April 15, 2015
The Sea Garden
A couple of awards should be given to “Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef,” a film starring Robert Wagner, Gilbert Roland, Richard Boone, Peter Graves and Terry Moore. The first is the best soundtrack written for the worst film. The other is the only soundtrack to feature nine harps in the score which makes it one of my favorite Herrmann soundtracks. It was one of the earlier CinemaScope efforts from Fox and the underwater sequences must have been nice to see on the wide screen along with the harp music which added to the danger and mystery of the reef. The story is about two sponge boats who are establishing territorial areas and the one place both are reluctant to go to which is the twelve mile reef. Of course the daughter of one of the boats falls in love with a young boy from the other side which ignites the situation even more. Directed by Robert Webb whose claim to fame was he directed Elvis Presley’s first film “Love Me Tender.”
“The Prelude” sets the stage for the film as the background is a water scene with a beautiful sunset. It is a bright with trumpets playing the melody against upbeat harp chords. A second theme somewhat romantic very brief is introduced but one that you’ll hear again throughout the soundtrack. “The Undersea” gives us our first offering of the underwater music that is the basis for other tracks. It’s background is a sponge diver in the murky depths with dark morbid strings and the harps playing a prominent roll somewhat synchronized to the slow movements of the diver as he gathers sponges. Whether this was the first film to use this idea of the harp as an underwater association I’m not sure but since this film it has been used often. Keeping in mind that part of this film is underwater ( director of photography Edward Cronjager was nominated for Oscar) this style of music was used, enhancing what you see on the screen. “The Boat” begins with a melody soft in nature with the harp and segues into a third theme, romantic in nature that you’ll again. “The Homecoming” returns to the main title theme as the boat docks and the crew is greeted by family. “The Glades” paint a different picture as it begins with the softer version of the main title changing into a somewhat dissonant passage. “Flirtation” is a nice track which begins in a very playful manner and ends up on a romantic note. “The Quiet Sea” makes use of the second theme from the main title. In “The Undersea Forest” you’ll hear a great example of how the harps and the lower strings and woodwinds play together, one complementing the other. The lower strings have a lumbering effect mimicking the slow movement of the diver. “Elegy” a slow sad movement which is lead by the oboe. The strings play very sadly but the music has a tribute to the death of Tony. Few can write as sorrowful as Herrmann and the short “Sorrow” shows that with oboe as it plays out a variation of the main title in a minor key. I’m including “The Sea Garden” as an audio track which will give you a good idea how the underwater sound was created.
As far as audio quality is concerned this soundtrack while recorded in three track stereo has not stood the test of time very well. There is some wow and flutter and some of it suffers from overall muddiness. Let’s just call this an archival recording. There is little difference between the FSM and this recording other than there were some tracks combined on the FSM. This soundtrack is really a study in how underscore material should be written. Each track assumes one of the themes created by Herrmann and it is used in a different way depending upon what you’re watching on the screen and I found myself listening to the music and not watching the film. Remember I said that this wasn’t a very good film. I consider this to be a top 100 recording and a must have in you’re collection. If you don’t have it get it before this small limited edition is sold out.
April 12, 2015
DRAGON’S DOMAIN DDR 601 LIMITED EDITION OF 1500
Belstone Fox Theme
Back in the 70’s film soundtracks were filled with melodies, ones that you could remember and hum for days until you heard another one by such composers as John Barry, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, and John Williams among many others. Part of that group included the extremely talented British composer Laurie Johnson who you might remember as doing the “Avengers” theme. Johnson has written scores for over 400 film and television series. His style reflects at least on this recording his formal training from the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Without investigating the story seems to be an excellent children’s story about a fox, abandoned, and raised with fox hunting dogs. However, if you watch it you’ll see that there is violence in it with the killing of the baby foxes early on and the fox hunting dogs later on. I think it is not terribly popular today due to the banning of fox hunting as a sport. I was also not impressed with the way they spotted the music but neither of these two things has anything to do with the superb score of Laurie Johnson and if your into some of the older classic scores this is a must buy for you. It was released on a Ronco LP in 1973 and this is the second release on the Dragon’s Domain company who will specialize in limited hard to find soundtracks. It is being distributed by BSX.
