Film Music of Lambert/Berners

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.

Anna Karenina

, 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

Track Listing:

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


One Response to “Film Music of Lambert/Berners”

  1. Great article. Will you please write additional about this subject.

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