August 26, 2010
In the last 18 months this is the seventh soundtrack release of Les Baxter and this reviewer for one is quite happy with the attention that Les has received of late. Releases include Master of the World (sold out), Goliath and the Barbarians (sold out), Cervantes (sold out), The Beast Within, all from Intrada Records and Dunwich Horror (sold out), Panic in the Year Zero (on special for $9.98 at www. Lalalandrecords.com), and now Beach Blanket Bingo from La-La Land Records, one of many scores that Les Baxter did for American International Pictures in the 1960’s. These were aimed at teenagers of the era, this reviewer being one of them, and the major attraction were the girls and the fact they typically showed up at the drive in theater was an added bonus. Yes, I can remember stories not appropriate for this review but ah the memories have returned to the days of the 57 Chevy, A white and aquamarine two tone with a 283, dual exhausts, four barrel carburetor, and baby moon hubcaps. And the girls!!! You knew you were going to make-out if the girl agreed to go to the drive in with you.
A word of caution!!! This soundtrack doesn’t contain any of the many vocals sung by Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, and others but only the instrumental soundtrack material written by Les Baxter. Highlights include a five minute cartoon style slapstick track “The Big Chase” containing honky tonk piano, great percussion, and well placed brass. According to the nicely written Randall Larson notes there was some serious repair to this track but to my ear it heard nothing which means that James Nelson of Digital Outland did his usual great editing and mastering. “Beach Blanket Bingo,” the instrumental was very typical of the era with the sax, piano, and a nice harmony from the brass. This was not typical in the respect that there was little or no guitar. “These Are the Good Times” is the instrumental version of the Frankie Avalon vocal and again is a typical sounding love song of the beach era. “Opening” offers the main theme as well as strong percussion and that famous Baxter sound from the brass. Some of the material in the score sounds like it could have very easily come from anyone of several situation comedies like Bewitched. Bright and bouncy with an effective use of the bongo were strong points of Baxter when he wasn’t writing horror music.
Baxter fans rejoice and add this to your collection of ever-growing soundtrack material available from this fine composer.
1. Opening (03:24)
2. Erich Von Zipper (01:39)
3. Parachute Jump (03:06)
4. Stop House Band (03:39)
5. Beach Walk (01:14)
6. Frankie’s Parachute Jump (02:55)
7. Von Zipper Bit (02:46)
8. Bonehead Hears The Music (04:55)
9. The Big Chase (04:55)
10. Bonehead’s New Love (01:28)
11. Beach Blanket Bingo (02:07)
12. Fly Boy (02:00)
13. I Think, You Think (02:07)
14. I’ll Never Change Him (02:21)
15. It Only Hurts When I Cry (02:16)
16. New Love (02:06)
17. I Am My Ideal (01:34)
18. These Are The Good Times (02:22)
Total Duration: 00:46:54
August 16, 2010
Having completed his first piano concerto in 1891 Rachmaninoff turned his thoughts to doing a symphony and the results were throwing away more than he kept and sheer torture as he wrote to his friend Mikhail Akimovich Slonov. What he completed in roughly three months was an 11+ minute movement in D Minor which was not published or performed until 1945. Perhaps Sergei considered it nothing more than an exercise in writing and he labeled it his Youth Symphony choosing not to give it an opus number.
The work begins in a very ominous dark fashion (grave) with lower register strings and horns but this is but an introduction to an allegro moderato where the main theme is introduced and nicely developed. He switches between a sense of urgency and bright and uplifting making good use of the flute and clarinet. The ending is rather abrupt and on the first listen caught me completely by surprise. One could surmise that Rachmaninoff just got to this point and decided to end it rather than continue to develop and work on it any further.
While this is a lesser known and seldom performed work this reviewer feels it deserves a little more attention than it receives. It is certainly not a work that will leave a lasting impression to where you’ll want to revisit it on a regular basis. However it does show us the talent that Rachmaninoff had at such an early age and is far better than some other first attempts I’ve listened to. If you are into collecting his orchestral works this is one to consider. The Scherzo in F Major, a very early work, is a bonus and one seldom if ever performed. The Vox recordings are usually available at a reasonable price.
The Hughes reading with the Scottish National Orchestra is a strong one with the advantage of newer recording techniques. The pace is a bit slower perhaps too much so but this is solely a matter of opinion and some prefer it. The BIS engineers produce a strong recording and if one were interested in his third symphony this would be a fine choice as the third symphony is given a superb performance. This recording is also available as a download from Classicsonline, the Naxos website.
