Atonement/Dario Marianelli

December 28, 2007

 

atonement_4766195.gifDirected by Joe Wright of Pride and Prejudice fame and starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, the tragic romance is taken from the best selling novel of Ian McEwan who also was a co-producer. The love of two people is interrupted by an accusation of a third party of a crime that wasn’t committed. Arrested and then sent to the front in World War II, the tragic story of undying love is told. The third party goes onto fame and fortune as a writer but must live with what she did until atonement is achieved.

 

The very first thing that got my attention was the clicking of the typewriter (wish my computer monitor did that) and immediately trying to recognize what kind, having grown up them all of my life! Each typewriter had its own distinct sound and type recognition on the paper. Even the track-listing on the back of the CD used typewriter type, complete with key striking differences in ink density on the paper. A very nice touch! The typewriter is used as percussion in the score, appearing in “Briony”, “Cee, You and Tea”, “Farewell”, and “Come Back”. After a listen or two the minor annoyance became a positive and blended into the score nicely and just became a part of the soundtrack. The absolute highlight of this soundtrack was the wonderful but all too short “Love Letters” for Cello (Caroline Dale), and Piano (Jean-Yves Thibaudet) a true entry into the world of chamber music.  The unfortunate news is it ended up being used in the end titles. While the score was written primarily for strings and piano “The Half Killed” does offer some brass chords in an elegy. “Elegy for Dunkirk”, largo paced, has the Dunkirk choir slowly fading in with a singing of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind until it is the focus of attention and then it slowly fades out again. “Robbie’s Note” is a wonderful romantic theme beginning with the soulful clarinet followed by the cello and piano. It is written in the style of some of the golden age composers like Newman, Korngold, or Steiner. It is repeated in “The Cottage On The Beach” this time the solo piano starting, leading to the theme from the oboe before the English Chamber Strings carry the track to its conclusion. There is even a short but effective harmonica solo of the theme in “Farewell”. The other theme often heard first appears in “Briony”. It is an allegro moderato pace with distinct staccato like playing from the piano imitating the typewriter. The score concludes with a good performance of “Clair de Lune”, a standard Debussy piece by Thibaudet. It is delicately played during a sad time at Dunkirk, and well recorded with a realistic sound from the piano in the tradition of the DG/Vasary recording.One can only imagine the wonderful opportunity Dario was given with this tragic Romeo and Juliet type film. This reviewer’s hat goes off to Marinelli, Thibaudet, English Chamber Orchestra and all involved in this project. At the time of this writing it has won  a Golden Globe  for best score for 2007 and is nominated for the coveted Oscar.  It would certainly get my vote.   Highly recommended.

 

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Grace Is Gone/Eastwood

December 26, 2007

 

grace_is_gone_36322.gifTo my knowledge this is the very first time that Clint has done the soundtrack to a film and not directed or been in it. Written and directed by newcomer James C. Strouse and starring John Cusack it tells a simple story of how does a father tell his two daughters 12 and 8 their mother, a career soldier, was killed in Iraq. Winner of 2 awards at the Sundance Film Festival and nominated for 2 additional Golden Globe nominations (soundtrack and song) the film has yet to be released in the US at the time of this writing. It was purchased by the Weinstein Company so expect a full release to the multiplex theaters at sometime in the future. This is not an antiwar film but the difficult task of dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Jamie Cullum, a popular singer in the UK, sings the lyrics to the main theme ” Grace is Gone”, composed by Eastwood with lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager. As many of you know who read my articles, pop songs are extremely difficult for me to evaluate. It seems, on the surface, to be one that fans of Jamie or the movie would be extremely interested in, along with the other two songs “Hugging My Grudge” and “Makeup”. This reviewer will just default to his “music I don’t understand” statement.

Like the Mystic River theme and others Clint has composed simplicity is the key word. As the theme is included on nearly every track you will remember it after only one listen to the CD. It is this simplicity, almost hypnotic quality, that make these themes so effective in the films. On the tracks in which it is performed, “Enchanted Gardens”, played on the piano by Andrew McCormack is the best featuring a well tuned instrument with tight clear sound. The theme is also performed on the trumpet by Graeme Flowers quite soulfully on “Stanley’s Lost”. It is performed on the guitar in “Stanley Hugs John” with Yahama and piano backing.

