Rocketship X-M/Grofe

March 29, 2012

 

Robert L. Lippert (1909-1976), producer and distributor of 100’s of pictures who Time magazine nicknamed “The Quickie King” beat George Pal and his lavish color Destination Moon to the box office and took advantage of their publicity and made this a very successful picture. The film is available to watch for free in the IMDB movie base http://archive.org/details/RocketshipXM   and is something I would recommend that you watch so you can hear how the various cues were placed within the film. The film directed, produced, and written by Kurt Neumann starred Lloyd Bridges and Noah Berry Jr. as it told a tale of the RXM (rocketship expedition moon) project that ended up on Mars instead. There are errors that you have to overlook or you’ll be disappointed. For example, fifteen minutes before takeoff the press is interviewing the crew. It is a fun diversion if you accept it for what it is. The liner notes, always a wealth of information from MMM, tell the story about the picture, composer, and the music far better than I could ever relate to you. I’m still waiting for (R-X-M-2) which is some of the final dialogue heard in the film indicating the possibility of a sequel. I’ll likely be waiting for a long time! Grofe, who is best known for his “Grand Canyon Suite”, standard fare for any pops orchestra, makes this somewhat rare appearance as a film composer. Those who wish to explore his works further will find many of his suites on Naxos 8.559007 and 8.559017 with William Stromberg conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The orchestrator and conductor is another well known name to science fiction material Albert Glasser.

 

The “Main Title” is a catchy one offering the melody from the brass with support from the string section. This theme is also repeated in “Palomar Observatory.” The love theme first appears in “Floyd and Lisa at Window” a perfect underscore for the romantic encounter. It is offered by a solo violin with string support and is also repeated in the “Tanks Are Empty” track. Dubbed into the soundtrack are several Dr. Samuel Hoffman theremin cues making for the sci-fi sound that was well used in the 1950’s and an instrument he became associated with. Considering the fact that Ferde was only paid $1250.00 the material is a lot better than Lippert deserved.

 

The transfer came directly from the Starlog SR1000 LP issued in 1977 and with modern technology being what it is there is an improvement in the audio quality although it is mono and should be classified as an archival/historical recording. There is no additional material to the best of my knowledge. Don’t expect perfection as you’ll hear little noises along the way. The sound appears distant at times but the overall quality is clean with distinct sounds from the orchestra and the theremin performance of Dr. Samuel Hoffmann enhances the overall score. It is not a limited edition unit so you can buy as many copies as you wish and considering the composer it is one that should be in your collection.

Track Listing: I’ve included two audio clips from the soundtrack.

1… Main Title (1:21)

2… Good Luck (1:53)

3… Stand by to Turn(0:50)

4… The Motors Conk Out (2:55)

5… Palomar Observatory (1:11)    main title rocketship x-m

6… Floyd Whispers (1:57)

7… Floyd and Lisa at Window (2:56)  love theme rocketship x-m

8… We See Mars (2:06)

9… The Landing on Mars (3:17)

10… The Ruins (3:10)

11… I Saw the Martians (1:02)

12… The Atomic Age to Stone Age/The Chase (4:59)

13… The Tanks Are Empty (3:37)

14… The Crash (3:22)

15… End Title (0:59)

16… Noodling on the Theremin (1:35)

Total Time is 37:16

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Originally written as Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet (1960), it was later re-orchestrated by Rudolph Barshai, founder of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, and today is recognized as one of his more popular works both as a chamber symphony and a string quartet. The quartet was completed in only three days during the shooting of Five Days-Five Nights in Dresden where Shostakovich was working on the film score. The title that Delos chose for the CD “Dedicated to Victims of War and Terror” is similar to the dedication chosen by Shostakovich although as it turns out the quartet was written as an autobiographical musical story of his life. He goes so far as to use his initials to create a personal motif for the work. You’ll hear the DSCH in each of the five movements, written by the composer to be played without pause.

Image                           There are references made to many of his works including Symphony Number One, Cello Concerto Number One, Piano Concerto Number One, Piano Trio Number Two, Symphony Number 5, Symphony Number 10, Symphony Number Eleven, “Lady Macbeth of Mtzensk” Opera, as well as traditional folk material.