The “Belstone Fox” theme dominates the first fifteen minutes of the film. It begins with a single low note, a trumpet call and then the English Horn introduces the sad melody who turns it over to the strings who eventually turn it back to the English Horn. This melody will be heard often during this soundtrack. It isn’t until there is a scene with the growing puppies that a second theme appears. “Early Days” begins with fox theme but into the track we hear a second theme, a bouncy upbeat one tht is also used quite often. The theme returns with the clarinet playing the theme with nice harmony from the harp. Johnson makes excellent use of his woodwinds which include Clarinet, Oboe, English horn, and bassoon. His string harmony is also quite unique, something I’ve not heard before. “The Friendship” starts with the strings offering a new theme until a new upbeat theme is introduced from the English horn with the flute participating. It ends with some nice horn work doing double tonguing. The first three tracks give the listener a nice idea of how well Johnson is classically trained. “Reunion” features a fox hunting theme with horns leading the way. If you’re familiar with Bernard Herrmann one can hear a hint of him in a couple of the chords as well as Bruckner from his 4th symphony. “The Belstone Hunt” turns to dissonance coming from all parts of the orchestra to a background of a steady beat with violins repeating the same notes over and over. “Badger Hill,” the final track begins softly with ominous tones in the background as the strings don’t play a theme but chords as do the trumpets. It ends as it began with the return of the fox theme in a heartfelt style.
The sound quality I found to be most adequate if you keep in mind it is an analog recording. I’m glad that Mark and Ford found this hidden gem. Not only are the themes great but the arranging and orchestrating are some of the best I’ve heard.
April 10, 2015
Felix Woyrsch was born in 1860 to a noble family but the death of his father when he was six caused his growing up do be somewhat less than so it didn’t include any formal musical training. Fate entered into his life when he was performing as an art piper at a faire and was noticed by the choirmaster and music teacher Heinrich Chevallier who took the boy under his wing. He eventually secured the position of director of Altone’s largest choir in 1895 and this was the time in his life that his music began to change for the better. His Passion Oratorio, op. 45 was well accepted and performed several times in Germany. Woyrsich wrote a large part of his work in the early 20th century which includes 3 of his 7 symphonies and this reviewed work. Yet another composer who had some success during his lifetime but today is mostly forgotten. Hopefully CPO will offer additional material.
Could it be said that the Swiss Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901) paintings especially Die Toteninse (Isle of the Dead) was put to musical inspiration more than any other painting? I think so. Seeing the painting conjures up the feelings of death, eeriness, darkness, and demons. The most played of these works is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Isle of the Dead” which was written a year before Felix Woyrsch did his. While this reviewer can hear some points of similiarity there is no evidence to support this. If anything there is a stronger similarity to the second movement of Miaskovsky’s 5th symphony written in 1918 so perhaps Miaskovsky learned from Woyrsch. Originally Woyrsch only wrote about the Isle of the Dead but he added The Hermit and Playing in the Waters. In fact during this period of time Woyrsch ended up writing several pieces about death. Max Reger went to school on the Woyrsch piece including the same three paintings but adding the Bacchanal as a fourth entry.
Die Toteninsel begins in the lower register opens the work and as you’d expect it is dark and foreboding. As it continues the woodwinds take a more active role with the bassoon, oboe, and clarinet offering exchanges. The strings throughout play a key role taking this pastiche and making it hold together very nicely. If you’re familiar with the “Isle of the Dead” you’ll enjoy this additional interpretation.
Der Eremit begins with soft strings and the horns offering a prelude to solo violin which plays the melody while the woodwinds offer counterpoint including a brief passage from an organ which remains in the background. Halfway through the strings offer a sense of urgency with the horns shouting out in between. It ends in a positive upbeat manner.
Im Spiel Der Wellen: Playful is the word to describe the opening of the playing in the waves. One can vision the nymphs running around without a care in the world, love in the air and joyful. The strings offer a major key with brass providing the harmony.
These pieces make a nice listen as they complement each other and would be a nice addition to your collection.
April 1, 2015
PRELUDE TO U BOATS
Thirty years ago a large television station in Los Angeles (KABC) produced a series of thirty minute WWII documentaries which included music from a previously composed material for a forgettable B film Wheels of Fire and used it as the soundtrack for their series. In the thirty years that have followed there has been an lp on Cerebus, a demo CD, and now this 1000 limited edition on BSX. While I’ve not seen any of the episodes I will trust the liner note writer Randall Larson that the material matches up quite well as the Wheels of Fire soundtrack has yet to become available. This was a practice that Hans Salter, composer of Universal horror films did on a regular basis. Christopher Young (1957-) has gone on to become a successful Hollywood composer, teacher at USC and UCLA, and has taken under his wing many budding composers an opportunity to learn and get their foot in the door. Chris has over 120 film credits with a golden globe nomination for perhaps his best work The Shipping News (2002) as well as numerous awards for many of his horror films.
