August 28, 2016
REFERENCE RECORDINGS- RR-138
With a release date of September 9th 2016 Reference Recording was nice enough to send out an advance copy for review. Fairly unknown, except by the most advanced classical listener, this CD has turned out for me to be a real treat. Included in the release are 4 works that are making their premiere release on recording media.
Anyone who is familiar with Reference Recordings knows that the recording in 24-Bit is a step above in quality and finer equipment will capture all of the clarity and transparency that are a trademark of Prof. Johnson and his excellent team.
The enhanced 65 piece orchestra from their original 49 core members produced a fine sound under the direction of Martin West. As a result of the ballet performing “From Performing Lands” West, intrigued, began to find more of his material and we now have a 73 minute CD of some of his orchestral works.
The beginning selection, a world premiere, “Torch Dance,” begins as a coronation march with the brass offering a major part in the cue while the strings remain active with the harmony provided by the calls of the brass section which is 13 pieces strong and a big part of the orchestrating. The next 7 cues are devoted to “Foreign Lands.” The opening piece, a Russian selection reminds me of something that Glazunov might have done in a dreamy way. I find track no. 4 to be my favorite selection on the CD. The remainder of the tracks include an Italian fandango, a fast Polish dance, a Hungarian Csardas, an Italian tarantella, a very stately German dance. The 26 minute work offers a variety of styles, tempos and dances from the 6 countries represented. A nice addition to your collection.
“Habanera,” is a Spanish Dance contradanza haberna, and the lovely melody is enhanced by the staccato type rhythm along with the delicacy of the harp playing in the background. This is a world premiere recording. The best way to describe it is it has a sound of Resphigi. “By the Cradle” is not a lullaby but part of an 8 piece set for 4 piano hands. The first recording was on a 78 rpm and this CD is the second. It has a sound that is peaceful and easy to follow the melody line. The original composition was called sorrows and smiles and this one certainly falls into the smile category. Another world premiere is “Six Airs De Ballet,” which is based on the Grabbes Don Juan and Faust. The six movements are marked Entr’acte , Intermezzo, Fantasmagorie, Minuetto, Sarabande, and Passepied. Many of them sound like Mozart. The actual ballet written in 1829 didn’t prove to be particularly successful although another attempt was made in 1950. Gondoliera based on a poem written by Geibel it was a good example of what one can do in 5 minutes. This is another world premiere making one wonder of course why hasn’t he been recorded before. The final 5 tracks are Spanish Dances orchestrated Philipp Scharwenka and Valentin Frank as he wrote it for piano, four hands. This is his most popular work and financially his money maker so to speak.
If you’re anything like me and you’ve discovered something new you’ll want to have this in your collection. This is a very easy piece to listen to and I recommend it.
August 17, 2016
One of the best surprises I received was another package consisting of many CD’s from La-La-La Land Records which included one of my favorite scores “Cutthroat Island” by composer John Debney who orchestrated a masterful soundtrack combining Wagner, Strauss, Korngold and John Williams. The two CD set (LLLCD 1387) is nearly 2 1/2 hours of suspense, romance, swashbuckling entertainment that is not to be missed. I hope that all of the wonderful Jeff Bond liner notes will someday be in the form of a book. Everything about the bomb of a film except of course for the score is detailed in the extensive notes he has provided to the listeners.
June 25, 2016
The latest release from MSM is somewhat of a departure from the soundtracks and some really nice well played chamber music featuring four different films that were adapted to classical music. The program varies from soundtrack (4total) so each listening experience is special. It will bring your emotions up and down. So let’s start talking about what I hear.
The “Ronin Suite” begins in a minor key on the piano with the violin offering a death march which switches to a tension dissonant passage followed by a change to the major key.
June 12, 2016
May 10, 2016
PRELUDE TO JANE EYRE
Jane Eyre(1943) starred Orson Welles as Rochester, Joan Fontaine as Eyre, Margaret O’Brien as Adele Varens, Peggy Ann Garner as Jane Eyre as a child, Henry Daniell as Henry Brocklehurst, Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed and Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited role. Directed by Robert Stevenson, a long time veteran, who might be best known for Mary Poppins, he began directing in 1932 and didn’t stop for 50 years. If you’re familiar with Orson Welles you’ll certainly see his influence in this 20th Century Fox high budget (1.7 million) film. With the tagline of “a love story every woman would die a thousand deaths to live” the often used obnoxious slogan chick flick applies.
Jane Eyre was the fourth film for Herrmann with his first three being Citizen Kane (1941), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). It was also the beginning of a long relationship with 20th Century Fox that lasted for many years. However, this was a case where Herrmann was the second choice to do the film with the first being Igor Stravinsky who turned down the assignment. All of the mentioned films were written at a time when classical music was also part of Herrmann’s life. He had written a symphony in 1941 and had also completed his opera “Wuthering Heights” during this time period. What you’ll hear is a very classical score to this gothic romantic film. If you’re a fan of Herrmann you’ll hear many cues from other films that germinated from this soundtrack.
