Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
October 1999 Film Music CD
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As part of our homage to Alfred Hitchcock (b.1899) our reviewers have chosen videos of Hitchcock films to review paying particular attention to the use of music in the films. These video films carry scores by Bernard Herrmann, Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, John Williams and Ro Goodwin. Click on icons for reviews
This month we are carrying reviews of a number of classic scores distribute by Hot Records.
Jocelyn POOK Eyes Wide Shut OST WARNER Sunset/ Reprise 9362-47450-2 [57:50]
If you remember his choice of music for his other films, you will not be surprised that Kubrick opted for a wide range of source music together with vivid and varied original music by Jocelyn Pook. Her contribution is limited to four remarkable cues. 'Naval Officer,' the subject of Nicole Kidman's erotic fantasies, is very interesting and technically accomplished writing for a modest string ensemble. It has a quality of spaciousness, vast sea vistas and rolling waves over deep waters - and loneliness. It is a highly evocative, polytonal, mini tone poem. 'The Dream' seems to be an extension of 'Naval Officer' with a high-pitched eerie tone and uncomfortable string glissandos that imply that this is not a pleasant or logical dream. It begins with a most uncomfortable chord that one recognises as the wiry humming noise one experiences in the head as one regains consciousness after a fainting spell. Extraordinary and disturbing. So, too, is 'Masked Ball' which introduces timps at the beginning of what sounds like an orchestral tuning up session, before a ghostly bass voice enters moaning in some arcane tongue to be joined by a tenor later with strings commenting darkly beneath. This is the music underscores the mysterious crimson-cloaked and masked figure that directs the ring of masked naked females out of the ring to their partners for the night in the Orgy scene and very effective it is too. 'Migrations' (composed by Jocelyn Pook and Harvey Brough), again for the orgy scenes, is a more exotic, strongly but insistent rhythmic, ethnic creation for colourful percussion, bass guitar and soprano with North African-type wailings from a tenor voice.
The source music. As for 2001, A Space Odyssey, Kubrick, chooses György Ligeti, but this time for some piano music called Musica Ricercata II (Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale). This is just a 'high-falutin' name for a collection of well-spaced, one-chord keyboard hammerings and what sounds like basic piano exercises but again, they are disturbingly and chillingly effective in the context of the film. Much more impressive (as music) is Shostakovich's Waltz 2 from his Jazz Suite played with sardonic élan by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly. The other piece of classical source music is Liszt's Grey Clouds performed by Dominic Harlan (who also plays the Ligeti piece. There is also jazz from Chris Isaak - 'Baby did a bad thing,' plus the strict tempo of 'When I fall in love,' as performed by The Victor Silvester Orchestra and Duke Ellington's 'I Got it Bad' as performed by the Oscar Peterson Trio.
Other source music: 'If I had You,' performed by Roy Gerson; 'Stranger's in the Night,' performed by the Peter Hughes Orchestra; and 'Blame it on my youth' played by Brad Mehldau;
For Pook's music -
Jerry GOLDSMITH The 13th Warrior OST VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6038 [55:06]
The 13th Warrior, based on a novel by Michael Crichton, is about an elegant Arab emissary (Antonio Banderas) who is abducted by a band of cruder-cultured Vikings and forced to join their quest to battle mysterious creatures legendary for consuming every living creature in their path. So Jerry Goldsmith had to not only forge a grand heroic theme in the grand traditional manner but also show the contrast between the two cultures. 'Old Bagdad' immediately suggests all the exotic colour of the locale and the heroic nature of the Banderas character in striking strongly rhythmic music. The mood of Arabian exoticism carries over into the second cue 'Exiled' beginning in more subdued and pastoral/elegiac mood before the tempo quickens and the music grows more agitated and excited. Goldsmith's textures are dense and most interesting to the ear and his ethnic orchestrations very vivid. If you remember his score for The Mummy, then you will know what to expect. There are also some extraordinary synth birdsong-like effects prominent in the third cue 'Semantics' as well as the usual array of ethnic percussion and male chanting voices. 'The Great Hall' impressively introduces archaic religious chants and church bell tollings to the Moorish modes in a mysterious/mystical mix before the heroic material asserts itself. Another richly textured track is "Eaters of the Dead" eerie and repulsive with sudden staccato shocks and particularly sour brass snarlings and glissandos.
Viking heads is a powerful orchestral outburst suggesting the strident might and brute strength of the Vikings; massive timpani and anvil hammerings support crude but thrilling brass fanfares. In 'The Sword Maker' we hear the might of Thor again plus the heroic theme which is richly developed. 'Horns of Hell' is another showcase for sets of timps across the sound stage and steel upon steel with stalwart men's chorus and the threat of mysterious creatures in the background and suspense and chase music. I think I have written enough to convey the gist of this score. The remaining tracks develop this basic material with Goldsmith's usual ingenuity.
If it is colour and excitement you want, it is here in abundance - a rich, thick-textured score with enough variety to hold the attention; however, apart from the newer synth elements, the overall impression is of familiar territory being revisited. Having said that, this score is definitely a cut above similar work from the competition
Don DAVIS Universal Soldier The Return Performed by the composer VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6068 [49:21]
After Arnold Schwarzenegger struck gold with Total Recall and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, there was a horrible time when it looked as if the muscle-bound action men were taking over from real actors. Sylvester Stallone made a box-office comeback with Cliffhanger and Demolition Man, Steven Segal had a bona fide box-office smash with Under Siege, and Jean-Claude Van Damme did better than he ever should in Hard Target, Timecop and Universal Soldier. This latter title, a cheap Terminator 2 imitation made by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich as a step on the way to Stargate and Independence Day, proved to be Van Damme's greatest hit. So much so that there are now two simultaneously released sequels. Universal Soldier II is a straight-to-video TV series pilot, while Universal Soldier The Return is Van Damme's 'official' follow-up. Bargain-basement video fare, it has somehow escaped into cinemas.
Given that the acclaimed science fiction action movie The Matrix catapulted Don Davis into the major league, it is surprising to find this is his follow-up project, so presumably the contracts were signed long before the former film was made. The packaging is typically minimal for a Varese Sarabande release, but at least the playing time exceeds Varese's all too common 30 minutes. The cover declares that the music is composed and performed by Don Davis, so with the exception of Jason Miller's guitars it appears this is an entirely synthesised recording. Frighteningly, such is the quality of modern samples, it is very difficult to tell: the album sounds like a combination of orchestra and electronics in typically modern military action style.
This isn't the place to come looking for tunes. Virtually the entire score consists of hard-edged suspense and combat 'Mickey-mouse' music. Davis offers lots of snare tattoos, brooding atmospheric textures, hammering, anvil-like percussion, atonal piano and fast sequenced riffs. Three tracks sound like heavy metal instrumentals, complete with squealing electric guitar. Doubtless this is appropriate, given that the film is cinema what heavy metal is to music. The best than can be said is that it is relentlessly efficient, thoroughly professional, and doubtless serves Universal Soldier The Return as well as anything might. Unfortunately, it is also utterly generic, sounding much like the accompaniment to many second-rate modern action movies. Coming full circle, it is the sort of thing Jerry Goldsmith started with his excellent score for Total Recall, but that was almost a decade ago and was an original from the pen of a master. This is not, and as an independent listening-experience, it just might enhance a game of 'Action Man'.
Gary S. Dalkin
Michael NYMAN & Damon ALBARN Ravenous OST The Michael Nyman Orchestra conducted by Michael Nyman EMI 7243 5 22370 2 9 [75:55]
This is initially a somewhat daunting album: three of the first four tracks are out-of-tune. They are source cues, featuring the deliberately and comically bad playing of either traditional American tunes, or music in a similar idiom, by an on-screen band. A less uncompromising album would have tucked these tracks away at the end, or more likely left them off altogether. Quite what an unsuspecting customer who goes into their local record shop and, having enjoyed Michael Nyman's soundtrack to The Piano, asks to listen to this album will think is anyone's guess! The comedic cinematic potential for embarrassingly bad musicianship is well known, but without the visuals the joke obviously doesn't really work.
Even when we reach the score 'proper', it is still presents quite a challenge. There is over an hour-and-a-quarter of music, and it carries the disorientating shock of the new, such that it may take many listens to begin to formulate an opinion of the disc. This is quite a heartening achievement, that still in 1999 a film score can sound new and fresh and really not like anything which has gone before, though perhaps it is not surprising that a gothic-black-comedy-horror-cannibal-Western should have a distinctive musical accompaniment.
Clearly this is a most unusual collaboration, and it appears to be a genuine partnership of equals. On the front cover the music is credited to Damon Albarn & Michael Nyman, while on the back cover the names are in reverse order. Approaching this from a film music point-of-view, Nyman is obviously the major name: this does not sound particularly like a Michael Nyman score. There are some familiar elements, some of the composer's famed minimalist repetition and predilection for string textures, but overall this is a denser, darker and more intense work than anything I have previously heard from Michael Nyman. That said, this sounds even less like a Damon Albarn album. Albarn, for those who do not know, is the lead singer with the very successful rock band Blur. He made his film acting debut with a small role in director Antonia Bird's previous film, Face, and now has been promoted to her co-composer. Whatever his contribution to Ravenous, and he is credited in addition to composing, with co-production (with Nyman) and 'Additional sequenced orchestrations', he has not brought Blur to the cinema with him.
'Boyd's Journey' The first part of the score 'proper' opens with a single repeated plucked note on a banjo, then is joined by a drum, and a simple but very memorable melody on squeeze-box. There is a plaintive, resigned and lonely quality to the theme, which will recur throughout the score. A slow and dark minimalism stalks through 'Stranger at the Window', setting the tone for much of the following music.
