July 25, 2014
AUDIO CLIP VENICE NOCTURNE OTHELLO
While I don’t have actual figures I have to guess that there have been more written about works of Shakespeare than anyone else. Just this week, in addition to this release I also received another Othello work composed by Zdenek Fibich (1850-1900), a Czech who never got the recognition of Dvorak or Smetena. Khachaturian (1903-1978) might also be put into a similar situation taking the back seat to Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.
The two works represented on this CD were previously released from a Marco Polo CD recorded in June of 1992. Othello, written in 1956 was a color film done when the standards were relaxed but still watched carefully by the Soviet government.
“Prologue and Introduction” begins with a mysterious dark opening which sets the mood for an extended violin solo that is the complete opposite of what was heard earlier. This is to be the leitmotif of Othello proud and lyrical. It is playful with interplay between it and the woodwinds. The middle section of the movement is filled brass statements urgency from the strings and an overall feeling of turmoil. The final section returns to the Othello theme which is sandwiched around statements from the woodwinds. This is a very strong movement and one that I’ll include in a compilation playlist. Jana Valaskova, soprano, is featured in “Desdemona’s Arioso,” a cue of mostly upbeat material. Other tracks of interest are “Venice,” a nocturne, featuring an exquisite oboe solo enhanced by soft strings. I’ve include this selection as an audio clip for you to listen to. Please remember that the clips are much lower in quality than what you’ll hear on the CD.In my book this is another winner. “Finale,” features the Slovak Philharmonic Chorus in a very unhollywood conclusion to the film. There is a brief return to the violin motif of Othello.
Written seven years earlier in 1949 Battle of Stalingrad has the sound of what you would expect to hear at least in my opinion. If someone played this work for me and later told me it was Shostakovich I would have believed. It took a few listens before I was able to pick up on the Khachaturian sound which can be similar to Shostakovich but really completely different.
“A City on the Volga-The Invasion” is the first of this five part suite. It appropriately begins with a very Russian sounding hymnal march that sets the tone of what we’re going to hear for the duration of the 29 minutes. The second part features references to the hymn O’Tannebaum German Xmas theme that features strong staccato percussion with trumpets. A wonderful introduction.
“Stalingrad in Flames” depicts the anguish and depression of the war. This track offers nothing in the way of hope.
“The Enemy is Doomed,” the longest of the tracks is another track with heavy melancholy overtones. Again there seems to be no sign of hope.
“To Victory- There is a Cliff on the Volga” offers a triumphant victory march with the brass leading the way with their bright upbeat sound. The overall sound is very similar to the first track although each has their own unique themes.
This CD will be a welcome addition to your collection if you missed it the first time around and you’re a collector of the Russian soundtrack material. While the films are nothing more than a glorification of Stalin and quite boring the soundtracks are interesting. Recommended
Battle of Stalingrad (Suite 1949)
- A City on the Volga-The Invasion (5:18)
- Stalingrad in Flames (4:01)
- The Enemy is Doomed (7:34)
- For Our Motherland: To the Attack! – Eternal Glory to the Heroes (6:35)
- To Victory- There is a Cliff on the Volga (6:11)
Othello (Suite 1956)
- Prologue and Introduction (8:44)
- Desdemona’s Arioso (3:14)
- Vineyards (3:45)
- Venice (Nocturne) (2:39)
- Nocturnal Murder (Roderigo’s Death) (2:33)
- Othello’s Despair (2:03)
- A Fit of Jealousy (2:06)
- Othello’s Despair (2:03)
- The Striking of Desdemona (The Slap) (0:55)
- Othello’s Farewell From the Camp (2:01)
- Finale (3:39)
Total Time is 63:56
July 18, 2014
REDISCOVERY rd 053
Another recent release I found on www.rediscovery.us was the very first dynagroove recording that Morton Gould made for RCA. What a better way to show off your new technology with Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius. These works give plenty of dynamic range to show off the new technology which wasn’t very well received by either the public or critics. Such phrases such as “Dynagroove for the wooden sound,” Grindagroove, and “a step away from faithful reproduction” were just some of the terminology used to describe it. This recording doesn’t seem to suffer from some of descriptions and for the listener is a nice introduction to some pretty good Norse material.