The opening Largo is quite somber, somewhat religious, funeral like, and introduces the DSCH theme which sets the mood for the majority of the work. The Allegro Molto begins with a disturbing staccato passage which seems to be questioning. It is followed by a Jewish folk theme which further transmits the yearning and dissonance. The Allegretto is a classic Shostakovich waltz, the style I’ve grown so accustom to hearing in his soundtrack material. Further exploring of his Waltz material can be found on another Moscow Chamber Orchestra recording with Constantine Orbelian (DELOS 3257). The second Largo returns to the disturbing dissonance again searching for an answer to a question Shostakovich was pondering. The final movement is another Largo, quite depressing, which ends the autobiographical sketch. Written in the C minor key the overall mood offers little encouragement.

If possible I urge the listener to also seek out a recording of his eighth quartet to compare the two works. There are many available in the market but a recent recording by the Pacifica Quartet would be a fine addition to your collection. It is on the Chicago based label Cedille Label and also includes Shostakovich’s Quartets Five, Six, and Seven as well as Miaskovsky’s Quartet Number 13.Image

CEDILLE CDR90000 127

The CD also includes the modern dissonant Concerto for Piano and Strings (1979) of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) which will be discussed in a separate review. It is the perfect companion piece on this CD.

One cannot begin to imagine what Dmitri had to go through with Stalin and in spite of all of this the music he composed was superb. If he is somewhat new to you please take the time to explore him further. You won’t be disappointed in what you hear.

Track Listing: (played without pause)

1… Largo (5:23)

2… Allegro Molto (3:16)

3… Allegretto (4:47)

4… Largo (5:57)

5… Largo (4:16)

Total Time is 23:38

Over twenty years ago Chandos introduced a label within a label, Chandos Movies, with the film music of Sir Malcolm Arnold; a collective offering of his scores for the very first time. They often made available material that was reconstructed by a tireless Philip Lane and others specifically for this series, which has now reached 30. Composers such as Stanley Black, Brian Easdale, and Lambert/Berners were introduced to listeners for the very first time. Classical composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Ralph Vaughan Williams were each acknowledged with three volumes of material. This latest offering of Arthur Benjamin and Leighton Lucas compositions performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Rumon Gamba further enhances the series.

 

Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960) original material is offered in the first seven tracks and includes a premiere recording of his music for the documentary The Conquest of Everest (1953), a four part nine plus minute suite. The “Title Music” begins with swirling strings followed by a majestic fanfare which dominates the track. It is the center piece with the strings offering a melody around the fanfares. It is very conservative and proper, never over the top. It moves to the second part without pause “Walls That Surpass the Imagination” a disturbing track of yearning and urgency from the strings. Again without pause we move to “The Great Lift” which begins with a fanfare from the horns introducing another melody from the strings. It is a prelude to a restating of the main theme in the final track which is every bit as proud as the opening. The reconstruction was done by Marcus A. Carrabelle. The “Storm Clouds Cantata” from director Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much was used both times he made this picture. The original 1934 film that starred Peter Lorre and Leslie Banks was the original commission for Benjamin and when the film was remade in 1956 with James Stewart and Doris Day Bernard Herrmann felt it was still the perfect cue for the scene that muffles a gunshot, part of an assassination attempt with the crescendo of the track being a loud cymbal crash. The reusing of the cue was not an easy task as explained by Jack Sullivan in his book Hitchcock’s Music. Rights for the reuse of music in Britain were at best difficult with the general policy being the use of the film rights ending upon completion of the film. It is one of the finest pieces of music written for a particular cue in the history of cinema. Arthur Benjamin said afterwards “I don’t think any director (Hitchcock) appreciates the use of music as much as he does.” The final two cues from Benjamin are from the film Ideal Husband (1947),a Korda directed comedy starring Paulette Goddard and Michael Wilding. The “Waltz” is a track with wonderful melodies and very easy listening on the ears. “Hyde Park Galop” has all of the ingredients for a lively dance in the classical tradition.

 

