November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger





Anne DUDLEY Ancient & Modern   Composed, Arranged, and Conducted by Anne Dudley   ANGEL 7243 5 56868 2 4 [61:00]

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Anne Dudley, best known for her work with The Art of Noise and to filmusic fans for her [some might say scandalous] Oscar win with "The Full Monty," enters the classical arena with this effectual debut album of reinterpreted carols, chorales, and hymns. In doing so, it sounds as if Dudley brought forward every Thespian force she has at her disposal.

The track selection alone is incredible. It can be a joy to hear new things, but it can be equally joyous to hear old things in new ways! With excerpts of J.S. Bach, Thomas Tallis, and several traditional English melodies, there is no shortage of variety and technical, emotional, or theological depth to the compilation's listing. Dudley's orchestrations are nearly as impressive: She turned the unforgettable Sussex Carol into a canzonetta for string quintet that left me wanting more. She transformed the already mysterious 'Tallis' Canon' into a symphonic work with sincere, bold, dramatic concentration. She took Bach's Prelude in B-flat minor and arranged it as an extremely listenable essay for double reed quintet. And more. The album succeeds in both sacred and secular senses as 'a great noise.'

Some uncomfortable moments remain, but these mostly center on repetitive, soporific, generally synthesized musical undercurrents. Fans of minimalism may enjoy the inventiveness, but those who feel minimalism is a bit, well, minimal will discover tracks that are most certainly hard going. (The Steve Reich motivated adaptation of 'The Holly and the Ivy' may leave some listeners wanting to drench the ivy in Roundup and chop down the holly once and for all... I had to fight that urge myself.)

The sound is frequently resonant, the performances from orchestra, choir, percussionists, et al are commanding, and the sleeve notes (song texts and a short Anne Dudley biography) help add to one's perspective of what went into this disc. The album production is uniformly tiptop.

Victorian author Thomas Carlyle once wrote, "Music is well said to be the speech of angels." Taking Carlyle's words at face value, I venture to add that Dudley's angelic muse must speak very eloquently.


Jeffrey Wheeler


Jeffrey Wheeler

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