December 18, 2014
Main Title The Great Jesse James Raid
After a long delay the explanation of which doesn’t belong in this review I received the new releases of MMM one of which was this 2 CD set Western Medley which includes the scores to three films: “The Great Jesse James Raid (1953),” “The Baron of Arizona (1950),” and “Last of the Wild Horses (1948).” The first two I have in my collection because of actors Tom Neal and Vincent Price. They are quite watchable ‘B’ movies. The third film down in sepia tone I can’t comment on either way. This release is somewhat of a departure for producer Schecter who is more known for his science fiction releases but of late has expanded his catalog with other types of genre.
The first CD is devoted to “The Great Jesse James Raid” composed by Bert Shefter (who did a lot of composing with Paul Sawtell). My first listen to it brought these thoughts to mind. This score was so well written that it could have very easily have been done for an ‘A’ picture it is that good. The “Guitar Opening,” more of a fanfare introduction to the “Main Title” sets the mood for the film and hints that it could be a western. The trumpets carry the “Main Title” theme and we are now definitely aware that this is a western. It is a pretty theme that gives a feeling of the expansive west with the sweet strings carrying the melody with aid from the brass section. I’m including an audio clip of the main title. Without warning the mood changes to one of danger, dissonance, and tension as the track quickly ends. The click clack from the percussion gives it even more of a western sound. This is the theme that you’ll hear throughout the score on many tracks being used under a number of different circumstances usually given to us by the brass. In addition there are source type situations that call for a harmonica, accordion, and can can dance music. All in all this was what you’d expect to hear from a western. The 30+ piece orchestra really makes a difference and I’m glad Lippert spent the money.
The second CD offers two films “The Red Baron of Arizona” and “Last of the Wild Horses” composed by Paul Dunlap and Albert Glasser with “The Red Baron of Arizona” being twice as long. Unlike the approach Shefter took Dunlap did offer a fine main title but it wasn’t featured throughout the score. It projects a feeling of a militaristic situation with prominent trumpets and snare drum adding to that feeling. The average cue time for the 37 tracks is less than a minute and you’ll hear gypsy music, religious, the melodramatic, but there is very little in the way of western style music. Some tracks of interest include “Outdoor Party,” “Monastery,” “Reunited,” “Claim,” and “The End.” If you watch the film you’ll get an idea how all of these ideas come together to make a superior soundtrack from the usual ‘B’ movie.
“Last of the Wild Horses” comes from Albert Glasser who is best known for his blaring shrieking dissonant music for science fiction films of the 50’s. Before he became typecast in that genre he wrote regular type music for ‘B’ movies and this is an example of one of them. Dramatic bars with tension filled material at times at a frantic pace is the “Main Title” “Chase” is more of the same style of music very appropriate for the scene. “The Ranch” is more what you think your ear should hear as far as typical cowboy movie stuff is made of. It is complete with the clip clop in the background, in fact if I told a soundtrack enthusiast about it he wouldn’t guess it was Glasser but any of several other composers.
Look at your track listings carefully as the last few tracks are bonus material for “The Baron of Arizona” and not Glasser material at all. While you’re looking at the track listing take a half hour and read the fine liner notes from David Schecter which provide material about the movie, other material about the film and composers in an easy to follow style. David always provides you with some track by track description of the music. He’ll relate the scene to the music which is important if you’ve not seen the picture. This fine CD is available from http://www.mmmrecordings.com or other sources that sell soundtracks. Giddy up to the phone (800) 788-0892.
DISC 1 [41:41]
THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID (1953) [41:41]
1 Guitar Opening :21
DISC 2 [53:15]
THE BARON OF ARIZONA (1950) [31:45]
1 Main Title 2:11
LAST OF THE WILD HORSES (1948) [16:58]
32 Main Title 1:14
The Baron of Arizona Bonus Tracks! [4:32]
Total Time is 94:56
December 17, 2014
Reference Recordings RR-907CD
Looking Glass Insects
The second special is a fine recording of works performed by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Eiji Oue and recorded by Prof. Johnson for Reference Recordings. The CD is recordings from previous releases from the Minnesota Orchestra with the exception of the first track “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss which is a premiere release. The selections not only display the fine quality of the Minnesota Orchestra but show the superior quality of a Reference Recording revealing the amazing dynamic range along with clarity that will rival a live performance. All of the CD’s that these selections were taken from are still available from Reference Recordings or your favorite seller and I will note them in the track listing at the end of this article. This particular $.99 purchase had the added bonus of being sealed and never played.