The remainder of the CD is taken up with the music of Leighton Lucas (1903-1982) much of it being offered for the first time on CD. A self taught film composer he is credited with twenty films, the more popular ones being offered on this compilation. Yangtse Incident begins with “Theme” a lovely mellow offering from the cor anglais. Without pause it turns into “Hornpipe” a track depicting the everyday life aboard a ship. It ends with “Amethyst March” a militaristic offering that is quite understated except for the coda which seems to make it rise out of the fog. Portrait of Clare (1950) is a very classical arrangement of “Windmung,” a Robert Schumann composition. Very low key. The Dam Busters, while mostly composed by Lucas is best known for the march of the same name written by Eric Coates. What you hear on this CD is a compilation of cues reconstructed by Philip Lane of Lucas material. It is also one which is stoic and straight forward in the arrangement. Stage Fright (1950), another Hitchcock picture, offered in “Stage Fright Rhapsody” one of the more melodic themes to come out of one of his pictures. You’ll hear another Lane reconstruction and something which will remind you of the “Warsaw Concerto” with a lot of the razzle dazzle left behind. Ice Cold in Alex (1958) introduces in the “Prelude” a military march, a beautiful melody and arrangement in “Love Scene” which is extremely subtle (reminded of Roy Webb) but very effective. It concludes with a heroic upbeat feel good march. The final two offerings on the CD are from the many documentaries that Leighton Lucas composed during his lifetime. This is York (1953) deals with trains and transporting of material and of particular interest is a great mimicking of the sounds of a train in “Setting the Path-Diagram Lights” Also of interest is an English dance in “Thorton-le-Dale” which offers some subtle effective work from the woodwinds. Concluding the CD is the prelude and March from an award winning Target for Tonight, a start to finish story of a bombing assignment. While written in March style it also tells a story.

 

Overall this is a fine example of the use of effective underscore. Watching the films you’ll hardly notice but take the music away from it and you have nicely crafted orchestral material that has at the very least been preserved for future generations.

 

Thanks again to Chandos for making yet another release in their continuing music series. May we see 30 more!

 

Chandos CD# 10713

Rumon Gamba conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

 

Track Listing:

Suite from The Conquest of Everest (1953)

1… Title Music (1:50)

2… Walls that Surpass the Imagination (0:46)

3… The Great Lift (2:27)

4… Top of the World and Final Bars (4:30)

The Storm Clouds Cantata from The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

5… Suite (7:34)

Waltz and Hyde Park Galop from An Ideal Husband (1947)

6… Waltz (5:30)

7… Hyde Park Galop (1:41)

Portrait of the Amethyst from Yangtse Incident (1957)

8… Theme (1:12)

9… Hornpipe (1:51)

10… The Amethyst March (3:45)

Dedication from Portrait of Clare (1950)

11… Widmung (Robert Schumann) arranged by Lucas (3:38)

The Dam Busters (1954)

12… Prelude and Dam Blast (5:15)

Stage Fright (1950)

13… Rhapsody (4:54)

Suite from Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

14… Prelude (2:09)

15… Love Scene (4:21)

16… March (2:48)

This is York (1953)

17… Opening Titles (1:47)

18… Setting the Path- Diagram Lights (1:51)

19… Thornton-le-Dale (1:30)

20… Smoking Engine-Pan across York-Committee Room-Portraits-Railroad Musuem (4:17)

Target for Tonight (1941)

21… March/Prelude (3:04)

Total Time is 67:58

 

 

If at all possible I encourage the listener to first hear the quartets as they were originally designed to be played. A fine recording of the string quartets can be found on Naxos 8.550879 performed by the Oslo quartet.  The ‘G’ minor quartet went on to become the template for Debussy when it came time for him to write his quartet (both done in ‘G’ minor)

It will be an appetizer for what is to come with these Alf Ardal orchestrations of both the ‘G’ minor, Op. 27 and the ‘F’ major unfinished for string orchestra of Grieg. In fact the G minor quartet, written in 1877-1878, was objected to by his publisher as being too thick in texture due in part to his use of double-stopping (to stop two strings together, creating two part harmony)so this arrangement is ideal for the nineteen piece Oslo Camerata ensemble lead by Stephan Barratt-Due who also plays first violin. There is some theory that the ‘G’ minor is somewhat autobiographical although Berger in his book on chamber music traces the origins to his “The Minstrel Song” with words from Ibsen.  It tells the story of minstrels being lured to waterfalls to play their music and in return the spirit takes away their peace of mind and happiness.

 

Like the majority of his material the G minor quartet is filled with melodic content which the listener can easily be comfortable with. You’ll hear a recurring theme that some will recognize from the beginning of his famous piano concerto. It is repeated in all four movements giving the quartet structure. This is in addition to the introduction of new melodies in each movement. The romanze easily reminds one of a romantic interlude on a spring morning but quickly shifts to a state of agitation as if the composer was searching for something or perhaps a gust of wind. This technique is repeated until the movement ends quietly. The intermezzo is a delightful outgoing happy melody which changes to a melody that could have come right out of “Peer Gynt” before it changes back to the original melody and style. The finale, a lento, offers yet another wonderful dance filled with wonderful harmony.   The string ensemble certainly adds texture and color and the result is a work that flows nicely. The 30+ minutes passes quickly. I like the complex structure of the work and consider it a favorite in chamber music. His unfinished ‘F’ major quartet was written in 1891 after two previous failures. The joy of listening to Grieg is that each movement is filled with melodies that linger with you long after you’re finished listening and these two movements are just another example of his melodic musical writing.

