November 26, 2015
Mahler said he wanted to express the entire content of his life through his symphonies. His final symphony #10 had only one movement completed, the adagio, but sketches were started for the other four movements, completed later by musicologist Deryck Cooke. It was written during a turbulent time in his life. He had diseased arteries which took away most of his moving around and he discovered that his wife was having an affair. All of this contributed to the general sound and flavor of this work which is one of the saddest Adagio that I’ve ever heard. There is such emotion that Mahler was going through with what must have been more than he could bear that he turned to music to express himself. What an incredible piece of music and this unsung orchestra performs it so well under the baton of a conductor who I’m not familiar with.
The remaining four movements were arranged and orchestrated by Cooke in a manner he thought that Mahler might have done. When one listens multiple times there is an obvious difference between the completed Mahler movement and the completed material of Cooke. That is not in anyway to criticize what he did but to point out that it is an interpretation of what might have happened. This reviewer for one would like to see what he could have done with the sketches from the first movement if there were any.
November 1, 2015
Born in St. Petersburg on August 10, 1865 Alexander Konstantinovitch Glazunov was born to a well known publisher and bookseller. It was because of this background that Glazunov was able to progress musically as rapidly as he did. Who better to teach him harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration than Rimsky-Korsakov and he was not yet a teenager. In 1881 at the age of 16 he composed his first symphony and had it performed by the School of Free Music under the direction of Balakirev. He was so advanced at such an early age he was nicknamed “Little Glinka” by Rimsky-Korsakov and their relationship changed from a teacher student relationship to one of friends.
The two piano concertos were written during his tenure as the head of the St. Petersburg Conservatory 1911 and 1917. They are not written in the standard 3 movement concerto form. The first is two movements and the second is a single movement. The structure of the first is a melody with lots of chromaticism, reminding one of Rachmaninoff, followed 8 variations in the second forming the slow movement. It concludes with a ninth variation which picks up material from the first melody. The orchestral is nicely written and blends well with the showmanship of the piano. The second concerto is but a single movement but upon careful listening one will hear the movements within the movement. While written during the October Revolution of 1917 the work sounds nothing like material that was being written by the likes of Stravinsky, Shostakovich and other avant-garde material. This is material that sounds as if it came from the pen of Franz Lizst or others from the mid to late 19th century. The final piece Carnival Overture was written in 1893 and was originally published by the composer for 4 hands. This recording with orchestra takes one through all of the sights and sounds of a festive occasion. I found the use of the organ a welcome addition to the instrumentation Glazunov chose. It adds a touch of seriousness and serenity which quickly returns to the majestic sound of brass chords and swirling violins. It is filled with wonderful colors in the orchestration and overall an easy to listen to work that concludes this CD.
I found that the overall sound of the recording superior to many releases I’ve reviewed. There is no distant sound on this recording at all. The highs were clean and crisp and the bass exhibited no signs of booming at all. The two blended nicely together. The miking of the piano kept it at the forefront without drowning out the orchestra. I found both the Slovak Orchestra, conductor Griffiths, and pianist Karl-Andreas Kolly to be more than adequate and would welcome hearing additional material from them in the future. These are works that might be out of your comfort zone but should be included in your collection. The recording is available as an MP3 or CD.
October 30, 2015
Praeludium for Jazz Band
When the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra performed Harlem Suite (1950) by a favorite of mine Duke Ellington, my initial thought was these Germans really know how to play this. All of the feeling is there and the sound from Naive is there crystal clear, a wide db range that revived my speaker system, and a fine sound engineer that knew exactly what he was doing. I had to compare it with the recent recording that Naxos (8.559737) released of Ellington material performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta, a fine CD of the other Ellington who wasn’t just a big band leader. The Naive recording wins hands down and I can highly recommend it even if there is no interest in Sinfonia Domestica (1904). By the way I think you should have both because there is a lot of exciting material awaiting you on the rest of the CD. A very short but important piece that I’ve included as an audio clip, lower quality but good enough to give you an idea is Stravinsky’s Praeludium for Jazz Band (1937) written after his arrival to the United States and his introduction to jazz in Harlem. His comment was “jazz is done for.” He also didn’t think much of Disney’s use of Rite of Spring in the film Fantasia. So much for his opinions. The tie in with Sinfonia Domestica is Strauss brought this piece to America in 1904 as part of the composition featured four saxophones a new sound that America as well as other countries were beginning to use. While it was written as a sequel to his autobiographical work A Hero’s Life it did have a unique flavor and one can hear in parts the beginning of the jazz sound. Little did Strauss or anyone else know that Hollywood through composers like Korngold and Gershwin would be influenced by his sound and one can extend the Jarvi lines further west. Ellington also went west to Hollywood and contributed Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Paris Blues (1962) both award winners. Parallel Tones, the third release in a four part series, is one not to be missed. Jarvi is a young exciting conductor with lots of new ideas.