Things really start to come together with 'Colquhoun's Story'. Over what appears to be a loop of part of 'Boyd's Journey', more and more layers of instrumental colour are added. First a sharp plucked steel guitar, then flute, eventually building to the powerful entry of massed strings. The piece continues to grow in vertiginous circling fashion, acquiring great dramatic power until the fade. 'Trek to the Cave' is more conventional, offering lush strings and writing in a vein similar to Nyman's The Piano Concerto (without the piano), but ends with an explosion of frenetic violence.
'The Cave' is, at 8 minutes, one of the central tracks of the score. Opening as a strange ambient soundscape of bells, drums and an unidentifiable 'strange sound', at least part of which is synthesised, the writing changes to suspenseful harp arpeggios, dissonant strings and uneasy piano notes. Over unstoppable percussion the piece climbs to a fever-pitch of furious dark malevolence, such that the jaunty little dance for fiddle and banjo which follows is quite a relief. The respite is short-lived: '"Let's Go Kill that Bastard"' is another suspense cue of tremendous cumulative power, again involving implacable percussion, but this time adding a solo violin and what appear to be marimbas.
'"The Pit"' is almost an off-kilter carousel theme. The ghost of Bernard Herrmann seems to be offering his approval to this elegant, lugubrious intermission. Darker territories call, and a force of destiny drives the musical narrative along to the epic 'Saveoursoulissa'. A drum echoes over what sounds like a record-player stuck in a groove, complete with surface noise. A distant resonant electronic voice growls as it rises and falls, and a wordless (sampled?) female voice floats above a rattling cimbalom. As other sounds enter the soundscape obtains staggering power, creating a sense of utter desperation and inevitable destruction. This is a stark, gothic piece closer to something by early 90's 'goth-rock' band The Fields of the Nephilim than any conventional film music, the climactic chants lending this a chill power as unsettling as Jerry Goldsmith's The Omen.
There are three more tracks on the album, though not yet having seen the film, I can not comment as to if they are part of the score, or bonus tracks created for the album. The latter seems more likely, as they draw on material already heard, but contain more overt electronic elements as a result of 'additional production and mix' by William Orbit. 'Boyd's Beauty pt.A' is an ambient version of 'Boyd's Journey', raising the question, what happened to pt.B? 'Screech Jam' is a furious nightmare, and might work very well in a horror film context, but is almost too intense for separate listening. Nevertheless, the production and mixing are extremely accomplished. Finally, 'The Pit' is a distorted mix of the previous piece of the same title, processed with considerable amounts of electronic reverb to the extent that all the icy beauty of the piece is transformed into a surreal, dreamlike waltz to which almost any reaction is possible. I honestly do not know if I like it or not, yet it is undeniably entrancing.
75 minutes later, the effect is overwhelming, exhausting, breathtaking. Two very different and distinctive musicians have together produced something utterly unexpected. This is extraordinary film music and a remarkable album. Such is the intensity of the experience that I am not sure that I will want to listen to it all that often, but now that I have the album I would not want to be without it. Some will love this, others detest it. Few will be indifferent. It is that rare thing, a work which continues the more experimental traditions of film music to create something new and original, and it may be that it will take some years before the worth of this score can really be assessed. Even so, come December, I am certain it is going to be accounted one of the most important works of the year.
Gary S. Dalkin
David NEWMAN Bowfinger OST VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6040 [41:28]
The tracks are:
1. There is always one more time.......Johnny Adams
2. You're a wonderful one.................Marvin Gaye
3. And I love you so..........................Perry Como
4. Mambo UK....................................Cubanismo!
5. Super bad, super slick.....................James Brown
6. Secret agent man............................Johnny Rivers
The remaining tracks are from the film score composed by David Newman
7. Betsy chases Kit/The first shot/A short ride/Dave makes a call/Dave returns camera
8. Cafe set-up/Shooting the cafe/Stealing Renfro's car/Auditioning the butts
9. "Chubby rain"
10.Clothing store/Daisy rescues Kit
12.Finale/ Fed Ex delivers
This is really an album in two parts, one part features music written for the film by David Newman and the other part is of established icons of the pop world past and present "struttin' their stuff". I enjoyed the former more than the latter, the Bowfinger Band are a bunch of top professionals at work and they are all worthy of mention.
Steve Shaeffer-Drums and Percussion, Lenny Castro-Percussion, Mike long and Jim Cox Keyboards, Dean Parks and George Doering-Guitar, Neal Stubenhaus-Bass Guitar, Dan Higgins-Saxes and Gary Grant-Trumpet.
It is probably a sign of the times that the sound crew was as large as the Band! To my way of thinking this is a mixed blessing, whilst no-one can deny it has delivered a first class product, I would have loved to be in the studio to hear what the band sounded like live! (If you think these are the comments of an old saxophone player, you are probably correct!) The important thing however is that I enjoyed the music in this part of the CD so much, that I would like to see the film.
The first six tracks do however have their highlights, I particularly enjoyed 'Mambo UK', there is some excellent musicianship and arranging on display here. It would be nice to know who was responsible, the sleeve doesn't say. Johnny Adams on track one has a nice jazz feel to his vocals, Margin Aye and Perky Comma in their respective time, are in the "quality" pop business. Super bad, Super slick is James Brown with his own song and an excellent band, well worth a listen. The Johnny Rivers track is worthy of similar comments, but the backing reminds me of France Lain!
All in all a good value CD, I would give it four stars, if only for the film score, but I am sure many would disagree and award the stars for the vocals.
Carlo CRIVELLI La Balia.* Del Perduto Amore + * Orchestra Sinfonica Della Marsica + Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra PACIFIC TIME PTE8515-2 [71:36]
Clearly Carlo Crivelli is a firm admirer of Bernard Herrmann for he quotes the swirling figures from Vertigo in both these scores and the Scene d'Amour obliquely in Del Perduto Amore.
It has to be said these are dark scores - many would say black - and they do not make easy or comfortable listening. La Balia opens menacingly with swirling, surging material; agitated string figures rush across the sound stage. This is darkly dramatic stuff , very operatic and, indeed in parts reminiscent of Verdi. For 'Annetta' Crivelli thins his texture so that it becomes almost a chamber ensemble with clarinet and cello prominent. This smaller ensemble continues through 'Le pazze' another highly disturbing cue remote, cold, intense with the music staccato and spaced with many short pauses. This music screeches, it is disconnected and dissonant. 'Il dolore inespresso' continues the mood and conveys at first inexpressive grief before harp figures gradually warm the temperature in preparation for 'Tema di Valeria' which is warmer and more lyrical but still tinged with melancholy.
The music for Del Perduto Amore is slightly warmer and more optimistic but not much. The opening title cue is romantic and sentimental with a harder dissonant middle section. Crivelli obviously favours harsh dissonant music to underscore menace this time from the Fascists, these manifest themselves as crude brass glissandos and other 'sour' figures and are met with proud defiance in such cues as 'La bellissima maestrina.' 'Il prete e il fascista' contrasts an elegant Mozart-like gentility with growly, gruff low woodwind figures. The swirling Herrmann quotations figure prominently in 'Distruzione della scuola' and in the nine-minute suite from the film which also includes music of passion that alludes to Herrmann's Scene d'Amour.
Strong stuff indeed, you'll need something much lighter as an antidote immediately after listening to this disc.
And Didier C. Deutsch says:-
It would have helped enormously had the label, Pacific Time, provided some information about these films or, for that matter, composer Carlo Crivelli. But the scant text included with this CD, track listing over color photo (from what film?), doesn't reveal anything significant. Only a banner at the top of the booklet cover indicates that La Balia was an official selection at the 52nd Cannes Film Festival in 1999.
Directed by Marco Bellocchio, La Balia (The Nanny), a period drama, apparently made an impressive debut at the Festival, for its powerful austerity and solid technical assets. Based on a novel by Luigi Pirandello, this psychological costume drama set in the early 1900s, mingles profound topics such as mental disabilities, motherhood and marital instability, against the broader framework of social unrest and police repression. Typical of the director's usual approach, the film is a clinical look at these conflicting aspects, made even more oppressive as a result of Bellocchio's fondness for psychoanalytical comments that frequently interfere with the deliberately slow action. The story of a respected neuropsychiatrist, married to a much younger woman whose mental stability begins to fray following the birth of their son, and the effect of the arrival of a comely young country girl (the nanny of the title) has on them when she comes to care for the baby, La Balia suggested to Crivelli a score that has unnerving accents, probably as a reflection of the claustrophobic drama.
With frequent calls on the low strings, and only an occasional sprinkling of a flute to relieve the tedium, the cues sound ominous and profoundly disturbing. No doubt that, behind the action, they served their purpose and enhance the moods, but as an audio experience the sparse instrumentation and relative lack of melodic material do not provide much fodder for listening enjoyment.
The instrumentation is much more florid, and the themes much more attractive (probably to reflect the romantic aspects of the story itself) in Del Perduto Amore, a film directed by Michele Placido. But since there is no way to tell how the music parallels or informs the action, the listener's only frame of reference becomes the melodic aspects of the score, quite compelling. Generally speaking, the moods expressed here are also somber and deliberately slow, but the themes are attractively laid out, in a way that at times evokes Bernard Herrmann ("Distruzione della scuola," with its five-note motif that recalls the opening cue of Vertigo). Three long selections (including a 9:12 suite), give Crivelli (only known to this day for two minor scores, La condana and Il principe di Humburg) a better opportunity to show his mettle, and make a profound impression as a romanticist.