 

While I’m usually against re-orchestration of works feeling that they should be performed in the original arrangement I take exception with this unit. The Oslo Camerata is a superb ensemble and only enhances these works. The CD also includes the Nordheim work “Rendevous” (1986) which will be reviewed separately.

 

Grieg String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 27

1… Un poco andante-Allegro molto ed agitato (12:40)

2… Romanze:Andantino-Allegro agitato (6:13)

3… Intermezzo:Allegro molto marcato-Piu vivo e scherzando (6:46)

4… Finale: Lento-Presto al Saltarello (9:18)

Grieg String Quartet in F major

5… Sostenuto-Allegro vivace e grazioso (12:20)

6… Allegro scherzando (7:07)

I can remember first seeing The Gauntlet at the theaters in 1978 and after the movie was over I felt exhausted! I had never seen so many bullets fired at this bus in my entire life. There was enough ammunition fired for L.A. Confidential, Heat, and enough left over for the Korean War. This was a Clint Eastwood directed picture which also starred his girlfriend at the time Sondra Locke and Pat Hingle in a story that dealt with transporting a witness to federal court in Phoenix, Arizona. This film was made for the action crowd and further enhanced the macho image of Clint. It did little for the career of Sondra Locke who did her best film in 1969 The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.

This is a straight reissue of the original material found on the Warner Brothers LP (BSK3144), an album I own and wore out over time as the type of jazz played was of great interest to me especially the playing of Jon Faddis who I’ve had the opportunity of hearing live. The majority of the material is standard type jazz that you might have heard in the 70’s. The solos of Pepper and Faddis are enhanced with good biting arrangements from Fielding. The 3000 limited edition release Perseverance PRR 043 is priced at $12.98 more than compensating for the rather short 31 minute timing (this is how LP’s were). The mastering is fine. I particularly noticed that some of the very high trumpet passages produced clear concise notes without the shrill you can sometimes hear. The bass solo passages are clear without muddiness as you sometimes might hear. Background noise was at a minimum and it offers good dynamic range.

Track Listing:

1… Bleak Bad Big City Dawn (3:23) offers the main title instrumental version of “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” an older gospel composition in public domain. While the arrangement features Faddis it also offers bass, drums, piano, and orchestra backing.

2… The Pickup (2:36) is a showcase for the alto sax of Art Pepper although it begins with a bluesy conversation between Pepper and Faddis. Backed by the orchestra Pepper doesn’t miss a lick.

3… Exit Tunnel, Roaring (3:06) gives you great brass arranging with a solo from Faddis that will certainly loosen any ear wax you might have. There is good brass harmony backed by some nice drum work.

4… The Gauntlet (4:38) there is a synthesizer introduction before you hear a strong orchestral arrangement enhanced by the upper register performance from Faddis.

5… The Box Car Incident (3:36) tension underscore gives way to a slow building climax with creepy woodwinds along the way. It ends with a sound of a train in the background.

6… Closer Look At A Closer Walk (3:15) is a repeat of the main title theme “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” in a bluesy arrangement.

7… The Black Sedan (2:29) is improvisational with little melody but strong rhythm and a nice Pepper solo which slowly fades into nothing.

8… Manipulation/The Center Divider (2:45) a dissonant Pepper sax gives a feeling of urgency. This is the Fielding sound we’ve grown accustom to.

9… The Delivery (2:49) a tension track featuring growling brass, creepy oboe and bassoon, and lower strings in a twelve tone sound dissonant track.

10… Postlude (2:02) a final offering of the main title bordering on the romantic side with major key strings and an organ.

Total Duration: 00:31:07

 

Written at the halfway point in his composing career, 1970 turned out to be an extremely busy year as Mancini also did soundtracks to Darling Lili, Sunflower, The Hawaiians, Sometimes a Great Notion, and Tajamer. The Martin Ritt produced and directed film starred Richard Harris, Sean Connery, and Samantha Eggar telling the story of the rebellious Irish coal miners in Pennsylvania in 1876. While the eleven million dollar film has stood the test of time it didn’t do well in the theaters as Easy Rider was the in picture to see. Having given you a bit of background all of this has nothing to do with the soundtrack. It has to be good because it’s a Mancini! Many of the tracks are exactly the same as the original Bay Cities release (3029) and are notated in the track listing with an (*). In addition there are 8 additional tracks plus 11 more written by Charles Strouse who had his score rejected that are presented for the first time.

