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One of the more difficult reviews for me to write is this one because anyone who has even a modest collection of material will have these two works in their collection. Some won’t have the vocal but many will. Why then would you buy this recording? The Bergen Philharmonic know this as well as the Marine band playing The Star Spangled Banner. The Chandos recording is in the SA-CD mode so if you have the system the sound is unbelievable. Chandos for the most part makes superior recordings. If for some reason you  don’t have these two wonderful melodic recordings they will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was the Gershwin of Norway. Even today he is wildly popular for his material. Peer Gynt sound clips are heard in many films. As most of you know it is a very pleasant piece to listen to and the Bergen Philharmonic is  top drawer.

There are many boxed sets of piano concertos and this one is often included. It stands on the same ground as the Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff concertos. It is romantic and filled with wonderful melodies. A real winner.

If you don’t have these recordings get them. This is a good recording.

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Metropolis

February 15, 2018

 

7619990103658

A noted critic commented ‘after a single acquaintance with this fantastic film and its music, it is naturally only possible to receive a general impression. Most striking was the cohesion of the two mediums with Huppertz’ music providing a significant orientation in the complex film.’

One can make the argument that this was the finest score ever written for a silent film in the 20’s especially Huppertz who only did 8 films out of his 40 compositions, the others being concert pieces for orchestra. I further argue that this ranks as an equal with my favorite score which is Nosferatu  written by James Bernard, composer of many Hammer horror films.

Did Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, and Erich Korngold  go to school and learn from this score; a resounding yes! In fact all six components detailed in Fabich’s book were used in their scores. It consisted of “leitmotifs, scene-related themes and motifs intended for a single passage within the film, longer sections primarily adhering to musical rules, ostinato figures with leitmotif character, musical description and quotations.” For those who are not familiar a leitmotif is a theme or phrase that denotes an actor, idea, or thought. The best example I can give is the “Jaws” theme to denote the shark danger. The ostinato phrase is one repeated over and over, probably a leitmotif. A good example in this score is the use of the Dies Irae death theme used a lot.

The reason for the greatness of this score was the hands on approach that Huppertz took. Instead of waiting to do the score upon completion Huppertz studied and researched the film on a daily basis. This aided in  the synchronization process which made this score so superior to so many of its contemporaries. I can’t encourage you enough to watch the film and see how the music is an integral part of the movie and would be quite ordinary without it.  https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Metropolis-Silent-Brigitte-Helm/dp/B004R0LJ5E

The music doesn’t sound like a typical silent film but more modern sounding. I’ve listened to it three times all the way through and the time goes by a lot quicker than one might think. The themes roll out one after another and after the third time you’ll find yourself humming the different melodies as the score is quite tonal in nature with very little in the way of atonal passages.

I’ve given you the prime amazon link to view the film. It has been cleaned up and is an easy watch for you. If you own any of the older CD’s get this new one and enjoy the complete unedited version of this classic score. Highly recommended.

 

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BRK 900154

 

“The Bells” (Die Glocken)  was written in 1913 and is based on the Edgar Allen Poe poem. To put this in perspective Sergey was to do only 10 compositions until his death in 1943, a period of 30 years. The poem was sent to Sergey anonymously along with a letter urging him to write a work about it. It was translated by Konstantin Balmont (1867-1943) and it was different in many ways from the original Poe poem. Divided into four parts the work tells the story through the bells, orchestra, and voice. The first movement with sleigh bells  suggests youth and care free times. The chorus is singing a lullaby and it is a dreamy sequence. All is happy and well in Russia. The beginning of the work reminds me of Bernard Herrmann. Only a few bars but a noteworthy observation.

In the second movement Balmont’s verses switch to the golden bells ringing, solemn, serious, and significant. A wedding? A solo soprano reveals a sensual bliss for the blessed occasion.

In the third movement we now hear the fierce real world of day to day life. The movement is quite disturbing offering little hope.

The final movement talks about death. The swinging bell is the coffin’s peace.There are many references to the end in this movement. The bell has spoken.

Rachmaninov’s final work, “Symphonic Dances” (1940), is a return to his ballet “The Scythians” (1915) where he dealt with ancient horsemen.

The first movement begins with staccato type phrasing complete with drums which represent the riders. The mood quickly shifts and we hear a theme from a mourning alto saxophone which is peaceful.

Tempo di Valse is the order of the day for the second movement and we hear a somewhat typical Russian Waltz with flute, the blaring of trumpets, and clarinet.