- sinfonia domestica (44:00)
- a tone parallel to harlem (15:05)
- praeludium for jazz band (1:51)
Baltic Sea Voyage, the second release in a four part or more series, extends it’s territory around which separates the ten countries it represents from Russia in the east to Norway in the west. It is performed by the Baltic Sea Youth Symphony who sound as good as the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra. I hope to hear more from this orchestra in the future. Perhaps it will evolve into the Baltic Sea Orchestra. The 66 minute program is filled with all different kinds of styles of material including works from two living composers as well as traditional material from Nielsen, Grieg, and Sibelius. On first listen the material seemed quite tame with a festive overture, a selection Mellanspel from Stenhammar, and the almost over the top wedding material from Peer Gynt, written by Grieg, and finally the Karelia Suite from Sibelius. These were all works that I had heard before and enjoyed. As the CD continued I began to hear new and exciting sounds such as a selection from the Rock Symphony written by Kalnins which had an addicting beat over and over which not only drew me into the music but made me want to play the material over and over again. The same was true of the Kilar piece who I was introduced to in one of the dracula films. Liking what I heard I went on to purchase additional material on Naxos. The CD ends with a nice arrangement of Wagner material by Henk De Flieger. The ten countries were represented nicely and I certainly will put this on the shelf of listen to again, keeping in mind that I listen to a lot of material. This is one that I’ll return to on a regular basis.
- Overture to Maskarade
- At The Wedding
- Karelia Suite
- Never Ignore the Cosmic Ocean
- Cantus in Memoriam to Benjamin Britten
- Rock Symphony
- Sacrificial Dance
- Brunhildes Opfertat
September 10, 2015
Did you realize that the London Philharmonic has recorded over 25 film music albums? I for one was quite surprised as I always considered it to be the orchestra that Sir Adrian Boult conducted because one of my very first albums purchased was a recording of Tchaikovsky’s HAMLET FANTASY OVERTURE, a recording I still own today although I must admit that I’ve worn it out and I have replaced it with many other recordings of this fine work.
The Battle of Neretva 1969-70 (SCCD1005)
Before and After 1995 (HR62039.2)
The Cell 2000 (FILMCD346)
Cliffhanger 1993 (514 455.2)
Cop Land 1997 (73138 35827.2)
Dead Ringers 1988 (FILMCD115)
Dogma 1999 (9362 47597.2)
East is East 1999 (7243 5 23361.2)
Ed Wood 1994 (012002.2HWR)
Existenz 1998 (09026 63478.2)
The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 (9362 48110.2)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Decca)
The Two Towers 2002 (9362 48421.2)
The Return of the King 2003 (9362 48609.2)
The Fly 1986 (VCD47272)
In the Name of the Father 1993 (518 841.2)
Iron Man 3 2013 (Hollywood Records B00B9JDAYO)
Lawrence of Arabia 1962 (CINCD 008)
Looking for Richard 1996 (CDQ7243 5 56139.2)
Madame Butterfly 1993 (VSD5435)
The Mission 1986 (CDV2402)
Naked Lunch 1991 (73138 35614.2)
Nobody’s Fool 1994 (73138 35689.2)
Now You See Me 2013 (Glassnote Records)
Philadelphia 1993 (EPC475800.2)
Thor: The Dark World 2013 (Hollywood Records B00G3Q5VT0)
The Yards 2000 (SK89442)
There are many compilation releases of movie music released every year in different forms but this release has the advantage of having John Mauceri re-arrange/orchestrate the material so you’ll hear it like you’ve never experienced before. Anna North, widow of Alex North, commissioned John to do a suite of material from the film Cleopatra( 1963)and the result is a spectacular 25 minute work that captures the music in a way you’ve never heard before and is the highlight of this 2 CD set released on the London Philharmonic’s label. It is delicate, romantic, majestic, brash, and dissonant all part of the package. It has a sound of the ancient as well as modern jazz. This suite alone is worth the price of the CD’s but there is more a lot more. The Godfather, a symphonic portrait, was also given the Mauceri touch and plays out like an operatic overture. It comes complete with romance, samba, early 20th century jazz, and excellent orchestrations. The 15 minute suite plays out quite nicely. Completing the first CD is the famous “The Ride of the Cossacks” from Taras Bulba,” a tune that Waxman found in a book of historic Russian folk sounds. It plays out like the style of Ravel’s Bolero, becoming quite frantic by the end. Both Shostakovich and Waxman had used this previously in other works each teasingly saying they stole the idea. Bronislaw Kaper wrote one of his last