“Don Juan,” a template for Hollywood film composers Erich Korngold and Max Steiner and their swashbuckling movie soundtracks, runs the full gamut of emotions from excitement to romance to gaiety and sadness. While I own two other recordings I give an edge to this one for the superior recording.
Two new tracks to me were the Deems Taylor “Looking Glass Insects,” a clever work with several orchestra instruments assuming the role of insects and a tempo that is like well insects. I’ve included this track as an audio clip for you to enjoy. The Valentino Dances conjure up the Latin flavor very nicely with a buildup that enhances the track. You’ll hear some of the more popular works such as “Finlandia,” “Firebird Suite (excerpt),” “Appalachian Spring (excerpt),” and an excerpt from “Ein Heldenleben.” One of my favorite selections is Liadov’s “Baba Yaga” which exhibits exceptional tonal color. Another favorite is music from Tchaikovsky’s “Mazeppa,” the Hopak a well orchestrated and tuneful track.
While I’ve not heard any Reference Recordings in HDCD encoding process I can only imagine that the clear transparent sound would be even better. If you can find this CD at a bargain go for it and you won’t be disappointed.
1….. Don Juan/Richard Strauss FIRST RELEASE (16:42)
2….. Looking Glass Insects/Deems Taylor RR-92 (2:56)
3….. Valentino Dances/Dominick Argento RR-91 (5:20)
4….. Finlandia/Sibelius RR-80 (7:48)
5….. Baba Yaga/Liadov RR-82 (3:22)
6….. Firebird Suite/Stravinsky RR-70 (5:00)
7….. Mazeppa Hopak/Tchaikovsky RR-71 (4:12)
8….. Das Lied von der Erde/Mahler RR-80 (3:12)
9….. Appalachian Spring Suite/Copland RR-93 (2:59)
10… Candid Suite/Bernstein RR-87 (8:14)
11… Ein Heldenleben/Strauss RR-83 (4:29)
12… Alborada del gracioso/Ravel RR-79 (7:37)
Total time is 72:19
Tracks 3,6,9,10,11 are excerpts
December 11, 2014
La-La Land Records LLLCD1319
If I were going to think about least likely things to happen one of them would be La-La Land releasing a 1941 score of Alfred Newman. “Man Hunt” directed by Fritz Lang for 20th Century Fox and taken from a British best seller “Rogue Male” by Geoffrey Household dealt with a story about an African game hunter Capt. Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) who stalked Adolph Hitler for sport he claims and is captured by the Germans. He escaped and the story title was on. Also appearing in the film were Joan Bennett, John Carradine, and George Sanders fine character actors in their day. The soundtrack was written by Alfred Newman, he did 15 that year with assistance from David Buttolph and orchestrators Edward Powell and Herbert Spencer, a team effort from the 20th Century Fox musical department.
There are three themes that are repeated throughout the score: “Main Title” or ‘thriller’ theme titled by liner note writer Julie Kirgo, who did an excellent job, “The Roast Beef of Old England,” giving a British feeling for the main character, and finally “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square,” a song by Sherwin and Maschwitz which made the songbooks of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Glenn Miller among others. It was the romantic theme for Joan Bennett.
After a short prelude the ‘thriller’ theme is introduced first by the orchestra and then by the bass clarinet, a good choice for the use of an instrument. You will hear this theme interwoven throughout the entire score. It is an excellent one and due to the bass clarinet playing one that you’re not likely to forget soon.
A full treatment of the nightingale song is given in “Night Comfort” while “Fish and Chips” gives us both the nightingale theme as well as a nice sampling of the roast beef tune. The 42+ minute score is finished before you know it leaving you with a lasting impression.
