Concert Works/Maurice Jarre

January 29, 2009

mauricejarre2Little if anything at all would be known of these works had it not been for his native country of France archiving their public radio/television material, 5 of which were composed by Maurice Jarre over a period of time from 1951 to 1974 for a variety of reasons, projects, sounds, and instrumentation diversity the average listener to film music has never heard or experienced before. This material is certainly not anything close to the expansive symphonic sound of Lawrence of Arabia or Dr. Zhivago or ethnic material in Shogun or his effective use of the synthesizer in films such as Witness. Put this sound in more of the category of late 20th century/experimental music.

“Three Dances For Ondes Martenot And Percussion:” Written for a ballet and submitted for competition in the young composer competition for 1951 this reviewer could easily visualize a low budget zombie film for this 10 minute work. The acetate transfer is quite evident with this overall flat sounding mono recording with a fair amount of surface noise. However, it is a very early recording of his work and would be a welcome addition to a Jarre collection no matter what the sound. This is a very effective use of the Odnes Martenot, an instrument seldom featured.

“Passacaglia To The Memory of Arthur Honegger” is written for one of his mentors who taught him about analyzing the score and making it even more effective. Using a 17th century Italian dance style for tempo and technique of a relentess bass in the background the very 20th century sounding piece is full of percussion, brass chords, wonderful string chords, and generally well performed dissonant material. One can hear the sound of a Thriller passage, a brief passage from a 50’s Science Fiction film, or any number of underscores techniques film composers have mastered over the years. Written in 1957 this was shortly before he entered into serious film composing with David Lean director of Lawrence of Arabia, his first major effort and an Oscar winning score for Maurice.
The Night Watch: was originally written for a program in which a composer would write about a particular painting. Jarre chose a Rembrandt piece, “Night Watch,” and created a mysterious sounding work filled with dissonance, a hint of the Arab flavor, and a relentless rhythm. Written in 1961 this is another work one could close their eyes and conjure up some cinematic scenes to which the music would nicely fit.

Mobiles For Violin And Orchestra: Also written in 1961 Mobiles was inspired by a stage work and allowed the violin soloist to choose a particular combination in any of 120 ways making it unique. A version of Mobiles eventually found its way into a holocaust picture about Warsaw. Listening to the work one can visual the despair and hopelessness of the war.

Ancient Suite For Percussion Instruments and Piano: was written in 1956 and is a wonderful example of what can be done with the various drums and percussion material. While this is one work that would be difficult to see any relevance to any film score other than parts of it in a cartoon it still has merit making one wonder why it is not performed in the concert hall.

In conclusion, the CD will appeal to anyone willing to take a road off of the main highway for an hour or so and become acquainted with material that is not so foreign sounding to the ear once they’ve given the works multiple listens. Keep in mind that the material is archival sounding and you will hear surface noise, live audience sound, and little of the fullness a digital recording has to offer. It is worth having and deciding do I include it with my classical material or make room with my other Jarre scores. I chose to put it into my classical bookcase. This recording is limited to 1500. Recommended.

Maintitles rating is ***
Produced by Lukas Kendall
Mastered by Douglas Schwartz
Performed by various ensembles, conductors, and soloists
Track Listing:
Three Dances for Ondes Martenot and Percussion
1… Sacred Dance (4:37)
2… Profane Dance (2:04)
3… Ritualistic Dance (3:24)
4… Passacaglia to the Memory of Arthur Honegger (12:49)
5… The Night Watch (6:54)
6… Mobiles for Violin and Orchestra (32:17)
7… Ancient Suite for Percussion Instruments and Piano (9:05)
Total Time is 72:44

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Cinema Symphony/Pearce

January 23, 2009

As a reviewer of classical and film music, it isn’t often that I’m given the opportunity to receive both types in one package, so when the CD arrived unannounced in a container with other material I immediately put it on for a listen and was surprised at the maturity and completeness of the work of a relative newcomer. The cinema had the ingredients of a Williams space piece, a Goldsmith score, but also influences of Dukas and his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as well as the orchestrating styles of Ravel and Debussy. All this from a man who is a little over 30. In addition to the 50 minute 4 movement symphony we are also given an Elegy For Violin And Orchestra and Celtic Warrior: Prelude For Orchestra. Having pretty much gone under my radar, Andrew, in addition to accomplishing these classical orchestral works has also composed two film scores 30 Miles and Dark Corners as well as doing arranging and orchestrating for Guy Farley. Look at this work as a breakout piece for Andrew and expect a lot more from him in the future.

