September 29, 2011
Franz Waxman (1906-1967) scored 188 films for Universal, MGM, Selznick, Warner Bros and other studios in the 30 plus years he worked for Hollywood. Composing at the same time that other Golden Age Masters such as Steiner, Korngold, Tiomkin, Newman and others he received two Oscars, 12 Oscar nominations, Golden Globe and Grammy consideration. In addition he premiered over 80 works by such composers as Walton, Stravinsky, and Vaughan Williams through the Los Angeles Music Festival which he founded and was head of for 20 years. He also composed some extremely good classical music which is sadly neglected. As part of a series of recordings for RCA, Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic present eight of his films. This new re-release from Sony/BMG uses the original master tapes that the LP’s were made from. The Dolby Surround CD’s designed for listening with a surround system was avoided. This is not to say that there is anything wrong the Dolby masters at all, only that they produce inferior sound on a traditional stereo system.
Prince Valiant (1954) offers frantic strings to begin the first of seven cues in this 9 minute suite as the rousing main title is introduced. The melody is cleverly orchestrated to have the melody shared by the brass and the strings. This arrangement makes it quite clear in subtle motifs it is indeed British and we’re in for swashbuckling entertainment. The brass gets quite a workout having to play as quickly as the strings in some parts. The brass is what separates this from a Williams or Korngold arrangement with a trademark Waxman featured. It ends with a lush romantic love theme enhanced with a church bell, a delicate touch.
A Place In The Sun (1951) further shows his versatility as the Oscar winning jazz score is dissonant with staccato brass chords, time changes, lush strings, and a wonderful alto sax solo which has the sound of being improvisational. Jazz had entered Hollywood through Waxman, North, and Bernstein and took full advantage of the style for many years. This score has become somewhat of a template for other material.
The groundbreaking Bride of Frankenstein (1935) was something audiences had never heard before and looking back 75 years it was truly years ahead of its time. It was eerie sounding with the Odnes Martenot, twisted sounding brass, swirling strings, and a constant timpani is still frightening today and this includes the love theme which is quite unusual even today. He also introduced the monster motif, one which Hans Salter expanded upon and used for all of the remaining Frankenstein films.
Sunset Boulevard (1950), his first Oscar winner had a fresh modern sound to it. It is filled with melodies including a tango that you’ll remember. It was part jazz, part romantic, and part dissonant making this an ear tingling experience not to be forgotten once you hear it. I can’t say enough good things about Gerhardt and his handpicked orchestra. If you don’t like this track you won’t like Waxman but like the Billy Wilder movie you come back for more.
The “Elegy for Strings” from Old Acquaintance is soft, dreamy and melodic giving the brass a holiday which they certainly needed after playing some of the previous tracks!
Rebecca (1940) his first effort with Hitchcock enhanced a great picture/story with just the right amount of romance, tension, and scary moments. The yearning tenderness in his theme like so many of his other melodies is unforgettable.
Philadelphia Story (1940) is a fun and upbeat theme offering nice piano work harmonizing with the melody being carried by the strings.
Taras Bulba (1962) the concluding piece takes a somewhat complex Cossack melody and slowly builds upon it in intensity and orchestration. There is counterpoint upon counterpoint as it builds to a rousing conclusion that Rimsky-Korsakov, composer of Scheherazade, would have looked upon favorably.
I encourage you to add this CD to your collection along with any of the other CD’s in the series that you can afford. The sound quality is excellent for a 1974 recording as the mike placement and engineering is top notch. These are treasures that you’ll return to often. Highly recommended.
CD# is 88697 81265 2 Sony/BMG
Charles Gerhardt conducts the National Philharmonic Orchestra
Total Duration: 00:52:57
September 27, 2011
The 90’s saw Goldsmith score over forty films including some of his best which included Russia House, Rudy, L.A. Confidential (Oscar nominated), Mulan (Oscar Nominated), and Basic Instinct (Oscar Nominated). La-La Land on their 182nd release offer both the original album material as well as 16 unreleased cues.
The Steve Miner film starring Mel Gibson plays out like a Harlequin romance. There were to be no dry eyes when one left the theater, I being the exception that went to the picture for one reason which was to hear the Goldsmith score yet another in a long string that didn’t disappoint me in the least. Grossing well over 100 million dollars shows me how much I know!
I’ve included an original track listing from Big Screen Records #9 24482-2 at 38 minutes and notated where they are located on the new re-release which is a limited edition of 3000 units.