scores Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and it is nicely presented here in a 12 minute suite that not only features the love song, Oscar nominated along with the score, but all of the exotic material that he wrote for the Marlon Brando film. Kaper like Waxman and Korngold escaped to America and found a new home in Hollywood where they contributed unforgettable material. It is presented in a way that I had never heard before, again playing out more like a symphonic suite. Similar things can also be said of Psycho, a narrative for string orchestra, which Herrmann composed and recorded in 1968 while living in London. Norma Herrmann was kind enough to share this wealth of material with Mauceri who created a performing edition. Written somewhat like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in short cell like melodies they performed a pattern that the moviegoer has never quite heard before. Rounding out the CD’s are themes from Star Trek, Once Upon A Time in America, and Lawrence of Arabia. The 90 minutes goes by rather quickly as the sound quality and mixing enhance the superior playing of the London Philharmonic even more.
- Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox Fanfare 0:24
- Alex North Cleopatra Symphony 25:43
- Nino Rota The Godfather 15:20
- Franz Waxman Taras Bulba
- Bernard Herrmann Psycho 14:49
- Bronislaw Kaper Mutiny on the Bounty 12:17
- Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek 5:43
- Ennio Morricone Once Upon A Time In America 5:43
- Maurice Jarre Lawrence of Arabia 2:16
Total Time is 89:15
September 7, 2015
LIMITED EDITION OF 2000 UNITS
I’m old enough to remember this film as a nine year old, going to a local theater on my bicycle with my cousin and seeing this. I was afraid to go to sleep that night for fear of turning into one of those robots. Along with Psycho, which came a few years later, these were the two films that really scared me. It wasn’t about some sort of monster running around swallowing people whole but something in my mind that could have been real. It starred Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, and King Donovan. All would end up in the new media, television and have long successful careers. Director Don Siegel went on to work with Clint Eastwood on several pictures and Walter Wanger, former CEO of Paramount, did much to help Allied Artists, formerly Monogram Pictures, to establish themselves as a B+ picture company. The film had a budget of $300,000 putting it well under a typical Hollywood A film but considerably over what Monogram, PRC, or Republic would have allotted.
For those who are reading this and haven’t seen the film it involves an invisible outer space invasion of earth in the form of giant plant pods growing and eventually taking over human bodies turning them into what we might call drones today. The term in the 50’s was known as pod people. The two stars, McCarthy and Wynter fight to the very end to convince people that this changeover is taking place.
Carmen Dragon, the composer, arranger, and conductor of the score, was the last one he did for Hollywood as he turned his attention completely to doing pop classics with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra and became an international celebrity. The “Main Title,” (clip enclosed) which begins with a long prelude consisting of edgy brass motifs and long timpani rolls settles into a tense moment with the strings. This goes into the second track immediately without pause “No Bananas Today,” a somber one with the strings dictating that this is going to be a serious film. The third track is the love theme “Here Comes My Love” which is heard throughout the film as the relationship develops between Miles and Becky. The fifth track “Where Are You… Don’t Worry About Me” opens with a recurring motif, a chord from the lower keys on the piano. It is repeated two more times on the track and you’ll hear it on other tracks. It is quite prevalent on “Shadows in the Night/Hysteria.” “If I Should Die” sounds like other 50’s type science fiction soundtracks with the dissonant chords and loud attention getting brass motifs. While you’ll hear some similar sounding material as you’ve heard before the overall material is a lot more polished. Yes the music is still non tonal except for the love theme with unusual cords mixed with brass chords that sound jagged and distorted but the arrangements and playing have an overall smoothness about them. The orchestra seems well rehearsed and if a suite of tracks were created for symphony orchestra I would want to listen to it. The additional source tracks show the versatility of styles of music that Dragon is capable of producing: big band, sweet music, and vocals.
