Catherine music has a mellow but descriptive trumpet solo set against delicate cascading strings. Lai's attractive title theme from Love is a Funny Thing (1970) features electronic harpsichord and organ seguing into a bridge for string and chorus.
Riz Ortoloni wrote a very catchy score for Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell (1968). The "Orchestral Theme" is appropriately sexy and smoochy for the film's glamourous star, Gina Lollobrigida; and "Won't You Dance With Me" is a lovely quiet melody, a duet for piano and guitar over brushed percussion that later picks up a faster beat to make dancing to it irresistible.
Gaily, Gaily (1969) has Henry Mancini's attractive sinewy tango duet for groups of strings and guitar - "The Tango I Saved for You". Michel Legrand is represented by two cues from his score for The Happy Ending (1969) that starred Jean Simmons. "It Ought to be Forever" is an old fashioned romantic theme - a soft descending melody for strings over piano and brushed percussion again. "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" is a beautiful melody but the arrangement (yes, it might have been used like this in the film) is too clever by half and its beauty is fatally muted.
Finally we have Gato Barbieri's "Tango" for Last Tango in Paris (1972). (Rob Barnett reviewed the Ryko CD [RCD 10724] on this site last year.). A strident, discordant opening leads to an accordion and strings take on this well known ambivalent love theme.
An enjoyable compilation
VARIOUS The Hammer Film Music Collection Volume One GDI GDICD002 [54:59]
There is wonderful story behind the origin of this disc. Producer happened upon the recordings, when they were all thought to be lost. There will in fact be further volumes in the near future - such was the volume of the material discovered.
When Hammer is mentioned, there really is only name that stands out musically. I will forever salute James Bernard for his contributions to the genre, and to hear them as originally recorded is a massive treat. Beginning with The Devil Rides Out is a grand idea. We go straight into that unrelenting style of his. This is a particularly unnerving motif which ascends and repeats on those snare drums and sharp brass hits, reaching a register that wants to take the enamel off your teeth !
His pieces are scattered through the rest of the 25 cues, and encompass pretty much the best thematic material he penned. The outstanding Dracula theme still impresses every time I hear it. Here the sound is quite distant yet claustrophobic, and the pacing drum is a heartbeat waiting to explode. The inspired idea of his to spell out the title nasty in notes also appears in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, although somehow it is not quite as effective as Dracula or the recent Nosferatu. There is always a pervading eerieness in his pieces. A terrific example is the use of a solo female voice and a sustained synth chord throughout The Gorgon.
The other sound easily associated with Bernard is the bittersweet romantic strings he found a home for in the most unlikely of settings. Scars of Dracula feature those strings, offset and interrupted by the main theme, but the lovers theme that closes the album in Taste the Blood of Dracula is left alone and quite heartbreaking in its sincerity.
Let us not forget who else worked under the Hammer however. Christopher Gunning matched any such romantic heights with his gorgeous theme for Hands of the Ripper. Even Harry Robinson got a waltz in for Lust For A Vampire, and amazing subtlety for Countess Dracula. Then there is his Western swagger for Twins of Evil. Other fantastic contributions to the studio and this album came from Franz Reizenstein (The Mummy), Mario Nascimbene (Creatures he World Forgot), Carlo Martelli (The Curse of the Mummys Tomb), and Malcolm Williamson (Blood From the Mummys Tomb) amongst others. Roll on Volume 2.
Graeme REVELL The Siege OST VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-5989 [29:43]PLUS The Negotiator OST RESTLESS 74321621762 [41:24]
Above all else, Revell has been of interest through his obvious gift for rhythm. Right from Dead Calm, there has been something in his style suggestive of an ear for meter & the pacing of his scores to picture have been impressive indeed.