Of the two scores combined on this CD, this is probably the one that will involve the listener most, causing him/her to return more frequently to this set of cues. Too bad there is no way to determine how the music blends in with the action, and what role it plays in it.
Didier C. Deutsch
Paolo BUONVINO Come Te Nessuno Mai Music Composed, Orchestrated, and Directed by Paolo Buonvino CAM 496125 [37:25]
I had the mild pleasure of reviewing the "Ecco fatto" soundtrack earlier this year, and from the makers of that film now arrives another coming-of-age comedy from Italy, "Come te nessuno mai." Buonvino again uses light pop and ethnic music aspects in his orchestrations, but he accomplishes more than he has previously when it comes to juxtaposing the styles to form a score teeming with personality.
The presence of obvious pop ambient factors, likely used to lay stress on the contemporary setting as seen through the eyes of the film's teenage cast, cheapens the musical flow on a few bothersome occasions, but usually serves as support for the dramatic, orchestral current. Danny Elfman, David Shire, Jerry Goldsmith, Stanley Myers, and Hans Zimmer wrote hybrid film scores of their own, and Paolo Buonvino sounds quite skillful at it... The instrument run-down seems to be a 37-piece string orchestra, a 5-piece wind section, 2 French horns, a drum kit, a piano, a synthesizer, a lyre, and an accordion. If one accepts the idea that any musical instrument, used well (a rare event, that is true), can function beautifully and creatively as an addition to 'serious' composition, then this score is a minor miracle. Some may view the sour moments not as flaws, but as euphonious quirks.
Admittedly, the highest point of interest remains the diverse themes. A noteworthy peak of the score is a warmhearted waltz, titled 'Dylan,' that does not set new standards, but is superbly entertaining and, rather tellingly, caused me to punch the 'repeat' button on my stereo. The main theme, the 'Occupazione' theme, is quick, sly, and diligent, mixing together several forms under one roof. A secondary melody, the 'Achivio' theme, is more traditional, but orchestrated in manners that make me think it is fairly reminiscent of J.A.C. Redford's "The Astronomers," or a budget version of Jerry Goldsmith's "Congo!" The composer first introduces 'Empty' as an easy listening instrumental for accordion, finally as a vocal work performed by Francesca Belloni.
While this is one instance where the creative blend is frightfully uneven, it does work (if I may be so bold as to confess it) as easy listening.
Buonvino's approach is fascinating. Certainly it is not to everybody's taste, but one can become pleasantly surprised. This music is an excellent subject to explore.
Wojciech KILAR La Neuvième Porte (The Ninth Gate) OST Sumi Jo (Soprano); The City of Prague Philharmonic and Chorus conducted by Stepan Konicek SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 321 [54:07]
This Roman Polanski film, I understand, is about dark Satanic rites and it stars Johnny Depp in what promises to be one of his celebrated bizarre roles. The screenplay revolves around its characters vying for a certain book that includes the nine illustrations, reproduced below, all of them having hidden meanings.
Wojeiek Kilar has created, without having to resort to synth bolsterings, a sort of modern Gothic score that must be chillingly effective in the theatre. It is certainly darkly scary in its own right.
The first cue 'Vocalise' - the main theme lets us into the horrors gently with slow faltering piano and harpsichord figures supporting a sweetly melancholy soprano intoning wordlessly. The title is indicative for this track is very reminsicent of Rachmaninov's work of the same name. Clever this because Rachmaninov's music was often doom-laden and frequently based on the Dies irae chant for the dead. This cue becomes more intense as first upper strings joining the texture followed by lower stings adding gravitas. The Opening Titles are an exercise in deepest, blackest string writing suggesting a malignant stalking menace. Higher strings add staccato stabbings augmenting the sense of deep foreboding with no relief.
'Corso' is a strange jazzy contrast. Over syncopated harpsichord and pizzicato strings, an assertive, domineering solo trumpet holds centre stage. The music, at this point, sounds very much like Prokofiev or Shostakovich. Then lower woodwinds continue the jaunty syncopations grotesquely before doleful strings continue the slow malignant march of the Opening Titles. 'Bernie is dead' is another eerie/sinister/darkly comic cue for pizzicato double basses and bassoons with piano struck in its highest register, those syncopations return for a 'sick' funeral march. Liana moves the music to highest strings and treble percussion, piano, vibraphone, celeste, bells etc giving a remote, glistening other-worldly. The music is repetitive, almost hypnotic, minimalist Philip Glass-like subtly modulating and shifting dynamics. Another contrast presents itself as 'Plane to Spain' (Bolero) as the domineering trumpet now becomes really proud and haughty proclaiming over strong Spanish-rhythms in the strings. This part of the cue reminds one of both De Falla and Ravel but soon the rhythm slows and the mood darkens to a sense of foreboding once more. Those high pitched piano chords jar the nerves in The Motorbike before mysterious high sustained brass chords and bells with a sort of echoing soprano solo screw the tension tighter. The 'Missing Book' summons back the jazzy syncopated chords with harpsichord and trumpet making sardonic comment then 'Stalking Corso' has spaced pounding percussion, heavy piano chords and snarling brass in frightening crescendo - the writing shows marked originality over the usual chase music.
The calm before the storm comes with the short soprano solo 'Blood on his Face.' 'Chateau Saint Martin' is an eerie exercise for high strings and percussion with muffled cymbals it sounds like the chiming of many clocks and finally mournful and finaly disonant tolling of bells. 'Liana's Death, 'Boo' and 'The Chase' are all creepy, Gothic, fearsome don't look behind you cues all masterly written. But it is 'Balkan's Death' that really impresses. Timpani and percussive poundings with repeated tam-tam strokes and low bassoon grumblings suggest the beast arising from the fires of hell. A devilish men's chorus (Orf-like) reinforces this feeling of utter evil and malice. Only the soprano voice promises any relief. 'The Ninth Gate' is another remote-sounding soprano solo followed by mysterious high register music seems to usher in music that has a redeeming radiance. 'Corso and the Girl' suggests victory of light over darkness - or does it?
Soprano Sumi Jo's beautifully pure tones add poignancy in contrast with the score's palpable malignancy; and the City of Prague Philharmonic is on top form. An extraordinary, darkly memorable score.
Nicola PIOVANI Tu Ridi (includes Mas Alla Del Jardin) Pacific Time PTE 8508-2
With well over 80 film scores to his credit, Nicola Piovani has been writing charming themes for films since 1970. Since his 1998 Oscar win for Life if Beautiful, Pacific Time has released a number of his scores for the North American audience.
Amongst them is the album Tu Ridi, which includes two gorgeous scores from the films, 1998's Tu Ridi (You Laugh) and 1997's Mas Alla Del Jardin (Beyond the Garden). In classic Piovani tradition, both revolve around compelling, lyrical main themes that are expressed strongly throughout the score with varied instrumentation. Piovani albums are easy to love for fans who love film music for those unforgettable themes. His main themes are always fabulous and memorable, and repeated enjoyably in different styles and tones in almost every track. There is very little background "filler" music to endure, as it were.
Whether Piovani simply selects the most melodic cues for release or he only writes melodic music, the entire listening experience of his albums is notably effortless and pleasing. His orchestration in both scores is phenomenal--this is one composer who has an intuitive grasp of the perfect blend of sounds and effects to pull heartstrings.
Tu Ridi's main theme is an enchanting tune with somewhat of a yearning, old world feel. Melting with the richness of ripe, vintage wine, the theme is unspeakably beautiful when performed with a cello in "Felice Abbandonato." Other times, the same melody expresses sorrow, hope, fear, and resolution, using different instruments and tempo. There is a second theme that soars at a faster tempo and climbs to mischievious heights, as if someone's mind is racing with plots. There are a few other cues that take different turns in mood, including a highly percussive dance with an electric guitar jamming away.
Mas Alla Del Jardin (Beyond the Garden) is likewise a spellbinding, eloquent piece. Here, Piovani wrote a main theme using strings galore, with a resounding, weighty opening and deep tones of viola and cello sweeping your heart away . At its best, it isjust primo. There is also a second main theme which makes this score much more romantic than Tu Ridi, marked by soothing, graceful melody for the garden. In the first "El Jardin" track, this theme is carried by glowing piano, the kind you can have an intimate candlelight dinner by . In the second "El Jardin" track, the same theme is played delicately on guitar like a gentle serenade. Though short, this is a truly precious gem of a score.
If there is a shortcoming to these scores, it would be that they are so short and there isn't more subtle developments within the musical story. But if you like emotionally luxurious, romantic classical sounds such as the music of Debbie Wiseman and Luis Bacalov, with grand explicit themes, you would love this album. This is a welcome oasis of splendid movie music in anotherwise dry thematic year.
We are grateful to Helen San (www.cinemusic.net) for giving us permission to include this review which is currently appearing on her Film Music site.
EDITORS CHOICE October 1999
Collection: The Film Music of Georges AURIC Rumon Gumba conducts the BBC Philharmonic CHANDOS CHAN 9774 [72:50]
Caesar and Cleopatra*; The Titfield Thunderbolt; Dead of Night*; Passport to Pimlico; The Innocents*; The Lavender Hill Mob; Moulin rouge; Father Brown*; It Always Rains on Sunday*; Hue and Cry*. (* - Premier recording -Premier recording in this version.)
The Film Music - new recordings - suites from:-Caesar and Cleopatra 1945
The Titfield Thunderbolt 1952
Dead of Night 1945
Passport to Pimlico 1949
The Innocents 1961
The Lavender Hill Mob 1951
Moulin Rouge 1952
Father Brown 1954
It Always Rains on Sunday 1947
Hue and Cry overture 1946.
