Howard Hanson, director of the Eastman School of Music for 40 years, composed his second symphony in 1930 for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony. It has since become his most popular work due to the easy accessibility and the aesthetics of this composition. It is also quite well known due to its use by Ridley Scott in his film Alien without the permission of the composer. The loyal Jerry Goldsmith fans have been quite angered by the removal of his material. I can’t agree with the Goldsmith opinion because this music from a soundtrack viewpoint is filled with all sorts of material that could easily fit into many different films of all types. Why it has fallen out of favor over the last several years is puzzling to this reviewer.

This 28+ minute symphony is divided into 3 movements with the adagio (1st movement) nearly twice as long as the andante and the allegro. The opening is a rather eerie one depicting some sort of isolation and lonliness. It segues into a fanfare which leads into the romantic motif. The motif, which unifies the entire work, is actually two melodies being played by different parts of the orchestra; strings and solo horn. The strings offer the main theme with the French horn supplementing it. The andante is a beautiful one filled with melodies making one yearn for the past. This is the type of music to listen to in peace and solitude. The beginning of the allegro reminded me of the Pequod from Moby Dick sailing in the open sea, full of vigor, chasing their prize the whale. This movement concludes with revisiting of the beautiful motif.

There aren’t a lot of recordings as far as this symphony is concerned. The Delos Double #DE3705 is the same recording as pictured but includes over 2 hours of Hanson music and is my choice in a recording. If historical is up your alley Mercury Living Presence #432008 offers a 1958 recording with Hanson conducting the Eastman Rochester Orchestra at under $10.00. Arte Nova #433060 offers a budget CD of the work with Montgomery conducting the Jena Philharmonic, recorded in 1996. Telarc #80649 offers a fine version with Kunzel conducting the Cincinnati Pops from 2004. Finally EMI has a 1986 recording of Slatkin with the St. Louis Symphony. This recording is coupled with Virgil Thomson at an attractive price. This is definitely one to explore further. Recommended.

Symphony No. 2, “Romantic”

1…Adagio; Allegro moderato (13:41)

2…Andante con tenerezza (7:26)

3…Allegro con brio (7:17)

Total Time= 28:24

Shostakovich Volume 2

May 11, 2010

Written fairly early on in his career between his fourth and fifth symphonies Alone was the second film Dmitri worked on, the first being the silent film The New Babylon. Alone started as a silent film but changed gears during filming and was an early sound film from Russia. Stories were all controlled by Stalin and had to do with the party overcoming suppression or conflict from some source. This reviewer could only wonder what sort of score Shostakovich could have come up with given a screenplay of merit. It was no wonder that he didn’t like doing music for films and considered it as a source of income to put food on the table. Yet in spite of this dislike and limitations that were placed upon him his creative talent shined through.

The 71+ minute soundtrack is divided into 7 parts/29 cues, a few longer cues such as “I Altai. Andantino” is allowed full development. This cue is a wonderful one featuring the sorrowful bassoon in a long extended solo. Due to the film there are also many cues less than one minute. Two of the shorter cues are marches which get right to the theme and development, something that some of the marches I had to play in high school didn’t. They seemed to go on and on with repeat upon repeat. The song “How Good Life Will Be” followed by the chorus “Stay” is no more than propaganda pieces telling of the good communist way of life. “Organ-Grinder” is a clever composition with the hurdy gurdy beat featuring the woodwinds. “VII Adagio” uses the sliding trombone as a repetitive background to the simple melody from the woodwinds. “Windstorm” is a loud passage featuring the brass section depicting the violence of the storm.”I Allegro” makes excellent use of trumpet fanfares and percussion. The entire work is extremely creative listening, music that is unusual for a soundtrack. While I’ve never seen the film I can only imagine how his music is incorporated into it.

This is one that is going to take a series of repeated listens over a period of days for you to become comfortable with. It like the first release on Delos The Young Guard/Zola /DRD 2001 is a remastering from Russian Disc label recording from 1995. Conductor Mnatsakanov and the Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra seem to have a good grasp on the material. Look for further releases in the summer of 2010. One worth exploring.