Of late, he has developed a style utilising synth percussion over an orchestral base. David Arnold found himself placed upon a pedestal for his collaboration with The Propellerheads on Tomorrow Never Dies, but Revell has been fiddling with this fusion for some time (as indeed have others). Seemingly back to back have arrived these 2 thriller scores, and with them a sad culmination of that stylistic development. He now sounds just like the others. To whit, he might well be of the Media Ventures ilk, pounding out a very thorough synth mock-up for a films producers and then not really needing to do much more.
"The Siege" from The Siege (yawn) could be right out of The Rock, The Peacemaker, or Con Air. It crashes and rolls, and you know darn well it wont be discernible under the films own noise. The same goes for "The FBI Building". In "The Blue Bus" some interesting use of volume on tracks distances the percussion from the theme on strings, but here the discs other problem arises. The title would seem to have been partly inspired by its similarity to the Speed motif. Should I go into the realms of familiarity ?
The opening "The Sheiks Abduction" has a sampled manipulated keyboard substituted for the guitars that achieved the same effect in Howard Shores Crash. "Theatre Bombing" has a shakahuchi right out of any number of Horner scores. "Investigation" has a wailing sample sounding for all he world like Christopher Frankes Shadow sound effect from the series Babylon 5. To round it off, both "Samir & Sharon" and "Torture" make uninspired use of the duduk. Revell probably didnt exactly introduce the instrument to the world through his use of it in The Crow, but it certainly caught on. It has appeared in all sorts of guises. Good as in Emil Cmirals Ronin, and bad as in Jo LoDucas Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. When Revell revisits that sound now himself, it just sounds like a parody of a parody.
The Negotiator has its share of familiarity too, but is on the whole a better score. "The Second Breach is another sampled noise nightmare, and it was with "Chris Sabian Replaced" that I realised a lot of the quieter sample passages of these scores were reminding me of John Powells Face/Off (another Media Ventures score). Try to ignore the referencing of Morricones The Untouchables at the end of "Hostage Crisis" too.
I did say this was better though, and that proves itself by the "Take the Shot", which is an elegy proper as opposed to "Elegy" which features those pesky Uillean Pipes. It gets elaborated upon in "Escape" by military drums and cymbal. A progression that makes its reappearance in the overture of an "End Titles" very welcome. A one-off appearance by solo guitar giving a lament to the end of "End Game" is also a welcome change of pace.
These havent put me off his work by any means. The Saint and Fled were two recent scores that more properly demonstrated his skills. Hopefully projects will inspire those heights again soon.
Antoine DUHAMEL La Nina de tus Ojos The City of Prague Philharmonicconducted by Mario Klemens CAM Original Soundtracks COS-700053 [55:58]
Symphonic music is not inherently funny, so the way to make instrumental music comical is to do something far beyond the norm. The result is always burlesque, which is not exactly gut-busting humor, and it typically degrades the 'serious' aspects of composition. "La Nina de tus Ojos" is a score that balances parody and drama in such a way as to make use of both ideals. True, there is nothing outrageously droll about the filmusic, but there is wit. The film itself is a dramatic comedy set in 1938 Berlin, with a Spanish film crew shooting an Andalusian musical titled "La Nina de tus Ojos" ("The Girl of Your Dreams.")
The music perfectly captures this setting. There are some clichés, including Hollywood-style outbursts that seem pilfered straight from John Williams' "1941" score, but these do not hamper the musical juggling act Duhamel creates. Two entertaining songs by Perello & Mostazo, 'Los Piconeros' and 'La Bien Paga,' liven things further.
The album begins with a rather pointless suite, 'Polaroids' From Film. The suite contains four movements, 'Los Piconeros' acting as bookends (the first sung in Spanish, then last in German) and the center two movements are the title track and the finale. It is an interesting idea, but one executed without structure, or melodic support. It serves no purpose when compared to the music in the film chronology. The soundtrack proper embodies variety and skill.
The production is agreeable. Biographies, plot synopsis, extensive credits, movie stills, and captions lay out in an attractive manner. The booklet is in Italian, English, French, and Spanish. The presentation is in Dolby Surround and sounds fine. The City of Prague Philharmonic deserves extra praise for an orchestral performance filled with a delightful abundance of grace and satire. It is an ensemble that captures the spirit of filmusic more than many better-known orchestras.