The music is performed by the Kyle Eastwood Band and backed with Yamaha digital equipment. The band is a simple one consisting of bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet, piano but no percussion which was quite noticeable to me in some of the tracks. Perhaps this makes little difference in the film itself but as a stand alone experience away from the movie it does. I also noticed a small but noticeable volume change in “Value City” during a change from the organ/synthesizer chords to the piano/guitar probably during the mixing process.

If you enjoy Jamie, Clint, or the film you’ll enjoy the soundtrack. The theme is hypnotic but there isn’t a whole lot else to offer beyond the one theme.

 

For many years Naxos has released a best of classical music used in films from the previous year. On their website there is a tab that lists hundreds of classical works that have been used in films (http://www.naxos.com/musicinmovies.asp?letter=A). If you are ever unsure about what piece might have been used in a particular film take a check in the music in movies tab and you might just find the name of the piece your looking for. The only stipulation is there has to be a Naxos recording of the particular work and with the thousands of recording they have in their catalog this is not a problem.

While this reviewer very much enjoys going to movies and trying to guess what piece from what classical work went where, there of course is so much material that my chances are maybe 50-50 of guessing correctly. Being extremely aware of Woody Allen’s use of classical music in his films it was rather easy to pick up on the Grieg selection (there were actually more in the film). Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the andante from Mozart’s Piano Concerto, and the Chopin ‘Butterfly’ Etude were also not very difficult. However, the Verdi piece in The Queen was completely missed! Goes to show what a mesmerizing performance Helen Mirren turned in (she did win an Oscar). I also completely missed the Dvorak song in the film The Departed. Guess there was too much swearing and shooting!

All of these recordings are Naxos so the CD is really a compilation piece from there vast catalog (now the largest in the world). While the track listing makes it quite clear don’t be mislead into thinking that there is original soundtrack material from the film. Wrong direction! Having said that these are a nice way to introduce yourself to a particular classical selection at an attractive price when one of the larger distributors such as H&B Direct put them on sale. The film notes listed below are taken from the liner notes included in the CD.

CINEMA CLASSICS 2007

“The perfect man. The perfect story. The perfect murder”

[Track 1] SCOOP

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Hugh Jackman (Peter Lyman), Scarlett Johansson (Sondra Pransky), Woody Allen (Sid Waterman), Ian McShane (Joe Strombel)

Throughout his career both as actor and director Woody Allen has been so closely connected with New York and particularly Manhattan that it comes as a mild shock to find out that both of his latest movies are in fact set in England. Whether this is due to the well-known fact that his movies do better with the general public and critics in Europe than they do in the United States is open to speculation. While Match Point was one of Allen’s very best in recent years, Scoop is just a pleasant enough bagatelle about an American journalist who comes to England to interview a famous actor and hopes for the scoop of her life. Murder and love ensue.

Music: ‘Morning Mood’ from Peer Gynt by Grieg

Also featured in: Love Honor and Obey, Raising Cain.

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”

[Track 2] ROCKY BALBOA

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Cast: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Geraldine Houston (Marie), Burt Young (Paulie), Antonio Tarver (Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon)

This Rocky film, the sixth, hit the theatres thirty years after the first, but still has more in common with the original, than with those in between. Of course, there is boxing and action, but this film is more concerned with feelings and dialogue. Rocky is now retired from boxing and instead runs a restaurant, living a quiet life and mourning his dead wife. Then comes the opportunity for one final fight – should he take it or not? As expected, this is a movie filled with tense moments, captivating music and classic ‘Rocky wisdom’, like when Rocky talks to his now grown-up son about life. “It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward”.

Music: ‘La donna è mobile’ from Rigoletto by Verdi

Also featured in: Analyze This, Backstreet Dreams, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Family Man, Haunted Castle, Hellgate, The Inheritors, Kiss Toledo Goodbye, My Favourite Martian, New York Stories, The Punisher, Two Family House, Yes, Giorgio.

“Meet The Men Who Are Making History!”