Rachmaninov knew that this final third movement was to be his last and he gave indications with “Dies Irae” and “Blessed be the Lord. “This was subtly written to be his swansong in nature although it begins as a piece that Ravel could have written (Rhapsody Espangol).

Overall this is one of my favorite orchestral works that I have several of in my collection. The advantage of this recording is the coupling with “The Bells” 74 minutes of material by a seasoned conductor on nicely recorded CD. If you don’t have these works they will be a welcome addition to your collection.

 

 

NEW FROM DRAGON’S DOMAIN
THE LEE HOLDRIDGE COLLECTION
VOLUME ONE 

Music From the Original Scores
THE PILOT’S WIFE
THE TENTH MAN
Ships the week of February 5th
$17.95

 

Review will follow soon. As you know I like Lee a lot. Look forward to a new Chris Young too.

track listing hammer 001

SILCD1521

18 tracks 42:49

While these tracks have been released before it is nice to see a new release of material for the younger generation to enjoy some of the better horror/science fiction soundtracks by such composers as James Bernard (8 of 18 tracks), Harry Robinson (2 of 18), Laurie Johnson, and Christopher Gunning. Most if not all of these films are relegated to bargain DVD companies such as Oldies.com.

I remember Bernard most for his material to the silent film “Nosferatu” (SILED1084 SILVA) written in 1998. Bernard, a protege of Benjamin Britten, was quite classical in some of his brash and bombastic material for about 1/3 of the Hammer material. “Horror of Dracula,”starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee a pair that did many films together is a great theme that oozes terror and blood. One of many great themes that he wrote but many have a reference to the 1958 film. For the film “She” Bernard took a different approach and wrote a lush theme with undertones of terror. Very nicely done.

Hammer took a different approach and hired Roy Phillips and the Peddlers for a jazzy pop vocal for the film “The Lost Continent” 1968 a strange entry in the collection of horror/sci-fi movies. The song is an alternate which didn’t appear in the US release. There is a low budget 1951 of the same name so don’t confuse them.

One of the better tracks is the Franz Reizenstein score to the “The Mummy,” a rare entry into the world of film music. The music instantly brings you into the world of the mummy excavating complete with chorus and a larger orchestra. Trumpets layered over the strings and the chorus make for a good track.

Another creepy entry by James Bernard is from the film “The Gorgon,” a bit of a sleeper as far as the Hammer films are concerned. It starred Barbara Shelley queen of the Hammer horror films. This takeoff on the Medusa produced another creepy score with a little less bombastic material and a wailing novachord and wordless chorus. A nice effect.

Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter by Laurie Johnson sounds like a television theme something Johnson was famous for with his Avenger theme. It has a memorable theme with brass playing the melody with strings providing the harmony. Good arrangement.

If you listen to “Twins of Evil” one could think that this score came from a Clint Eastwood western. Blaring trumpets, snare drum and the theme being played by the strings.

“Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde” is a ballroom style filled with lush romantic music. If you listened to it as a stand alone experience one might think it was Strauss.

A somewhat modern sounding track from the lone American on this CD John Cacavas again could be from another genre entirely.

Baby boomers or Hammer horror fans will delight in having this CD if they don’t have one of the older versions which could have some but not all of the selections. Please check your compilation. I enjoyed the 40+ minute CD for the variety of the selections offered. Check it out.

 

 

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Naxos 8.573747 Film Music Classics

At last a complete recording thanks to the tireless work of Mark Fitz-Gerald who reconstructed the work from the original manuscripts do we get to hear the organ, guitars, church bells, and a mandolin all of which were not included in the Atovmian suite. While Atovmian did a fine job with the approval of Shostakovich it concentrated on the highlights (12 tracks) and 17 tracks were omitted. Also included on the CD wee omitted tracks, organ music, as well as a highlight compilation to the film The Counterplan (1932). Anyone who is a listener of Shostakovich will want to have this in his collection. I can’t tell you how excited I got when I found out this recording was available.

Shostakovich only agreed to do the score when Khachaturian took ill and he needed the money (‘What choice do I have? I have to earn a living’). He signed the papers in December of 1954 and completed it in January of 1955, the only work he did that year. He was able to do it so quickly because he was working with smaller chunks of material compared to a symphony as an example.

The work was done without metronome markings but Shostakovich worked closely with conductors such as Mravinsky to get the right interpretation for the work. The result was a highly accessible score that offers theme after theme and a wide variety of styles. You name it and you’ll probably find it in this score!

