Film Music of Benjamin and Lucas

March 22, 2012

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

 

 

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