[Track 3] THE HISTORY BOYS

Director: Nicolas Hytner

Cast: Samuel Anderson (Crowther), James Corden (Timms), Stephen Campbell Moore (Irwin), Richard Griffiths (Hector), Frances de la Tour (Mrs. Linott)

In the 1980s, at a fictitious grammar school in the north of England, Cutlers’ Grammar School, a group of pupils are preparing for their Oxbridge entrance examinations. Their two teachers are complete contrasts, and this leads to conflicts. The movie is based on a play by Alan Bennett, one of England’s best-known playwrights, and adapted for the screen by himself. It opened in 2004 at the Lyttelton Theatre in London, and was an immediate sell-out while on Broadway it was accorded six Tony Awards, including one for Best Play.

Music: Adagio sostenuto from Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2

Also featured in: Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch, Dead Again, Center Stage.

“At 15 she became a Bride. At 19 she became a Queen. At 20 she was a Legend”

[Track 4] MARIE ANTOINETTE

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette), Marianne Faithfull (Maria Teresa), Steve Coogan (Ambassador Marcy), Judy Davis (Comtesse de Noilles), Jason Schwartzman (Louis XVI)

Marie Antoinette (1755–1793) was born Erzherzogin Maria von Österreich, later becoming Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre. At the age of fourteen she was married to the future Louis XVI. In 1793, at the height of the French Revolution she was executed by guillotine, charged with treason. A bit unfairly, she was long remembered for her supposed excesses and extravagances and her reply to starving peasants who asked for bread – “Give Them Cake” – has often been quoted. It now seems there is no evidence that she ever said this, and on the whole today’s historians give a more multi-facetted picture of Marie Antoinette. The film is loosely based on the historical biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, and ends with the fall of Versailles. It is the first full-length biopic of Marie Antoinette to be made in English since the 1938 Oscar-nominated film, Marie Antoinette, starring Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. The new Marie Antoinette won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design (Milena Canonero). This is Sofia Coppola’s first movie after Lost in Translation and a bigger contrast is hard to imagine.

Music: Overture to Castor et Pollux by Rameau

“Tradition Prepared Her. Change Will Define Her”

[Track 5] THE QUEEN

Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Helen Mirren (HM Queen Elizabeth II), Michael Sheen (Tony Blair), James Cromwell (Prince Philip), Sylvia Syms (HM The Queen Mother)

A week in the life of a queen. Queen Elizabeth II is on holiday at Balmoral when news reaches her of the fatal car crash in Paris and the death of Diana. She is at a loss as to how to handle the situation and this is interpreted as indifference. Popular feeling is turned against her, but her new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, persuades her to return to London and join in the mourning. Princess Diana, her estranged former daughter-in-law, has what amounts to a state funeral. When the crisis is over she returns to her normal duties and her restricted style of life.

Helen Mirren was awarded an Oscar (Best Actress in a Leading Rôle) for her brilliant portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II.

Music: ‘Libera me’ from Verdi’s Requiem.

“A partially true story about lies told, virtue lost and love found”

[Track 6] CASANOVA

Director: Lasse Hallström

Cast: Heath Ledger (Casanova), Sienna Miller (Francesca Bruni), Jeremy Irons (Pucci), Oliver Platt (Papprizzio), Lena Olin (Andrea)

Don Juan and Casanova have both entered many languages as names for The Great Lover, the main difference being that Don Juan is a work of fiction and Casanova history. He was born Gian Giacomo Casanova in Venice in 1725 and pursued several careers, among them soldier and priest, before being arrested and charged with espionage. After managing to escape from prison, he spent time travelling round Europe as a conjuror, gambler and diplomatic secretary. The latter allowed him to indulge his favourite pursuit, that of seducing women. In between he wrote a highly entertaining book, Histoire de ma vie (The Story of My Life), which is considered one of the best sources on social life in the eighteenth century. It also mentions how many women he had sex with, although the movie centres on his love for Francesca against the backdrop of beautiful Venice.

Music: ‘Bourrée’ from Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel.

“Lies. Betrayal. Sacrifice. How long will you take it?”

