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


One Response to “Concert Works/Maurice Jarre”

  1. Thanks for your interesting words about Concert Works by Jarre. That album has been also produced by me… Jacques Hiver… I followed works by Jarre since 51 years… I produced also their complete works for the theater… Maurice was a friend… Sometimes, it’s happened that a french man loved music by Jarre. I am one of those frenchies…
    Jacques Hiver

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