Morton Gould (1913-1996) was involved in all facets of music from president of ASCAP, Broadway, Hollywood, Television, conducting, composing, and teaching. While he didn’t have the impact on American Music that Aaron Copland had he made in my estimation and invaluable contribution to American music. The Rediscovery RD 053 is divided into two parts. The first is a recording done with the Philharmonia Orchestra of the Symphonic Dances, Op. 64 of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). Composed in 1896/97 the four movement work is based on Norwegian folk dances and originally had a subtitle ‘after Norwegian Themes.’ He further stressed that these movements be performed together and not be broken up into little pieces.
First movement is a dance from Hallingdal who performed at weddings in the area. Sprightly is a good word to describe the mainly lively upbeat melody that you’ll remember.
Second movement is played by the oboe and is a playful and giddy melody. The middle section of the movement gains in liveliness becoming almost playful before the work finishes like it began with the oboe repeating the halling tune yet once again.
Third movement is a running dance from the Hedmark region with an allegro tempo. It has its own unique melody like the first two.
The fourth movement comes from yet another folk dance this time from the Norwegian version of a zither called a langeleik. This instrument is not used in the orchestration. Parts of it sound like a variation of the theme from the second movement without the oboe. The end of the movement turns dramatic as if it was a turning point in a movement. The final section comes right from a Tchaikovsky piece.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) might be best known for his hymn Finlandia, part of the Press Celebration Suite he wrote as his reaction to the new Russian censorship rules. It was written in 1899 or about the same time as Grieg was working on his Symphonic Dances. Some of the younger generation if they read this review might remember it from the film “Die Hard 2,” where it was used extensively. The work is overly dramatic and filled with religious overtones but the melody and its development will forever imbed itself into your memory. A favorite work that is included on many compilation albums.
Swan of Tuonela originally written for an opera that never worked out it ended up becoming part of his Lemminkainen Suite, also written during the same time period as Finlandia. It is most known for the cor anglais solo that is haunting, mysterious, and a wonderful choice of instruments for the swan.
Pohjola’s Daughter was written in 1906 and based on a folklore tale of a bearded old man, a beautiful maiden, and the tasks he fails at trying to take her away. The tone poem left me the feeling that there was no melody to take away but I could hear the section that rumor has it inspired Bernard Herrmann and his writing of the “Psycho” soundtrack. No it really doesn’t sound anything like the soundtrack but I can understand why the rumor started.
Valse Triste, a signature piece of Sibelius was also written in the same time frame, 1903, as the others in this collection is a sad yearning waltz, an oxymoron of sorts. It is a beautiful piece that seems to flow endlessly. The work came from the Kuomela (death) a play.
Lemminkainen’s Return also comes from the Lemminkainen Suite being the final movement of the tone poem. It was written in the 1890’s but was revised in 1947, one of the few pieces that he worked on the last 50 or so years of his life. It has far reaching dramatic overtones with a melody that you’ll remember. Strong use of the side drum and loud brass make this one that the younger generation might enjoy.
This is the second review of works remastered by David Gideon all free downloads. The audio quality is average but if one wishes a higher end CD this might just push you into getting it. The selection of the material is strong and Gould knows his stuff.
