May 31, 2012
To celebrate twenty five years Naxos is offering a CD of some of their best selling CD’s at a suggested retail price of $4.95. It offers a wide range of material spanning nearly 1000 years of music including choral, symphonic, piano material solo and concerto and violin material. The best sellers actually come from the first ten years and include several tracks from the much improved Slovak, Budapest, and Polish orchestras. Appropriately the liner notes are from the founder of Naxos Klaus Heymann who has watched his company grow from a budget label like Vox-Turnabout to the largest classical distributor in the world. Each track is referenced with the CD number.
For the newcomer to classical music this is an excellent way to introduce you to some of the finest selections from the huge catalog of material that Naxos has to offer. Better yet why not try http://www.classicsonline.com/ and take advantage of downloading it and 82 additional tracks for $9.99. The sign up is free and there are constantly promotions.
Highlights of the release include a marvelous reading of the first Hungarian Dance composed by Brahms and performed flawlessly by the Budapest Symphony conducted by Istvan Bogar. Your immediate reaction is to want to run out and purchase the entire CD to hear these wonderful dances originally written for piano. Another surprise was the third movement of George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in ‘F’ Major. The Slovak Radio Symphony and Kathryn Selby feel right at home with this underperformed work. Klara Kormendi gives a nice reading to Gymnopedie No. 1 of Erik Satie. Her delicate touch is nicely captured by the Naxos engineers. Also included are ‘war horses’ such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, a selection from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Handel’s Water Music Suite, and Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
A nice introduction to just a tiny portion of what is available from Naxos.
May 22, 2012
This new soundtrack from La-La Land (limited edition release of 2000), has finally arrived thirty one years after the release of the controversial film Mommie Dearest, the story of the life of Joan Crawford and her children starring Faye Dunaway. This is not your typical Henry Mancini CD; far from it. The popular soundtrack releases of Hank were in fact re-recordings of the film material in stereo with handpicked studio musicians who understood how to play Mancini compositions. There was an instantly recognizable sound to a Mancini arrangement and melody if one had any interest in his material. As Jeff Bond points out in his extensive liner notes that Mancini wasn’t interested in some of the primitive mono techniques that Hollywood used for their soundtracks which is one of the reasons he chose to put out pop arrangements of his scores. Henry was one of the main reasons that I became interested in soundtrack material. My very first piece of vinyl was Peter Gunn purchased in 1959. I’ve never quit buying.
What you’ll hear on this release is all of the excellent underscore material, the haunting main theme, extra takes, and source music from the film. To some this will be a new experience to the Mancini listener. Previously only the main theme saw a release on the 1990 Mancini Surround (RCA 60471-2-RC). This isn’t material that dominates the film but is quietly in the background. The Main Title begins with solo piano chords which are a prelude to the flute offering the melody. It continues for nearly a minute before the strings, a bassoon and clarinet solo of the melody enter. This goes through a series of variations of the theme before it once more returns to the haunting theme. It ends with similar piano chords. Primarily this is a monothematic score with the theme or variation of it appearing in tracks 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,and 14. Battle Axe is an excellent example of the style of terror/tension material from Mancini we first heard in Experiment in Terror and something that modern day composers should listen to. You don’t have to be loud to get your point across! It is primarily lower register with dissonance from swirling strings and it ends with a long extended piano chord. One of the highlights is a source cue written by Mancini called “Birthday Party” that is a carnival style music on the calliope which reminded me of a track from Charade. Other source cues include Handel “Water Music,” Christmas Music, and some nice solo piano music.
The digital mastering from Mike Matessino along with liner notes from Jeff Bond are a plus to this release which will have Mancini fans lining up to get this issue. Recommended!