Georges Auric was a member of the celebrated rebellious group of French composers known as Les Six (the others were: Darius Milhaud, Francois Poulenc, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre). Under the influence of Jean Cocteau and Eric Satie, they achieved notoriety for their advanced ideas. Honegger and Auric (and to a lesser extent, Ibert) were prolific writers of screen music, mainly for the French cinema. [Jean Cocteau was famous not only as playwright and librettist but also as a screenwriter and director, with films like La Belle et la Bête and Orphée to his credit.]
In a forty-year film career, Auric composed well over a hundred French film scores and in the latter part of his career scored a succession of big-budget, pan-European co-productions aimed, presumably at the American market. It is, however, with his music for British films that this new Chandos album is concerned.
Auric composed nearly thirty British scores. It has been rumoured that Walton, Britten and Prokofiev all turned down the scoring of the 1945/46 Gabriel Pascal production of Caesar and Cleopatra, starring Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh, after Sir Arthur Bliss resigned form the project. The film was a mess due to the wayward excesses of Pascal who was something of an early Michael Cimino. Auric's music was one of its few saving graces. The nine-minute suite, recorded here, begins with the Main Titles that evoke the glittering waters of the Nile, the sultry atmosphere of Cleopatra's court and her own sensuality plus the majesty and might of Ancient Rome. 'At the Sphinx' is a fine impressionistic piece with very colourful orchestrations including piano, celeste, xylophone, bells, harp, saxophone, tuba, chirping woodwinds, and sultry strings all contributing to a hot house atmosphere of heady seduction and intrigue. 'The Battle' is another colourful and exciting extravaganza that, in places, is reminiscent of Respighi in his Roman trilogy mode.
While Caesar and Cleopatra ground on in post-production, Auric was contracted to score a very different film - the first great British horror film - Dead of Night (1945). This was a portmanteau film that included the story of the demented ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) and his devilish dummy. Auric's roller-coaster ride of a score is suitably nighmarish and spectral, but not without a wry sense of humour (ghostly horse-laughs and ghoulish glissandos suggesting passing wraiths). There is also a poignant edge to the music suggesting the ventrolioquist's plight and an appealing sugary Ravelian waltz.
Perhaps Auric's best known British score is that for John Huston's 1952 production of Moulin rouge, the story of the disabled artist Toulouse-Lautrec. Auric's music superbly captures all the brilliance and decadence of the legendary restaurant-cum-cabaret, the 'Moulin rouge' with its scandalous can-can dances - and polkas and quadrilles all heard in this nine-minute suite. The film was famous for its waltz song, 'April again, beside the river Seine,' sung endearingly here by Mary Carewe.
It is probably forgotten that Auric scored some of the best-remembered and best-loved British comedies filmed in the famed Ealing Studios. Here they are. The short suite from 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' (1953) is jolly and high-spirited. Just as his colleague, Arthur Honegger, had perfectly captured the essence of the huge locomotive Pacific 231, so Auric marvellously portrays the lumbering and puffing old steam engine of the title. He also brilliantly portrays the colourful characters who champion the threatened railway against the threat of the unscrupulous bus company. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) is another high-spirited romp. It begins with an imposing, pompous fanfare/march before the music lampoons itself and we are into quieter music of plotting and stealth before the comic-caper robbery music. Auric has a theme of glittering incandescence to portray the gold which is melted down and cast as miniature Eiffel Towers for the French tourist market. The hectic-paced 'The Eiffel Tower' cue music is a mercurial Gallic tour-de-force. Gallic charm pervades the suite from Passport to Pimlico (1949) which again begins self-importantly before Auric's irreverent high spirits take over as the cheeky cockney inhabitants cock a snook at authority and declare themselves the independent state of Burgundy. The score is suitably French-flavoured with some subtle London song colourings. A delight this score. Another merry bustling score came from Auric's pen for Hue and Cry ((1946) which was another light-hearted romp of penny dreadfuls and hordes of children chasing villains across war-scarred London.
In contrast to his comedy scores, Auric composed altogether darker material for the 1961 production of The Innocents a subtle but harrowing horror story, starring Deborah Kerr, and based on the Henry James story, The Turn of the Screw. Auric takes the innocuous old English folksong 'O Willow Waly' and gives it a chill disturbing twist. It is sung here, unaccompanied, by soprano Anthea Kempston. The Main Titles music is equally disturbing beginning with solo oboe and flute singing mournfully in a remote key and other woodwinds joining in with brushed cymbals and eerie high strings circulating around the sound stage to create an opaque and mysteriously threatening atmosphere. More cheerful music underscores the coach ride but the atmosphere chills as Bly House is reached.
Another darker score was penned by Auric for It Always Rains on Sunday (1947). This 14-minute suite is the most extended selection on this album and it is powerful material that should have been recorded long since. Auric cleverly suggests the teeming rain, and not only a sense of tragedy and foreboding, but also Cockney fun, in his Main Titles and Opening Scene music with its stabbing staccato chords suggesting gunfire. There is poignant romantic music for 'Tommy and Rosie' which suggests a hopeless passion. This cue and 'Farewell' have a Debussy-like intensity. 'The Getaway' music underscoring the life-or-death chase of the escaped convict, John McCallum, through the railway marshalling yards is exciting indeed. Younger film music composers could learn a thing or two from this inventive chase music.
Finally there is another great and cheerful Auric score that should have been recorded ages ago - that for the Ealing-like Father Brown (1954). This film starred Alec Guiness as the mild provincial Catholic priest who has phenomenal powers of detection. Very appositely the Father is pitted against a French master criminal 'Flambeau' allowing Auric, once again, to demonstrate his cross-channel versatility. Auric's colourful, busy score combines an appealing Poulenc-like insouciance with more serene material to suggest Father Brown's piety and 'The Cross of St Augustine.' The Channel Crossing and the cheerfully evocative 'Train Journey to Fleurancy' music are particularly appealing.
This is a very welcome addition to film music enthusiasts' collections. The BBC Philharmonic play with great enthusiasm and conviction under their young conductor Rumon Gamba. The sound is first class too, revealing this music for the first time in all its vibrant colours. [British film music recording techniques of the 1940s and 1950s left a lot to be desired too many scores sounded muffled and thin.]
and Rob Barnett adds
This disc takes us through one aspect of Auric's film music. He wrote only 30 scores for British films. There are 100 or so other continental scores including Rififi (1954) and La Belle et la Bête (1946). As one of the group of French composers known as 'Les Six' he has a reputation as a joker and a bit of a flâneur. This disc shows that he has a wider span of accomplishment.
The Cleopatra music is richly impressionistic and impassioned with a hint of Irishry at least once - a tribute to G.B. Shaw perhaps? The Titfield Thunderbolt score starts jokily but the middle section (Triumph) has a few memories of Honegger's Pacific 231 and indeed I am sure I caught a hint of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik as well. The title bars for Dead of Night are out of the same book as Mossolov's Zavod. This is fearsome music of machines - wild and imposingly tempestuous with perhaps a presence from the Valkyries. Passport to Pimlico echoes with memories of rural France and one can speculate that this brightness which I also associate with Canteloube's orchestral Auvergne arrangements had its impact on the young Malcolm Arnold. Respighi's Pines and Mossolov's music of machines meet in the exuberant finale.
The ethereal riches of Anthea Kempston's soprano chimes across the music in The Innocents, catching the slightly boomy effect of a boy alto. The nerviness of machine music is also there in the Coach Ride plus the gracious dip and bow of Ben Frankel's Carriage and Pair. Both machine rhythms and Respighian excess hit you between the eyes (ears?) in The Lavender Hill Mob. To this is added an English pastoralism and the rush and scramble of the chase scenes at the Eiffel Tower. The end-titles have a baroque trumpetry grandeur.
Moulin Rouge's minatory storminess soon departs in favour of a sweet tune. This melts into the Belle Epoque celebration and flouncy petticoats which returns in the final Quadrille. Mary Carewe's Waltz Song is sweetly sung and fortunately escapes the operatic style which would have killed this song stone dead. Whoever was responsible for selecting Mary Carewe should take a bow. This is touchingly done. An instant hit and must son catch the attention of Classic FM as should all of the tracks on this collection.
Father Brown's music is dashing - catching the spirit of Dickensian London (yes, I know the novelist is G.K. Chesterton). The Train Journey (interesting that trains played a part in Auric's life rather like Goossens and Moeran) and the finale are much affected by railway beats and machine rhythms.
There is a substantial suite from It Always Rains On Sunday initially rosily sentimental but this soon fades into a mechanistic nightmare like a great steam engine with pistons out of control and the governor broken. The overture (all the other films are represented by suites) from Hue and Cry is a champagne gambol through the alleys of London. From the music the locale could just as easily have been Paris. In this mood Satie (Parade), Milhaud (Boeuf sur le Toit) and Ibert all jostle each other.
I was not surprised to see that this collection had been restored by the redoubtable and heroic Philip Lane who had the full cooperation of Mme Michèle Auric.
This is a comprehensively enjoyable collection and will appeal, given half a chance, well beyond the confines of the film score enthusiasts. Do please get it. The collection has a generous playing time and recording quality of the finest.
