November 30, 2010
Put Christopher Gunning into the category of being one of great talent and little appreciation and recognition over the years. He has composed symphonies and concertos, worked with such artists as Phil Woods, Mel Torme, and John Williams, the classical guitarist, and currently is working with Chandos (CD 10525) on recording his major works, having already completed two of his symphonies and an Oboe concerto written for and performed by his daughter. Look for further releases in the future.
His theme from Poirot is likely the most recognizable one he wrote and “Poirot Variants” for alto saxophone and orchestra features a wonderful theme variations concerto on the melody that is especially clear and concise with the 24-bit/96kHz recording. You feel like you’re in the same room with the saxophonist Martin Robertson who featured in the 9 minute track. This work should be a standard for pops orchestras. Christopher worked on nearly 40 of the Poirot films so he had plenty of opportunity to experiment. A breath of fresh air and comes highly recommended. If you want further Poirot Virgin Records #VTCD8 has a release with an hour of material.
“The Rosemary and Thyme Caprice” theme for the TV series about two lady gardeners turned detective gives reference to the Simon and Garfunkel hit without losing its personality. The classical guitar of Craig Ogden with delicate plucking, along with horn and flute to complement provide a quiet sleepy eyed very easy to listen to track.
“Rebecca” (1997) is tragic drama featuring a solo cello playing the theme of the Daphne du Maurier novel. It is interesting to compare Newman and Gunning. The elegy is played nicely by Julia Bradshaw as she tells the story with her string playing. Drama and romance are the key words for this track.
“When the Whales Came” is one of the earlier film scores of Gunning and it is a good one. One can feel the sea and hear the whales talking to each other in this short Debussy like suite that is further enhanced by a solo soprano beckoning one to the ocean. A very nice track. This complete score is available for purchase on the Silva label #FILMCD049.
“Cold Lazarus” is a science fiction adventure and this track is the only one on the CD that I would consider a somewhat loud action track suite in parts that makes a reference to Star Trek with a calling out from the majestic horns. I’m happy to say that though loud it contains no synthesizer clanking and noise and is just a full crescendo from the orchestra.
“La Mome Piaf” (2007), the story of Edith Piaf, is a wonderful track with laid back accordion material complemented by the strings and the soprano voice of Nicole Tibbels. This track definitely conjures up thoughts of the French countryside on a quiet summer afternoon. It dissolves into tragedy and ends as upbeat bright waltz. Again very nicely done and recommended.
This Chandos release is a wonderful way to introduce you to 12 tracks from this extremely talented composer, who also wrote the liner notes giving further insight into the performed material. While it is not for all as some will find much of the music too droopy eyed by comparing it to some of the scores today. Desplat probably comes close in being similar. I found this CD to be one of my favorite releases for 2010. Highly recommended! While you’re at it why not consider picking up the Chandos CD10525 which offers two symphonies and his daughter playing his oboe concerto. In my humble opinion the majority if not all of the Chandos Movie releases are like gold and should belong in your soundtrack collection. You’ll be introduced to composers you’re not familiar with and works that will be new to your ears.
Total Duration: 01:14:59
November 26, 2010
When Kaper did this film for MGM/McLagen in 1967 he was pretty much at the end of his career as a writer for the silver screen. A big budget effort from MGM, the film starred Widmark, Douglas, Mitchum, three of the bigger Hollywood names along with a fine supporting cast including Sally Field, Lola Albright, and Stubby Kaye. It was met with mixed reviews. The Pulitzer Prize-winning story by A.B. Guthrie follows the happenings of a group of settlers on a wagon train, led by a former senator from Missouri to Oregon in 1843.
While Kaper is not a common recognizable name to many soundtrack collectors he did score over 100 films and FSM especially has released several scores including the Oscar winning Lili (FSM 0815) as well as a three CD set of all of the music from Mutiny on the Bounty (FSM 0716).