“Love Theme from Forever Young” starts with an introduction from the piano and soft strings building the moment for the soprano sax which offers the melody with excellent counterpoint from the strings. There is no brass until the sax is given a rest allowing the strings to carry the melody and the brass offer the counterpoint. This cue is a perfect complement for a romantic interlude and was written to put tears in your eyes as it complements the visual on the screen. Unlike other scores Goldsmith/Miner were very selective in the use of the theme and didn’t overuse it. “Test Flight” is offered on two separate tracks with and without synthesizer. There is also a sound difference in the recording quality and this reviewer prefers the new previously unreleased version. The sound has a crisp tight feel to it. The original release sounds a bit muffled if you compare the two. The track offers action and a sense of urgency with nice brass. This is a very good example of a Goldsmith track. The test flight theme is repeated in “The Tree” House.” “Reunited” starts with swirling strings with a similar style to Superman or The Rocketeer. The bold theme changes to urgent staccato brass. As it builds to a crescendo it changes to a quiet moment with tremolo from the strings all a build up to the love theme again with sweet romantic strings complemented by the piano. Like the “Test Pilot” I found a slight improvement in the unused track. “Let’s Go” begins very quietly with the harp and a single hand simple melody on the piano. Mostly, this is a quiet romantic track without the use of the love theme. The CD ends with a very nice cleaned up recording of “The Very Thought Of You” performed by Billie Holiday an appropriate ending to a fine soundtrack.
The sound quality is quite good especially considering the newer material. I would guess this was a digital recording consider the year 1992. Current owners of the CD will certainly welcome the additional material offered. Any Goldsmith collector will want to have this in their collection.
1… Love Theme from Forever Young (4:02) is track #23
2… Test Flight (3:41) is track #27
3… The Experiment (3:17) is track #4
4… The House (3:04) is track #16
5… Kitchen Aid (2:41) is track #28
6… The Dinner is track #13
7… The Air Show (2:29) is track #29
8… She’s Alive (3:28) is track #20
9… Let’s Go (3:01) is track #30
10… Reunited is track #31
11… The Very Thought of You (2:44) is track 32
Total Duration: 01:14:37
September 26, 2011
Included with his Symphony in D Minor https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/symphony-in-d-minor-1942ludvig-irgens-jensen-1894-1969/ this early work was the first to be championed by Toscanini and Stravinsky. Like the D minor symphony it is a work that is thought provoking, serious, and certainly belongs in a CD collection representing this unknown composer.
In addition to his composing which was influenced by the French and German composers Ludvig was also a poet, philosopher, and painter of watercolor works. He also enjoyed the wonders of nature and loved mountain climbing.
The writing of a passacaglia places him in a similar category as J.S. Bach as he follows the structure. The opening is calm before a storm with the bassoons offering a signal motif before the majestic horns offer a brass fanfare. One can hear a bit of Brahms in the opening. The passacaglia theme and its sixteen variations are not introduced until five minutes into the piece. Horns and strings are featured in the long introduction. One can easily hear how this could be adapted to organ especially in the later part as a triple fugue is offered. The work ends, repeating the passacaglia theme and closing with a coda.
“Air” is a short piece that is a song is arranged for orchestra. It begins with a lovely clarinet solo offering the melody until the strings pick up the melody. It is a work of yearning and lost love.
I must give an extra star to the liner notes written by the conductor Bjarte Engeset who obviously has a great fondness for Ludvig. This is a Naxos CD to be explored.
Naxos CD# is 8.572312
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Bjarte Engeset
1… Air (1959) (2:42)
2… Passacaglia (20:05)
September 23, 2011
Francis Lai will go down in history as the composer of one of the more popular songs of all time, Love Story, yet he has done so much more in terms of scores. A Man and a Woman (1966), Live For Life (1967), Itineraine d’un enfant gate (1988), and Bolero (1981). He is still composing today having completed What War May Bring (2010) and is working on Les chemins de l’argueil (2012).
Another man another chance, an adult art western film had the misfortune to come out just after Star Wars and tells a sotorie of how the two stars David (James Caan) and Jeanne (Genevieve Bujold) come together. Directed by Claude Lelouch, Lai had already formed a relationship with him and was responsible for several scores to his films.
