May 15, 2011

As a reviewer I’ve always looked forward to any release in the Naxos Film Music Classics collection and the April 2011 release by Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989), a new composer to me, is a soundtrack to the silent movie Carmen (1926), directed by Jacques Feyder, one of 80 choices from 1906 to the present day. The 80 or so choices have to rank it with Dracula and Sherlock Holmes in number of films made about a particular character. This is a world premiere recording from the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald and as a word of caution it is not based on the Bizet opera but the novella of Merimee written in 1845. The Carmen opera is primarily based on the third part only of the four part story while this French film, 165 minutes in the restored version covers the entire novella. The conductor’s notes in the CD booklet explain the great difficulty of getting this synchronized to the film as there are but 67 minutes of written material.

While I’ve not had the opportunity to view the film I can tell you that you’re in for quite a treat on your very first listen. From the introduction “Anime” there of course is a definite Spanish flavor but mixed in are the sounds of French impressionistic that you would hear listening to Ravel or Debussy. In addition the music has an influence from Stravinsky as there are 5 percussion players and the rhythmic Igor is quite noticeable in tracks such as “Danse de Carmen.” While the material is easily accessible to the listener as it is quite tonal and melodic there is no one dominant theme that you’ll remember although in the final track “Mort de Carmen” some of the many melodies are repeated.

Halffter seems to give a preference to the reed section as the oboe, flute, English horn and bassoon play many of his melodies. The material is well arranged and orchestrated partly from Halffter but also from the countless hours that Fitz-Gerald spent working to achieve what the composer had in mind.

The extensive liner notes from Fitzgerald cover the novel, composer, film, and the music itself. You’ll have a complete understanding of all if you take the time to read every page. This is a new soundtrack full of new and exciting ideas. Recommended.

Naxos CD# 8.572260

Track listing


Anime (01:24)


Modere (Sombre) (04:26)


La Vieille Castille: Anime (01:26)


En Andalousie: Triste et mysterieuse (06:27)


Real Fabrica de Tobacos (11:24)


Mysterieux, calme (00:49)


Mysterieux (00:47)


Tres retenu (01:29)


Danse de Carmen: Moderato non troppo – Pesante (02:31)


Pesante (mais en mesure) (03:47)


Soledad: Allegretto (01:12)


La route de la cote vers Tarifa (05:11)


A l’aube: Tres lointain (01:34)


Triste et mysterieuse (12:56)


Paso Doble: Brillante (01:35)


Mysterieux, calme (01:50)


Mort de Carmen: Calme (08:01)

Total Duration: 01:06:49


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