The Battle of the Bulge (original score).
Queensland So/Werner Andreas Albert.
CPO 999 696-2. (78' 43'')
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BENJAMIN FRANKEL SOCIETY NEWSLETTER - JULY 1998.
The past two years have seen many significant developments in the revival of Benjamin Frankel's music, especially in the realms of premiere recordings of his major concert works, on the CPO label.
Since the inception of the Society, a number of new and universally praised CDs has appeared, beginning with the complete Clarinet Chamber works on CPO 999-384-2, played by the outstanding young Australian Paul Dean (principal clarinet with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, who have recorded the symphonies and concerti, under Werner Andreas Albert) with the Australian String Quartet and Queensland Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players. The CD won the "Best Classical Album 1996" award of the Queensland Recording Association. Paul has made Frankel's music something of a personal crusade: he performed the Clarinet Quintet at two major international clarinet conferences in 1997 ( in Texas and Brisbane ) and also gave a great many performances of the Early Morning Music ( for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon ) with his colleagues on a highly successful North American tour, which took in New York city! His acclaimed recording of the clarinet works was soon followed by the complete String Quartets (CPO 999 420-2), played by the Nomos Quartet - a young German ensemble - and then by the third disc of the Symphonies, featuring the 4th and 6th, along with the witty occasional piece, "Mephistopheles' Serenade and Dance." (CPO 999 242-2). Perhaps, however, the most significant recording was the long-awaited CD of the Violin Concerto of 1951, "in memory of the Six Million", played by Ulf Hoelscher - a former pupil of Max Rostal, who had commissioned the work and to whom Frankel dedicated it. The Disc (CPO 999 422-2), of which the release was timed to commemorate the composer's 25th anniversary, also included the major Viola Concerto of 1967 (played by Brett Dean, brother of Paul above) and the Serenata Concertante of 1960, played by Stephen Emmerson (Piano), Alan Smith (Violin) and David Lale ('Cello).CPO took out extra advertising in Gramophone and Classic CD, announcing the Violin Concerto as "the most profoundly impressive violin concerto of the twentieth century together with that by Alban Berg." The Concerto disc received more fanfare and advance publicity than any other in the series so far, not only due to CPO's special advertising but also due to the efforts of Joanne Carpenter of CPO's UK distributor, SELECT, and Tony Tweedale - the P.R. consultant who did so much to launch the Frankel/CPO cycle back in 1994.
The result of their efforts was, among other things, Gramophone Magazine's and Classic CD's decision to include the disc in their lists of Editor's Choice, with excerpts on the cover-CDs! But this was not all: in January - shortly before the UK release - Werner Andreas Albert (conductor on all the Frankel/CPO discs but one) made a brief visit to London, primarily to meet Frankel's widow, Xenia and also her son, Dimitri Kennaway - closely involved with the CPO project. however, the occasion also provided the opportunity for various music magazines to interview Albert about his work on the Frankel series and his career more generally. Thus, during his short stay, interviews were set up with Classic CD, Tower Classical News, BBC Music Magazine and Hi-Fi News. There was also a telephone interview with Gramophone (given while Albert was still in Germany) and a BBC Radio 3 interview, on the second day of his London stay. These interviews were published to coincide with the release of the CD and were featured in the same issues as the reviews themselves - ranging from the excellent to the ecstatic. Further reviews also appeared in the Times, the Daily Telegraph (along with a delightfully informal, large-scale photo of Frankel, with his dog) and, most recently, the Strad. It is worth quoting from some of these here, for the benefit of those who may have missed them:
"...the Violin Concerto, surely one of the finest works of its kind to have been composed since the Second World War."Eric Levi in Classic CD, April 1998
"...If you still haven't Tried Frankel's music this coupling is an ideal introduction to him."Michael Oliver in Gramophone, April 1998
"...This is original, sincere, inspired, great music."Classical CD of the weekBrian Hunt in the Daily Telegraph, 11th April 1998
"...Performances are assured and sympathetic. This is a disc of substance and quality, urgently to be recommended."Richard Whitehouse in Tower Classical News, April/May 98
"...a fitting tribute to a composer whose music has suffered unjust neglect throughout the 25 years since his untimely death.
Albert himself could not have been more positive about Frankel's music and felt it was a wonderful thing that the composer's symphonic work (closest to his own heart) should have been rediscovered before the film music ( of which CPO intends to release a number of CDs ). Albert has also recorded two extensive radio programmes on Frankel, one for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (jointly responsible for the series, with CPO) and, recently, one for Bavarian Radio, Munich.