[Track 7] THE DEPARTED

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Billy), Matt Damon (Colin), Jack Nicholson (Costello), Martin Sheen (Queenan), Mark Wahlberg (Dignam), Alec Baldwin (Ellerby)

This is Scorsese’s highly acclaimed remake of the Hong Kong film Wu Jian Dao (Infernal Affairs), a tense and action-packed thriller with an all star cast. Billy (DiCaprio) is a long-time undercover cop trying to get to Irish gangster boss Costello (Nicholson), while Colin (Damon) is Costello’s mole in the police force. Soon enough, people start getting killed on both sides and the impostors become aware of each other. To survive, they must reveal the identity of the other without blowing their own cover, a deadly game that gets increasingly difficult as both of them get caught up in their rôles and start losing track of who they really are.

The movie received four Oscars, including Best Achievement in Directing (Martin Scorsese) and Best Motion Picture of the Year.

Music: ‘Song to the Moon’ from Rusalka by DvořákAlso featured in: Driving Miss Daisy, Bicentennial Man, Strange Luck.

“Are you watching closely?”

[Track 8] THE PRESTIGE

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier), Christian Bale (Alfred Borden), Michael Caine (Cutter), Scarlet Johansson (Olivia Wenscombe), David Bowie (Tesla)

Set in Victorian England, this is the story of two rival magicians (Jackman and Bale), whose rivalry turns to enmity when a magic trick goes awry. As the game grows increasingly deadly it becomes a study in single-mindedness and obsession, where loved ones are reduced to mere pawns. This is another highly intelligent movie from the director of Memento (2000), with enough clever twists to make your head reel and leave you completely baffled at the end. Unless you are watching very closely.

Music: ‘Butterfly’ Étude by Chopin.

“Time brings all things to light”

[Track 9] ALL THE KING’S MEN

Director: Steve Zallian

Cast: Sean Penn (Willie Stark), Jude Law (Jack Burden), Anthony Hopkins (Judge Irwin), Kate Winslet (Anne Stanton)

This movie is based on a famous novel by Robert Penn Warren about a populist Southerner, Willie Stark, who has much in common with real-life governor Huey Long of Louisiana. He is absolutely ruthless, extremely manipulative and lets nothing stand in his way. As time passes, even those closest to him see through his beautiful phrases and back away. Willie Stark is left on his own to face his fate. The book has been filmed once before, in 1949, when it brought home Oscars for Broderick Crawford (Best Actor in a Leading Rôle), Mercedes McCambridge (Best Actress in a Supporting Rôle) and Robert Rossen (Best Picture).

Music: ‘Una donna a quindici anni’ from Così fan tutte by Mozart.“When Andy met Edie, life imitated art”

[Track 10] FACTORY GIRL

Director: George Hickenlooper

Cast: Sienna Miller (Edie Sedgwick), Guy Pearce (Andy Warhol), Hayden Chrstensen (Billy Quinn), James Fallon (Chuck Wen), Jack Huston (Gerard Malanga)

As everybody’s beautiful ‘It Girl’ a bright career seemed to lie ahead of Edie Sedgwick. But all the publicity and appearances had done little to change her. She was still a lost fragile little girl, and when she met with anti-hero pop artist Andy Warhol she was swept off her feet into a maelstrom of sex, drugs, style and rock ‘n’ roll. Edie soon becomes the star of Warhol’s movies and the idol of The Factory crowd, not to mention the darling of the media. Everything is great, but when she falls in love, she gets caught between her new love and Warhol’s world and ends up being turned away by both.

Music: Andante from Piano Concerto No. 21 by Mozart

Also featured in: Elvira Madigan, Metroland, The Spy Who Loved Me, Seven Monkeys.

“Everyone needs someone”

[Track 11] THE GIGOLOS

Director: Richard Bracewell

Cast: Sacha Tarter (Sacha), Trevor Sather (Trevor), Susannah York (Teresa Harrington), Anna Massey (Edwina), Siân Phillips (Baroness James)

A gigolo and his valet search for love and friendship in the twilight world of the male escort industry. Sacha is the favourite young gigolo of the over fifties set of Mayfair and Piccadilly neighbourhoods. His clients are wealthy, smart, successful and willing to pay exceedingly well for sex. His day begins at dusk. Behind the closed doors of late-night London he works to give pleasure to lonely women.