The transfer of the material, my older intersound speakers, the surviving sound from the film results in an exceptionally clear mono sound with only a hint of some distortion in it. I encourage you to watch the film and purchase this soundtrack which is a limited edition of only 1500 units. If this would happen to be a first introduction to the talents of Alfred Newman you will not be disappointed. Get it before it sells out.
1. Main Title (1:25)
2. German Headquarters (3;28)
3. The Confession (4:00)
4. High Places (3:25)
5. In the Ship’a Cabin (2:40)
6. Meeting Jerry (4:27)
7. Helping Thorndike (2:24)
8. Night Comfort (1:33)
9. Fish and Chips (5:21)
10. Stalking (1:23)
11. Murder in the Underground (5:03)
12. A Letter for Stokes (2:39)
13. Exchange (1:59)
14. War Montage (1:33)
15. Bail Out-End Title (0:40)
16. End Cast (0:36)
Total Time is 42:34
December 8, 2014
Victrola RCA 60016-2-RV
Serenade for Strings Waltz
Now more than ever before seems to be a good time to pick up bargains galore of used CD’s in thrift stores, pawnshops, and places that specialize in used audio material. Let’s face the facts and realize that this media form is going to go away and sooner than we might think. In my travels I found many CD’s for under a dollar and while I have many of Tchaikovsky’s works in my collection like a true collector this one caught my eye and I couldn’t resist. I’ve picked up several others and these will also be featured with their own review in the coming months.
RCA/Victrola was introduced in the early 1960’s as a way of reissuing material from their RCA/Red Seal catalog at a much lower price. Part of the releases were a series of 10 “BEST OF” and the Tchaikovsky CD was one of them.
The overall selection process seems to be awry from what I would have chosen as “BEST OF” from this talented composer. Missing are “Romeo and Juliet,” “Overture of 1812,” “Marche Slave,” “Violin Concerto,” “Nutcracker Suite” and “Swan Lake” among others. Instead the featured work is “Serenade for Strings” with three selections ( the waltz is featured in an audio clip) followed by two selections from his “Symphony No. 6.” I realize that some of my other favorites shouldn’t be included in releases such as the one that is being reviewed but I would have chosen differently and it would have been a lot more varied and interesting for the listener.
The overall quality of the recording is fine as the selections are divided between three orchestras and two soloists and the actual mastering is up to the usual RCA/Erato standards. If you’re fortunate enough to find this one for a dollar like I did and you’re interested in classical music I certainly wouldn’t hesitate getting this.
Look for more of my bargains in the future.
1. Serenade For Strings Waltz (3:54)
2. Symphony No. 6 First Movement (18:09)
3. Piano Concerto No. 1 Third Movement (7:14)
4. Serenade For Strings Elegy (9:03)
5. Serenade Melancolique (8:54)
6. Symphony No. 6 Second Movement (7:50)
7. Valse-Scherzo (5:30)
8. Serenade for Strings Tema russo (7:24)
Total Time is 68:30
December 4, 2014
When you take two box office draws like DeNiro and Streep and put them in a formula template that has worked in the past the producers expected a big Hollywood hit that just didn’t happen for Falling In Love. The acting was fine, plot good with the right amount of comedy and serious times, the New York background was superb and it had good direction. I felt it lagged in a couple of spots but this is a film I’ll return to and watch again as well as recommend to friends. During the film I was rooting for the main characters Mike and Maggie to get together at the end of the film which you’ll have to watch for yourself and see. I approved of the fact that there was no swearing, smoking, or nudity. As Bruce Kimmel producer of the release commented ” they felt the film was beneath its stars- they begrudgingly and halftheartedly says it’s good, damning it with faint praise.”
The Dave Grusin score, which is what we’re really interested in turned out to be a mixed bag when one compares the music from the film and the CD release. In this case I much prefer the CD to the movie especially in regards to the “Mountain Dance” substitution in the opening credits. Both are written by Grusin but the actual music he wrote for the film is far superior in my opinion. I can see why they could have chosen “Mountain Dance” but in reality it was the feature song for a specific album. I’m including a You Tube video clip to give you an idea followed by the “Main Title” music on the CD. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=takOVYOOucA. I also have to say that this is not a very good picture of Dave but fortunately the talent of Grusin shined through.