Like Dimitri Tiomkin, Bronislaw was very comfortable in writing for this type of genre and the score to The Way West shows it. While the Serendipity Singers would never make a top list of mine they proved more than adequate with the singing on this album. I especially enjoy the “Overture (Main Title)” a full orchestra being used complemented nicely by harmonica.”Lige Celebrates” is a somewhat comical track which offers a nice exchange in the brass section between the trombones and trumpets. “Becky’s Theme” is quiet laid back track offering some very nice harmonica work backed by guitar. “We’re Crossing First” is an action cue using loud brass playing a variation of the main title. It also offers an abrupt Indian motif with the orchestra also playing a struggle depicted in exchanges between strings and brass. “Finale” ends the soundtrack with pleasant syrup and it dissolves into the Serendipity Singers ending the film on an upbeat happy note. While Bronsilaw used a lot of cliché western motifs instantly recognizable to much of the audience it is still a very pleasant forty minutes of listening.
To the best of my knowledge this soundtrack comes from a stereo source and is fairly typical of the quality of the time. Bruce Kimmel, writer of the liner notes offers some interesting information about Kaper the composer as well as good historical information about the film.
This release also includes The Unforgiven previously reviewed. https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/the-unforgiventiomkin/ Both titles had been released before in limited edition packages and sold out relatively quickly. They were a remastering of the LP UAS 5149 from 1967 as is this CD. Kritzerland has once again made these available in a 1000 limited edition CD that is still in stock if you missed it the first time around. If you have an interest in Western material this would be a welcome addition to your growing collection. Recommended.
Kritzerland KR 20016-9
1. The Way West (02:06)
Featuring the Serendipity Singers
2. Overture (Main Title) (02:00)
3. Lige Celebrates (01:26)
4. We’re Crossing First (03:14)
5. Flowers for Mr. Mack (02:12)
6. I Killed Him (Execution) (03:45)
7. Water & Billy’s Death (05:30)
8. Mercy McBee (02:15)
Featuring the Serendipity Singers
9. Buffaloes and Indians (03:03)
10. Becky’s Theme (02:00)
11. One to Crystal City-Tadlock’s End (04:24)
12. Reluctant Mercy (02:07)
13. Finale (05:03)
Featuring the Serendipity Singers
Total Duration: 00:39:05
November 25, 2010
Nominated for 6 Oscars including the best score, the film took a back seat to The Heiress and All the King’s Men and won only for film editing. The Ring Lardner written novel Champion starring Kirk Douglas was a realistic look at the boxing scene in the 40’s. Ring pulled no punches, pun intended, and the film screenplay was somewhat sugar coated. Even so the film is a tough watch. The gritty film as directed by Mark Robson who did fine work for Val Lewton also paired Carl Foreman and Stanley Kramer together, a duo who are also responsible for High Noon and other films.
The Tiomkin score included the song “Never Be It Said,” lyrics by Goldie Goldmark and sung by Polly Bergen. This melody was a key part of the soundtrack and Dimitri put it to good use. Sounding a bit dated today the melody like so many that Tiomkin wrote was quite infectious and I found myself humming it long after I had stopped listening to the score and viewing the film. “Connie Finds Emma” is a track that offers the entire vocal as well as a romantic version of the song. It opens with an extended solo on piano which gives way to the vocal. “Shall We Get Wet” is the longest of the tracks of “Never Be It Said” and is very lush with the entire orchestra participating in the arrangement. “Love on the Sly” offers just the beginning of the vocal but is cut short by a dissonant passage. “Shotgun Wedding” has the marriage motif performed on the organ and then there is a dissolve into the “Shall We Get Wet” theme again. The cue is actually one minute not the 43 seconds shown on the track listing. The “Main Title” is a slow prodding funeral paced opening which quickly changes to the “Champion” a very American/Sousa march. This march was eventually recorded for Decca on a themes music album and is a very strong melody and track. There are several source cues written by Tiomkin for the film as well as a quick visit to the Sousa composition “The Washington Post March.”