Grieg Symphonic Dances
- Allegro Moderato E Marcato (6:02)
- Allegretto Grazioso (5:18)
- Allegro Giocoso (5:11)
- Andante. Allegro Molto E Risoluto (10:52)
Morton Gould and The Philharmonia Orchestra
- Finlandia (8:14)
- Swan of Tuonela (8:24)
- Pohjola’s Daughter (13:30)
- Valse Triste (5:09)
- Lemminkainen’s Return (6:04)
Morton Gould Orchestra
Total Time is 68:44
July 16, 2014
RPO SP 042
NIC RAINE CONDUCTS THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
THEME FROM THE IPCRESS FILE
Here is yet another compilation of John Barry material for the listener so what makes this one special from the others. Nic Raine has had a long successful working relationship with John Barry and it’s because of this connection that this CD is slightly superior to the others in the marketplace. Raine’s knows the material and has an edge, a strong one. While there are others who guest conduct it’s Raine who did the arranging and the orchestrating and you can hear the difference. This would be the attraction to the soundtrack collector who likely already has all of this material already. I think the RPO put this CD out for the few places like Walmart where the customer can still look the bins and seeing the name Barry turning it over and reading the track listing thinks this would be a nice addition to his modest collection.
A very unusual thing about this CD is the absolute absent of any James Bond material which leads this reviewer to believe that there is a future installment featuring only Bond selections. Bond and Barry go together like tuna and mayo as there was a twenty five year run of Barry being the composer.
This CD is the ideal background music as the lovely sweet strains of Born Free, Somewhere in Time, and Out of Africa fill your date’s ear with music that she is likely familiar with. The arrangements are very pop and could be called elevator music, yet the tempos and the accenting of the right note in a passage is all there. One reviewer called Born Free syrupy which I question. The drum roll beginning is an eye opener to me that certainly got my attention.
Controlled light jazz is the description for Ipcress File as it begins with a cool sounding drum solo followed by the throaty strains of a flute playing in the lower register and then the theme is introduced by a cimbalom which has support orchestration from flutes, piano, double bass, and muted trumpet. This is a favorite of mine that I’ve got several different jazz interpretations of, that include artists other than John Barry.
Chaplin will tug at your heart strings as an especially romantic version of “Smile” is introduced by the piano and continued by lush sounding strings all designed with love in the air. The initial piano offering brought a tear to my eye.
One of the most seductive themes that Barry wrote was the theme to Body Heat with the strains of the alto sax luring the male into a situation he knows is bad but can’t resist the temptation. The sax was nicely played by Martin Williams and properly arranged by Nic Raines who knows Barry all too well.
Mary, Queen of Scots offers a solo violin that plays the melody that Tchaikovsky would be proud of. It is very yearning and well played by Clio Gould. Not complicated at all but very elegant.
Midnight Cowboy is one that misses the mark in my opinion. The harmonica arrangement is weak and not nearly as defined as the original recordings from John Barry. The recording itself doesn’t have the separation of the instrumentation that I listen for. The overall sound I found shrilly.
There are no liner notes at all only a listing of the soloists and a small biography about the RPO. This also leads me to believe that this CD was not aimed at the collector at all. I can say that overall I like it and I’ve already included The Ipcress File in one of my playlists on my iPod. This is a case where I feel that the good outweighs the bad. It’s available from Amazon in MP3 or CD format as well as other places.
- Born Free (3:58)
- The Ipcress File (4:20)
- King Kong (5:09)
- Dances with Wolves (3:52)
- Chaplin (5:07)
- King Rat (3:13)
- Enigma (3:26)
- Zulu (2:27)
- Mary, Queen of Scots (3:23)
- Midnight Cowboy (4:41)
- The Specialist (4:41)
- Somewhere in Time (6:31)
- The Quiller Memorandum (2:48)
- The Knack (1:43)
- Indecent Proposal (3:58)
- The Persuaders (2:12)
- Body Heat (4:05)
- Out of Africa (3:30)
Total Time 68:53
July 14, 2014
REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-710SACD
“Do note, there was a printing mistake we’ve just noticed that appears in the printed press release, on the label of the disc and the back tray card of the package that incorrectly states that the Dvorak Symphony 8 is in E Minor. It is not, it’s a G Major.
We are correcting the error.”