Track Listing for the Henry Mancini material:

1… Theme From The Molly Maguires (Pennsylvania, 1876) (4:18)*. An Irish harp and pennywhistle offer the Molly theme giving it an Irish flavor even though the composer’s orchestration makes it Mancini all the way.

2… The Mollys Strike: (2:45)*. A button accordion and timpani introduce the low woodwinds in the Mancini style in this rather dark track. The theme is the main title.

3… Main Title: (1:44).* The main title is repeated but this time there is a full orchestral arrangement featuring swirling strings with brass followed be staccato strings at a near frantic pace.

4… Sandwiches and Tea: (2:08)* a repeat of the Molly theme but given a lush romantic arrangement from the strings.

5… Room and Board: (1:54)* another repeat of the Molly theme featuring an Irish sound from the button accordion and ocarina.

6… Work Montage: (2:14)* introduces a new theme a dance in a television like style. This is a cue that could fit in a number of different Mancini scores.

7… Pennywhistle Jig: (1:00)* begins with a traditional sounding Irish jig that is quite bright and uplifting. It changes to a darker arrangement of the Molly theme. Also included in this release is the album version (track 34).

8… A Hard Day’s Work: (1:07) not included on the original release is the Molly theme featured on the button accordion.

9… On Your Knees: (0:48) is a never before released track offering a version of the main title.

10… Jaime and Mary (2:44)* is the song “The Hills of Yesterday” in an instrumental version. Lyrics were provided by Paul Webster and if you would like to listen Scott Walker sings it on YouTube. I’ve included an audio clip The Hills of Yesterday

11… Trip to Town (1:45)* offers a new theme offering happiness.

12… Strike Two/Strike Three (2:26) a never before released track of the main title heard in the Mollys Strike.

13… The Hills of Yesterday (1:40)* is another instrumental version of the song which begins with flute and Irish harp and ends as a romantic string orchestration.

14… There’s More (1:01) is yet another variation of the Hills theme.

15… The Mollys Strike Again (2:14)* is similar in sound and orchestration to tracks two and twelve. It changes to a very staccato tempo before the ocarina ends the track in an air of mystery.

16… A Suit for Grandpa (2:11)* is a depressing track that has a similar sound and style to music heard in Experiment in Terror.

17… Kahoe Lights Up/The Last Strike (2:12) a never before released track offers the main title as well as a similar cue to tracks 2 and 12.

18… The End (0:43)* is a very short version of the Molly theme featuring the pennywhistle and Irish harp.

BONUS TRACKS

19… Fiddle and Fife (film) (1:54)* in the film the solo violin offers classic sounding fiddling. According to the liner notes the violin was retuned to give it a folksy sound.

20… A Brew With the Boys (film) (1:38)* this track is somewhat of a variation of the previous fiddling track.

32… Fiddle and Fife (album) (1:54) adds the pennywhistle and the accordion giving it an instrumental feel. The timing is exactly the same.

33… A Brew With the Boys (album) (1:38) adds the pennywhistle and accordion to give it a fuller sound.

34… Pennywhistle Jig (album) (1:00) strings give it a fuller sound.

Track Listing for the Charles Strouse Score:

21… Sabotage (1:37)

22… Fuse (1:02)

23… Work in the Mine (1:21) is an orchestral arrangement with a banjo giving it a Bonnie and Clyde sound.

24… Bleak Street/To Find A Room/To Work the first third of the cue is a melody offered on the accordion with classical guitar providing the harmony. The section two parts of the cue are somewhat atonal featuring accordion and dissonant brass.

25… The Long Walk (1:20) offers the same melody as Bleak Street with guitar and accordion.

26… Window Shopping (0:50)

27… Truant Picnic-ers (1:40) is an upbeat carousel type cue.

28… The Last Rites (1:01) has a definite Spanish flare to it with acoustic guitar.

29… The Company Store (I and II) begins with the same theme as Work in the Mine with more of an emphasis on a fuller arrangement.

30… Arson (1:10) the end of the track features a long dying piano chord.

31… End Title (0:44) repeats the Bleak Street theme.

There is certainly enough difference between this release and the Bay Cities CD to invest in this Kritzerland (20021-3) limited edition of 1500 units. The historical rejected material of Strouse is worth the price and as a bonus you get a lot of nice Mancini. Remember that a lot of the Kritzerland releases do sell out so act sooner rather than later. The transfer is a good clean one with excellent dynamic range. Still not the digital quality we’ve grown accustomed to but very acceptable.