Music: Duet from The Pearl Fishers by Bizet.

“Remember, remember, the 5th of November”

[Track 12] V FOR VENDETTA

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Natalie Portman (Evey), Hugo Weaving (V), Stephen Rea (Finch), Stephen Fry (Dietrich), John Hurt (Adam Sutler)

In the near future, the totalitarian rule of High Chancellor Adam Sutler (Hurt) casts a dark shadow over an England gripped by fear. To be different has become dangerous and dissidents are made to disappear. Enter the mysterious V (Weaving), a masked terrorist with a flair for the theatrical, and his unlikely ally Evey (Portman). As the plot thickens we realize that not only does Sutler rule by fear, he has gone to great lengths indeed to instigate that fear. V is set on revealing the truth and giving England a fresh start, but there’s something else as well. A personal vendetta.

Music: 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky

Also featured in: Caddyshack, Blown Away, Detroit Rock City, Down With Love, Gorky Park, The Music Lovers, National Lampoon’s Men in White.

Notes by Lars & Martin Johansson

 

jonathan-toomey-copy.jpgOne of the more exciting young and upcoming composers today is Guy “Land of the Blind” Farley ( http://www.goldenscores.com/?a=articles&id=28). His latest score is to the film The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey released straight to DVD. Directed by newcomer Bill Clark it stars Tom Berenger and Aran Bell, was made for the younger generation, and is a somewhat typical heartfelt holiday story with a happy ending.

The title, as far as purchasing Christmas music is concerned, could be quite misleading to the potential buyer. This is not filled with holiday music like Miracle on 34th St. Having said that, it isn’t completely devoid of Christmas music either. The opening track “Jonathan Toomey” not only offers the two main themes of the soundtrack but a very nice rendition of the traditional “Deck The Halls”. Flute and then oboe give us the first theme followed by the second which is delicately offered on the piano leading into “Deck The Halls” before a positively wonderful conclusion with the trumpet, horns and chorus. This would be one track to download for your Christmas selections on your MP3 or compilation CD. The other track is “Christmas Joy” which is also “Deck The Halls”, a small sampling of original Farley Christmas music,a hint of “Joy to the World”, and his themes. (http://www.filmmusicdownloads.com/WebFilmMusicDownloads/album_details.htm?id=5852).

Don’t ignore the remainder of the CD either. Farley, unlike some of his contemporaries, is filled with wonderful melodies. They warm your heart. Even the country western tracks “Life in the Country”, “Old Blue”, and “Country Style” are nice and easy to listen to especially for a hard core fanatic classical listener. “Leaving Town” has that quirky sound that sounds like Thomas Newman. There is cartoon like music in “The Dare”. “Home from the War” and “Soldiers in Tragedy” reference the traditional “Yankee Doodle Dandy” before he bursts into one of the main melodies.

Programmed correctly this could be a perfect CD listen to with that special person around the crackling fire in the fireplace. This reviewer has listened to two of his scores so far. In my book he’s two for two!

Magic Fire/Wagner & Korngold

December 16, 2007

 

 

magic_fire_vcl11071071.gif
Magic Fire was the biographical film of the life of Richard Wagner, filmed in Germany by Republic Pictures and directed by William Dieterle. He wasn’t a newcomer to doing film biographies, having done Dr. Ehlrich’s Magic Bullet, The Life of Emil Zola and Juarez (w/Korngold). The 2 1/2 hour film was shot entirely on location in Germany and featured Yvonne De Carlo, Alan Badel, Peter Cushing, and even Korngold made an appearance as the famous conductor Hans Richter. The film was edited first to two hours and finally was to 93 minutes, which greatly contributed to it’s dismal failure at the box office. Years after its 1956 release it became a staple for late night television viewing. As one staff member quipped it wasn’t released it “escaped”. 