Paolo BUONVINO Ecco Fatto Orchestra di Roma Formazione Orchestrale CAM Original Soundtracks CAM-493056 [47:51]
Filmusic often expresses dynamic emotions and skills. That is what it exists for, to add this emotion and skill to the film as well as support its own non-diegetic contribution to the 'reality' of the film. I have not seen the Italian comedy "Ecco Fatto" (international films very rarely show in the American Mid-South), but the soundtrack has structure, drama, and humor.
Although the music calls for an assortment of symphonic elements, it has a few superficial effects, making some moments similar to light pop or folk music. Ordinarily this spells doom, but when done properly the result is very satisfying. Paolo Buonvino handles the job competently. With his so-so orchestration being the weakest attribute, the melodies and harmonies themselves must shine.
Three main themes appear. There is a bouncy tango, filled with adroit manner and a touch of wit. There is the 'Tormento' theme, a short tune with an unmistakably sad intent (the track name does say it all). The dominant theme, the 'Ecco Fatto' theme, is lyrical and heartfelt. It forms the basis for a song titled 'Le ali della felicita.' I cannot comment on the lyrics as I do not read or speak Italian, but the music is soothing, easy listening. The remainder of the cues primarily support the central material.
Ecco Fatto is not a classic film score, but it has a personality that is difficult to refuse. Being smart and stylish goes a long way.
The album includes a four-page booklet, with straightforward notes on the film, the director (with photograph), the composer (with photo), and the music production, as well as stills from the motion picture. The music presentation is in Dolby Surround and has little digital distortion.
As an aside, the album unfortunately ends with two pop songs (by four songwriters, Buonvino not among them) performed by Isterika. These songs are obscene. With pulsing rock guitars, the sounds of a Isterika having an orgasm (simulated, I should think), no sense of musical structure, the songs thoroughly trounce the senses. They are to the human ear what Indian Love Call is to the Martians from Mars Attacks. Isterika should have taken her hysteria and removed it from the area, because this is as bad as it gets.
Thank goodness, tracks 1 through 17 possess sanity!
Armando TROVAIOLI Rugantino Orchestra di Roma, Roman Academy Choir and I4+4 di Nora Orlandi conducted by Armando Trovaioli CAM Original Soundtracks CAM-493058 [68:38]
I do not read Italian,
nor speak it at all,
but music is universal,
so you know where I fall:
The lyrics are a complete mystery!
Thankfully the synopsis
provides me some history
to figure out what the fuss is about.
The composer is prolific,
with over 350 film scores to his name.
His stage musical is terrific --
it rarely bores or acts tame.
Like an Italian Leonard Bernstein
he injects it with jazzy rhythms and time.
The vocals are strong,
from soloist to throng.
The music is brilliant,
so how can one go wrong?
The story seems amusing
and the production is a delight
(though the sound does not quite take flight),
thus the 60-plus minutes do not feel too long.
With style from Broadway to baroque,
to blues to a neo-classical stroke,
this album is worth a listen.
Arthur B. RUBINSTEIN Motion Picture Scores OST SUPER TRACKS MUSIC GROUP ABR01/02
Nick of Time; Best of Times; Stakeout; Another Stakeout; Hypersapien; Wargames; Deal of the Century; The Hardway.
Note This is a very limited promotional edition that is only available from soundtrack mail order houses like SOUNDTRACKS DIRECT, BFS, Screen Archives,etc. Or it can be ordered directly from SUPERCOLLECTOR at www.supercollector.com
As a composer promo, this is on a par with those of Michael Lewis and Robert Folk in terms of ambition. It is generous in every department (except perhaps in notes). This is a double CD set covering 8 movies, and has almost consistently quality sound to boast too.