Fresh from reviewing another RR recording, “The Banner Saga”/Austin Wintory I received in the mail a new recording from them, a live recording with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Along with a favorite of mine Dvorak’s 8th it included a work that was not familiar to me that being a Symphonic Suite from Jenufa, an opera, by Janacek which was arranged by the versatile conductor of the orchestra Manfred Honeck. Manfred re-orchestrated the suite from composer Tomas Ille.
It has been said that of the nine symphonies that Dvorak wrote the 8th is by far the most Czech sounding. It was written at a time when he closer to nature and the work certainly reflect this with the sounds early in the first movement (allegro con brio) mimicking the singing of a bird. This is just part of an extremely strong melody that begins in a rather mournful fashion but as the flute enters the crescendo begins and it becomes quite loud. A second theme is introduced one that is somewhat that is to somewhat share the spotlight with the main theme. The second movement is an Adagio a beautiful yearning theme that offers the bird songs but this time there from the woodwinds. It is a tranquil change of pace from the active upbeat of the first movement. Could this be a funeral march? You must judge for yourself. The third movement, the shortest of the four movements is an Allegretto, light and fluffy is the sound you’ll hear from the orchestra. The last movement, another Allegro, offers us a series of wonderful trills from the brass section so nicely recorded and brought to the to the foreground of the recording so that the listener will stop and take notice. Other recordings that I own of this symphony treat it as just a part of the orchestration.
Jenufa and the new arrangement from Honeck offer the addition of a xylophone (triangle used in the opera) which as described by Manfred as a connecting piece to the different emotions of sadness, drama, storminess, and the ending. I ponder how so very effective Janacek would have been as a film composer. Melodies and rhythm are a strong suit of this orchestral work that passes by all too quickly.
One of the keys to the success of this recording is the superior sound which you’ll best hear in SACD or at the very least on a moderate quality system. I happen to have a Sony dream machine which has a CD player and as the case many times I listened to the CD and the result was a very ordinary sounding recording. When I played it through my stereo system the result was nothing short of spectacular. Yes you’ll hear the occasional rustling of the papers and a stray cough but at least to me I didn’t find it distracting at all. It sounds very similar to being in Heinz Hall. The CD is available from Amazon or you can purchase direct from Reference Recordings. You won’t be disappointed. I understand that Reference has already recorded other CD’s with the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Dvorak Symphony No. 8 in F major, op. 88
1. Allegro con brio (10:04)
2. Adagio (11:44)
3. Allegretto grazioso (6:03)
4. Allegro ma non troppo (11:06)
Janacek Symphonic Suite
5. Jenufa (22:57)
Total Time is 62:04
July 11, 2014
BIS 1745 SACD
While Sibelius (1865-1957) lived into the mid 20th century much of his output of composition was done in the late 19th century and early 20th century and the style of his music is reflected in that. His music is quite melodic and I could compare him to composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Dvorak, and Liszt. In fact he said “Liszt view of music is the one to which I’m closest.” “Musically speaking I am a tone painter and poet.” The Lemminkainen Suite was inspired from the Kalevala, a poem published in 1835 that impacted the Finnish society. Material for the four part suite came from an opera project Veneen luominen that was abandoned. The first movement “Lemminkainen and the Maiden of the Island” sets the mood for the entire work. It begins with a horn calling out and a very slow crescendo builds to a climax. The texture is rich, the orchestration sound, and Vanska’s conducting of the Lahti symphony leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind how well they know this piece. The “Swan of Tuonela” is often performed as a separate piece. The nine minute length seems perfect for a variety of different programs performed. The beautiful melody from the cor anglais is a favorite among symphony goers. This upon closer examination is really a dark work full of desolation and melancholy but the haunting sound of the cor anglais is the perfect instrument to bring across what Sibelius is trying to depict in his tone and color. The third movement “Lemminkainen in Tuonela” is strikingly rich in contrast and style as this depicts a creepiness with low strings which build in intensity as the horns sound followed by the strings giving us another dose of a creepy feeling before a crescendo. Listen for his effective use of the bass drum in key spots as its thunderous sound enhances greatly the orchestration. “Lemminkainen’s Return,” the final movement, reminds me of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. This movement is filled with energy and provides a rousing conclusion to this very fine work that could have easily been called a symphony. While the true Sibelian is most familiar with this work I think that is something somewhat under the radar and should be explored.