Symphony No. 1 “Cinema Symphony” was written for a full symphony over a period of 6 years and in the beginning stages Andrew was really unsure what it would develop into other than “I just knew that someday, I would somehow bring it to life with a world class orchestra.” The dream came true in August of 2007 as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Jose Serebrier recorded it. Andrew wrote the work in the traditional 4-movement template but he certainly departed from form when it came to tempo and style within a particular movement. For example, the third movement with a title of “Quasi Film Score” repeats the melody of the second movement, to atonal dissonant type chords, and back to a soothing tonal section. However, like Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, he reprises his rich opening brass fanfare theme from the opening movement in his final movement, “the signature” of the work. This is a work that will please the listener of Golden Age material, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and others but I would encourage the listener who leans toward classical material to give a listen to sound clips before deciding. The reason this reviewer feels that way is because it is more Hollywood sounding.
Elegy For Violin & Orchestra is a tranquil reflective piece written for solo violin (Miriam Kramer soloist) and chamber orchestra. The violin echoes strains of love lost and a gypsy type flavor in this 9+ minute lament, a very nice companion to the symphony. Miriam has a wonderful tone and conveys the feelings of the piece nicely.

Celtic Warrior: Prelude For Orchestra gives you visions of the knights in the battlefield. It is filled with brass passages and one could easily see this as material for a Hollywood epic. Originally written for TV news, it was orchestrated into the powerful force we hear on this CD. If you like your music with a lot of brass this is one to definitely explore.

Overall, this is an excellent effort and one to be applauded for combining the sound of Hollywood with the world of classical material. Soundtrack listeners young and old should take notice of this work. Classical listeners should at the very least explore the clips, which can be found at http://www.andrew-pearce.com. It can be purchased at http://www.screenarchives.com or downloaded at http://www.moviescoremedia.com

CD# is MMS-08023 (Movie Score Media)
Produced by Mikael Carlsson
Recorded and Mixed by Phil Rowlands
Performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Jose Serebrier
Track Listing:
Symphony No. 1 “Cinema Symphony”
1…Pastorale-Fanfare-Scherzo (9:50)
2…Lento misterioso-Dreams (10:56)
3…(Quasi film score) Allegro-Cantabile-Presto (10:17)
4…Allegro con fuoco-Lento sustenuto (21:01)
5…Elegy For Violin and Orchestra* (9:39)
6…Celtic Warrior: Prelude for Orchestra (9:39)
Total Time is 71:22

The Reader/Nico Muhly

January 20, 2009

reader_lks34061

The Reader, directed by Stephen Daltry, who has also done the well told psychological films The Hours and Notes On A Scandal, turned out to not only to be a pleasant surprise for this reviewer but the best film I’ve seen in 2008! Starring Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, and David Kross, the film, based on a novel by Bernhard Schlink, tells the story of a young boy and his first love affair with an older woman hiding her past as well as another secret. At the time of this writing in January of 2009, it has already won a Golden Globe for actress Kate Winslet and has had 18 other nominations for various awards.Nico Muhly, who has worked on several films in various capacities for Philip Glass as well as his own score for Joshua available from Movie Score Media, was given the opportunity to do his first major film and his studying with Rouse, Corigliano, and Glass have paid off. Not yet 30, the graduate of Juilliard with a Masters in Music has a long and successful career to look forward to in both film and classical music.