Nick of Time is about the worst of the ugly ducklings in actor Johnny Depps career. The hook of having the action unfold in real time (90 minutes) is interesting, but without Depp or Christopher Walken this might as well have been a TV movie of the week. Slightly predictably, the score opens on a Carnivalesque theme with strings, female voice and a ticking clock with bells. Were talking insanity and CLOCKS here. Wherever possible, the countdown will continue. "Union Station - The Innocents" is a little sweetness for Depp and daughter on synths prior to her kidnapping. "Rough Side Down" has some interesting arrangements for harp and a rhythmic beat. Both "Whats My Poison?" and "Suite Dream" play up the building suspense with various ticking effects with an occasional sweetness reminder for the daughter in danger. "Its 1:30" reminds a little of Christopher Youngs chasing theme from Hellraiser. This is the big countdown piece and brings the drama to a suitable high wake up alarm level.
Best of Times is a nice contrast, being very much comically upbeat. Think Police Academy with high trumpet over a marching band. "The Winning Dream" offers tenderness from guitar and strings. Then the band returns for the opening of "Night Game" and all of "Taft High Band". "The Pass - The Catch" is a gradual build of tinklings and drumrolls to suggest the momentousness of it all - captured inevitably in cringeworthy slow motion. Boy - sports based movies can be hideously predictable !
Another Stakeout opens surprisingly atmospherically; almost ghostly with an echoing piano figure that appears and disappears. A gentle harmonica adds to that mood. Then "Its A Dirty Job" is more like it - with raunchy trumpets and a funky rock beat. "Bloodhounds Are Us" features a harmonicas sassiness. Its odd that this should feature on disc one, before the original movie is covered disc two. Separating them ensures the material isnt overly repetitive, but the reversed order loses our appreciation of its development.
Hypersapien opens almost seemingly at Christmas, with excitable strings oozing blinking lights amongst the snow. A complete left turn with "Prairie Moon Rise" is the Western sound of yore. Left again for "Chasing A Trilyte", which is very surreal. Chinese mini-chimes work with a tick-tocking effect. Finally, "Leaving Earth" apparently occurs at Christmas time again. This is a very odd mix of styles for one small sci-fi movie.
Wargames is a musical exercise in creeping about. The opening is a cat burglars ideal accompaniment, offset only the once by a moment of fun for a tambourine. With "This Is Not A Game" the familiarity of John Williams style is introduced, and will stay throughout the score. "Finding Joshua" is about the only light moment for what tried hard to work as a comedy as well as a thriller. "Serious Threats" showcases a small heroic motif Matthew Broderick had, while a flipside saccharine sweetness pervades "Edge of the World". The sadly dated look at the computer world is brought to thundering conclusion with "Crashing NORAD" - a pounding action cue.
It is then a jarring transition into the guitar funk of the "Main Titles - Prison Riot" for Stakeout. "Marias Street" is almost a calypso, with shouting and a quite mad saxophone. In fact the sax is one of the scores key instruments along with: bass guitar, bongos, synths and electric guitar. The synths come off worse really, certainly in the rather lame romance for "Trust Me". As mentioned above, this might have come off better with a chronological sequence.
The mellow trombone of "The Idea" is a very welcoming start for Deal of the Century. We realise by "The Hustle" that a jazzy mood is the primary idea. Here a bass plays scale to brushed drums and a cheesy synthesiser, while other parts exude jazz from a fuller band and/or orchestra (e.g. "The Sellout"). For "The Seduction" its time to dim the lights baby ! This is Lounge seduction at its coolest. Contrasted against it are pulpy action histrionics in "The Plane", and Brazilian guitars in "South of the Border Sale" features. Later, "Serenata" is simply two guitars in conversation.