The “Main Title” which nicely depicts the hustle and bustle of the New York background is one that you’ll hear on several of the tracks. It is a catchy tune that you’ll remember and perhaps want to include in a compilation of Grusin film score music. “Trying to Recall” gives just a hint of what I’ll call the Mike and Maggie theme coupled with the “Main Title” music. It is featured in the track “Seat Taken” and then will appear several times more on the CD. In my opinion it is one of the better written tunes from Grusin. Other tracks of interest include “First Encounter” which introduces a third melody. I like what he did in “The Funeral” as it begins with what you’d expect to hear a fugue but seamlessly becomes the Mike and Maggie theme before ending with the sadness of a funeral. The entire soundtrack features the wonderful keyboards of Grusin who has a delicate but forceful style when called for. He selectively uses shimmering strings and harmonizes well with the percussion. The entire 48 minutes passes quickly.
As is usually the case with Kritzerland releases they are limited to 1000 copies and will sell out. Take advantage of this one soon.
October 23, 2014
If you’re on a limited budget but own a computer there is a whole world of classical music waiting for you for free, an example of this is the site www.rediscovery.us which offers a fine catalog of material. An example of this is arguably one of the finest examples of symphony writing, that being Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in b minor, the last work he wrote. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). There are many opinions of what really happened in regards to his suicide a very short time after the completion of this symphony, something I won’t discuss in this review but I will say that Tchaikovsky was a very troubled man and the writing of this work certainly indicates it. For those who wish to pursue this topic further I can recommend the book Tchaikovsky: The Man and His Music/David Brown.
Released on the RCA budget label Camden (CAS 503) Odd Gruner-Hegge and the Oslo Philharmonic give a rather reserved reading which goes along with the engineering of this recording as well. The high end is somewhat restrained, woofers are practically given a holiday in your speaker system, and the conducting indicates this. Some of this is due to the fact that this is a 320KBPS but others I’ve downloaded have a fuller dynamic range. Having said this it is a tremendous bargain which will give you an idea about the work in general.
The first movement, an adagio begins somewhat sadly with the bassoon offering the melody followed by the oboes. It quickly changes to a dramatic bright and bold version of the same melody coming to a crescendo before we’re introduced to the theme that was made popular called “Tonight We Love” becoming a theme song for Tony Martin. The rest of the seventeen minute movement is devoted to the development of the theme.
The second movement is a glowing feel good allegro played at a slower pace with a theme nicely developed and harmonized by Tchaikovsky. This is a movement typical of his style and one that lovers of his music will be accustomed to.
The third movement, another allegro, adds a third memorable theme to the work with a feel of the staccato from the strings with the brass offering harmony to the melody. It builds to a crescendo with the entire orchestra participating. If one was not familiar with the work you’d definitely get the feeling that this was the conclusion of the work!
The final movement which is the one many feel is a funeral march is in fact in my opinion a well thought out adagio which builds with another sad melody but ends in silence.
Tchaikovsky has shown how he has been able to master the symphonic form and his six symphonies rank among the finest to have come out of the late 19th century.
- adagio-allegro non troppo (17:37)
- Allegro con grazia (8:13)
- allegro molto vivace (9:09)
- adagio lamentoso (9:51)
NOTE: This work also includes the Schubert Symphony No. 8 in b minor “Unfinished.” Both works have the distinction of being unique with special circumstances for each. I prefer to discuss the Schubert work in a separate review.
September 5, 2014
Toccata Classics 0241
AUDIO CLIP REAR WINDOW
Featuring three of the finest composers from Hollywood; Herrmann, Waxman, and Tiomkin, John Mauceri offers a slightly different take on suites that have been created over the years of some of his biggest hits. John Mauceri has revised some of these suites to make a good one even better. As listeners we can only hope there will be more releases in the future. In addition there is a work from Benjamin and Elfman closes out the CD with his recently made film Hitchcock. The 81 minute CD offers music from Psycho, Rear Window, Rebecca, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, which includes the “Storm Cantata” and Hitchcock.