Noseda has the BBC in top form in a near perfect reading and the Chandos engineers don’t disappoint. The pace is nearly five minutes faster than the BIS recording (10 as opposed to 15 minutes) yet I didn’t feel that it was hurried at all. Coupled with Isle of the Dead and his First Symphony this is a nice package. It is available from Classicsonline as a download, the Naxos website.
Discography of Reviewed Recordings:
1….Leonard Slatkin conducts the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (Vox MWCD 7130)Also includes Piano Concerto No. 3 and Scherzo in F Major AAD recording from 1987.
2….Owain Arwel Hughes conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (BIS 1299)Also includes Symphony No. 3 and Vocalise DDD recording from 2002.
3….Gianandrea Noseda conducts the BBC Philharmonic (Chandos 10475) Also includes Isle of the Dead and Symphony No. 1 DDD recording from 2008
August 12, 2010
Ten years before Rimsky-Korsakov undertook teaching at St. Petersburg Conservatory and still in Cadet School he undertook the writing of his first symphony, with the guidance of Balakirev. “The introduction and the exposition of the subjects (up to the development) were subjected to considerable criticism by Balakirev” Rimsky-Korsakov wrote in his autobiography My Musical Life. The second movement is a folk-song “On the Tartar Captivity” provided by his teacher and mentor. In 1865 when he was transferred to a life in St. Petersburg he finally completed it having worked for a total of four years on his first opus and it premiered at the Free Music School in 1865 by Balakirev in the original key of E Flat Minor. Had this version been performed one could certainly be impressed with work from a 17 year old. However, this version is seldom performed and what we hear today, is a revision from 20 years later in a more manageable key of E Minor, from 1884. While Rimsky-Korsakov considered it a student piece it was still published by Bessel’s firm. To my knowledge there is no known recording of the work in E Flat Minor. With the additional 20 years of experience Rimsky-Korsakov certainly put his orchestral techniques to good use and while it is not what one would call a great symphony it certainly has some merit.
Upon examination this is certainly a lot more mature work and while it really doesn’t have that Rimsky-Korsakov sound, likely way too early on in his career, it is certainly one worth exploring. As time went on his understanding of the brass section improved considerably as well as his use of counterpoint and a more complicated but listenable harmony. The Naxos recording 8.550811 couples it with his far more popular “Antar” symphony/symphonic suite and the pair are a nice combination for a CD. Couple this as always with the attractive price Naxos has to offer and you have a good choice.
The scherzo is really quite good melody, very upbeat and could easily be a nice stand alone work on its own. The other three movements in this symphony are extremely Russian sounding, stoic and solemn in nature so much so you couldn’t mistake it for any other country. If a movie producer wanted to use sections of this symphony as source material it would easily let one know what country you wanted to think of.
As I’ve discussed in prior reviews the Jarvi/Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra two CD set it is a good value for you if you want Capriccio Espagnol and Russian Easter Overture as well as the three symphonies. I found the first movement of the first symphony to be too quick to my liking, 7:30 compared to 8:46 for Anichanov/St. Petersburg Orchestra. The major advantage of the Jarvi set is the superior recording and engineering, slightly superior to the Chandos.
The (5) CD set from Svetlanov offers a considerably slower pace, nearly 4 minutes longer, much of the difference being in the second movement the Andante. Svetlanov and the Russian orchestra certainly know how to play their music. They just have the right feel and you can hear it in the performance. However, price plays a price in this 5 CD set and you’d have to want all his orchestral material. The engineering and remastering are adequate, not up to the standards of the Naxos, DG, and Chandos recordings.
Kitajenko and the Bergen Philharmonic offer a very attractive package recorded nicely by Chandos and now available on their medium priced series. What it lacks in feeling is more than made up for in the excellent engineering from the Chandos group. Again the offering includes some of his major works and would be a good value if one were looking for more than just the 1st Symphony.
The Butt reading with the London Philharmonia Orchestra has a lack luster performance and recording and is not a recording I could recommend unless it was available at a bargain price, certainly not the case these days with the now defunct ASV label. The intensity offered by other recordings is just not there.
Setting aside the fact that he revised the work 20 years later this is an excellent example of a first work for a composer, in fact this has to be included at the top of list for Opus No. 1 material.
Discography of Reviewed Recordings
1….Neeme Jarvi conducting the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (DG423-604-2). A 2CD set which also includes his other 2 Symphonies, Capriccio Espagnol and Russian Easter Festival Overture. DDD recording from 1988.