What a free-for-all opens The Hard Way. "Big Apple Juice" mixes Egyptian styles with South American and jazz. "Where Have You Gone, L. Ron ?" starts like the lounge jazz of Deal of the Century, and becomes something right out of Twin Peaks with a sax recorded from another room. A little typical rock action "N.Y.C. Subway Authority", and a fabulously sustained action cue, massing percussion, strings and horns with "Top of the World" brings the terrific final score and indeed the album, to a huge crescendo.
and Ian Lace adds a footnote
Arthur B. Rubinstein (not to be confused with, Arthur Rubinstein, the famous late classical concert pianist), I admit, is a name that is quite unfamiliar to me - probably because he has been unfortunate enough to have scored so many films that have been damned by the critics. Not one of the films listed has a good review in Halliwell. Which is a pity because Rubinstein's music is supremely colourful and individual with unexpected twists and turns that delight the ear; his music might be likened to looking at the brilliant ever-shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope. It is anarchic and whacky but above all it is fun. It is rare that such a sense of enjoyment and sheer exuberance is so strongly communicated. I enjoyed this set and I will certainly look out for the name Arthur B. Rubinstein on future film credits and I hope that this 2 CD promotional set will bring him commissions to score more worthy films.
ANDRZEJ KORZYNSKI Music to the films of Andrzej Wajda (1969-81) OST orchestras conducted by composer OLYMPIA OCD601 [77:28]
So much attention is focused on Hollywood's film music that we can easily forget the work of composers elsewhere. This is particularly true of the Eastern Bloc countries as they used to be known. Cultural and political barriers exacerbated the ignorance of these films and music although they travelled more freely from the early 1970s onwards and were increasingly seen in art-house cinemas and found their metièr on Channel 4 and BBC2.
As for Wajda's films I can in fairness recall seeing his grim war-time epics such as Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds in afternoon matinees on BBC during the 1960s. These were and remain granitically dark impressive films. They are lodged deeply in my consciousness. I was not greatly aware of the music and am not all clear as to who the composer(s) was although I seem to remember the name of the conductor Jan Krenz. I hope one day to hear the music for this series in a CD reissue and to review it here. Can anyone advise me of a source and catalogue numbers?
Man of Iron (1981 - 9 tracks - 26:58). The first two tracks are affecting string serenades on a single very strong theme. They occasionally veer towards Mantovani schmaltz but nothing seriously worrying. Track 3 is a horror with the theme taken by a Hammond organ and with a dreadfully seventies pop beat in the background. The fourth and fifth tracks are more restrained: like some grand pavane for strings. Tracks 6 and 7 have space age synthesised warblings mixed with 1970s USA TV music. All very dated and feeble now. The Funeral Music  returns to the strings for a sombrely meandering November-morning essay. The last track for the film is a starkly guitar accompanied song. It sounds like a bitterly spat-out folk-song - all hoarsely shouted.
Man of Marble (1977 - 8 tracks - 25:00). If the music for Man of Iron suffers from a dated trendiness then Man of Marble has it in spades. Electric guitars, processed choral singing, tinkling percussion and bongos dominate tracks 10-14. Track 15 (In the Shipyard) deploys a string orchestra in a sleepy evocative essay but even then the composer cannot resist a few burbles from the Hammond Organ and a 'get-on-down' guitar contribution. The Katowice Ironworks track sounds like a cross between Procul Harum, the Swingle Singers and the music for British Television's Countdown. The final track The Striptease has a breathy processed female breathing as an ostinato and over it a jazzy harmonica contribution. This is commercially appalling stuff.
The Birchwood (1970 - 3 tracks - 7:35) is a uplifting contrast to Man of Marble. A scorching violin solo (a sort of Lark Descending) against close-up strings and woodwind sings affectingly. A harpsichord adds to the atmosphere of this exotic aubade. This music might have come from some dream of Sheherazade. I am impressed with the quality of sound extracted by Olympia. The music resonates with that of Alan Hovhaness and Korzynski's countryman Szymanowski.