The 43 minute score is divided up into 10 tracks and plays like an extended tone poem of themes and variations. An important part of the soundtrack is the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven and I’ve included an old recording of the first movement for those of you who’ve not heard it before. It’s as famous a motif as Jaws, Dragnet, Frankenstein, and others. I’ve also included the original French track listings for information purposes only. Bruce explained in the liner notes that they made no sense and I agree. As I talk about the tracks I’ll use the names that Bruce assigned to them to avoid any confusion. “Theme A” begins with the famous four note motif in a pretty standard arrangement. It turns into a bit of tension and then the piano offers the main theme, a wonderful hummable melody that you’ll hear often in the soundtrack. The cue concludes with another offering of the Fifth Symphony. “Theme B” is another beautiful offering of a second melody from Lai. It is a delicate lullaby type theme that could bring a tear to your eye. “Panache” is a repeat of the second theme; very sad and somber with flute and strings. “Theme B” begins with another statement of the fifth and offers a new arrangement of the B theme, a bit more modern sounding. The track offers a nice violin solo and full development from the orchestra. The cue ends with the fifth symphony. “Theme A” begins with the fifth followed by some tension underscore featuring timpani. The oboe and piano offer the main theme ending quietly with the cello. “Theme 1” begins quietly with the main theme offered up by the piano and strings in a very delicate arrangement. “Chanson is a pipe organ merry go round theme with a French male vocal. “Theme 1 Course begins with snare drum followed by a rare brass fanfare. It slowly evolves into the main theme followed by the fifth, snare drums, growling brass and a jazzy sound ending with a very long note from the strings. “Paroche” is a quiet offering of the main theme; very soft and delicate with flute. “Theme 1 begins with a lively fifth, dissonant chord, a lush version of the main theme and ends with the fifth.
The two track stereo tapes were in fine condition and are good quality for a 1977 recording. This is a limited edition release of 1000 units so it is best to act sooner rather than later. I found the use of the fifth symphony a welcome addition to the score.
One… Theme A (4:54)
Two… Theme B (3:09)
Three… Panache (2:49)
Four… Theme B (5:13)
Five… Theme A (3:52)
Six… Theme #1 (2:40)
Seven… Chanson (3:54)
Eight… Theme #1 (7:32)
Nine… Panache (4:40)
Ten… Theme #1 (4:20)
Total Time is 43:20
Track listing from original LP
Total Duration: 00:41:41
Beethoven #5 Toscanini NBC Symphony Click on link to hear what the fifth really sounds like.
September 22, 2011
Naxos has always been a pioneer in releasing new material and Jensen wrote a wonderful three movement Symphony in D Minor in 1942 which is a reflection on his experiences with World War II. Jensen, a 20th century Norwegian composer, was greatly admired by Stravinsky and Toscanini and now this reviewer who had never listened to him before.
During the course of its short life the symphony has gone through changes, some quite major including the elimination of the third movement, any reference to the war, and changes by then conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Gruner – Hegge. Bjarte Engest, conductor of the work, has chosen to perform the original 1942 version with the exception being the original ending of the second movement only recently discovered and too late for this recording. Jensen composed the poem Maelstrom and this is what the symphony is based on. Below I site the poem.
The glint of breakers far out at sea,
Drifts of foam in long floes.
You walk on the shore-and your foot treads
on the remnants of old wrecks.
Floods from the fells, avalanches into dales
-everything that happens is wrong.
Here stood a farmstead in hope of shelter
-you will never find it again
Yes, avalanches must break and hurtle down
-the earth’s blood is young!
Listen to the savage hymn of the hidden powers:
We have never had peace.
Now you understand the pain of humanity.
Through centuries of darkness, cold as the grave,
We kept a sacred candle burning:
the dream that kindles in crushed spirits
the dream that blazed as generations suffered,
the dream as strong as life itself,-
the dream of peace.
For it is a dream- but is it more?
Look around you, good brother,
And tell us what you see:
They are our faithful mothers.
Flood and avalanche,
you see them here,
you see them in yourself, in me.
Brute force, butchery and murder of the spirit
you see amongst your brothers.
The first movement, an allegro, begins on a somber note with the horns offering a melody. The orchestra offers a disturbing passage conveying a struggle. You can hear the maelstrom of the ocean somewhat like Sinton’s The Island. The key changes to a major one offering happiness. The main theme is repeated again by the horns and great turmoil follows with urgency from the strings and dissonance from the brass along with another statement of the main theme. One can feel the storm! The sixteen minute movement ends on a measure of urgency.