Track Listing:

First Part

1….IV March. The Street (Allegro) (:34)

2….VII Galop “How Good Life Will Be” (3:19)

3….IX Final Chorus “Stay” (4:30)

Second Part

4….March. Allegretto (:43)

Third Part

5….I Altai. Andantino (7:56)

6….Ia Steppe.Andante (1:06)

7….II Altai. Adagio (3:13)

8….III Kuzmina in Her Cabin. Largo (5:35)

9….VI Organ-grinder. Andantino (1:28)

Fourth Part

10..I Allegro (1:27)

11..II Largo (3:45)

12..III (Largo) (1:32)

13..VII Adagio (4:36)

14..VIII Allegro (1:29)

15.. IX Allegretto(:32)

Fifth Part

16.. I Adagio (2:58)

17..II Adagio (3:17)

18..III Allegro (3:02)

19..IV Moderato (1:47)

20..II Allegretto (2:19)

21..IIa Windstorm. Presto (2:28)

22..III Largo (1:42)

23..Finale. Largo (1:42)

Seventh Part

24..III Allegro (:11)

25..IV (Allegro) (:10)

26..V Adagio (2:57)

27..VI Andante (:48)

28..VIII Andante (:39)

29..XVII Allegro (2:00)

Total Playing Time is 71:27

Delos DRD 2002

Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra

Walter Mnatsakanov, conductor

Minsk Chamber Choir (Director: Igor Matukhov)

Starring Robert Taylor, Dorothy Malone, and Jack Lord Tip On A Dead Jockey, a psychological study of the effects of war on a pilot, is not a film that I could recommend to you except to hear the Rozsa score in the movie, something I always find useful when reviewing a score. Richard Thorpe, director of 184 films (no Oscar nominations) that included Ivanhoe, Knights of the Roundtable, and Tarzan’s New York Adventure, went through the motions on this one.

This 29 minute score with 13 minutes of additional tracks can be put into the category of good solid material to a very ordinary film. It would be the exception if someone ranked this as their favorite Rozsa but I’ve not read anything negative about it either. “The Main Title” has a similar sound to Brute Force, The Killers, and to a lesser degree The Lost Weekend. This noir style that Rozsa developed in the 40’s will be heard in tracks such as “Accident,” a tense filled track full of gloom, and minor chords. “Madrid” is a simple Spanish style flavor melody to introduce us to Spain where much of the film takes place. It is pretty low key in nature without the loud trumpets and percussion. It sometimes alternates with a playful Spanish theme played rather upbeat on the bassoon of all instruments. I can envision these bars going along with a cartoon character. The love theme which is introduced in the “The Main Title,” “Finale,” and other tracks is a good one filled with romance and hope. The bonus material includes the recycled “Madam Bovary Waltz,” and an easy listening dance number “Red Chips” from Hans Salter, who wrote the material for a 1950 MGM film. I found myself humming this one for a couple days after listening to it.

The casual listener to Rozsa could very easily make the mistake that the sound of this material came from his 40’s movies. I would agree that parts of the score could very easily have been interchanged with parts of Brute Force, The Killers, or other films. It does have its own theme, a lovely romantic one, some playful material, and a taste of a Spanish flavor. As far as I know the only way to get this is from the Rozsa box. There was a release on Tickertape TT3011 11 years ago which is pretty much gone. The recording is 7 minutes longer and offers alternate versions of the “Main Title,” “Plane Crash,” “Reunion,” and “Accident At The Race Track,” but doesn’t include “Improvisation.” The alternate versions offer very little from Tickertape and frankly isn’t worth pursuing. I like Tip on a Dead Jockey a lot and it reinforced my decision of getting the Rozsa box from FSM. Recommended

Track Listing:

1. Main Title 1:34

2. Madrid/ Good Riddance 1:16

3. Crash 2:35

4. Phyllis Arrives 1:29

5. Double Talk 3:25

6. Accident 2:39

7. Short Story 1:22

8. Worried/ Undecided/ Hideout 3:48

9. Accusations 2:50

10. Farewell 1:06

11. Take Off/

Cairo 5:33

12. Finale 1:02

 Total Time: 29:01

 Bonus Tracks 

13. The Happy Idiot Waltz 2:07

14. Madame Bovary Waltz 4:05

15. Improvisation 1:15

16. Red Chips (Hans J. Salter) 3:13

17. Take Off, Part 1 (alternate) 2:05

Total Time: 12:53