Collection: Max STEINER at the Movies - King Kong; This is Cinerama; Death of a Scoundrel Various conductors and orchestras (see review) LABEL X ATM CD2005 [70:14]
Steiner's King Kong has fared well on disc. Last year we had the complete 72-minute full score from Marco Polo and Charles Gerhardt recorded a sizzling seven-minute suite from the film in 1973 as part of his 1973 Now Voyager album that was a tribute to Max in RCA's celebrated Classic Film Scores series. This Fred Steiner recording of a 47-minue suite from the film is no less impressive. The 'Boat in the Fog' cue is mistily atmospheric and the Jungle Dance is very wild and abondoned while Kong really does sound immensely powerful. The playing of the National Philharmonic orchestra, under the baton of Fred Steiner is more polished than that of the Moscow players on Marco Polo and the sound balance and engineering is superior too. This is one of those occasions where I I definitely sit on the fence and refuse to nominate a winner. I would not be without any of the three recordings!
Death of a Scoundrel found Max back at RKO Radio in 1956 scoring for this melodrama starring smooth rogue, George Sanders as Clementi Sabourin, a Czech immigrant in New York and his Machiavellian rise to riches. The film also starred the lovelyYvonne De Carlo. The opening title music begins powerfully and sombrely, there is a wild wolverine quality about it clearly indicating the predatory nature of the Sanders character before the music softens and mellows for the female characters and more noble instincts. An interesting feature is the use of the cymbalom which depicts Sabourin's middle European origins. It features strongly in the sentimental cue, 'Mother, mother.' 'Stephanie' is a warm romantic melody overshadowed by Sabourin's malignant influence. An appealing lilting waltz is contrasted by a rather sleazy 'Kelly Blues' that completes this 14-minute suite which was played by the RKO Radio Pictures Orchestra conducted by Max himself.
The remaining item, and least interesting, is the 'Our National Parks & Monuments' and 'End Credits' from This is Cinerama. It is written in Steiner's Wester-cum-Americana idiom and it captures the sweep and grandeur of the American landscapes as viewed on the giant Cinerama screen. Max's efforts went uncredited. In this performance, Louis Forbes conducts the Cinerama Philharmonic Orchestra
Collection: Bernard HERRMANN at the movies - Battle of Nereveta; Sisters; Night Digger. Bernard Herrmann conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra; London Studios Orchestra and Sessions of London LABEL X ATM CD2003 [70:14]
Here is a prize Herrmann disc for all lovers of the best film music. Neretva is a great sonorous score used for the English language version of this Yugoslavian production. The music, scored for a massive orchestra (Herrmann's biggest), is apocalyptic. Militaristic black-hearted brass shout and call in cantankerous uproar. The score is infused with Slavic temperament (echoes of Shostakovich 7 and 8) in collision with Soviet poster art heroism. The giant brass complement register powerfully in the Chetniks' March and in the gigantism of The Partisan March (a momentary tribute to Sousa?). Less tempestuous voices also invade and these gentler inspirations include Strauss's Rosenkavalier and Mahler (Farewell). This is moody music full of temperamental outbursts and Shostakovichian fist-waving. The Sisters excerpts are very welcome too with barking brass and tubular bells conjuring up yet another death-hunt. There is a plangent urgency in this music complete with hallooing horns, a weird synthesiser sounding like the distressed neighing of a horse and even (unless I am mistaken) a touch of the dreaded Hammond organ. The Night Digger score largely belies the ghoulish title in a long sequence of lambent grey aquarelles for a grand string ensemble. There are character-saturated solo parts for harmonica (Tommy Reilly - who else?) and Viola d'Amore and a steady diet of neurotic decelerated waltzes, the harmonica calling like a wounded cat, a weirdly foggy glow and morgue-focused serenading. This contrasts with a diving, plunging, wild athleticism (track 16) and the turbid cycling of the strings (a la Sibelius's En Saga) like maggots squirming in a suppurating corpse. Track 17 holds a surprise in sounding rather like the shark theme from John Williams' Jaws. The sorrowing serenade of the viola tails off into a fine warm confidence and back to a querulous fearful beauty suggested by the harp's notes stepping up and down the scale. This is a true connoisseurs' score and a must-buy for all Herrmann adulants.
The insert notes are good, though brief, and economically complement a most generous collection of reissued recordings in fine sound.
Collection: Alex North at the Movies - Cheyenne Autumn; Dragonslayer; Cinerama South Seas Adventure. Alex North conducting: Symphony Orchestra of Rome; Sessions of London and Cinerama Symphony Orchestra LABEL X ATM CD2004 [67:14]
This album is a compilation of music from three soundtrack releases, and while generally I am in favour of recycling, in this case it rather makes me want to rush out and buy two of the originals. I don't know if they are still available, but if they are you may find this album ultimately functions as an expensive advert.
First we have 18:13 minutes (the cover claims 17:34) from John Ford's last film of note, Cheyenne Autumn (1964). I won't comment on the film, as being a Super Panavision 70 epic which failed at the box-office, hardly anyone can have had the opportunity to see the film properly in 35 years. In his informative notes John Steven Lasher comments that John Ford hated the score, adding that the director "knew absolutely nothing about the function of original music in films", quoting Royal S. Brown to the effect that the North's score "stands as the one jewel in the midst of the otherwise incredibly mediocre canon of scores for John Ford films " Well, there is How Green was my Valley, The Quiet Man and The Searchers, but these do seem to be the exceptions one might expect by the law of averages. Lasher also mentions that the writing reflects "to some degree" Copland's ballet scores, Billy the Kid and Rodeo, astutely asking "(What Western film doesn't?). All I can add is that this is superb, first rate scoring, coming at a particularly fertile period in North's career, which is to say shortly after his wonderful Spartacus and Cleopatra. The music has a pastoral warm, a tender lyricism and contemplative character ably set against more dramatic passages featuring expectant, questing brass and low-key, brooding textures. The stark percussive rhythms of 'The Battle' are tellingly understated, and given the friendship between the two composers, Jerry Goldsmith admirers may see an influence on his powerful marital music for The Blue Max and the savage sound world of Planet of the Apes. The sound is very clear and precise, though a little dry and restricted in range.
Next comes 20:09 minutes (the cover says 21:35) from Dragonslayer (1981), an under-rated fantasy adventure which fell into the trap of being too dark for children and too light for the Excalibur audience to fully embrace. This is complex, dark-hued, sometimes atonal writing of considerable density. The score worked brilliantly with the film, conjuring a world of bleak and austere beauty, and stands up very well on disc. The more lyrical parts of the music were drawn from North's rejected score for 2001: A Space Odyssey and appear here as 'Ulrich Explodes; Verminthrax's Plunge' and 'The White Horse; Into the Sunset'. The original setting of this music can be heard on Jerry Goldsmith's recording of North's 2001: A Space Odyssey: track 7: 'Space Station Docking'. Anyone who likes Trevor Jones scores for Excalibur and Merlin and fancies a journey into the fantastical heart of darkness will probably appreciate this stark odyssey. The 1981 sound is unsurprisingly the best on the album.
So far, so brilliant. If only more of the album had been given over to the first two scores, instead of allocating the greatest running time [29:22 minutes - the cover reads 28:42] to the jaunty, lightweight and syrupy score (complete with 'native' voices) for the Cinerama travelogue South Seas Adventure (1957). Of course being Alex North, the score is superbly crafted, but it now seems very dated and sentimental, composed as it was to accompany the bland optimism of an America boldly going forth and discovering brave new islands full of quaint and charming natives to stare at in wide-eyed wonder. There is appealing music here, but at virtually half-an-hour the effect becomes cloying, with the rather muddy sound not helping at all. Perhaps in a new recording a suite from the best of this score might make the music might sparkle afresh.
With 38 minutes of great film music on offer this album is certainly worth owning, but perhaps only really worthwhile if you can not either find, or afford both the separate soundtrack albums for Cheyenne Autumn and Dragonslayer.
Cinerama South Seas Adventure
Gary S. Dalkin
EDITORS RECOMMENDATION October 1999
Bernard HERRMANN Citizen Kane . Original Score played by the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tony Bremner PREAMBLE PRCD 1788 [43:21]
Any comment on this celebrated film is superfluous and this almost applies to Bernard Herrmann's equally much-praised music. Tony Bremner conducts his Australian ensemble in a powerfully dramatic recreation of this, Hermann's first film score. The production is lavish with a booklet that includes musical examples, stills from the film plus a picture of the youthful Herrmann and Welles together. There are very full music analytical notes, including details of Herrmann's use of the Rosebud, Mother ambition/power and other leitmotifs , by Tony Bremner, and a fascinating essay 'Score for a Film' by Bernard Herrmann written for the New York Times in 1941 in which the composer recalls his work on the score. Herrmann reveals that he was given much more time than was the norm in those days to create his score and that he was also given the freedom to orchestrate and conduct the music, (again this was very much against the norm). He also tells how, against prevailing custom, he worked on the film, reel by reel as it was being shot and cut and furthermore, many sequences were tailored to match his music - particularly the numerous montages. In this way Herrmann's music became something of a 'leading actor.'
In another interesting essay, producer John Lasher emphasises that this recording is not only the complete score using the original instrumentation that Herrmann used, but it also includes several cues composed but not retained in the final print of the film.
I will not bore readers with track-by-track comment but would single out some of the most impressive parts of the score: the brooding opening statement of the Xanadu motif on trombones and its repeats on bass clarinets followed by the Rosebud theme stated on bassoons as we progress through the mist-shrouded estate to the great gothic house where Kane lies dying. Then there are the montages full of wry ironic wit: the pompous and swaggering montage as the Chronicle builds in poularity (before it crashes in the Depression) and the Breakfast Montage as the love between Kane nad his first wife sours. And, of course, the brilliant mock-opera aria 'Salaambô' composed so expertly in the Late Romantic Franco-Oriental style. Following Kiri Te Kanawa's example in the Charles Gerhardt recording of highlights of the score, Rosemary Illing sings the aria as it should have been projected in the opera house.