 

Please note that this is not original material from Korngold. Erich adapted, selected, and orchestrated the music of Richard Wagner which became the soundtrack for the film. Dieterle having this prior relationship with Korngold, along with Erich’s fondness for the unofficial “father of film music”, allowed the coming out of retirement to do this one last project. He hoped that with the control he was told he would have it would be a film to be proud of. Erich had spent the previous 9 years working solely on his classical compositions including his somewhat performed Symphony in F Sharp Major, Op. 40 (Chandos 9171 & EMI 56169 are available recordings). What you have on this limited edition 1000 copy Varese Sarabande release is a 26 track compilation of the music of Wagner with Korngold contributing (5) piano selections. Yes you have Erich performing albiet very ordinary sounding piano material. This mono recording is rather dull sounding with a limited dynamic range and a hissy tape sounding background when the volume is turned up. As explained in the liner notes by George Korngold the use of the “foreign track” caused some cues to end right in the middle of a selection or they just faded away making for a choppy listening experience. It wasn’t intended as a CD introducing the listener to the works of Richard Wagner, far from it. That being the case it might end the exploring of the German composer after the very first listen.

The person who is into collecting limited edition CD’s will be interested in obtaining this CD. As of this writing in December 2007 the record label company Varese Sarabande had already sold out. The person who is a completist in the collecting of Korngold will be interested in obtaining this CD. It is a historical recording and the last thing Korngold did making it important. Those are the only areas where this reviewer can recommend this recording to anyone. If one wishes to explore the works of Richard Wagner the public library in your area will have a multitude of material for you to listen to in excellent wide dynamic well recorded sound. Anyone who is truly interested in exploring golden age material should listen to Wagner. It is Richard who had such a tremendous influence on Steiner and Korngold. Without Wagner who knows what the first years of soundtracks would have been like.

Golden Score Rating is *1/2
CD# is VCL is 1107 1071
Produced by Robert Townson
Performed by The Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Alois Melichar
Track Listing:
1. Main Title (Die Walküre, Act 3) (01:48)

2. The Meadow (Rienzi, Rienzi’s Prayer And Overture) (01:17)

3. Ocean Voyage And Paris (Der Fliegende Holländer, Overture And Daland’s Aria, Act 2) (00:55)

4. Visit To Meyerbeer (Les Huguenotes, Page Boy’s Aria, Act 2) (00:59)

5. Wagner Plays For Meyerbeer (Der Fliegende Holländer, Overture) (01:36)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
6. Der Fliegende Holländer, Performance (Opening, Ghost Chorus And Finale) (03:36)
Otto Edelman, bass-baritone / Leonie Rysanek, soprano
7. Revolution And Tale Of The Holy Grail (Lohengrin, Prelude And Entr’Acte, Act 3) (05:19)
Hans Hopf, tenor
8. The Salon (Die Walküre: Winterstürme, Act 1) (01:38)
Leonie Rysanek, soprano
9. Wagner Plays Tristan Und Isolde (Prelude, Act 3) (03:17)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
10. Love Scene (Dreams From The Wesendonk Lieder) (02:37)

11. Tannhäuser, Paris Performance (Overture And Venusberg Ballet, Act 1) (03:19)

12. Tannhäuser (Continued) (Sängerkrieg, Act 2) (01:31)
Otto Edelman, bass-baritone / Hans Hopf, tenor
13. Zürich (Tristan Und Isolde, Prelude to Act 2) (00:41)

14. The Bedroom / The Messenger (Tristan Und Isolde, Act 2 And Act 3) (01:27)

15. Farewell (Tristan Und Isolde, Act 2) (02:47)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
16. Arrival In Nürnberg (Die Meistersinger, Act 3) (00:54)

17. Neuschwanstein (Die Meistersinger, Act 3) (01:30)

18. Wagner Plays Themes (Die Meistersinger), Vocal Rehearsal (Preislied, Act 3) (01:45)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano Otto Edelman, bass-baritone / Hans Hopf, tenor
19. Die Meistersinger, Performance (Overture And Act 3) (02:32)

20. The Warning (Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Curse, Fate And Death Motives) (00:52)

21. Triebchen (Siegfried, Act 3 And Siegfried Idyll) (01:45)

22. Liszt And Cosima: Wagner Weds (Die Walküre, Wotan’s Farewell, Act 3 And Lohengrin, Wedding March, Act 3) (01:22)

23. Bayreuth (Die Götterdämmerung, Walhall Motive And Siegfried’s Rhinejourney) (00:32)

24. Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Performance-Montage (05:06)

