May 28, 2008
Lambert and Berners with your crumpet? Lambert and Berners with your toast? These were the thoughts of this reviewer when I first heard the title of the latest Chandos Movies release (CHAN 10459). Who are these people? Upon further examination I saw the names of films Champagne Charlie, The Merchant Seaman, and The Halfway House. But then Anna Karenina and Nicholas Nickleby caught my eye which definitely required further examination. Neither composer being a household word I wondered why these two together? As it turns out according to the liner notes, they were best of friends and Lambert did the conducting for Berners and both were very close to Sir William Walton, Berners being a patron.
Lambert had a small output of classical material and two film works The Merchant Seaman and Anna Karenina. His early death at the age of 45 from pneumonia, complicated by untreated diabetes and alcoholism likely contributed to his small number of works. While The Merchant Seaman (1940) was a documentary film produced by the Crown Film Unit and likely never to be seen again, Constant Lambert extracted material to form a 14+ minute 5 movement suite which is quite a pleasant listen. The opening “Fanfare” opens with a short air from the trumpets followed by the swirling ocean as one can imagine the ship leaving port and going out to sea for a voyage. “Convoy in Fog” starts without pause and is every bit as eerie as cues written by Korngold for Sea Wolf, Steiner for King Kong, and Sainton for Moby Dick. It seques immediately into a dissonant cue depicting war in “Attack” and then again without pause the sea is calm, the birds chirp, and life is peaceful and tranquil in “Safe Convoy.” “March”, the final cue, restates the original theme bringing it all together, and the suite ends on a happy and joyous note. A word of caution if one wants a single cue for a ipod. There are no real breaks between movements: in fact the piece could have easily been recorded as a single track with notations as to the different depicted scenes from the suite.
, the tragic Leo Tolstoy novel has been done several times as a film with the first appearing in 1918 and the last in 1997. This 1948 British Korda production was directed by Julien Duvivier and starred Vivian Leigh and Ralph Richardson. The 10 movement suite, arranged by Philip Lane, is to date the most musical material available with over 30+ minutes. Prior to this recording Herrmann had included about 10 minutes of the soundtrack on his Great British Film Music recording from the 1970’s. The material has a unique sound consisting of film music, with a British style and a subtle but quite distinct Russian pastiche mixed throughout. Again the suite is quite pleasant to listen to.
Lord Berners contributes material to Champagne Charlie, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Halfway House. Put his style of music in the salon/light broadway category, nothing deep or thought provoking at all. There is a slight raucous nature to the song “Come on Algernon”, sung by soprano Mary Carewe from Champagne Charlie, but the overall material is quite subdued.
The Merchant Seaman
suite is must have for anyone who has a fondness for British film music done by Walton, Vaughan Williams, and others (this reviewer does) closelyvxcz followed by the unique style of the Anna Karenina soundtrack. The Berners material is for individuals who appreciate the light fluffy stage sound. All of the Chandos releases over the years have introduced many of us to material quite unique and special, many premiere recordings, and this Constant and Berners is no exception.
Golden Scores Rating is ***1/2
Chandos # is CHAN 10459
Produced and Engineered by Ralph Couzens
1-5 Suite from “Merchant Seaman” (14:35)
6-15 Suite from “Anna Karenina” (30:19)
16 Come on Algernon from “Champagne Charlie” (3:08)
17 Polka from “Champagne Charlie” (2:34)
18 Suite from “Nicholas Nickleby” (10:23)
19-24 Suite from “The Halfway House” (18:09)
Total Time is 79:35
May 11, 2008
Robin Esterhammer of Perseverance Records has released his third and last CD of compositions of Phillip Lambro, a compilation of documentary material and Git his very first soundtrack. Extremely talented in the percussion area, Crypt of the Living Dead http://www.goldenscores.com/?a=reviews&id=22 is a masterpiece in what you can do. Phillip however, will forever be remembered for the rejected unreleased score to Chinatown which may never become available in legal release but apparently in the underground world of film music there are ways to obtain it.