This album is an absolute must-have for Herrmann admirers.
EDITORS RECOMMENDATION October 1999
Nino ROTA Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca OST RCA 74321 66149-2 [60:35]
This summer I spent part of my vacation in Arezzo just south of Florence. This the town in which the Academy Award-winning film, Life is Beautiful was shot and it was where my daughter-in-law and her 10 year-old daughter had been studying for the better part of a year. Now, as part of her schooling my step-granddaughter was asked to perform in one or two scenes from a dramatisation of Gian Burrasca. Il gionalino di Gian Burrasca is the story a mischievous young Italian boy and the events are based on his diary entries over several years. Those familiar with the 'Just William' stories of Richmal Crompton will know what to expect. The stories are set in the first decade of the 20th Century. Apparently young Gian had been in the habit of reading his elder sister's diaries and had discovered secrets of their love lives to devastating effect. So, in desperation of preserving their privacy, his relations give him a diary. Various outrageous boyish adventures are commemorated in the 28 numbers (the majority vocals) on this album, together with Gian's outspoken and often hilarious comments on his family and his life in Rome. He is fascinated by magic for instance and in the course of his experiments manages to break a relative's watch and, in one incident, accidentally shoots another relative.
Nino Rota's original soundtrack music appears to date back to 1964. Half of the numbers seem to have been recorded then with the remainder in 1999. It is difficult to be sure because all the text in the four page booklet is printed in Italian only. Rota's music is written in his Fellini vein with all the usual orchestral effects expected for slapstick comedy with many new ones too. The numbers are both quick-tempo and jolly and slow and sentimental as when Gian sings about his home and his friends or wonders what love is all about. Above all they are all very tuneful. There is plenty of variety too. There are catchy numbers like the song named after Gian Burrasca and the wonderfully evocative 'Le piccole stazioni' in which Gian watches the trains and wonders where they are all going; the chorus chuff-chuff chuffing most beguilingly. Then there are a number of dance tunes: tango, Charleston and waltz etc to liven the collection. The irascible Gian is sung with great vitality and a sense of fun and irony by Rita Pavone.
A sparkling exhilarating album which can be enjoyed without any real knowledge of Italian.
EDITORS RECOMMENDATION October 1999
Alfred NEWMAN Prince of Foxes Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman FILM SCORE Golden Age Classics FSM Vol 2 No.5 [46:40]
Another dark subject but a wonderful score, one that should have been committed to disc long before now and so Film Score Monthly must be congratulated on this coup. Prince of Foxes is set in the Italy of the Borgias. It concerns the dark machinations of the power hungry Cesare Borgia (Orson Welles) who despatches one of his officers (Tyrone Power) to assassinate a rival lord; but the officer succumbs to the charms of a pretty royal, (the ineffectual Wanda Hendrix), and to love and honour. The film was a box office failure due mainly to the Zanuck's insistence on the film being shot in black and white when the glorious Italian locales cried out for colour. Zanuck was surely wrong for creative colour photography could have maintained, even enhanced, his desired atmosphere of brooding evil and malice?
For Prince of Foxes, Newman created one of his most trenchant scores. [However, I would argue with the author of the rather over-deferential booklet notes that this score is probably Newman's masterpiece. I would agree with Charles Gerhardt's obvious choice of Captain from Castile (the title of Gerhardt's Alfred Newman album in the celebrated RCA Classic Film Scores series - GD80184).]
First, I should point out that the sound on this disc is excellent. For a film made in 1948, one would expect just mono sound. Newman, however, routinely recorded major pre-1953 scores with two microphones - one a 'close-up' mike, placed close to the conductor to capture the full onslaught of the orchestra and the second 'long-shot' mike behind the ensemble to secure another perspective. Each microphone led to a separate optical track so that when one was later laid atop of the other, the result was what came to be named 'fat mono.' This gives a certain depth and body to the soundtrack which listeners can enjoy on this album.
The Prelude is a rousing creation; a stirring march proclaiming the pride of the Borgias but it also hints darkly at their greed and despotism. This cruelty is pointed up throughout the score culminating in the pervasive evil inherent in such tracks as 'Attempted Assassination' one of the best cues on the disc which counterpoints a noble theme with undermining savage, swirling, malignant figures. Romance, warmth and compassion is signalled by one of Newman's appealing romantic themes with, on its first appearance, oboe and flute singing the melody supported by Newman's typical saccharine-sweet high strings. This theme is heard as a tenor's love song sung to the accompaniment of a mandolin in 'Song of Venice.' Courtly dances are heard in 'Royal Court' these have great vitality and move along at a very hectic pace. Slower courtly material is heard in 'The Banquet' which develops in a North-African sounding exotic dance. 'Festival of Spring' is an attractive joyful celebration.
Another impressive cue is 'The Duke's Entrance' which is a very grand and imposing jubilant procession at cantering pace and sounds very authentically Italian. But it is the battle between noble sentiments and the pervasive evil of Borgia treachery that preoccupies Newman and which stalks the score.
Excellent and an album that should be in every serious film music enthusiast's collection
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Elmer BERNSTEIN The Magnificent Seven Elmer Bernstein conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra RCA VICTOR 09026-63240-2 [56:32]
Last year I wrote "... about 55 minutes would have been just about ideal." Well I hardly expected that a year after I wrote that there would be a freshly re-recorded disc which would have a playing time pretty close to the timing I had suggested.
A lively dancing ambience is offered by the recording locale (Henry Wood Hall). The sound is light years ahead of the distressed quality of the almost 40 year old OST. The orchestra are well up to form and by heck this orchestra has certainly cornered the film score revival market. They acquit themselves with tonal splendour and an authentic zest. Of course having the composer at the helm does help.
The brass are beyond criticism. The woodwind contributions are touching. My only grouse is that the strings do not have the amplitude of the OST disc. Even though the intrinsic sound quality is poorer the OST gives the impression of a big Philadelphia style sound of deepest velvet texture.
Choices; choices! For fanatics both discs are essential items. For the general listener I recommend this album. It has most of the explosive power of the original in sound it would be difficult to imagine being bettered.
See reviews of theoriginal release of The Magnificent Seven and the Return of the Magnificent Seven
Elmer BERNSTEIN The Great Escape Elmer Bernstein conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra RCA VICTOR 09026-63241-2 [39:20]
This is of course one of Elmer Bernstein's most popular scores and he conducts the RSNO in a first rate performance here.
The opening main title music states that well-known insolent theme which admirably characterises the sullen disdain with which the prisoners of war view their German captors who are musically depicted as being heavy handed and rather pathetically comic. The score contains much that is exciting, especially for the escape sequences. It does not neglect the more personal aspects of the story, however, for there are moments of genuine warmth in the more reflective cues such as 'Cooler Mole' and 'Blythe.' There is also an appropriate sense of tragedy and loss for the prisoners who are eventually killed or captured, after the great escape. 'Discovery' is an impressive cue with high bells and celeste contrasted with rapid rat-tat-tat machine gun fire like brass chords. 'On the Road' includes some attractive pastoral material and The score ends with an affecting quiet requiem for the greater part of 'Finale.'
In passing I would raise a general point. The Great Escape is one of those films that regularly crops up on TV movie presentation schedules and so it will be known to most people. I make this comment because even though one is familiar with a film one cannot be expected to remember every single detail of a film. Now I come to a general principal. Visitors will have noticed that we do not list cues in our reviews. This is because to so in my opinion would be pointless. Here we have a very good example of what I mean. Unless you have a photographic memory of the detail of the film and even then this would probably not be enough what is one to make of such laconic named cues as: 'Various Troubles', 'Blythe' and 'Road's End'?
Basil POLEDOURIS The Blue Lagoon Original score conducted by the composer SOUTHERN CROSS SCCD 1018
This is one of Poledouris's earliest commercial scores and one of his most effective. I recall seeing the film (Brooke Shields and Christopher Akins discover young love on a sanitised desert island) when it first came out in the cinema. I was struck then by the quality of the music, especially the main title with its salt-soaked sea-witchery.
The music ranges over a landscape that takes in hot-house sentimental piano concerto (Emmeline) material; bird and animal cries (The Island is one of the most impressive tracks), the glories of woodwind at high noon and a pan-cinematic idyllic eloquence. As the notes concede, the main titles seem frankly indebted to the theme from Mario Nascimbene's The Vikings.
The short playing time of the disc is off-set by some fine music. The only weak track in this rather excellent disc is the treacly The Kiss. There are decent concise notes by Clyde Allen. Recommended (despite short playing time and the discreet presence of some analogue hiss) for all those who warm to Poledouris or who enjoy a good saline helping for the marine romantics.
Jerome MOROSS The Cardinal Original score conducted by the composer PREAMBLE PRCD 1778 [36:26]
Jerome Moross must be regarded by many as a one-score composer. Everybody remembers him for The Big Country, which must figure in most people's lists of favourite film compositions. But, of course, he wrote for other films including: The Proud Rebel and The War Lord. (Moross had also been a leading orchestrator of film music working on important assignments such as Hugo Friedhofer's exquisite score for The Best Years of our Lives - also available on Preamble PRCD 1779) Of these other scores, arguably the best is The Cardinal. Otto Preminger's 1963 film, starring Tom Tryon, traced the career of a Boston-born Catholic priest, Stephen Fermoyle, to the position of cardinal by way of being a Rome diplomat and a fighter of the Ku Klux Klan. The film was set in Rome, Vienna and America.