25. Venice, Wagner Plays Themes From Parsifal (Parsifal Chimes, Bell Theme, Temptation Theme And Flower Maidens, End Of Act 3) (02:41)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
26. Wagner’s Death – Finale (Parsifal, End Of Act 3) (01:07)

Total Duration: 00:52:53

 

 

 

nutcracker-kunzel.jpgOne of the most popular classical works around the Christmas season is the wonderful ballet music to the Nutcracker composed in 1891-1892 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Parts were used in Fantasia which drew much attention to the work making some of the themes instantly recognizable to the general public, young and old. It has been performed in various guises by such artists as Duke Ellington, Spike Jones, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Wynton Marsalis. The variation, “Nut Rocker” rose to #1 in the charts in the UK and is associated with the hockey team the Boston Bruins. Based on the theme from the “Children’s Galop and Arrival of the Guests” it is certainly a rocking version of the melody performed by B. Bumble and the Stingers. Quite a popular ballet for a composer who was filled with a lot of self doubt about the work.

It is quite important to note that the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a, is only 8 sections or roughly 25 minutes of a 90 minute work. Listed below are the sections included in the suite. If you also notice it does have a different opus number 71a instead of 71.

I. OvertureII. Danses caractéristiques

A. Marche

B. Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy [ending altered from ballet-version]

C. Russian Dance

D. Arabian Dance

E. Chinese Dance

F. Reed-Flutes

III. Waltz of the Flowers

Fantasia has gone one step further and eliminated the “Overture” and “Marche”, as well as changing the order of the tracks.I. Danses caractéristiquesA. Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy (Dew Fairies)

B. Chinese Dance (Chinese Mushrooms)

C. Reed-Flutes (Blossoms)

D. Arabian Dance (Goldfish)

E. Russian Dance (Thistles and Lily Plants)

II. Waltz of the Flowers (Frost Fairies & Snow Fairies)

The latest recording to surface (there are 100+) is a recording from Telarc (CD 80674) featuring Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops. Julie Spangler is the celesta soloist on “The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” and the Cincinnati Children’s Choir perform the singing on “Waltz of the Snowflakes”. While this is clearly marked on the CD as favorite selections it is 73+ minutes, and most of the ballet is included, allowing the use of only 1 CD. Surmising a little, the recording goal was to get it onto one CD which they managed to do and include most of it. Omitted is “Arrival of Drosselmeyer” from Scene 4, “Grandfather’s Dance” Scene 5, and “The Battle Between the Nutcracker & the Mouse King”, Scene 7.The Kunzel recording takes its place as one of the better ones in the market place, well recorded with Direct Stream Digital, and the advantage of having a single CD. Long considered the standard and still a worthy contender, the Dorati recording with the London Philharmonic only lacks the dynamic range of the new recording. The other Telarc recording with Mackerras and the London Symphony is the complete ballet with the advantage of being recorded in Watford Town Hall which adds warmth to the strings especially in the middle to lower range. This coupled with real cannon shots, and Mackerras being a true Tchaikovskian interpreter makes this a good one to purchase if one is interested in the complete ballet. A word of caution! There is a single 55 minute CD which should not be confused with the 2 CD set. If you are just looking for the suite there are many to choose from such as recordings from Beecham, Ormandy, Previn, and Rostropovich. The one you choose, which are all fine ones, would depend on what other coupling recording you might be interested in. Which ever way you go make sure that Nutcracker is part of your Christmas music.