While one might think Mineral King could have something to do with prospecting (this reviewer did), it actually has to do with Mineral King Valley. The film deals with a failed attempt of the U.S. Forest Service/Walt Disney to build a ski resort which might have resulted in destroying precious virgin enviroment. The film, narrated by Burgess Meredith, had an influence in persuading Congress to make the valley part of Sequoia National Park. The suite is made up of (7) unique tracks with “Mineral King & Trumpet Voluntary” a reprise of the previous 6. The last track is an exercise in percussion with the only the bass drum. The first six tracks consist of a lonely mournful trumpet solo, piano and flute, string ensemble, banjo picking, string ensemble, and harmonica. One does get the feeling of sadness in the end of an era in nature.
, written for the Catholic Family Theater, is even more solemn and somber in nature save for a short Irish piece in “The Lean Years/Arrival in Scranton.” Considering the material it was written for one should not be surprised at the overall religious nature of the piece. Celebration is the shortest of the works included at only 6+ minutes and frankly offers little other than a romantic Italian accordion piece. Done for the United States Information Agency the narration by Ben Gazzara had to be the highlight of the documentary! Not much longer in length than Celebration, Git was certainly a soundtrack to a film that had an extremely low budget, written when synthesizers weren’t around. It features a nice melody on a solo guitar in “Main Theme: No Drums, No Trumpets” repeated in “No Drums, No Trumpets/Interlude with flute carrying the melody along with underscore from strings and a small brass section.
, is by far the most interesting work on this (1000 unit) limited edition release and definitely worth the price of the CD.. It tells a persuasive story without having to see the documentary, something which could be a nature in futility if one attempted to run down a copy. The reprise track will definitely go on my play list! The other three selections are as dull as the films they were written for but perhaps you’ll hear something in the material that escaped me, even though I listened to them at least 10 times. Consider the other three selections bonus material and enjoy Mineral King.
Golden Scores Rating is **1/2
Produced by Lambro and Esterhammer
Recording Engineer is Ivan Fisher
CD# is PRD 021
1. Trumpet Voluntary & Westward Expansion (01:58)
2. Vanishing Wilderness (02:07)
3. Fowler’s Rush (01:32)
4. The Old Country Road (01:40)
5. The Early Era (00:35)
6. Miner’s Tune (00:38)
7. Mineral King & Trumpet Voluntary (03:46)
8. The Wilderness Death Knell (01:36)
tracks 1-8 from “MINERAL KING”
9. Main Title (00:45)
10. Pray Today! (01:38)
11. The Lean Years / Arrival In Scranton (02:15)
12. TB, Cure And Commitment To God (03:51)
13. The Rosary Crusade (01:23)
14. The 2nd Vatican Council (01:30)
15. The Immaculate Purpose (00:48)
16. End Title (02:27)
tracks 9-16 from ”FATHER PAT”
17. Main Title (00:58)
18. Distant Land (01:04)
19. San Gennaro Italian Celebration, Bleeker Street New York (02:18)
20. Statement & End Title (02:22)
tracks 17-20 from ”CELEBRATION”
21. Main Theme: No Drums, No Trumpets (02:06)
22. Rock Kills Snake / Boy Meets Girl? Dog Training Session (01:34)
23. No Drums, No Trumpets / Interlude (02:13)
24. Sage & Rock Fight (01:07)
25. Love Theme (01:19)
tracks 21-25 from ”GIT!”
Total Duration: 00:43:30
May 9, 2008
The last time I heard Chris Walden it was a big band CD that was made available to me in conjunction with a performance at a night club in San Diego which turned out to be quite the concert. A classical work about the earth and its elements is somewhat a radical departure from a honking sax solo backed by some pretty frantic brass playing. I was more than intrigued to investigate this new release given the fact that new classical works are only performed and seldom recorded. What was the style going to be like? My initial thought was something along the lines of a Patrick Williams American Concerto, a fusion of symphonic orchestral and jazz or a Gershwin American in Paris. As you read further in the review you’ll find out how wrong I was!