The second movement the andante begins as an elegy might very solemn and reflecting. There is an exchange between the woodwinds and strings. As the movement continues it becomes increasingly more intense in nature with loud statements from the brass. It is somewhat choral sounding without the chorus. One can hear a similar feel to what Beethoven did in the third movement of his ninth symphony.
The third and final movement begins quietly but becomes more intense. The romantic theme from the second movement is repeated but as a loud motif from the brass. This movement is one of fate and at the end there is a catastrophe-chord.
I must congratulate Engeset on a well written concise set of liner notes that truly brought a greater understanding of the work. The recording was bright and vivid and all parties seemed to have a complete understanding of the work.
1… Allegro (16:40)
2… Andante (12:34)
3… Andante lugubre (14:45)
The CD also contains his Passacaglia and Air.
Naxos CD# 8.572312
September 21, 2011
A relatively new company Music Box Records is dedicated to the release of French soundtrack material. This fourth release Descente Aux Enfers offers music by the talented George Delerue and is an outstanding choice. In addition to the previously released material there is 9 minutes of new soundtrack music in addition to a change in the sequencing.
The story involves the Kolbers, Alan and Lola who are in crisis with their marriage. Starring Claude Brasseur and Sophie Marceau there are affairs, a killing, blackmail, and alcoholism. The French film was shot in Haiti and directed by Francis Girod.
On listening to the score for the first time I expected to hear the usual French sound (accordion and violin) and was surprised to hear none of that from Delerue. “Generique debut” introduces the theme for Alan, a bluesy jazz based melody which easily could have come from a gumshoe film. It is smooth and very easy on the ears with the improvisational material around the theme quite natural. “Alan and Lola” begins with a simple statement on the piano followed by a sad solo flute representing Lola. The interplay between piano and flute makes for a strong track. This is nothing complex, just easy listening. Both the Lola and Alan themes will be heard on several of the tracks in the score and are the major themes. Two very brief tracks are “Bonheur trompe-l’oeil” which begins in a happy fashion with harp but ends on a tragic note. Perhaps this told the story of their marriage. “Le joli jeune home” is an upbeat melody with clarinet solo backed by guitar. “Alan” is a repeat of the theme we heard in “Generique debut,” that sad lost soulful feeling. “La plage” is a minor key tragic cue which enhances the melodrama. “Le spleen d’Alan” continues in a tragic vein with statements from the flute and saxophone. “Alan au bar” is piano lounge material with an easy to listen to solo, a simple melody that sets the mood for the scene. “Baignoire rock” is the type of funky music you’d hear in the 80’s. The guitar is featured in a long extended solo. The solo sax backed by slow extended notes from the strings in “La descente aux enfers d’Alan” while not the melody we heard in “Alan” it is very similar in nature. “Philippe et Lola” begins in tragic fashion with strings offering a funeral somber theme. The flute offers the Lola melody very serene and quiet to end the track. “Feu dans la nuit” offers an extended sax solo, a variation of the Alan theme. More tragedy enters followed by the Lola theme on the flute. “La mort de Kleber” is a tension track with low register notes from the strings. “La mort de mer” is a short track which features the Alan theme on the Sax. “La confession de Lola-Generique fin” offers the Lola theme on the flute along with the sax solo of Alan with upper register strings in the background bringing the film to a conclusion.
Bonus Tracks include “Arrivee a l’hotel” underscore material with the Lola theme. “Maitres chanteurs” offers the clarinet in a slinky cat fashion. “Nocturne” is a brief romantic track featuring the Lola theme. “Le joli jeune home” is a similar version of the track with the xylophone replacing the clarinet. “Flashback metro” provides a bit of tension with tremolo strings a quick reference on the oboe to the Lola theme and it ends with the soulful sax and the Alan theme. “Ma femme douce, ma femme dure” is a quiet track with the flute playing the Lola theme once again.
If you’re taste is toward an easy listening style with a nice dose of jazz this CD will fit nicely in your collection. Very little if any French influence and as I stated earlier it sounds like a soundtrack to an American film without dissonant brass and loud crescendos. Since this is a limited edition release of 1000 units it is best to act sooner rather than later or you might be disappointed. The soundtrack quality being from the 80’s is excellent. The bonus tracks have some slight imperfections as explained in the liner notes. Recommended.