Hunting Flies (1969 - 7 tracks - 17:48) is dated. Imagine a cross between Swingle Singers cool, bossa nova, The Shadow of Your Smile, Claude Lelouch's Un Homme et Une Femme and you have the picture. Track 22 is dated pop. Track 23 is like the chase music from a Benny Hill TV show with an insufferable then hilarious Hammond organ. Track 24 again deploys a prominent and prominently awful Hammond. A Country Landscape  and The Wonderful House  takes us back to the attractive, palely Eastern and natural music of The Birchwood. The last track Trying to Catch a Fly is a deliberately reversed orchestral track (pity I cannot find a way of re-reversing it) which in its twitterings and swoopings ends the disc in the surreal.
Olympia's valiant series merits closest attention. There is great variety on this disc. Korzynski can clearly write music of striking mood magic as well as music of appalling date-stamped trendiness. There is too little of the former here. This is a well-filled disc which includes some extremely fine concert music (tracks 1, 2, 18-20, 25) as well as much that does not bear a second listen. It would be a great pity for you to miss the music on the listed tracks. It is amongst the most original and attractive I have heard in a long time.
The disc was issued as long ago as 1993 and received little critical attention at the time. I hope that you will try to track it down and explore its strengths as well as discovering some of its awesomely awful weaknesses. The notes are typically (for Olympia) excellent.
The low star rating reflects the majority of the tracks. The other tracks listed above merit at least four stars.
Sidney JONES The Geisha Lilian Watson; Christopher Maltman; Sarah Walker; Richard Suart; the New London Light Opera Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp HYPERION CDA67006 [77:12]
Through the years a whole series of stage plays, operas and Hollywood films have given us a somewhat clichéd view of Japan and its culture - (the films include: Sayonara and The Teahouse of the August Moon to name but two.) The Geisha was one of the earliest such models. It dates from 1896 and is very much in the mould of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. It was written by Sidney Jones a now very much forgotten composer whose musical style has long since been eclipsed, yet in the period between the early 1890s and the first World War his stage productions enjoyed considerable success. They included: A Gaiety Girl, An Artist's Model, and A Greek Slave (which was a precursor of Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). But The Geisha - A Story of The Teahouse was his greatest success; it ran at Daly's Theatre, London for an unprecedented 760 performances and in its initial production, it starred Marie Tempest as Mimosa and Letty Lind as Molly.
The Geisha, described as a Japanese musical play is bright and breezy. Its musical style is Victorian/turn-of-the-century lyricism which would be swept into redundancy by the music of 1920s Broadway. From this period, only the music of Gilbert and Sullivan has survived with any real success. Yet, once attuned to this style, listeners will find much to amuse and beguile them in The Geisha. The story line is one of romantic and comic complications. The Tea House of the Thousand Joys (run by devious Chinaman Wun-Hi) - and, especially, its Geishas are a magnet to visiting English naval officers led, on this occasion by Lieutenant Reginald Fairfax who flirts with Mimosa the Chief Geisha. Fairfax's fiancée, Molly, is not amused and resolves to teach him a lesson by dressing as a Geisha and surprising him. In the meantime the Tea House is threatened with closure by womanising Marquis Imari, chief of police and Governor of the Province who is determined to have Mimosa to the chagrin of her admirer Katana Captain of the Governer's Guard. Many misunderstandings occur before all the lovers are united happily.