The 40+ minute symphony is divided into four movements earth, water, air, and fire/reprise with tempo notations of andante, vivace, adagio, and allegro. Beginning with a crash followed by grumbling in the low register one can vision the beginning of the formation of the earth as the theme is revealed in many forms showing the evolution but also the constant nature of the planet. The water movement (vivace) begins with pizzicato from the strings (drops of water) seques into a quiet theme carried by the strings. It however changes into atonal with some disturbing chords from the brass and bassoon before ending with the pizzicato from the strings as it began. Walden shows his softer side in the air movement (adagio) complete with a romantic violin solo, lush brass chords, and a Chinatown trumpet solo. There is no wind storm, only peace and tranquility. The fourth movement (allegro) is a picture of the unpredictability of what fire could do given the opportunity to burn out of control. Walden ends the final movement with a return to the theme from the earth, water, air, and ends the work in silence.
Included on the CD is a “behind the scenes” video showing the 79 piece Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra with comments from the engineer, Chris Walden, and orchestra members. This reviewer applauds the fine first effort that Walden came up with knowing that he’ll likely never recover the production costs but was more interested in performing it and making it available. While there are slight references in the symphony to his jazzy background, his classical training came through loud and clear and this is a piece that a major symphony orchestra could perform and captivate an audience with. A jazz audience might very well become disinterested It is tonal, atonal, and most of all a thought provoking piece that can certainly be recommended as a refreshing change and a welcome addition to your classical collection.
Origin Classical OC33002
Recorded & Mixed by Al Schmitt
1. Gaia (andante) 13:06
2. Hudor (vivace) 8:55
3. Aer (adagio) (9:34)
4. Therma (allegro) (9:10)
Total Time: 40:45
May 1, 2008
Hisaishi writes, at least for these films, in a smooth easy flowing style. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, a seventeen minute work, is simply divided into three tracks titled first, second, and third movements without any tempo notations. The first movement is divided into three different sections. A timpani and brass opening leads right into the main theme performed by the piano of Hisaishi and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, very lush, delicate, and romantic. It transitions quietly into the second theme performed sprightly by the oboe with the strings arranged in 19th century European classical style. It seques itself into a third theme quite solemn before the pace quickens to a frantic pace, timpani pounding to a rousing conclusion. The second movement opens lushly before it repeats the second theme but this time with a wordless song. The third movement uses the entire orchestra in a theme of hope, restating the first theme using the delicate piano touch of Hisaishi, before ending on a positive upbeat crescendo. Porco Rosso, with the track “Madness” is quick paced theme featuring the piano of Joe, this time not delicate but more staccato like. Princess Mononoke offers 4 tracks (21+ minutes) of wonderful melodies for symphony orchestra except for the darker mysterious “TA.TA.RI.GAMI” with robust brass and timpani. For those of you who enjoy brass and a dissonant style with a definite oriental influence, “The Dragon Boy/The Bottomless Pit” from Spirited Away will be much to your liking. The other three tracks from Spirited Away offer Joe Hisaishi and his piano backed by soft romantic arrangements from the New Philharmonic Orchestra.
Overall this CD is one that takes me back to the days when Previn, Mancini, Roger Williams, and others recorded with a symphony in the 60’s. All had there unique playing style, and Hisaishi has one that is quite pleasing to the ears. There are some who will call this elevator style music but this reviewer is not in that category. Having very little experience with Japanese animation films I still found all of these symphonic works a pleasant listening experience away from the films, especially the material from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. This is assuredly a CD that doesn’t require you to see the film to enjoy what it has to offer. It has been said that “Joe Hisaishi is the John Williams of Japan”. This is a statement that I can’t argue with and because of this CD will look to explore more of his work. I heartily give it my recommendation!
1. Symphonic Poem 1st Movement (09:32)
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds
2. Symphonic Poem 2nd Movement (03:58)
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds
3. Symphonic Poem 3rd Movement (04:11)
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds
4. Madness (04:16)
5. The Legend Of Ashitaka (05:32)
6. Princess Mononoke (04:32)
7. TA.TA.RI.GAMI (06:48)
8. Ashitaka And San (04:18)
9. One Summer’s Day (04:50)
10. The Dragon Boy / The Bottomless Pit (04:05)
11. The Sixth Station (03:45)
12. Reprise (04:42)
Total Duration: 01:00:29