This release is from the original mono acetates and while the quality is amazing it won’t have the dynamic range we’ve grown accustomed to with the digital recordings. There are small glitches in various places that couldn’t be repaired and is just something you’ll have to live with. If Ray could have done something he would have. You’ll enjoy this highly melodic soundtrack from Tiomkin in spite of the dated sounding material. I for one will revisit this CD on a regular basis. This is a limited release of 1500 units and while it is still available from Screen Archives it will sell out at some point. The liner notes written by Ray Faiola about the making of the film as well as the music by are quite enlightening so much so that I sought out a copy of the film to watch it. All in all this is yet another welcome release from Screen Archives. Recommended.
Total Duration: 00:42:26
November 19, 2010
Not to be confused with the Clint Eastwood Oscar winning film Unforgiven (1992) this John Huston directed 1960 film starred Audrey Hepburn, Audie Murphy and Burt Lancaster and dealt with Indian racism. It was quite an adult topic for its time but the reviews and opinions about the film have been somewhat mixed. While some enjoyed it, John Huston the director felt it was the worst picture he had ever made. None of this has anything to do with the score from Dimitri Tiomkin as he produced yet another stellar soundtrack.
The score has been previously released on LP from United Artists, London, and even a 45RPM of the main theme from Don Costa on United Artists (UA221). Recently it was part of a limited release of 1500 copies from Film Score Monthly of Great Western Classics (FSMCD Vol. 10 #10) and it sold out fairly quickly. This Kritzerland (KR 20016-9) is also a limited release of 1000 copies but is still available and all offer the same material with Kritzerland having a slight mastering improvement. The material was recorded in Rome. It is coupled with The Way West from Bronislau Kaper which will be reviewed separately.
The “Prologue” is really classic Tiomkin material as the full Americana treatment is given with references to the Indian culture throughout the theme. It is quite busy with the brass providing the theme but the entire orchestra has a role in this one including xylophone and percussion. “The Unforgiven-Main Title” is yet another one of those melodies that was an ever flowing supply for Tiomkin. It is romantic with the strings leading the way in a lush treatment. The primary theme is also offered as part of “The Unforgiven Alone,” “Riding Back to the Soddy,” “Mattilda Confesses,” and finally in “After the Battle-End Title,” a sad Adagio opening with the horns offering a ray of hope followed by a majestic restatement of the main title. “Across the Texas Panhandle” is a good underscore track where the entire orchestra joins in for a rollicking adventure. “Turkey in the Straw” is not Tiomkin but a traditional square dance with Jews harp, harmonica, and piano in a standard arrangement. “Horse Ballet” is yet another melody that oozes the Wild West in its orchestration. “Kiowa Warpath” is your standard tom tom beat with fluttering flutes, a definite Indian motif for the audience.
Tiomkin wasn’t afraid to use his main theme over and over and why should he? He is a master of melody and his themes are memorable. Add this to his somewhat dissonant brass and out of character string writing at times and you have a distinct sound which is impossible for a soundtrack enthusiast to miss unless they listen to nothing pre 1970. As stated in the liner notes the recording received a dose of reverb, common in those days, and nothing can be done about it. The melody simply overpowers the score anyway. Recommended.
Kritzerland KR 20016-9
November 18, 2010
In the last month we have been blessed with three Dimitri Tiomkin releases from the films The Champion (SAE) (1949), The Unforgiven (Kritzerland) (1960), and this Intrada release of the John Wayne, Kirk Douglas film The War Wagon (1967),one of the final films that Tiomkin did for the silver screen. He authored so many western scores that it became his trademark, somewhat typecast and he was sought after when Hollywood was looking to do another.