The CD begins with the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with its bright brass and a very strong emphasis on the percussion (timpani and cymbals). For those who are not familiar with the film the crescendo of the work has a very loud crash of the cymbals to muffle the sound of the gunshot. We quickly move to an extended suite from Rebecca (1940) from Franz Waxman the second of his many Oscar nominations and one of his better efforts in my opinion. It is a darkly romantic suite with a rich memorable theme which weaves its way through the score and will not be forgotten once you hear it. Waxman was in top form when he composed it for the Hitchcock/Selznick compilation.
The other entry from Waxman is the jazz style score to Rear Window (1954). I like the opening “Prelude” which sounds like it has a bit of that Sunset Boulevard style with a bit of improvisational feeling. I’ve included this one as an audio clip for you to enjoy. The ballet plays out like another track from Sunset Boulevard with an emphasis on a Leonard Bernstein cue from West Side Story. This is definitely one of Waxman’s underappreciated scores and is one that should be revisited often. This release also coincides with the remake of the film in 1998 and very recently released from MSM. That score was done by the talented David Shire.
Dimitri Tiomkin, Russian born, studied under Glazunov, a favorite classical composer of mine, immigrated to the United States and had a fine career in Hollywood. While he is probably best known for his High Noon theme he has so many more to offer. Strangers on a Train” shows the listener the versatility of Tiomkin as the suite offers classical, playful, fugue, and ends with a stunning waltz. This is quite an array of material for this suspense/thriller film from Alfred Hitchcock. Dial M for Murder begins with a classic Tiomkin fanfare opening somewhat similar to Red River and others. It quickly changes gears to a waltz which is the main theme of the film. Delicate, nicely flowing, it is one of his nicer efforts. The remainder of the suite is filled with danger and tension cues, something that Tiomkin knows well. Listen to the clock like cue with growly brass and the ever present vibraphone. There is also a fairly brief passage of the fugue that could have been taken from Strangers on a Train.
It can be argued by many that Vertigo was the best effort that Herrmann ever did. The dark romantic material will stay lingering in your brain as you hear the haunting melody that only Herrmann can write. “Prelude” and “Scene d’Amour” are the two selections from the film and both feature the haunting melody. The latter is quite a romantic bit of writing from Herrmann, probably the best he ever did.
North by Northwest (1959) is yet another memorable theme with the entire orchestra participating with staccato brass providing the main melody with excellent harmony coming from both the brass and the woodwinds. I like the way he uses the forceful notes to emphasize his theme.
Psycho (1960) was a film that at one point was almost never made and with that said it created a stir as well as a paycheck for life for Hitchcock. Herrmann went back to his “Sinfonietta” (1936) and drew material and the idea of making the score only strings. The strings provide just what the doctor ordered for the film and the narrative was created by Herrmann afterword. It has become a well played suite being recorded and performed by many orchestras. In 1968 Mauceri reworked the material and this is what is heard on this recording.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) was a remake of his film from 1934 and much of the suite you hear is not original Herrmann material but that of Arthur Benjamin’s material. I say that this short piece is as close to many that they will ever get to opera material. It is a very nice classical piece that worked very well in the film.
Finally we have Danny Elfman and his score to the film Hitchcock (2012) which tells the story of Hitchcock himself and the making of the film Psycho. The style is somewhat different and there is only a reference to the original film with the urgent violins. It plays out a lot more like a Sherlock Holmes film with a violin solo that weaves in and out in the beginning of the track before a love melody finishes out the track.
Everything about this release is top notch from the John Riley liner notes to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra to the conducting of John Mauceri, and finally to the recording. It will be a most welcome addition to any collection and comes with my highest recommendation.
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1:57)
- Rebecca (8.22)
- Rear Window (9:30)
- Strangers on a Train (8:39)
- Dial M For Murder (7:47)
- Vertigo (9:32)
- North By Northwest (2:47)
- Psycho (15:42)
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (9:55)
- Hitchcock (2012) (5:50)
Total Time is 81:00