Written for a small orchestra without brass except as noted, this well put together delicate serious score spent much of its time in the background of the film, evident but never where it ever became the focus of the picture. There is nothing close to loud, action, romantic, or comedic type music. This is a score that should be listened to in the film in order to fully appreciate it and then as a separate listening experience it will be even more satisfying. Although quite subtle in nature the opening track of the score “The Egg” does provide a simple theme, a series of common effective chords on the piano supported by strings and harp. It is also repeated in the final scene of the film “Who Was She?” with the addition of woodwinds, a single elegiac trombone, and a larger more developed role for the strings. “Sophie/The Lady with the Little Dog” gives a melody honor to the flute with piano, harp, and strings in the background followed by a rare appearance of the brass in low register chords. “Go Back To Your Friends” is a track that is filled with melancholy, appropriate chamber music for the ending of the relationship that the viewer knew would have to come to a conclusion sooner or later. “Piles of Book,” also filled with despair, features the mourning oboe in an adagio for a tragic scene.

Anyone who enjoys the work of Philip Glass, chamber or classical music, or music that is on the subdued side will find this score a welcome addition to their collection and can be strongly recommended. Nico Muhly is in this reviewer’s opinion a welcome addition to the soundtrack world and I look forward to hearing more of his work for film and the classical world.

Lakeshore CD# is LKS340612
Music Composed, Orchestrated, and Conducted by Nico Muhly
Track listing

1. The Egg (01:06)

2. Spying (02:27)

3. The First Bath (02:50)

4. It’s Not Just about You (01:29)

5. Tram at Dawn (01:05)

6. You Don’t Matter (02:41)

7. Reading (01:51)

8. Cycling Holiday (01:40)

9. Sophie / The Lady with the Little Dog (03:00)

10. Go Back to Your Friends (05:21)

11. Not What I Expected (01:28)

12. Handwriting (02:19)

13. The Failed Visit (04:59)

14. Verdict (01:35)

15. Mail (03:38)

16. Letters (02:39)

17. I Have No One Else to Ask (03:42)

18. Piles of Books (02:13)

19. Who Was She? (06:48)

Total Duration: 00:52:51

karayevBorn in Baku and heavily influenced by his traditional folk music of Azerbaijani music, Kara spent 20 years of study at the Baku Music Academy and the Moscow Conservatory studying composition under the guiding hand of Dmitry Shostakovich. Not only can you hear Shostakovich but also the influences of Tchaikovksy, Miaskovosky, and Prokofiev as well. With over 100 compositions to his credit there has been very little of his work recorded outside of his country and this reviewer hopes that the release of this Naxos CD 8.570720( first time these works are on CD) and review will result in more interest and future recordings. His Symphony No. 3 (1964) definitely has a sound like Shostakovich, but his unique stamp is on it and is a wonderful addition to your collection of Russian symphonies. The 25+ minute work is written in 4 movements using 12 tone techniques incorporating folk music (ashug) melodies, and a harsh staccato rhythm accented with piano. The third movement is an andante and a good one offering a simple mood setting again using the twelve tone but certainly written in a way that the average listener could appreciate this misunderstood musical form. The final movement offers an excellent fugue and ends with an extremely slow coda complete with piano chords.

Leyla and Mejnun (1947) Inspired by the 12th-century poet Nizami, Kara composed a tone poem telling the tragic tale of a Tristan and Isolde, or a Romeo and Juliet story. The 13 plus minute work was awarded the Stalin prize and is an excellent melodic one. It opens with a heavy sounding Russian theme, very stoic and tragic in nature and is further developed by the clarinet and the brass, evoking sad feelings even further. There is a powerful Tchaikovsky like bridge that leads into a heartfelt love theme offering a momentary ray of sunlight from the darkness. It quickly returns to the original tragic theme, a brief statement of the love theme once more and ends abruptly in mystery and tragedy.