“The Prelude” begins with a nice major keyed melody, a little hint of a Star Wars theme from first the horns and then the strings. It is proud and majestic with military fanfare and I would guess that this theme was the introduction to each of the episodes. “The German War Machine” opens with a prelude that leads to the dark and mysterious and then the track lumbers along without melody in staccato fashion with a mimicking of the clanking of machinery, the piano chords off key and the snare drum indicating military. “The Homefront” offers the listener a harmonica, strings, piano, and snare drum with strings joining forces with the brass to provide a lushness that will tug a bit at the heart strings. Listening to this track you’d be fooled that this is war material except snare drum identifying the tie in with the soldiers. “The Pacific Fleet” is one of my favorite tracks an underscore one which makes effective use of the entire brass as the ascending strings bring it to a climax. What follows is a series of dissonant motifs from vibes, brass, percussion, and piano chords. The low strings in a minor key enhance the track even further. “A North Atlantic Passage” another favorite track begins with a theme from the horns which repeats and segues into another low register display of dissonant trombones with tinkling percussion all around. The track ends with another dissonant motif. “The Prisoners” is another nice piece of orchestration with distorted brass motifs along with an emphasis on the low register. “Aftermath” as the title suggests opens with the lonely horns in a funeral like setting. It is a short track that depicts the horror of war. I can say that each track is unique as there is no central melody that attempts to tie them together. The forty minute length of the CD will go by quickly and you’ll find your own favorites.
Randall Larson summed it up nicely: “Their use in these programs has likely allowed the music to be heard far beyond their use in the original films while at the same time Young’s music gave Jone’s documentaries a powerful musical dynamic that definitely increased their production value.” Isn’t that the job of good film music?
1…. Prelude (1:54)
2…. The German War Machine (1:55)
3…. Invasion (3:28)
4…. Aftermath (1:56)
5…. The Resistance (4:44)
6…. Panzers (1:04)
7…. Fortress Europe (1:38)
8…. Blitzkrieg (2:52)
9…. The Homefront (2:48)
10….The Pacific Fleet (3:04)
11….A North Atlantic Passage (2:58)
12….The Prisoners (3:13)
13….Operation Overload (2:42)
14….The Price of Victory (0:56)
15….The Push to Berlin (2:14)
16….Those Not to Be Forgotten (2:20)
Total Time 41:26
March 31, 2015
Paul Graener (1872-1944) had no sooner received his British citizenship in 1909 when he relocated to Vienna with his wife and two children where he became acquainted with some of the leading musical figures including the head of the Universal Publishing house Emil Hertzka. Two years later he was offered the position of director of the Mozarteum in 1911 which made another move this time to Salzburg necessary. Excited by the opportunity Graener set out to make changes such as a preview before the performance and the result was a renewed interest. His symphony in d minor “Schmied Schmerz” (Sorrow the blacksmith) was the premiere work which he was able to conduct himself on February 14, 1912. The result was a huge success so much so he gave repeat performances. In addition the work featured original art work which enticed Bruno Cassirer’s firm to publish it. With nothing but good and positive why is this work today totally neglected as well as anything from this composer? Did the fact that Graener accepted a position with the Nazi party influence this lack of interest?
Composed in 1911 on Lake Fuschl in Salzkammergut this work was not dedicated to his lost son as many pieces were around this time of his life but the overall melancholy permeates the first movement as one would except from a D minor symphony. The loss of his son weighed quite heavy on his heart but eventually blossomed Graener into becoming a better composer. The beginning, a larghetto, is strings only offering a melody which will be used in the first part of the movement as it is passed on to the clarinet, contrabassoon, trumpet, french horn, and finally a solo violin. The orchestra quiets to a ppp but is followed by a burst of agitated activity from the strings (allegro) followed by a calling from the brass who double tongue. This was a favorite technique from Bruckner and the symphony is scored for extra brass. The loud timpani beat signals the continuing of the main melody to a loud conclusion with gong and timpani. The second movement, an adagio, completely changes the mood of the work by an introduction of a new melody from the English Horn which is then passed on to the clarinet and continues to the strings. It is a spring like theme in a major key that is majestic and mournful. This adagio is one of the better ones I’ve heard. The third and last movement, an allegro energico in a major key mimics the anvil blows from the blacksmith. Graener does a fine job with this movement bringing the movement back around to where it began a larghetto. Repeated listens will enhance your enjoyment of this work.