The film is based on the Ethel Voynich book about Risorgimento- the Italian struggle against the Austrians in the 19th century. The book was very popular in how it dealt with religion and unlike states. There have been other attempts at adapting this to opera and film but this 1955 film is by far the superior one and of course the score shines.

“The Overture” or the young Italy theme is a powerful stirring opening that is played during the opening credits. It is played throughout the score (track 3 29).

“The Cliffs” is a view of the coastline and a place where the rebels are located and vow to defeat the Austrians no matter what the cost. It is similar to the opening title but a  more solemn piece.

“The Austrians” is a march with a section of it repeating the Young Italy Theme. Powerful chords dominate the track.

“Youth” is a pretty violin solo surrounded byes written for this score some very heavy music. It is one of many pretty melodies that Shostakovich wrote for his soundtrack. “Political Meeting” continues with the violin but there is a sense of urgency to it. It is also played in track 17 “Gamma’s Room.”

“Divine Service at the Cathedral” offers a rare track of organ music, a first for Shostakovich. There are also two additional tracks of organ material “Confession” and “Ava Maria” which were excluded from the soundtrack. Both are pleasant experiences to listen to with “Confession” having a tune you’ll remember. Another religious work with chorus is the track “Divine Service” and “Dobis Nobis Pacem” a work from Bach.

“Guitars is a duo of guitars playing a melody in an all to brief track that Shostakovich later transcribed for piano.

Also included is a “Barrel Organ” and a “Galop,” something for all tastes.

I can recommend this release to Shostakovich lovers, soundtrack fans, and classical music people.

 

COUNTERPLAN (1932), OP. 33 consists of a series of 3 tracks which 3  of the more melodic tunes to the film about building a power turbine. It was written during a time when Stalin didn’t have his hands on everything and Shostakovich had more of a free reign. “the Song of the Counterplan” had great popularity and it extended to Europe as sheet music was published.

 

 

 

 

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Layout 1

DYNAMIC CDS7805

total time  is 79 minutes

* World Premiere Recording
February 2018 release

 

A most unusual release of material likely not heard by anyone in the solo piano offered by pianist Luigi Palombi who spans over 100 years of material ranging from silent films to “The Firm,” a soundtrack to the 1993 film by Dave Grusin. By the way this is nothing even close to the original soundtrack so you’ll be in for a surprise when you listen to this arrangement of the material.

The opening track Sam Fox Moving Picture Music* is a fast and furious track that definitely conjures up the world of silent films in the five tracks it offers, from frantic to romantic to dramatic. It is a 10 minute compilation of what you might hear while watching a silent film.

The next group of tracks belong to classical composers Satie, Milhaud, Auric, and Honegger with only the Satie being written for a silent film Cinema 1924 Entr’acte symphonique from Relache. If you’re familiar with Satie the sound is quite dissonant and twisted with little melodic passages. Not seeing the film of course puts me at a tremendous disadvantage and I question how this modern sounding piece could possibly fit.

Madame Bovary (1933) seems to offer a better fit although it seems to offer a better fit. Milhaud seems to be more on the beam. Still having a modern sound unlike a Steiner score from the 30’s it is a lot more pleasant to the ears.

In Lac aux dames* by Auric we have a compromise in styles between melodic and modern sounding. It is pleasant enough sounding and nice to be able to hear a world premiere recording.

Mannino offers a delicate but sad offering L’innocente Adagio per pianoforte for the 1976 film. If you’re a fan of adagios you might find this to be your favorite track on this CD/Download.

De Sica offers a modern sounding piano bar style score to Tre film di papa* (1999). It has melodies that I can remember and the 10 minute suite is a good one.

Oscar Peterson offered Blues for Allan Felix (1972)  on one of his LP’s and the sound is exactly what you would expect, a jazzy track with a busy piano playing. It is one I like but seems out of place on this CD.

The final offering is a 20 minute suite of material is from Dave Grusin for the film The Firm (1993). It offers a fine main melody offered throughout the 20 minute suite. In between there are other styles of music including honky tonk, slow and dramatic passages, blues, all well played by Palombi.

This CD will have a definite appeal to the collector who will want the world premiere recordings along with the fine 20 minute suite from The Firm. A word of caution! Don’t let the cover fool you as there is nothing from the Casablanca film. It is just a misleading cover and if I were in charge I would change it to something more appropriate. Having said that take the time to listen to the clips on the distributor Naxos or other sites and decide if this is something for you. It is one I’ll revisit again.