As explained in the finely written liner notes it is rare that a copy of the music only existed on a reel to reel tape which allowed this recording to happen. It must have been stored in a good environment as the mono quality of the material is quite acceptable. That also goes for the liner notes by Jeff Bond who is as knowledgeable as Tom Weaver. Add this to your collection if you’re a fan of the film (you probably already have) or you want a fine example of science fiction music. It will likely be the only example of Carmen Dragon that you have in your collection.
- Main Title 1:57
- No Bananas Today 0:55
- Here Comes My Love 1:50
- Somebody Stole My Man 2:12
- Where Are You?/Don’t Worry About Me 4:15
- Tell Me Who: 3:17
- If I Should Die 2:09
- Shadows in the Night/Hysteria 1:40
- The Voices 1:29
- I’m Taking You to My House/They Won’t Believe Me 4:17
- Suddenly 2:51
- Wilma/The Devils Workshop/Get Help/Yell for Help 7:24
- No More Tears/Waiting For You 5:44
- Out of the Sky/No Choice
- Open the Door 1:38
- They’re Over There 3:10
- No! Never! 2:26 Source Music
- Crazy Rhythm 2:07
- Shall We Dance (I’m in Love With Kathy) 2:12
- I’m in Love With the World 2:27
- Total Album Time: 58:20
August 28, 2015
This Naxos release was previously issued on Marco Polo 8.225050 and contains no additional tracks or additional liner notes. The only thing that is different is the CD cover. If you have the M.P. CD there is no need to purchase this one as it would be 100% duplication. I’ve included a review I did in 2012 which includes not only the Moby Dick soundtrack but the original work The Island where the material came from. This is a work available on the budget division of Chandos and to be able to compare, something which I like to do, is somewhat essential. Included in the previous review are two audio clips, one from The Island, and one from Moby Dick.
August 25, 2015
Sometimes a first play of a CD can be deceiving and “Mr. Holmes” fell into that category, at least for this reviewer. My first listen, before attending the movie, I must admit that I got absolutely nothing out of the score except some winds, cello (Holmes of course), tinkling piano, and harp. Boy was I ever wrong! I can now put this release in an unofficial category of my favorite soundtrack of 2015. ” Mr. Holmes” is a new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant, prickly ash, with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. The man who helps him find the prickly ash, Hiroyuki Sanada, is also involved as a sub-plot in the story. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger. Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstances of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love – before it’s too late. I can certainly identify with the aging process and how the mind is not as sharp as it once was. As a Sherlock Holmes reader and watcher I also enjoyed the story with the carefully placed clues and the deductions he is so famous for. Part of the story and of musical interest is the armonica, a unique instrument to say the least. It’s known for its ethereal quality and at one time had ties to the world of spiritualism and sorcery. It also claimed that excess playing of it would drive a person mad. I think one the best uses of the instrument was James Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Carter Burwell (1955-) has always had a place on my shelf with “Raising Arizona” and “Miller’s Crossing” being the first two scores that I bought of his (both cassettes). The interest has continued and I’ve acquired several more including “Fargo,” “Twilight,” “The Chamber,” and “Kinsey Report” to name a few.
The soundtrack is written for a smaller orchestra that includes strings, woodwinds, piano, flutes, and harp. The overall feeling that one gets when listening is one of melancholy and solitude with very little major chords being played. Most of it was written in a minor key. The first track Mr. Holmes offers the theme, an ear catching one, that will linger on with you after you’ve listened. It will also appear in many of the tracks as a variation or performed by instruments other than the combination of English Horn, Clarinet, Bassoon, Oboe and strings. The sound captured is clear and quite distinct. You’ll not hear a hint of any muddiness in this recording at all. It would be one that I would play to impress my friends with how clear and good sounding my speakers are. You can distinctly hear each instruments and this is important when harmony is taking place or a second theme is being heard. The tracks The Glass Armonica, Always Leaves A Trace, and The Other Side of the Wall, will give you taste of what the armonium sounds like.
If you like your music on the quiet somber side, slow paced this is the score for you. If this is your first experience with Carter Burwell it will encourage you to seek out additional material.
- Mr. Holmes
- Prickly Ash
- Holmes in Japan
- The Glass Armonica
- Always Leave A Trace
- Hiroshima Station
- Ann’s Plans
- A And Bee
- I Never Knew Your Father
- Now We Can’t Leave
- Investigating Mr. Holmes
- Two Such Souls
- An Incomprehensible Emptiness
- The Other Side of the Wall
- The Wasps
- The Consolation of Fiction