Highlights include the “Prelude” (audio clip included) which offers two of the major themes that you’ll hear throughout the course of this soundtrack. The ominous horns begin the serious main title. The theme is quickly picked up by the strings and it is carried in a heavy Germanic style. Then with little warning there is the theme for Jane offered by the sad oboe that instantly recognizes the Herrmann sound. “Jane’s Departure” begins with a new theme from the horns which is quite sad and mellow concentrating in the lower register. It ends with her carriage ride which is from a short section of “Swing Your Partners” from The Devil and Daniel Webster. You’ll also hear this theme briefly in “The Wedding-The Wife” which goes from happy and carefree with church bells to dark and ominous with a fugue from the organ. This 2:27 cue runs the entire gamut of emotions! “Thornfield Hall-Valse Bluette” reveals the Rochester theme in a brooding dissonant rendition. It is a far more complex theme than the Prelude or Jane themes. The “Valse Bluette” is a musical box theme created with a synthesizer for this recording. The Rochester theme is also featured on “Rochester’s Past” as first a sad variation which changes to a dissonant very difficult passage to play. It reveals both sides of an extremely complex bipolar character. The prelude theme is performed again but this time as depressing as Herrmann can muster. “Finale” is another variation of the prelude theme followed by a major key uplifting of the Jane theme and a bold happy ending crescendo.
Some consider this to be Herrmann’s finest score and while I don’t agree it is very nice and a keeper in my collection. Bruce Kimmel, owner of Kritzerland, was kind enough to send me a review copy that will go right next to the Naxos recording. I recommend that you have both in your collection. The newer digitally recorded is nice but the OST is great also. It’s nice to have both and enjoy the amazing talent of BH.
May 1, 2016
Harry’s theme from Save the Tiger
Directed by Robert Redford in his directorial debut and starring Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, and Timothy Hutton it was adapted from a novel by Judith Guest dealing the death of a son in a white collar family and all of the emotions that surrounded the situation. The film received 4 academy awards for picture, director, supporting actor, and screenplay as well as being a success at the box office. The public that attended took a good look at their own families so perhaps the film was helpful instead of entertainment.
Composer Marvin Hamlisch and director Robert Redford used the famous classical theme ” Canon in D” theme by Johann Pachelbel as the main theme and many of the other tracks. The theme, is a solid example of seriousness known to much of the listening office even if they had no idea where it came from. Hamlisch did a good job in arranging and orchestrating the theme in such a way that it was serious, light, dance , and religious. It appears as harmony and counterpoint and the use of it had to increase the sales of it making the classical world very happy. As I went through the tracks I enjoyed trying to find examples of it’s use.
“Do You Want Some Breakfast,” an original theme from Marvin is offered three different ways and is a sweet sentimental melody that is an alternative to “Canon in D.” One of the things that Marvin did was write all of his source music which includes classical, holiday, funk, elevator music, and country western.
This score is one that will appeal to you if you were moved by the film, La-La Land completest, or fan of Marvin Hamlisch. I found it appealing because I was listening to all of the different variations of the “Canon in D” theme.
The other half of the 2 fer is Save the Tiger (1974) a film directed by John G. Avildsen, Rocky fame, and starred Jack Lemmon starring as Harry Stonet, a Long Beach dress manufacturer, who goes through a period of 48 hours that prove to be life changing. Jack won the Oscar for Save the Tiger that year for best actor in a film that cost a little over a million to make and became a big hit with the younger and older generation, something hard to do.
Since part of the film dealt with the flashbacks of Harry Stonet and his service in WWII Marvin Hamlisch used a lot of material that was played during that time such as “Stompin at Savoy.” He did compose a great theme for “Save the Tiger” (Harry’s theme) that was written in the style of the 40’s. It was a sweet band slow dancing number that fit Harry perfectly. The track featured a fine trumpet, clarinet and clarinet solo. It also appears in “L.A. Sunset,” “Exit Factory,” and “Surf.” “Surf” was orchestrated for trio and featured vibraphone, trombone, and piano. His other theme was “Where Are All My Dreams?” written very much in the style of something that Burt Bacharach might have written. Listen to the rhythm and the piano chords and you’ll agree.
This is a soundtrack that will appeal to someone who enjoys the music of the 40’s as both the source and original music are from that era. While it is not a must have soundtrack it does nicely represent what Marvin Hamlisch did for Hollywood. He did win three Oscars you know and all on the same night; quite an achievement.
April 30, 2016
MAIN TITLE: MYSTERY OF THE BATWOMAN
Composed by Lolita Ritmanis in (2003) for the animated film, this score is being offered by La-La Land for the very first time. The score is mostly synthesized (Warner Bros. budget and direct to video)but does offer the saxophone talents of reed man John Yoakum who was effectively used playing several reed instruments, giving it a feeling that it could be orchestral. Lolita also contributed her talents on the piano, playing simple but effective chords.
The tracks that I enjoyed were the “Main Title,” introduced by the piano against the synthesizer. The theme is picked up by the saxophone which gives it a little bit of a swagger, reminding you of a detective theme. The “Main Title” (film version) which includes the original Shirley Walker along with the Ritmanis theme complete with the Saxophone making for a slightly erotic effect. “I Missed You” could certainly qualify as a nice love theme albiet far too brief. The theme has a hypnotic effect on me. ” Chase Me,” from a short Batman recalls the Latin American sound that was so popular with Jobim, Getz and Gilberto. Some good saxophone work along with a strong rhythm presence. A winner in my books. “I Miss You” is a seductive track that again features the ever present saxophone of Yoakum who gave this score a completely different sound. Overall I thought that the action tracks were okay because they weren’t too loud or dissonant but worked fine in the film.
While this isn’t a score that will ever win any awards it is one that is solid to listen to and has the appeal where you want to go back and listen to it again. While not a big Batman fan I found myself thinking about how Batwoman was being portrayed music wise and I certainly liked the way Ritmanis handled it.
I feel that the major appeal to this score will come from the true Batman fan or the completest of this style and type of material. The recording of the material is fine and as I stated above there are some interesting tracks that are worth your attention. I’ve included the main title track to give you an idea of what it sounds like. It is lower quality but will give you an idea.