Track Listing:

1. OvertureListen

ACT I

First Tableau

Listen

2. Scene 1: The Christmas Tree

Listen

3. Scene 2: March

Listen

4. Scene 3: Children’s Galop and Arrival of the Guests

Listen

5. Scene 4: Pas de deux (Doll and Toy Soldier) Tempo di Valse

Listen

6. Scene 6: Magic Spell Begins

Listen

Second Tableau

7. Scene 8: Scene in the Pine Forest (Journey through the Snow)

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8. Scene 9: Waltz of the Snowflakes

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ACT II

9. Scene 10: The Magic Castle

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10. Scene 11: Clara and the Prince

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11. Chocolate: Spanish Dance

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12. Coffee: Arabian Dance

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13. Tea: Chinese Dance

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14. Trepak: Russian Dance

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15. Dance of the Mirlitons

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16. Mother Gigone and Her Little Clowns

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17. Scene 13: Waltz of the Flowers

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18. Dance of the Prince and the Sugar-Plum Fairy

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19. Variation I: Tarantella

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20. Variation II: Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy

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21. Coda

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22. Scene 15: Final Waltz and Apotheosis

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Engineered by Michael Bishop

Produced by Robert Woods

Golden Scores Rating is ****

 

copland-image.jpgIn 1943 Copland arranged 5 pieces from 3 films making a 15+ minute concert suite called Music For Movies. Copland very early on was quite focused on the nature of film music. “I learned the most basic rule: A film is not a concert; the music is meant to help the picture.” Realizing that his music written for films would have little or no life away from the film he created this suite from the films Of Mice And Men, Our Town, and The City. Little did Aaron know how true his statement would be as only two tracks Of Mice And Men have survived, at least at the time of this writing.

Copland’s first film assignment came in the form of a documentary about the development of urban life for the 1939 New York World Fair. It is interesting to note that Pare Lorentz who gave us The Plow That Broke The Plain and The River with music by another famous American composer Virgil Thomson also had a hand in this film about the urban landscape. Two of 8 scenes are included in the concert suite: “New England Countryside” and “Sunday Traffic”. “Barley Wagons” and “Threshing Machines” are included from Of Mice And Men and “Grovers Corner” from Our Town. Both Our Town and Of Mice And Men were nominated for Oscars.

“New England Countryside” is certainly aptly named in the overall tranquil mood that it sets for the listener. Beginning with a brass statement from the trombones with two timpani answers followed by the trumpets and reeds as the strings answer each response. Trills from the clarinet follow with an answer from a saxophone. The entire track is extremely well orchestrated and thought out. It is a time of reflection and thought.

“Barley Wagons” with the tinkling of the triangle begins a folk melody depicting the moving of the crop to harvest again a time of reflection.

“Sunday Traffic” is a musical representation of the hustle and bustle of traffic in the busy urban life with the trumpet leading the way introducing the theme to us. The pace gets quicker and finally ends with the brass displaying dissonant sounds as the work all comes to a crashing halt!

“Grovers Corner”, recently used in the Ken Burns documentary War, is a perfect example of depicting life in a small town. One can just imagine the peace and tranquility as the theme is revealed and expanded upon. I’m confident that this was a work that other composers listened to and studied as the Americana West music was formed from the “Copland sound”.

“Thrashing Machines” is another excellent example of creative orchestration being used to enhance a movie scene in an effective manner justifying his statement “it makes sense only if it helps the film”.

After reading this far in the article, the decision is now what recording to get, along with what else do you get on the CD. There are three recordings that this reviewer listened to carefully and all have merit. My primary choice if I had to select one CD would be the Slatkin recording because of the other material offered. Also included is the Red Pony Suite, The Heiress, Our Town, and Prairie Journal (Music for Radio). To my knowledge, it is the only recording of The Heiress, a reconstruction by Arnold Freed and thus something to have in your collection. The Celluloid Copland on Telarc by far has the best recording of the “New England Countryside” track. It has much stronger brass and a superior sax solo and an excellent trumpet solo in “Sunday Traffic”. In the Copland collection from Sony, “New England Countryside” is played quite nicely at a more leisurely pace and actually reflects a whole different style which is quite pleasant. The 3 CD set offers a wide range of Copland material but of course carries a much larger price tag and doesn’t include The Red Pony or The Heiress, thus my choice of the Slatkin.

Golden Scores Rating ****

Produced by Jay David Saks

CD# is 09026-61699-2

Track Listing:

New England Countryside…5:11

Barley Wagons…2;13

Sunday Traffic…2:28

Grovers Corner…2:20

Threshing Machines…3:01