1. Main Title (04:41)
2. Of Shoes and Socks (01:33)
3. My Darling Daughter (02:15)
4. A Lovely Day* (01:58)
5. On Your Mark (01:07)
6. The Little Star*/Bye Bye Greg (01:45)
7. Spoiled Children (01:11)
8. Battle Axe (02:25)
9. A Test of Wills (02:11)
10. No Wire Hangers* (01:34)
11. Uncle Daddy/She’s Drunk/First Kiss (03:43)
12. Home Again* (02:19)
13. No More Pain* (02:37)
14. End Credits (02:56)
Tracks 1-14 – FILM SCORE
TOTAL SCORE TIME: 32:12
15. Birthday Party (04:21)
16. Isn’t It Romantic?/June in January (02:31)
composed by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers / composed by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger
17. I’m Sitting on Top of the World (00:35)
composed by Ray Henderson, Samuel M. Lewis and Joseph Young
EMI Feist Catalog Inc./Ray Henderson Music Co. Inc./Warlock Corporation (ASCAP)
18. Christmas Music (02:06)
Contains “Away in a Manger” composed by James E. Epilman and Martin Luther, and “Silent Night” composed by Franz Gruber; arranged by Jack Hayes
19. Tangerine / To Each His Own (03:15)
composed by Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger / composed by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston
20. Minuet in F (from “Water Music”) (01:30)
composed by George Frederick Handel
21. Winner: Ray Midland/Winner: Joan Crawford/ Joan Crawford Playoff (01:05)
Tracks 15-21 – SOURCE CUES
TOTAL SOURCE CUES: 15:13
22. Spoiled Children (alternate) (01:01)
23. Battle Axe (alternate mix) (02:21)
Tracks 22-23 – ALTERNATE CUES
TOTAL ALTERNATES: 3:22
* not used in film
Total Duration: 00:51:00
May 19, 2012
If there was an encore to Rhapsody in Blue it was the vivacious An American in Paris which premiered four years later in 1928 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. The tone poem was written about an American who visited Paris and his experiences and feelings. American in Paris (1951) was an Oscar winning film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron which not only featured a sixteen minute dance routine to the score but several other Gershwin compositions. The fact that a movie was in part created around a previously written composition and wins an Oscar for the best musical score seldom happens.
Gerard Schwarz chose to perform the original orchestration which runs approximately 2-3 minutes longer. This was the first time that I heard this version and as a listener I was confused at first but also very pleased at what I heard. If you’ve heard the work before you’ll notice that the ending is somewhat different.
The work begins with an orchestral interpretation of the sounds of traffic in a busy city complete with taxi horns which are keyed slightly different from the brass. The melody is offered by the strings but the brass play a major part in this section and this is where the Seattle Symphony and engineers excel on this recording. As the orchestra builds up to a crescendo and down to melancholy with a bassoon offering the motif followed by a solo violin the tempo and orchestration changes to one of a jazzy blues style complete with saxes and a wonderful trumpet solo. As the strings takeover providing a lush arrangement of the theme the trumpet is still in the background offering the melody. Another melody is offered by the orchestra with all of the sections participating. Frantic in parts with sliding trombones, difficult tonguing from the trumpets and distinct percussion it finally returns to the beginning theme and ends in a rousing chord. This is a nice test for your speaker system as treble and bass are tested!
This is a work that brings the emotions up and down. From one minute to the next you don’t know what to expect. If you’ve not experienced it this is the finest version this reviewer has ever heard. It is coupled with another American classic The Grand Canyon Suite which will be given its own review.
An American in Paris (21:44)
Gerard Schwarz conducts the Seattle Symphony. Charles Butler performs the trumpet solos.
Continuing the series of golden age music the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra offers the listener material unique to many of the film compilation CD’s available on the market today. Coupled with the first two volumes (links of the reviews above) the listener is given over three hours of material from many of the icons of film music. The orchestra is well rehearsed, conducted, and recorded. I especially noticed the clarity when a single instrument performed on a track. Producer Andrew Walton chose material well and your ears are certainly in for a treat as you go through volume three.
On the Waterfront (1954), the only time Leonard Bernstein wrote for the movies, is a twenty minute suite he created for performance by a classical orchestra. The opening French horn solo offers the sad main theme one that has a similar melody to the Jerry Goldsmith theme from “Chinatown.” A flute repeats the melody with harmony provided by a muted trombone. The percussion is a signal for a dramatic change as a dissonant sax is a prelude to the full orchestra giving us a distorted jazz melody similar in style to his music from “West Side Story.” The complex orchestration offers swirling strings, staccato motifs, and wild sounding brass with well placed percussion. A solo sax leads the strings to a third melodramatic theme that oozes tragedy. The flute offers a ray of hope with a pretty love melody. As you listen to the suite you’ll be exposed to jazz, classical, romance, and tension. In a word it’s outstanding.