2….Andre Anichanov conducting the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra. (Naxos 8.550811). Also includes the symphonic suite or Symphony No. 2 ‘Antar’ A DDD recording from 1993.
3….Dmitri Kitajenko conducting the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Chandos 6613(2)).
Also includes Symphony #2, #3, Capriccio Espagnol, Russian Easter Festival, Sadko, and Piano Concerto. A DDD from 1993.
4….Evgeny Svetlanov conducting the Russian Federation State Symphony Orchestra (Warner Bros. 256469899-4) Also includes Symphony #2, #3, Sinfonietta, Capriccio Espagnol, Scheherazade,Sadko, Le Coq d’Or, Pan Voyevode, Russian Easter, Russian Overture, Homer, Sadko, Serbian, At the tomb, and Dubinushka. ADD recordings from 1969-1990.
5….Yondani Butt conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (ASV CD DCA 1024)Also includes Symphony #2, Tsar’s Bride-Overture, and Fantasia on Serbian Themes. DDD recording from 1998.
1…. Largo assai-Allegro (8:46)
2….Andante tranquillo (7:09)
3….Scherzo: Vivace-Trio (5:06)
4….Allegro assai (5:49)
August 7, 2010
A 20 page booklet produced for a single film release from Silva? I would have said impossible but this is included in the re-issue of Get Carter, a film dealing with Carter a small time mobster (Michael Caine) investigating the death of his brother. In addition to the usual suspects of information there is a nice retro addition by writer/director Mike Hodges, nice bio information on Budd, Karan, and Clyne, and an interview with the then unknown duo of Mickey Gallagher and Johnny Turnbull.This Roy Budd soundtrack is the first in a reissue series of his soundtracks on the Silva label. Titles down the road will include Wild Geese, Soldier Blue, Fear is the Key, and the Stone Killer. Also included are 13 short dialogue tracks in-between the 15 music tracks. In addition there are sound effects included on some of the tracks such as “Carter Takes a Train.” This is a track which features the main theme but an extremely upfront well played bass line which of course has background noise that is distracting and takes away from it. I’d rather not hear the sound of the train tracks and noise. “Goodbye Carter” is another good track of the main theme that unfortunately has wind noise, very distracting.
Roy Budd, whose career was tragically ended with a brain hemorrhage at the age of 46, is first class on the keyboards and the “Something On My Mind” track, my personal favorite on this CD, is a good example of the 60’s & 70’s jazz. When I heard this track I immediately thought of Bob James and some of the recordings he did for Creed Taylor. Nicely recorded to give sound from the drums and bass, the simple blues theme is introduced and then given a nice improvisational treatment by Budd. Put this one down as one that immediately went into the MP3 player! While I’m not a big fan of the vocal version of “Getting Nowhere in a Hurry” I am a fan of the instrumental and enjoyed the harpsichord sound keyboard solo from Budd and the guitar solo. Another track for the MP3 player! A third funky jazz track, “Plaything” has some Budd at his best keyboard work. Budd definitely had a feel for this music and his exemplary playing comes through loud and clear.
If you’re either a jazz buff or a fan of Roy Budd, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you hear. This is good funky jazz not the elevator stuff you hear so often. Definitely worth exploring.
3. Main Theme – Carter Takes A Train
5. Looking For Someone
6. Dialogue – The Race Track
7. Something On My Mind
9. Getting Nowhere In A Hurry
11. The Girl in the Car
13. Love Is a Four Letter Word
15. Livin’ Should Be This Way
19. Goodbye Eric!
20. Goodbye Carter!
25. Goodbye Carter!
28. Getting Nowhere In a Hurry-Instrumental
The release date is Tuesday August 10th as a CD or digital download in the US
August 6, 2010
Continuing in their series of releasing previously released Russian Disc recordings of Dmitiri Shostakovich Lady and the Hooligan (Delos DRD 2004) is a creative compilation of previously written material by Shostakovich by composer Levon Atovmyan. For whatever reason DRD 2003, the third in the series and includes Man With the Gun and Passer-by will be released in November of 2010. Like Hollywood, Atovmyan used source music from the Ballet Suites (No. 2 is included in this CD), the ballets The Bolt and Limpid Stream, chamber works, and his score from the film The Gadfly. A plus can certainly be given to Levon as an arranger/orchestrator. Created by Leningrad playwright A. Belinsky and choreographed by K. Boyarsky, the seldom performed work premiered in Leningrad in 1962. A love story in seven episodes the tragic story tells of a thug who first terrorizes and later defends and dies for his love. The varied score is like a film score filled with the typical tragic stoic Russian material but also includes some rather modern sounding polka, tango, and other dance music that has the sound of a Broadway play albeit it still has the Russian flavor to it. The fifty plus minute work is divided into 14 different cues that make for a pleasant listening experience. Like the previous releases The Lady and the Hooligan was remastered from 1994 Russian Disc recording. The remastering of the original recording while not exceptional is a pleasant listening experience and seems to be performed and conducted well. I say seems because this is my first experience with and likely the only recording that will ever be done of this work. I enjoyed this that it will be a CD that I’ll return to from time to time to relisten. You won’t be lulled to sleep as the tragic parts are mixed with the dance material.