Moross's score embraces a wide variety of musical forms, thus maximising listener interest. The Main Title music open with deep tolling bells of the churches in Rome as we see Fermoyle walking to his investiture as cardinal. The music has an imposing ecclesiastical majesty but it also has a human, almost American folk-music dimension, appropriate to the drama that will unfold. Appropriate too, to its setting, is a hint of the influence of Respighi both in the context of that composer's Roman trilogy and his ancient church modal music.
The 'Stonebury' cue is a sparkling pastoral scherzo as Fermoyle, as a young man fresh from his studies in Rome and sent to duties in Vermont, is driven across snow-covered fields to his church. His arrival there signals a change in the music to a more solemn theme. There is then a complete change of mood for the dance hall music (Fermoyle is looking for his run-away sister). After an upbeat Dixieland jazz number, we hear a very sexy, sleazy tango.
'The Cardinal's Faith is a simple homely nostalgic theme that almost borders on a pop tune. It is nevertheless most affecting. It is interrupted by more dramatic suspenseful music as Father Ned Hailey (Burgess Meredith) dies of multiple sclerosis. After the First World War, another attempt is made to find Fermoyle's sister and we have another source tune, a saucy vaudeville song, 'They Haven't Got the Girls in the USA' (like they have in Paris).
The scene shifts to 'The Cardinal in Vienna' and to an extended six-minute cue which is a homage to the Viennese waltz. It begins as a sweet sentimental waltz for orchestra before the texture is thinned to just a trio of violin, piano and cello playing salon music very much of the era. The music then becomes gay (in the good old fashioned sense of the word) but ends on a rather poignant nostalgic note. Throughout this cue, Moross's writes some glistening material for solo violin. The cue also includes a subtle echo of Morros's The Big Country score.
'Annemarie' is served initially with a Broadway review number which is later inflated to a full orchestral version of this attractive waltz. 'The Cardinal's Decision' reflects Fermoyle's mental turmoil as he agonises over his choice between the Church and Annemarie. It is a very effective and affecting vignette. And again The Big Country score is recalled. 'Way Down South' takes us back to America and the Deep South. This is a very Americana theme played on clarinet over a sort of hoedown rhythm on strings with the theme, which closely resembles material from Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, then taken up by solo flute.
The final 'The Cardinal Themes' includes an arrangement of Annemarie's theme not heard in the film.
Preamble are to be congratulated in releasing this melodic and memorable score which, incredibly, was overlooked for an Oscar nomination.
David SHIRE The Taking of Pelham One Two Original score conducted by the composer RETROGRADE FSM-80123-2 [30:19]
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) was a memorable, superior thriller in every way, with inspired casting and expertly paced direction by Joseph Sargent. Robert Shaw was master-villain Mr Blue, arguably his best role, supported by Walter Matthau as a laconic wise-cracking transit cop and Martin Balsom as the demoralised yet sensitive Mr Green. The plot revolves around the hijacking of a New York subway train and the holding to ransom of its passengers - "We are going to kill one passenger a minute until NewYork City pays us one million dollars."
For the film David Shire produced a brilliant innovative score which blended 20th Century twelve-tone music with early 1970s pop/jazz/funk music. The result was a composition that was not only very supportive of the screenplay but also approachable and interesting to the ear as music in its own right.
Shire envisioned a score that would be New York jazz-orientated and hard edged echoing the brash business of the City. For Pelham, he created a tone row in which the intervals give one the impression of progressive jazz sonorities. From this basic material he created a theme over a repeated bass line which would suggest organised chaos "rooting this chaos in an aggressive and very tonal bass ostinato, suggestive of the New York rhythmic drive that somehow holds the chaos together." Furthermore he cleverly orchestrated the music so that it could be heard over the clamour of the subway train. Although he used an ensemble based on a big band, he de-emphasised his middle range instruments and accentuated the high end (upper reeds, keyboards and trumpets and the low end (low bass and woodwinds, low strings and the rhythm section). He also added an ethnic percussionist and two drumset players to emphasise the cosmopolitan flavour of New York and the passengers of the train.
The score pounds along with great drama and intensity. An exciting ride and a thrilling musical experience.
John BARRY Monte Walsh Music composed and conducted by John Barry FILM SCORE Silver Age Classics FSM Vol 2 No. 4 [61:20]
There appear to be two main schools of thought when it comes to producing a soundtrack album. The first is to make an entertaining disc which stands alone irrespective of the film, the second to produce what is effectively an archival document, including as much music from the film as possible.
This enterprising release, part of Film Score Monthly's series of Silver Age Classics, attempts to combine both approaches. Thus the first 14 tracks, play like a normal soundtrack album, presenting the best of John Barry's score almost in the order it appears in the film. A note explains that - 'a complete chronological album would be terribly redundant and would sap this beautiful music of most of its power'. The second half of the disc consists of source music, outtakes, and alternative recordings of the title song. The approach works well, offering a conventional uninterrupted John Barry album, with the bonus material (which is unlikely to be played as often) presented separately. The booklet, with notes on the film by Pete Walker and Geoff Leonard, and on the music by Lukas Kendall, is likewise a model of presentation.
Monte Walsh was a 1970 western (based on a novel by the author of Shane), starred Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau and Jack Palance and was directed by William A. Fraker. The film, which is generally considered to be either a depressing bore, or a beautiful elegy to the dying of the West (and the western), had limited release and was a commercial failure. No soundtrack LP was ever issued, making this limited edition CD the first legitimate issue of what has come to be considered by John Barry fans, a lost classic.
The album opens with the song 'The Good Times are Comin', a deceptively optimistic number sung by Mama Cass (Elliot) of the Mamas and the Papas pop group. Barry wrote the song with lyricist Hal David (with whom he also co-wrote Moonraker and 'We Have all the Time in the World' from On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and while it is an appealing number, it is not one of Barry's best songs. The score itself is stronger, as is built around four basic themes. The first is an instrumental version of the title song, then there is an attractive love theme, a playful comedy theme and a rather more sombre and poetic melody to portray the melancholy "loss" which features so much in the film. There is little action, but when it arrives in Sit Him High it prefigures the dark foreboding the composer would bring to his much under-rated score for the 1976 remake of King Kong. The melodies are accomplished and well crafted and the sound is fairly good - though in mono, a fact about which the packaging is reticent. I am sure it all works very well with the film and it makes for an enjoyable CD, but it is a little too low key to be considered really essential Barry when taken out of context.
The bonus material consists of two more versions of the song (there are also two other versions besides the main title in the film itself), an 'Extended Version' and a 'Single Version' - the only track in on the disc in stereo. If only for the improved sound quality, this version is the most enjoyable. 14 minutes and 48 seconds are devoted to The John Barry Saloon, 6 source pieces of jangly and repetitive saloon piano music, which I doubt any but the most dedicated Barry fan will listen to for long. The 'Score Outtakes Suite' is a single seven minute track not of material dropped from the film, but left out of the first part if the album. It consists of mainly very short arrangements of the four themes, and is nice to have but adds little to what has gone before.
The conclusion has to be that this is a good, attractive score, which has been immaculately presented. I rather doubt though, that had it not come from such a popular and collectable composer as John Barry whether such pains would have been taken to produce this disc. Certainly this must be considered a definitive release, though ultimately it is an album for the Barry fan who has everything else already
Gary S. Dalkin
Elton JOHN and Tim RICE The Lion King Original Broadway Cast Edel 0104552DNY [65:10]
I must declare from the outset that I have seen neither the film nor the show.
As a musical experience this disc represents a very mixed blessing. Of course the whole event is in brilliant punchy sound. As a keepsake of a show the disc is highly desirable. The show must be a tour-de-force of imaginative design inspiration. Look at the giraffes on the back cover of the full text insert and look again. However the music is such a mish-mash.
Some tracks are quite stunning. The 'African' tracks (Circle of Life, Grassland Chant, Lioness Hunt) survive best although if you enjoy this music you might well go for other CDs devoted to ethnic material. The Morning Report is just draining (sub-G&S material) as is the soft-core pop of Chow Down and I Just Can't Wait. They Live In You blends an attractive ballad with African chants. Be Prepared a sinister and amusing tango-ballad. Hakuna Matata and The Lion Sleeps Tonight ('Wímmaway') are the popular highlights. They are done with great style. In fact everything is done very well but it is all so diffuse and the stylistic clashes are un-nerving rather than peppery. Much of the pop material is drab.
My 14 year old daughter, who loved the film and songs from the original soundtrack, thought that this recording was pretty good. So, if you like the music and want a slightly different take on it this is the disc for you. If you are not a fan then this will not convert you and I remain obstinately unimpressed by all but a couple of the songs.
(as music) (for those who like the show in the first place)
Trevor RABIN Deep Blue Sea OST WARNER 9362-47485 [59:24]
This review will be very brief because I want to establish a point of principal. Film Music on the Web is interested in 'symphonic/orchestral scores' not Pop/rock-based scores. This soundtrack album comprises for the most part source music that comes into the latter category. There is a cue (tacked on to the end as though an after-thought) named 'Deep Sea Montage,' which is an orchestral suite with a considerable synth stiffening by Trevor Rabin. The music is a stormy seascape with its waters lashed by the great white shark. This unremarkable suite lasts only six minutes and therefore renders this album not recommendable - unless you happen to like the murmurings of the likes of LL Cool J, F.A.T.E. and other exotic sounding artists blasting out their tortured rhythms.