Don Quixote (Symphonic Engravings) (1960) is based on a Grigory Kozintsev film, Don Quixote, which he wrote the music for, the 8 part suite is another theme filled composition which could very easily be mistaken for Hollywood music. One immediately can conjure up a Rozsa epic as you listen to “Sancho, the Governor,” Newman’s string writing in “Travels,” and harmonic chords that sound like Friedhofer in the delicate “Pavan.” The conclusion, “Don Quixote’s Death” is a well written elegiac theme with a return to the main theme in the opening to conclude the work.

Naxos has always been willing to record and introduce material to the listener for the very first time. This CD certainly fit’s the description and is one that the classical and soundtrack listener will enjoy. This reviewer only hopes that there will be more offerings in the future from this fine composer. Recommended.

Naxos CD# is 8.570720
Dmitry Yablonsky conducted the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra

Track Listing:
1-4 Symphony No. 3
5 Leyla and Mejnun
6-13 Don Quixote
Total Time is 58:10

dead_pool_042
Whenever a theme uses a lonely mourning trumpet, it immediately attracts my attention. “Farewell, My Lovely,” “Chinatown,” and “L.A. Confidential” are similar in nature and some of my favorites themes. Such is also the case with “The Dead Pool”, the fifth and likely the last installment of the “Dirty Harry” Callahan series. As Clint is approaching 80 at the time of this writing the odds of a #6 are remote but with Hollywood one should never say never. The film, directed by Buddy Van Horn, usually a stunt coordinator and even today works with Clint on stunts, starred Patricia Clarkson, and Liam Neeson, both rising stars at the time and even had a small role for the now superstar Jim Carrey, who played a drug addicted rock star killed off early in the film. The idea of a pool of who will die is a bit of a reach for a plot and this reviewer had little interest in the film itself. It offered little more than an opportunity to cash in on “Dirty Harry” as a character and violence to produce a box office success. However, there is a cool car chase sequence between a radio remote car full of explosives and a real one that does keep your attention for a time, but overall the main reason to watch or re-watch the film is for the musical score, especially if you’re interested in the music of Lalo Schifrin.”The Dead Pool” features a blending of synthesized and traditional acoustic instrumentation for the 40 minute score giving it a modern sound for the plot of the film dealing with newer age horror movies yet also telling the sound of Callahan by now a grizzled veteran and definitely out of the past and not fitting in anymore. “The Pool” offers the listener somber low register underscore along with some traveling material featuring hints of “Bullitt” and “Mission Impossible” in the cue. “Something In Return” is a lounge jazz quartet piece featuring the sax in an improv style work all too short. “The Car” is a clever cue which is a eerie lower register sprinkled with dissonant brass and synthesizer, including a clever use of the tick tock in the car bomb using brass and percussion, an excellent track! “Main Title,” opening the film to an extended shot of the city at night, is mostly synthesized material setting the mood for the story. “San Francisco Night” and “The Pier, The Bridge, and The City” are very similar and feature the unforgettable Callahan “love” theme, a trademark sounding Lalo melody. Even though I would have preferred a real sax instead of the electronic wind sound it is still top notch.

CD booklet notes are provided by the producer Nick Redman who gives general information about the 5 “Dirty Harry” films Eastwood did, including more detail about this final installment as well as the editing together of some of the cues into suites to make it more pleasing for listening purposes. Included in the notes is a listing of the orchestra members for the scoring session.

Overall I found this to be a pleasant listening experience and a welcome addition to the Aleph label of music from this superb composer.
Track listing

1. San Francisco Night (03:42)

2. Main Title (01:42)

3. The Pool (02:39)

4. Time To Get Up (02:06)

5. High And Dry (03:03)

6. Something In Return (02:19)

7. The Rules (03:04)

8. The Last Autograph (04:09)

9. The Car (05:53)

10. Kidnap And Rescue (04:30)

11. Harpoon (03:09)

12. The Pier, The Bridge And The City (03:41)

Total Duration: 00:39:57

CD# is Aleph 042
Mastered by Daniel Hersch
Composed, Conducted, and Orchestrated by Lalo Schifrin