Music Box Records CD# 04
|Générique début (03:57)|
|Alan et Lola (03:28)|
|Bonheur trompe l’œil (01:05)|
|Le joli jeune homme (01:20)|
|La plage (01:27)|
|Le spleen d’Alan (03:27)|
|Alan au bar (02:40)|
|Baignoire rock (03:26)|
|Descente aux enfers d’Alan (01:58)|
|Philippe et Lola (01:49)|
|Feu dans la nuit (02:32)|
|La mort de Kléber (02:01)|
|La bouteille à la mer (01:25)|
|La confession de Lola / Générique fin (04:19)
|Arrivée à l’hôtel* (01:23)|
|Maîtres chanteurs* (01:50)|
|Flashback métro* (02:08)|
|Ma femme douce, ma femme dure* (01:10)|
|Le joli jeune homme (version alternative)* (01:18)
Total Duration: 00:45:39
September 20, 2011
Warner Classics will release on Sept. 19th, 2011 a CD/download of piano solo material from Debbie Wiseman. Twenty two of her themes will be highlighted in the 78+ minute recording. All of her material begins with a piano recording and these are what are being offered. Available from http://www.classicsonline.com/ if you’re not yet a member you can join and receive 101 tracks for only $9.99. This could be a fairly inexpensive way to download this album. Lately there has been a series of piano solo CD’s from film composers. First up was Christopher Young in with his An Unfinished Life Piano Sketches (2008), Stephen Edwards came out with Piano Music From the Movies (2011), Bear McCreary just released Battle Star Galactica For Solo Piano (2011) and this Wiseman release quickly followed. Having all four recordings I learned that each piano had its own distinct sound as well as a style, touch, rhythm, and color from each composer. Wiseman has a firm touch without being showy like Horowitz as an example. The result is a set of 22 Preludes. These are not complicated to play for a good pianist like Wiseman but the theme is definitely featured on the track with the right hand and the left hand is always moving enhancing the track. I like her playing very much and certainly love her melodies. I for one would like to see more of this kind of material released. Her themes are beautiful without the benefit of an orchestra. One could compare Pictures at an Exhibition for solo piano and then the orchestral version. This reviewer would like to hear both on the same CD back to back. I’m going to have to make my own CD!
Favorite tracks include “Echoes of Carmilla” from Lesbian Vampire Killers. The track begins with single notes of the melody with harmony also single notes. As it progresses the track become concert like. The track ends as it started with simplicity. Well done! “Christina’s Minuet” from Haunted is a true minuet in that it starts with a theme followed by variations of the theme or a second theme and then returns to the main theme. Scary it isn’t. A theme to remember, yes. “Mists of Edbrook” is also from Haunted and offers more of an uplifting quality to it. One can hear a ray of hope in the melody. “Isolation,” theme from The Hide is a sad haunting theme with main melody being performed with several variations on the theme is this six minute solo work. “Ray of Sunshine,” theme from Children’s Hospital is a bright uplifting work with a major key giving it a feeling of happiness.
The listening experience is quite laid back yet if you enjoy a particular movie/television show you’ll instantly recognize it and it could become a favorite. As I said earlier it is fun to listen to the piano version followed by the orchestral arrangement.
1… Isolation Theme from Hide (6:19)
2… Portal to the Past Theme from Tom’s Midnight Garden (3:30)
3… Thorn to the Heart Theme from The Nightingale and the Rose (4:54)
4… High Walled Garden Theme from The Selfish Giant (3:30)
5… Oscar Theme from Wilde (4:22)
6… Silver Stream (3:25)
7… Fields of Hope Theme from Land Girls (2:50)
8… Joe & Diana Theme from Upper Hand (3:02)
9… Ray of Sunshine Theme from Children’s Hospital (3:04)
10… Succession Theme from The Throne (3:28)
11… Mists of Edbrook Theme from Haunted (3:10)
12… Journey of a Lifetime Theme from Joanna Lumley’s Nile (2:26)
13… Travels With Uncle Sam Theme from Stephan Fry in America (3:06)
14… Affairs Current Theme from The Andrew Marr Show (2:00)
15… Man of Law Theme from Judge John Deed (2:58)
16… Peacekeeper Theme from Warriors’ (3:50)
17… Occupation Theme from The Promise (3:38)
18… The Quiet Room (3:14)
19… The Honeymoon’s Over Theme from Tom & Viv (4:34)
20… Echoes of Carmilla Theme from Lesbian Vampire Killers
21… Fall of the Last Barrier Theme from Flood (3:42)
22… Christina’s Minuet Theme from Haunted (3:37)
Total Time is 79:30
Warner Bros. Classics 2564-67188-8