Michael KAMEN The Iron Giant plus a disproportionately large amount of source music RHINO R2 75943 [41:21]
The same remarks I made about Deep Blue Sea apply here too - for only some eight minutes is devoted to Michael Kamen's music. This is just another example of an unfortunate trend and another concession to the more lucrative 'pop' market. As you will notice Kamen is not even mentioned on the front cover of the booklet and only at the end of the string of source music cues that makes up the major part of this album.
This is a pity because Kamen's music is appealing. It says nothing new but it is nonetheless very well crafted as we have come to expect from this composer. It blends quicksilver charm and magic with more solid and lumbering tones to depict the Iron Giant a sort of metal King Kong. There are also the obligatory children's high spirits, martial, noble and homely elements included. For Kamen's ridiculously under-appreciated contribution -
Collection: Famous Classical Chinese Film Themes 1 City of Prague Philharmonic SILVA/GUTS SS21065 [57:12]
Although the SILVA SCREEN logo appears on the artwork of this album it is not an actual SILVA release. It was recorded by SILVA SCREEN in a specific commission for Rock Records of Taiwan - hence the featuring of Taiwanese film music. (Rock licenses products from SILVA for distribution in the Far East.) Rock Records chose all the material for all the tracks. The album ventures into a musical world which is, despite the title, from a Western perspective, largely unfamiliar. Of the 12 films featured, only two Farewell to my Concubine, and A Chinese Ghost Story received any notable UK distribution, while one or two of the other titles have appeared on late night television. The album is therefore most welcome, presenting as it does some most attractive music which many listeners would doubtless otherwise miss.
I happen by rare chance to have the soundtrack album for A City of Sadness, so I can confirm that the version on this new album is very much an arrangement of the theme. The piece has been extended and orchestrated in rich and lavish colours, and wonderfully attractive it is too, with a long, arching melody, something along the lines of The Last Emperor. I can only therefore assume that the other pieces featured here have been similarly re-arranged. I say assume, because unhappily there is no English language information about the music other than a list of the titles and the films they come from. [I understand that Rock Records brief to SILVA SCREEN was to have the songs arranged for full symphony orchestra in a combination of "John Barry meets Classic Rock" style, whilst still retaining the characteristics of the original songs - editor].
The jewel-case comes inside a cardboard slipcase, with an oversize booklet akin to those found with some upmarket classical releases. The booklet contains a lot of writing, in both Chinese and English. As well as a long introduction not translated into English, the Chinese text includes separate notes about the films and/or the composers. However, the English notes say nothing about either. Nowhere on the entire package are the composer's names even given in English. There are detailed biographies (complete with colour photographs) of the album's producer and two conductors (whose names change between the cover and the booklet) but there are no details about the Chinese/Taiwanese composers. [The booklet was prepared by Rock Records and we understand that SILVA SCREEN did not participate at all in this process, not even proof checking which would have caught the hilarious miss-spellings of Nic Raine! The exclusion of details about the composers but inclusion of details about the SILVA production team was determined by Rock Records - editor]
The surprise in the second track, the 'Main Title' from C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie, is that it sounds entirely Western, both in composition and orchestration. It is a gorgeous saxophone-led waltz, almost the sort of thing John Barry might written had he scored Murder on the Orient Express. If this is faithful to the original it demonstrates how Western musical forms have been assimilated into Oriental music, while, rather oddly, the melody re-appears in the track 'Bygone Love' from Farewell to my Concubine. Several other tracks have no especial 'Chinese' sound, while 'Blue Sea Laughter' from Swordsman is perhaps more expectedly 'oriental', offering lyrically pastoral harps and wooden flute, and 'Actress' from Burial of Heart movingly combines East and West.
Throughout, this album has a luxurious, sumptuous sound, with every track distinctly melodic (sometimes melodramatically so) and enjoyable in its own right, offering an answer to those who argue that modern films no longer have memorable themes. Here is a whole disc full of memorable, rapturously romantic, haunting and uplifting 'big' film tunes. They may not be 'authentic', but they combine to make for an immensely enjoyable hour of listening. Roll on volume 2, this time with the composer's credited and some decent English language notes.
Gary S. Dalkin
Collection: EVERGREEN - Music from the Films of Barbra Streisand SONIC IMAGES 828-278-909-2 [48:01]
Funny Girl The Way We Were
The Mirror Has Two Faces
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
The Eyes of Laura Mars
A Star Is Born
The Prince of Tides
This is a welcome all-instrumental tribute to Barbra as multi-talented singer, actress, screenwriter, director and composer.
The most extended and impressive track is the final Yentl Suite for Harp and orchestra from music by Michel Legrand, Marilyn Berman and Alan Berman. It features Le Grand Orchestre Symphoniqe conducted by Legrand and the luminous playing of talented harpist Catherine Michel. The Suite is sweetly and nostalgically meditative, romantic and passionate, and wildly exuberant. It even climaxes with a very Ravelian Bolero. Harp and orchestra are nicely balanced and the arrangements and orchestrations scintillate.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the opening medley from Funny Girl played by the Orchestra of the Americas which make the material sound oddly flat-footed. This music deserves much more zing than this. The City of Prague Philharmonic fare better in their six contributions: The Way We Were (Marvin Hamlish's well-loved melody and celebrated in suitably warm sentimental style); The Mirror Has Two Faces (another winning colourful and atmospheric score with some dramatic dissonances by Marvin Hamlisch); On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (again a warmly romantic approach); James Newton Howard's lovely music for The Prince of Tides (same comment although the OST album has the edge); A Star is Born (the lovely Evergreen melody) and The Eyes of Laura Mars (in contrast this is a more gritty dramatic score for this thriller). What was Babs's connection with this film? She sang the Main Title song.
Finally I would praise the contribution by John Beale - his arrangement and production of the end credits music for Nuts - a brief but atmospheric and emotionally charged work for piano and orchestra.
and another view from Helen San
It's been said, "You either love Barbra Streisand or you don't." The same can probably be said of Evergreen, Sonic Images' latest release of the best selections from her movies. The compilation enjoys a strong, emotionally cohesive theme, brewing with the same lofty, romantic-dramatic yearnings and awakenings as Streisand's characters and stories. In a manner of speaking, this is very much a "chick flick" collection, one for eternal romantics and sensitive aspirants. From the first track, "Funny Girl" to the last, "Yentl," the album dances to sweeping, orchestral rhapsodies for the heart. And despite the fact that the album revolves around the diva, all tracks are completely instrumental, with no vocals whatsoever.
Each track is a superb selection of each score. Melodic, thematic, rich, these excerpts only leave you wanting more. Of course, the cultural icons, "The Way We Were," and A Star is Born's "Evergreen," connect immediately. But it is the other cues that make this album a prize. The Funny Girl "Medley" is an especially spirited track with a broader range. John Beal's artful performance of Nuts is one of the more subtle and quietly seductive cues on the album. The best track is possibly "Prisoner" from The Eyes of Laura Mars , a luminous saxophone theme that flawlessly textured with sensational strings. And Yentl score fans hit the jackpot with the comprehensive orchestral score suite that is not available on the Yentl soundtrack.
The performances, mainly by The City of Prague Philharmonic, are elegant. However, though the orchestral sound is good enough, but it feels somewhat simple, as if the orchestra could have been larger or fuller. Certainly, fans of these scores should get the complete versions if possible. Until then, this is a terrific sampler of some very excellent scores.
We are grateful to Helen San (www.cinemusic.net) for giving us permission to include this review which is currently appearing on her Film Music site.
Collection: Glen Gould at the Cinema (music by Bach, Richard Strauss, Sibelius and Scriabin) SONY SK66532 [76:26]
J S BACH Piano Concertos 3 and 5; movements from Goldberg Variations; Brandenburg Concerto No 4 (Slaughterhouse Five), Prelude and Fugue No. 1; (Aria) Art of the Fugue excerpts; (The Credits) English Suite No. 5 (Gould meets Gould).
RICHARD STRAUSS Funf Klavierstücke Op. 3 No. 3 (The Wars)
BRAHMS Two Intermezzi (The Wars)
SIBELIUS Sonatina No. 2 (Solitude)
SCRIABIN Deux Morceaux Op. 57 No. 1 (Personal Ad)
Glenn Gould (piano and in Art of the Fugue, organ)
with Columbia SO/Valdimir Golschmann in the two concertos
The abiding impression left by Gould's music-making is one of hypnotic concentration pliably and unshakeably commanding the listener's attention. Gould's reputed eccentricities seem distant, irrelevant or are an aspect of his communicative power.
There are many familiar friends here and the two concertos are as fresh as new-mown grass and summer mornings. All is bright, alert and new-minted. If there is one track to sample it is Variation 25 from the Goldberg Variations (Track 5).
Amongst the unfamiliar there is the Sibelius sonatina from a collection released long before Sibelius's piano music attracted recorded intégrales from BIS and Naxos. Also present are two Scriabin pieces and the surprisingly affecting Largo from Richard Strauss's Op. 3 collection. All credit to the much maligned man for turning to the un-considered or 'discredited'. I do recall that one review of the original Sibelius LP condemned Gould for distortions of the score and Kyllikki (not included here) seems to have suffered.
The film music connection (identified in brackets in the headnote) is that these pieces were used in film soundtracks including the 32 short films (1993) about Glenn Gould. However cinematic links are simply a peg on which to hang a newly cross-cut anthology from the Sony-CBS archives.
Whatever the linkage for this anthology much enduring joy can be tapped from this resounding collection of pianism blown along by the fierce flame that was Glenn Gould.
A well documented disc. Sound quality, though always hardy and solid, shows its age but not disagreeably.
A strange confection but one with many rewards to be quarried by a listener open to her or his own judgements rather than the received 'wisdom' of the critical world.
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