For this reviewer The Wood Nymph listening was a first and like the previous work I was impressed with what I heard. I agree with the liner note writer Barnett that this work was influenced by Wagner. The opening prelude with the horns is more than enough evidence. It was written and performed a year before but then it wasn’t until 2006 that it was performed again by this same orchestra and conductor who did this recording. In terms of tone poems I would rank this work in the middle of the pack. I couldn’t walk away from this work with any sort of melody that I would remember. But there was a feeling of captivation as far as the arrangement and orchestration was concerned so in conclusion I’m certainly glad that I have this as part of my collection and I think you’ll feel the same away.
If you have the capacity to be able to listen to an SACD recording then this is a no brainer as far as a purchase is concerned. The same can be said if you don’t own these early works of Sibelius in your collection.
Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22 (47:06)
1. Lemminkainen and the Maidens of the Island. (14:59) Allegro
2. The Swan of Tuonela (9:10) Andante
3. Lemminkainen in Tuonela (16:07) Largo
4. Lemminkainen’s Return (6:24) Allegro
5. The Wood Nymph, Op. 15 (21:37)
July 4, 2014
In My Dreams Theme
I’ve been following William Ross for quite a few years dating back to his score for the movie My Dog Skip (2000), a heartfelt film which always brings a tear to my eye. Ross has seemed to have found his niche in doing love stories, feel good themes, and special animals among others. He has over 100 credits as a composer and orchestrator to his credit, is the winner of three daytime Emmy’s and has been nominated for many other awards. In a word he is talented.
The plot of the film involves throwing coins into a fountain and fate has them touching which according to legend has special meaning. There are obstacles to overcome and a lot of decisions are made in that short week which again according to legend is the time frame for the dreams to come true. A Hallmark production it aired on television in April of 2014.
“In My Dreams” Theme begins with a strong statement from the guitar before the piano takes the lead and introduces the melody as the guitar becomes the harmony along with the second hand on the piano. An oboe and a clarinet along with strings offer the melody before the track ends. This is my favorite track on the soundtrack and if you do nothing else download this track from the monument website http://www.momentumrlp.com/label/in-my-dreams/ and let it become a part of one of your playlists or CD compilations. The audio clip that I’m including is a poor audio quality example but is a carrot to let you explore the general sound and style of the material.
“First Dream” is the first of the tracks that has what I like to refer to as the Thomas Newman sound from the piano. Subtle, but dreamy like chords that make one stop, listen, and reflect. You’re not going to hear anything loud on this soundtrack. Some will call it background or elevator type music but I choose to listen more carefully and listen to the well thought out chords and quiet peaceful orchestrations.
“This Is Real,” the final track slowly builds itself up to a climax with the guitar offering a melody and the strings playing a sense of urgency. There is a pause and a restatement of the Thomas Newman chords and then a playing of the main theme again first from the oboe and clarinet and finally the guitar, piano, and strings.
This is a nice score to listen to if you want to lay back, relax, and offer little effort. I know that I’ll return to the main theme and the “This is Real” tracks as part of my playlists. This is only available as a download at this time. Perhaps in the future a CD will be issued.
- “In My Dreams” Theme (3:17)
2. First Dream (2:51)
3. A Mother To Remember (0:37)
4. Second Dream (4:07)
5. Third Dream (5:12)
6. Dreaming Alone (2:30)
7. Broccolis (0:48)
8. The Legend (2:52)
9. From The Heart (0:45)
- Sleepless Nights (1:26)
- This Is Real (5:57)
Total Time is 30:22