The Ballet Suite No.2, written in 1951, while not for a specific ballet or film is similar in style and orchestration to The Lady and the Hooligan; in fact part of the “Adagio” (Track Twelve) is used. This is a fairly simple easy to listen to work consisting of a galop, polka, waltz, and romantic material. I like it because just when your ears settle into one style of material it changes to another and another. Again I found this a pleasant listening experience.
The Lady and the Hooligan (Ballet in One Act) (1962)
1. Introduction (6:33)
2. Street (1:47)
3. The Hooligan (2:21)
4. The Lady (3:33)
5. School (2:41)
6. Prayer (3:00)
7. Tavern (5:06)
8. Visions (3:39)
9. Scene (2:25)
10. Promenade in Park (1:45)
11. (Allegro) (1:24)
12. (Adagio) (7:52)
13. Fight (2:04)
14. Finale (7:20
Ballet Suite No. 2 (1951)
15. Waltz (2:07)
16. Adagio (7:49)
17. Polka (2:12)
18. Sentimental Romance (3:22)
19. Spring Waltz (1:53)
20. Finale Galop (3:14)
August 5, 2010
“Best Of” for a composer will never be for a seasoned collector as this person has recordings of nearly all of the material in the CD. One can usually surmise that a serious enthusiast has sought out the recording with the highest recommendation from publications such as The Penguin Guide or other listeners. This person has likely already put together his own “Best Of” CD. If you find yourself in this category you can stop reading and go onto something else. This, along with the entire series of thirty-five “Best Of” CD’s from Naxos is not for you. However if you’re new to the world of classical and want to explore the marvelous work of Rimsky-Korsakov your looking at the right CD!
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) served in the Russian navy and with the encouragement of his mentor Balakirev, a member of “The Five,” pursued his musical education. He taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1871 till “Bloody Sunday” in 1905 when he was dismissed for political involvement. Many of his students also went on to successful careers in music. He taught Glazunov, Respighi, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, and Lyadov among so many. While he composed operas, chamber music, songs and choral music it is his orchestral material that he is at the front of the line including Scheherazade, Capriccio Espagnol, Russian Easter Festival, and Antar all represented on this CD. And yes his famous “Flight of the Bumble-Bee,” template for the Green Hornet theme, and used in numerous cartoons and films is included. Also included is a duet arrangement by Kreisler for violin and piano of the “Hindu Song,” well known as “The Song of India” made famous by Tommy Dorsey.
If Rimsky-Korsakov is new to you this is definitely a recording that is worth exploring to introduce you to a wonderful composer.
Discography of Complete Naxos Recordings in The Best of Rimsky-Korsakov (8.556674)
Russian Easter Festival Overture and Capriccio Espagnol included on The Best of are complete.
1….Symphony No. 2, Op. 9 “Antar” Andre Anichanov conducts the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra (8.550811) (Also includes Symphony No.1)
2….Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite, Op. 35* Enrique Batiz conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra, London (8.550726) (Also includes The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Op. 57 but the Flight of the Bumble-Bee is not included)
3….Snow Maiden: Suite and Mlada: Suite Donald Johanos conducts the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra (8.550486) (Also includes The Golden Cockerel (Le coq d’or):Suite)
*A recommended recording
1-5…. Capriccio Espagnol (17:35)
6…. Young Prince from Scheherazade (9:52)
7…. Flight of the Bumble Bee (1:31)
8…. Adagio from Antar (9:16)
9…. Dance of the Tumblers from the Snow Maiden (3:47)
10..Hindu Song from Sadko(3:37)
11. Russian Easter Festival Overture (15:36)
12.Cortege from Mlada (5:07)
13.Festival at Baghdad from Scheherazade (11:17)
Total Time= 77:26