The Main Title “Ballad of the War Wagon,” is sung by Ed Ames/male female chorus, and is one of those melodies that can easily become stuck in your head. RCA (47-9249) released it as a 45 RPM in 67 but it wasn’t anything that was on the billboard charts. Ed Ames fans were interested but beyond that it was just another release. I found myself humming and singing it when I really had other things on my mind. The song also includes a Tommy Morgan harmonica solo that easily sets the flavor for the campfire tune that could easily be a sing-along. His easy to listen to style makes this easily digestible. While the main title lyric is a bit corny I can’t imagine you not liking the theme but if you don’t for some reason then this 2000 limited edition soundtrack is not for you as it is used or referenced on many of the cues. It appears in a western saloon piano solo in “Bronco Saloon,” a rollicking bawdy version, a harmonica solo in “Fivestone Shaving,” a brass somewhat dissonant statement in “Dust Gag,” a harp enhanced romantic version in “The Flour Wagon,” and a proud majestic arrangement in the “End Cast.” “Lupe” is a Spanish flavor love theme with guitar and romantic strings with a reference to the main title too.
The Tommy Morgan harmonica is also featured on “A New Life,” and “Chores,” a serene campfire setting, as well as what I mentioned above. He has a distinct sound that has set him apart from other players. As a result he is often sought after when a harmonica is necessary. “Friendly Indians,” is a nice underscore track with some nice flute work and the Indian motif sound.
The recording is a true multi-track complete with additional mixing as explained by Douglass Fake, CD producer/engineer at Intrada. Other than a small amount of orchestra noise, also explained by Fake, it is a nice clean crisp recording with a full sound. I found it to be distortion free and a pleasant listen.
Any fan of western soundtracks or Tiomkin will certainly find this release a welcome addition to the collection. It is very nice to see new material from Dimitri being released on such a regular basis. Recommended
Intrada Special Collection #146
1. Ballad Of The War Wagon (03:24)
sung by Ed Ames
2. Enter Pierce (01:28)
3. Dark Street (00:37)
4. Meeting (01:15)
5. Lotus Leaf / Fivestone Shaving (01:32)
6. Livery Stable (01:34)
7. Lupe (03:00)
8. Mexican Getaway (00:46)
9. Bronco Saloon (01:27)
10. Wading War Wagon (00:42)
11. Friendly Indians (02:58)
12. Cuarto Cinco (01:32)
13. Chores / Knife Talk (02:54)
14. Indian Trades (01:03)
15. War Wagon / The Bridge / War Wagon Departs (02:41)
16. Steady Fingers (02:32)
17. Spool Of Wire (01:01)
18. Vantage Point (00:31)
19. Dust Gag / Ambush (05:09)
20. The Flour Wagon (01:21)
21. Tatahey (00:26)
22. Get That Wagon! (02:06)
23. A New Life (01:02)
24. Lomax Hits Bottom And End Cast (01:01)
Total Duration: 43:21
November 11, 2010
Tagged with the label, “Father of the Soviet symphony,’ Myaskovsky,
with the exception of his 21st symphony, a work performed by the Chicago Symphony, has gone unnoticed in the concert halls of America. Had it not been for my keen interest in Poe and his poem “The Raven” and the work Silence, Op. 9, loosely based on the poem, I might have never discovered him. https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2007/05/18/silencemiaskovsky/
Once I did discover the modern 20th century symphonist my purchases became more frequent and I have come to appreciate his fine talent. Part of a 10 CD set from Brilliant Classics (9001), discontinued by manufacturer but available at a bargain price of only $20.00 from Berkshire Outlet, this symphony coupled with his 25th symphony is well worth the closeout pricing alone. As of November 10th, the time of this review, the company had adequate stock.
Written in a favorite key of B Minor the introduction immediately brought back the strains of the Schubert Unfinished and the Pathetique from Tchaikovsky. Written in three movements without a break he gave each a title. “Peaceful life, overshadowed occasionally by threats,” “Harkening to the Horrors of War,” and finally “And the enemy trembled…”. Premiered in January of 1942 the work was subtitled About the Patriotic War of 1941. While it has moments of despair and a gloomy outlook especially from the oboe, the strings and brass break through and give brightness and hope to the piece. While the work makes casual references to both Schubert and Tchaikovsky it has that distinct flavor and style of Myaskovsky and the 36+ minutes passed very quickly. This is a work that is filled with melody and fullness typical of many of his works. The third section is vintage Myaskovsky complete with the brass statements and his use of counterpoint.
Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony are masters when it comes to performing their countries music. It is extremely evident on this recording in particular. The sound advertised as mono is really stereo having been recorded in 1970. The digital transfer has eliminated that somewhat gritty annoying brass as I suspect that this performance was originally released on the Meloydia label. The engineering has somewhat toned this down without compromising dynamic range.
If you enjoy your listening somewhat dark but still very melodic this would be an excellent choice. And if you like this offering you get nine additional CD’s offering a wide range of material spanning 100 years. Recommended
1…. Lento. Allegro non troppo- Andante con duolo-Allegro energico, ma non troppo vivo (36:35).
Brilliant Classics 9001
November 8, 2010
This new selection from Delos (DRD 2003) is the fourth in a series of recordings originally released on the defunct Russian Label (1995) of film music of Dmitri Shostakovich recorded by the Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony with Walter Mnatsakanov conducting. This compilation of 5 films covers nearly 40 years of film composing/conducting.
The Great Citizen, (Op.52/55) was the story of Kirov, leader of the Communist organization in Leningrad, who was assassinated, becoming one of the martyrs of the revolution. Fans of the funeral march style will fall in love with this extremely patriotic elegiac Russian track from 1938/39. The melody is allowed in this 8+ minute piece. The work begins with a trumpet fanfare followed by the introduction of the main theme from the violins that yield after setting the stage to the lower register of the orchestra including a touching solo on the bassoon.
Viborg District, (Op. 50) is a somewhat upbeat nationalistic march with excellent balance between strings, brass, and percussion. This is a work that is the soul of Russian music and could have been used in any number of propaganda films or anything about the Soviets.
The Man with a Gun, (Op.53) is a five part 10 minute suite that begins with a smooth statement from the trombone section that reminded me of my college playing days. It is followed by a stoic anthem” similar to the “Viborg District” theme, yet another Shostakovich tune produced under difficult scrutiny from Stalin.
Passer-By, (Op. 33) is a three part selection which begins with an upbeat flute, harp, and xylophone in a country setting. The third part is a “Song About a Passer-By” from the flute which went on to become the official anthem of the United Nations in 1945.
Sofia Perovskaya, (Op.132), released in 1968, was one of the last works written by Shostakovich and certainly his maturity showed through with a well developed score. This score is filled with satire and also the melancholy side rises to the surface in tracks such as “Voronezh” and the very next track “Andante,” written for a small string ensemble with the cello leading the way in a solemn heartfelt solo. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the duet of the flute and snare drum in “March” and “Execution,” a mocking example of satire from the pen of Dmitri. When was the last time you heard a duet from those instruments before? Also included in the soundtrack are a series of very short cues, underscore material for tension, drama, and other appropriate “wallpaper filler.” Of the five films included on this CD this is the one that includes most of the soundtrack.
Like the other three offerings in this series this is an opportunity to listen to material seldom performed. If you wish to explore the film music of Shostakovich further I encourage you to also seek out the three volumes that Chandos has put out in their film series. Volume one is Chandos 10023, Volume Two is 10183, and Volume Three is 10361. Recommended
Delos # DRD2003
1…. Viborg District, Op. 50 (1:49)
The Man With A Gun, Op. 53
2…. Overture (1:36)
3…. October (3:33)
4…. Smoiny (2:07)
5…. IIIa Smoiny
6…. Finale (1:07)
The Great Citizen, Op. 52/55
7…. Funeral March (8:34)
Passer-By, Op. 33
8…. I (2:55)
9…. II (3:31)
Sofia Perovskaya, Op. 132
13..I Allegro (2:48)
14..III Allegretto (1:27)
16..IV Moderato (1:19)
17..V Duel (1:45)
18..VII (Village) (4:12)
19..VIII Voronezh (:31)
20..IX Andante (4:42)
21..X Allegro (:47)
22..XI Allegro (6:47)
23..XII Moderato (:43)
24.. XIII Dream (:42)
25..XIV Allegro (1:32)
26..XV Adagio (2:45)
Total Time: 64:59