Aladdin/Carl Davis

January 3, 2007

Some of you might be familiar with Carl Davis through some of the fine work he has done with accompaniment music to the films of Charlie Chaplin (Silva SILCD1198). Others might be familiar with his scores to French Lieutenant’s Woman or Champion. Still others might have seen his name associated with television films such as Snow Goose, Covington Cross, or any of 50 other films and documentaries. He wrote with Paul McCartney the “Liverpool Oratorio” and premiered the work as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, an organization he was artistic director of for 8 years. And he still finds time to compose this piece Aladdin the Complete Ballet, a commission from the Scottish Ballet first performed in 2000 in Edinburgh and now 5 years later on this recording with the new Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Davis has composed quite an interesting score by blending new modern sounding film style music with some of the more traditional sounding Russian music that your ears want to hear, especially when it is about something to do with aladdin, magic carpet rides, and rubbing lamps for a genie to appear and grant wishes. Music has been written to this tale before and will be again. If you are one who likes to compare styles try the Aladdin Suite Nielsen composed (Naxos 8.557164). In addition, there is also the British influence which just adds another dimension to this diverse ballet! No Sheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov) is not being supplanted as the next standard of oriental exotic middle eastern style music. On the other hand, you are certainly not going to mistake this piece for Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite either! Where the fun lies with this score is to sit back, listen, enjoy, and then look for all of the different styles of composers who influenced Davis. While Carl was born in New York, he has spent a lot of his life in England so it is understandable that Walton, Alwyn, Arnold, and Britten influenced this score greatly. “The Power of the Lamp” is a straight out of Hollywood theme that sounds like it could come from a sports film. It begins with the horns stating the theme a proud majestic one that is used as a leitmotif to signal the lamp throughout the entire ballet. It creates a modern sound to the ballet which quickly disappears with “The Fruits of the Earth” as it switches into a Russian style reminiscent of something Borodin might do and more themes for the sellers of lamps, carpets, and water. “The Cave of Riches” and additional tracks feature themes based on the different kind of jewels from pearls to finally diamonds. The gold sequence music style is a throwback to the Handel era proud and stoic. The beginning of the “Bathhouse March” is very much in the style of something that Walton would have used for his compositions and while Carl does switch briefly into a Chinese sounding style it quickly disappears and the processional march returns for the conclusion of the first CD.

The second CD continues the story of the wedding, dungeon, Morocco, and the Magic Carpet Ride to return to China (not even close to Steppenwolf). Again there is a hint of an oriental flavor, a modern sound at times, the Russian mystic, but more of the British influence as it should be, keeping in mind this was a commission for the Scottish Ballet. “The Wedding Ceremony” has just enough of the oriental flavor and the more traditional stoic British influence to make it an excellent well thought out track. “Lion Dance” sounds like an African tribal piece with pounding percussion and blaring horns.

Overall this is an excellent crossover recording for the soundtrack enthusiast to get involved with. Yes it was strictly written as a ballet and there are moments where the boredom might set in. Davis, overall, has not introduced any new groundbreaking material of note. However, he has created quite a diverse and interesting piece of music that bridges a modern sounding film score style with the more traditional ballet material and for this reason it is one that should be explored. Recommended.

Golden Scores Rating is (***1/2)

Produced by Carl Davis and Jean Boht

Engineer: John Luard Timperly

Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis

Naxos CD# 8.557898-99

Total Playing Time is 126:09

Track Listing

CD 1

1. Prologue

Act I

2.-5. Scene I: A Market In China

6.-7. Scene II: The Journey

8.-9. Scene III: Outside The Cave

10.-23. Scene IV: The Cave

24.-27. Scene V: The Market

CD 2

Act II

1.-3. Scene I: The Royal Bath-House

4. Scene II: Aladdin’s House

5.-18. Scene III: The Sultan’s Audience Chamber

19.-20. Scene IV: Outside The Palace Walls

21. Scene V: The Audience Chamber

Act III

22.-24. Scene I: A Dungeon

25.-32. Scene II: A Room In The Magician’s Palace

33. Scene III

34.-36. Scene IV

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