From The Realm of Pan, op. 22 was a four movement piano piece written in 1906 while Graener was in London that was reorchestrated fourteen years later for orchestra. It depicts Pan in musical imagery, dance, and feelings. It opens with a melancholy (Graener says magical, silvery, twilight mood) theme. The second part like the first is also a slow tempo and one of reflection. In the third one can hear some of the influences that Debussy and perhaps Dukas had on him. The final movement is a majestic one with horns calling out and a solo cello leading to a fine conclusion. It is a fifteen minute work that deserves your attention.
Prinz Eugen, op. 108
A sixteen minute series of variations written in 1939 that was used by Goebbel’s before he gave his final speech. It has the sound and feel of a military piece with snare drum, brass calling out, troops marching, and just a general feel of victory in the air, likely exactly what he was told to write, propaganda, which he succeeded.
Paul Graener is a new discovery for me like I talked about in my first review of his orchestral material. This volume enhances my feelings further.
1…. Symphony in D minor, op. 39 “Schmied Schmerz” (32:34)
4…. From the Realm of Pan, op. 22 (15:17)
8…. Prinz Eugen, op. 108 (16:06)
Total Time 64:21
March 22, 2015
Just when you think that you’ve heard everything there is in jazz, somebody comes up with something new in this case Seizer and his group and they play movie music but not just any movie music but soundtrack themes that you’d thought impossible. The theme from “Alien” was the first that got my attention. You remember that scary movie back in 1979 with Sigourney Weaver. It was an eerie suspense building theme that definitely got your attention as you sat in the darkened theater. Jerry Goldsmith hit a homerun with that one but I’m sure if he heard this pure jazz part melody, part improvisation he’d clap for an encore.
Born in Stuggart to a musical family he began playing the flute and recorder at the age of 4 winning classical music contests along the way. He continued his musical studies at the Hilversum Conservatory and then discovered John Coltrane at the age of 23 and has been playing ever since.
Seizer, now 50, has surrounded himself with young talent that compliment his playing. They consist of Pablo Held on piano, Matthias Pichter on bass, and Fabian Arends on drums. They know what each other wants to do and they do so like a finely tuned machine. Take for example “Spartacus” as it opens with the delicate Bill Evan’s sound from Held with quiet bass lines and just a whisper of the cymbals preparing us for the entrance of the raspy but oh so mellow Seizer who seems to be in no hurry as his scales are distinct. Pichter is given a turn to display his talents with crisp positive strokes being supported by select harmony from the bass and percussion. He turns the song over to Seizer who completes the fine Alex North composition. The opening selection Carlotta’s Portrait from “Vertigo” begins with a steady somewhat relentess rhythm from the bass with the piano next being added both a prelude to the raspy but distinct line from the tenor sax. The entire track is simple uncomplicated but the three together make for an excellent track. If it was anymore laid back I might fall asleep? “On the Waterfront” opens with the tenor sax of Seizer complimented by percussion, piano chords, and bass. The original soundtrack and the after thought suite by Bernstein feature a trumpet but the tenor sax playing with a bit of Coltrane playing takes this to an entirely new concept. A favorite film of Jason’s is “The Deer Hunter” along with the Cavatina theme from Stanley Meyers. The arrangement is a soft smooth one with the piano and sax sharing time. You’ll be hard pressed or at least I was to recognize the “Jungle Book” theme which takes you to a new higher level in jazz. Seizer allows himself to soar and explore lines ascending and descending chords adding a quicker pace. Held is also allowed to run with chords and harmony which compliment the track. One of the lovelier themes from the pen of Morricone was “Cinema Paradiso” which Held gives a classical touch with Seltzer doing a bit of improv with a little bit of squeeking to grab your attention.
Although Seizer is new to me he has several CD’s to his credit and I look forward to more from him perhaps a volume two of film music that offers some film noir material. The sound recording is superb but there is an absence of no liner notes only pictures.
1. Carlotta’s Portrait · from »Vertigo« 1958 (3:13)
2. Cinema Paradiso · from »Cinema Paradiso« 1988 (7:49)
3. Steve’s Care · from »The Machinist« 2004 (6:39)
4. On The Waterfront · from »On the Waterfront« 1954 (4:30)
5. Cavatina · from »The Deer Hunter« 1978 (5:16)
6. Jungle Beat · from Walt Disney’s »The Jungle Book« (6:19)
7. Children’s Games · from »The Curious Case of Benjamin Button« 2008 (5:42)
8. Alien Main Theme · from »Alien« 1979 (6:03)
9. Spartacus Love Theme · from »Spartacus« 1960 (6:15)
Total time 51:51
March 21, 2015
“For amongst the youngest our hope is for the preservation
of what their predecessors have created and for the
continuation of their works.”