This month, Albert returns to Queensland to record the remainder of the final disc of Frankel symphonies, featuring the 7th and 8th, along with the "Shakespeare Overture" and "Overture to a Ceremony". With a Spring release quite likely, the Frankel symphonic cycle will reach completion after five years. But preparations are already well in hand for the next Frankel project - the recording of his entire magnificent score from "Battle of the Bulge", with all the cues not featured on the original soundtrack release. As it happens, this would be the first release of a specially recorded all-Frankel film music recording.
Quite possibly, there will also be further releases of the concert works, with much chamber music still unavailable ( such as the lovely Piano Quartet and the two String Trios ) and, of course, the opera "Marching Song" ( a more difficult project to mount, of course ).
The recordings have, not surprisingly, had a wider impact: their availability made it possible for the BBC to feature Frankel as their Radio 3 "Composer of the Week", in June/July 1996, providing the kind of exposure that his music had not enjoyed since the year before his death in 1973. More recently however (June 26th, to be exact), Radio 3 delved into its archives and produced a two-hour programme about Frankel, featuring his own recording of the 4th Symphony and many extracts from his radio talk with Robert Layton, about his life and work. As with the "Composer of the Week" series, the presenter was Chris de Souza - a staunch advocate of Frankel's music and producer of Radio 3's studio premiere of "Marching Song" (part of which also featured in the recent archive programme), in 1983.
Yet another significant development has been the setting up of thisFrankel website on the internet, hosted by Len Mullenger. It contains extensive biographical information, a discography, photo gallery, worklists and other points of interest.
The latest news is the possibility of an American premiere of the Violin Concerto, with Michael Davis ( another Rostal pupil ) as soloist. If confirmed, this will take place, appropriately enough, alongside a symposium on the Holocaust.
Looking to the future, one would hope that the current and long awaited revival of interest in Frankel's music will extend from the growing and impressive array of recordings into the realms of the concert hall and regular radio broadcasting. These latter areas are, for now, sadly barren and are surely essential to a complete rediscovery of the composer's works.
CPO's revelatory series devoted to the music of the long-neglected British composer, Benjamin Frankel (once described by William Mann in The Times as our most eloquent symphonist) continues with world premiere recordings of his Violin Concerto, Viola Concerto and Serenata Concertante on a CD commemorating the 25th anniversary of his death (February 12 1973).
The new disc (CPO 999 499-2) is due for UK release in February, distributed by Select.
Inscribed in memory of the Six Million (his personal comment on the atrocities of the Holocaust), Frankel's Violin Concerto is a deeply poignant work, considered by many to be his masterpiece.
Ulf Hoelscher is the soloist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Werner Andreas Albert.
Hoelscher studied with Max Rostal, the concerto's dedicated who gave the first performance in 1951 with the composer conducting the LPO. It was commissioned for the Festival of Britain as part of the BBC/lnternational Society for Contemporary Music celebration concerts.
On the new recording, the soloist in the Viola Concerto, written for the 1967 Cheltenham Festival, is Brett Dean; the Serenata Concertante is performed by Alan Smith (violin), David Lale (cello) and Stephen Emerson (piano).
CPO expects to complete the cycle of Frankel's eight symphonies, conducted by Werner Andreas Albert, during 1998 before moving on to a survey of his film music, beginning with the entire original score for the 1965 World War Two epic Battle of the Bulge.
Benjamin Frankel was a prolific and distinguished composer for the movies: other screen credits include The Seventh Veil, The Man in the White Suit, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Kid for Two Farthings, Orders to Kill, Curse of the Werewolf (probably the first l2-note score for a British film) and The Night of the Iguana.
Much else has happened since CPO embarked on the Frankel series back in 1994. In June 1996, BBC Radio 3 featured him as Composer of the Week; the previous year, his widow, Xenia, took part in Ken Russell's documentary Classic Widows (for LWT's The South Bank Show) along with Lady Walton, Mrs Bernard Stevens and Mrs Humphrey Searle.
A Frankel "lollipop", the delectable Carriage and Pair from the 1950 Dirk Bogarde-Jean Simmons film So Long at the Fair, has appeared on three recent CDs - Chandos's Classic Widows, a Marco Polo anthology and, most notably, Hyperion's top-selling British Light Music Classics, Volume Two.
The most recent development has been the opening of an extensive Frankel web-site on the Internet by Dr.Len Mullenger of Coventry University at:
The site - which will continue to expand - contains extensive biographical notes, a photo gallery, a complete current and back discography and A Listener's introductory Guide to the composer's music. Future additions should include a complete list of film scores and a discography of Frankel's work in popular bands, such as Carroll Gibbons's Savoy Hotel Orpheans, jazz groups and the musical theatre.
(Acknowledgement: E. D. Kennaway)
For more information contact: Tony Tweedale 56 Chepstow Villas, London W11 2QX Tel: 0171-727 5004 or e-mail Rob Barnett at email@example.com
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