The opening chorus, "Happy Japan" is bright and breezy and reminds one of the style of the Elgar part songs as well as of Gilbert and Sullivan. Clearly, many of the lyrics would be considered politically incorrect today such as those in the early patter song, "The dear little Jappy-Jap-Jappy" but they are conveyed with such innocence and irresistible charm that such considerations have to be dismissed. Both Lillian Watson as Mimosa and, particularly, Sarah Watson as Molly are excellent; they enter into the spirit of the work with enthusiastic commitment and without any trace of condescension. Mimosa's first big number, reminiscent of the style of Edward German, the charming "The Amorous Goldfish" has a nice catchy refrain. Molly, in her first number, shared with Christopher Maltman as Fairfax, remembers her toys in "The Toy", and amusingly derides Fairfax for toying with the Geishas. Sarah Watson at once shows her considerable comic and mimicking talents which she later demonstrates to the full when she mimics a kill-joy parrot determined to destroy the love life of two canaries in the delightful Act II comic song "The Interfering Parrot". Molly is also given one of the more risqué songs, "Chon Kina" which she delivers in her Geisha disguise. Lyrics like - "And if my art entices, Then at extra prices, I can dance for you in quite another way" may seem surprising, but then they were the Naughty Nineties! Richard Suart is in great form as Wun-Hi singing such tongue-twisting numbers as "Ching-a-ring-a-ree". Maltman and the chorus have their turn to shine in "Jack's the Boy" a sly and salty song with an engaging refrain about a roguish sailor with a girl in every port. The ensemble pieces are very clever and amusing too. Take the concerted piece, "We're going to call on the Marquis", when the company plan to have their revenge on the overbearing Police Chief It has all the hallmarks of the best of G&S and German.
Ronald Corp can add this sparkling album to the growing number of first class light music albums he has recorded for Hyperion
Compilations: Cowboy Classics:-
Gene Autry - "The Last Round-Up" ASV CDAJA 5264
Roy Rogers - "The King of the Cowboys" ASV CDAJA 5297
When I was a boy, in the late 1940s, Saturday was film club day when we children all stormed the local cinema (theatre) to be thrilled by the cliff-hanger serials, laugh at clowns like Laurel and Hardy and cheer the heroes of the big adventure films. When these were westerns they were often Roy Rogers or Gene Autry but when these cowboys stopped chasin' shootin' and fightin', and picked up their guitars and began to sing, we all cringed, groaned, whistled and stamped our feet in protest at these sissy interruptions. Our teenage sisters thought otherwise for they bought Autry and Rogers records in their millions. Now after so many years, it is instructive and a revelation to hear these ballads with more mature ears.
Gene Autry first recorded his songs in 1929 and over the years he sold millions of records. He reached the zenith of his fame in the 1930s and 1940s. His easy and understated manner, yet considerable technical skills charmed audiences. He modelled his style on the yodelling blues singing of Jimmie Rogers the first superstar of what would eventually be called country music. But, soon, Gene's songs took on a smoother, softer quality that brought his style closer to the more lucrative mainstream pop market.
This album commences with probably Autry's best remembered song, "The Last Roundup" and comprises 25 numbers many from Mascot, Republic, 20th Century Fox and Columbia films of the period. In "The Old Covered Wagon", he is teamed with Smiley Burnette his comic sidekick in so many of his films. Smiley was, himself, a gifted musician and composer. There is an interesting range of songs here from the sentimental songs like "Mother, Here's a Bouquet for You", composed by Smiley Burnette, to the swing-era inspired "Down in the Land of Zulu".
There are also 25 songs in the Roy Rogers album and it, too, begins with one of the singing cowboy star's best known numbers, "Tumbling Tumbleweed" recorded in 1936 with Rogers's famous backing group, The Sons of the Pioneers. Early on he played guitar and developed a considerable skill as a square-dance caller. "Round That Couple, Go Through and Swing" demonstrates his speed and clarity. Roy Rogers (real name Leonard Slye), the most successful of the singing cowboys, took his art to new heights.
Rogers made 100 or so B movies teamed with cowgirl (and Rogers's second wife) Dale Evans and old timer comedian Gabby Hayes and of course Bullet the dog and Trigger his horse. [The songs cover the period 1936 to 1947 so alas we don't have probably Roy's best loved song, "A Four-Legged Friend" which he crooned to Trigger in the 1952 Bob Hope spoof western Son of Paleface.] Nevertheless, all the old favourites are here including: "When the Golden Train Comes Down", "Hi-Yo Silver", "Along the Navajo Trail", "Hold that Critter Down", "Blue Shadows on the Trail", "Pecos Bill" and "Home on the Range."
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