Paul Graener 1923
If Paul Graener, composer, conductor, and pedagogue had been born fifty years earlier his work would have fit in so well I’m confident he would be far more popular today than the obscurity he is faced with today. Many classical people have no idea who he is. There is now available from CPO three volumes of his orchestral works, the review dealing with the third volume. There is little else available even though his opus numbers are over one hundred.
He was born in Berlin in 1872. Since his parents had passed away when he was very young he was raised by relatives. While he attended school at both Askanisches Gymnasium and Veitsches Konservatorium he failed to graduate from either as his goal seemed to be securing a position as a conductor which he finally secured in 1898 in London. It was in London where he met his wife and had three children, the oldest boy dying at eight years old, a most difficult time for Graener. He moved to Vienna and then Salzburg to acquire conducting positions. He finally returned to Munich and then Berlin eventually assuming a position with the Nazi party, keeping it until 1941. He passed away in November of 1944.
Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 72 (1925)
Graener structured this work in a FSF somewhat common in piano concertos. It had its premiere in Hagen in 1926 and was performed by a student of D’Albert. There are some who call this a symphony concerto as the piano is not the center of attention. What you won’t hear are long dense passages and showy cadenzas but a piano who assumes a prominent role and shares the melody with lush strings and effective woodwinds. The Andante second movement is a quiet reflective one where as in the first movement the piano is not overpowering but not in the background either. You get the feeling that you’re not listening to a piano concerto but a symphony concerto. Horns play a prominent role in the final movement, an Allegro which does show some piano technique, Rachmaninoff influenced. The end is a little showy with a nice brisk closing cadenza to end the movement. At a mere seventeen minutes this concerto could be what one movement could be from Tchaikovsky and Brahms.
Symphonietta, op. 27 (1905)
Dedicated to his first son who had passed away the year before and written in his memory the work was based on his string quartet “memoriam.” A poem by Ludwig Uhland from 1859 On the Death of a Child is a theme of the work. The work is scored for strings and features the harp.
You came, you went, with quiet footfall,
A fleeting guest in our Earth’s land:
Whither? Whence? All we know is this:
From God’s hand into God’s hand.
This adagio-allegretto amabile written for strings and harp begins with a Beethoven #6 type pastorale filled with not only a memorable melody, harmony and texture that will brighten any day. As the piece continues forward the mood switches to one of sadness with a solo violin offering comforting passages. The harp also has a nice offering.
Swedish Dances, op. 98 (1932)
Probably written as a result of a visit to Sweden in 1918 these three brief country dances named after the provinces of Lappland, Ostergoth, and Dalekarlien are written in an ABA style and are a joy to listen to. The first sends you back in time with a minuet style dance with a nicely developed theme. The second is in a similar vein to the first being slightly more energizing and also very pleasant. The third and final is quite majestic in nature. There is very nice harmony from the woodwinds.
Divertimento, op. 67 (1924)
Graener was one of the few composers in the 20th century to return to the divertimento that was popular with Mozart, Haydn, and others. They are light and very easy on the ears. This one is divided into five different pieces each one being roughly three minutes or so.
Allegro vivace- a bright major keyed work lead by strings with harmony from woodwinds and brass. Allegretto scherzando hints as being a fugue only to segue into a nice trumpet solo. Larghetto is a thought provoking piece with a bit of sadness. Un poco allegretto is very much a salon piece offering a melody in a laid back way. Allegro begins with majestic horns which lead to strings, a dominating timpani motif but overall it is the brass who dominate this track.
Alun Francis and the Munchner Rundfunkorchester perform the varied works with all the skill and emotions necessary to bring out the best in these works. A special hand should go to Oliver Triendl and his fine performance of the piano concerto or symphony concerto which ever you prefer.
1. Allegro moderato (6:56)
2. Adagio (6:20)
3. Allegro (4:29)
4. Adagio-Allegretto amabile (19:54)
5. Lappland (3:05)
6. Ostergoth (2:14)
7. Dalekarlien (2:14)
8. Allegro vivace (3:23)
9. Allegretto scherzando (2:30)
10. Larghetto (3:35)
11. Un poco allegretto (3:56)
12. Allegro (5:04)
Total Time is 64:15