While Leonard did but the single score the opposite is true of Elmer, the other Bernstein who was one of the busiest composers in the last half of the 20th Century. While Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) isn’t in the same league as his “Magnificent Seven” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” all composed around the same time it is still a wonderful theme telling the story of Robert Stroud. It begins with flighty flute and quickly changes to a fugue as the oboe and bassoon talk to one another. The suite changes to one of proud and majestic with proud horns ending the track in a crescendo. Jazz is the order of the day in The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) dominated by a gritty brass section featuring a trumpet solo that screams backed by dominant brass. Elmer Bernstein, the composer made his mark on the jazz scene with this powerful track. While this reviewer will always remember David Rose for his instrumental song Holiday for Strings the public will remember him for the often used Burlesque (Stripper) in films. Featuring the raucous drum beat and the bright and vivid brass could be ranked number one as source music for a variety of situations. While not as well known, George Auric wrote a wonderful score for the Oscar winning film Roman Holiday (1953). The theme is a tribute to Italy its country and music in a scant three minutes. Writing the prelude was one of the tunesmith’s of Hollywood Victor Young whose music is featured in the next two tracks Shane and Around the World in 80 Days. The mini suite for Shane features the opening title Call of the Faraway Hills, a study in how to compose music for an expansive scene and a romantic love theme as beautiful as Hollywood has ever heard. The glitter of the silver screen was never more evident in the extravaganza Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and Victor Young wrote the perfect waltz for the famous balloon race filmed in Todd-AO 70mm, a forgotten process that was nothing short of spectacular if you ever had the opportunity to see it in the original format. Murder on the Orient Express (1974); composed by the extremely versatile Richard Rodney Bennett is a classic waltz that certainly would have put a smile on Agatha Christie’s face. The track has a somewhat creepy prelude as the orchestra builds up to playing the waltz. The sound effect of the train, although brief in duration, was annoying. On my first listen I thought there was going to be singing! Moving past that the waltz is superb as strings and brass participate in it. Is Paris Burning (1966), composed by Maurice Jarre is a fine example of his sound. Somewhat period sounding with the tuba and accordion this carousel sound works quite well in the film. If I weren’t familiar with the work of Franz Waxman I would have said Philadelphia Story (1940) was a George Gershwin composition without hesitation. It has that jazzy swaying aura to it and you feel time warped back into another era listening to the wonderful melody. Laura (1944), a classic noir from Otto Preminger composed by underappreciated David Raksin was an example of writing a monothematic score and having it work quite successfully in a film. The suite offers sentimental, sweet band, and waltz as you listen to just some of the different ways the song can be arranged. The final selection is the Billy Wilder noir film Double Indemnity (1944) with classic music by Miklos Rozsa. This suite is filled with yearning violins, dissonant crescendos, and dark brass that will put a shiver up your spine.
Richard Bernas and the Royal Philharmonic do a fine job performing this unusual selection of soundtrack material. Yes I could do without the lion roar and train whistle but this certainly doesn’t prevent me from enjoying this new offering from the Royal Philharmonic. I look forward to more!
1… On the Waterfront (20:24)
2… Birdman of Alcatraz (2:47)
3… The Man with the Golden Arm (3:27)
4… Burlesque (1:43)
5… Roman Holiday (3:01)
6… Shane (2:47)
7… Around the World in 80 Days (3:17)
8… Murder on the Orient Express (3:48)
9… Is Paris Burning (3:38)
10… The Philadelphia Story (3:55)
11… Laura (6:23)
12… Double Indemnity (8:39)
Total Time is 63:49
CD# is RPO 023 CD
May 10, 2012
When Hollywood was leaving no stone unturned as far as scenarios for disaster films in the 70’s Avalanche, filmed in Durango Colorado, and starring Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow, Jeanette Nolan, and Robert Forster came and quickly disappeared from the theaters. It was produced by Roger Corman and directed by Corey Allen and featured Styrofoam snow for the avalanche which didn’t occur until one hour into the film, a drawback pointed out by reviewers.
If you purchase this CD you’ll have the entire output of soundtrack material of Kraft. He has done other films but this score originally released on LP by the classical company Delos is an extended version with alternate takes giving the listener an additional 14 minutes in this limited edition of 1000 units from BSX (BSXCD 8903) records.
William Kraft is multi talented in the field of music being a fine timpanist, conductor, and composer of modern classical material in addition to his work on films orchestrating, conducting, and composing. His list of awards and achievements are far too long to list.
A triangle signals a single extended note from the violins that blend quietly with flutes setting a mood for the Main Title. A majestic horn announces a fanfare which quickly turns to disturbing dissonance as the other horns contribute along with off key strings. The impending doom has been set for this disaster picture. The noise is structured as the single string note ends the track. This very well thought out track is one that I had to listen to multiple times before I understood the complexity of what Kraft was saying with his music. Nick and Caroline is a small chamber ensemble that features a dialogue between flute and clarinet which is highlighted by strings. The theme from the flute and clarinet is somewhat familiar to what we heard in the opening cue. Tina’s Hysteria sounds like the orchestra is warming relaying the out of control character of Tina. While Sleigh Ride will never make your holiday compilation CD it is a sprightly offering with happy uplifting strings, flutter from the flutes and harmony supplied by the woodwinds. This is one of the tracks that are accessible and easy on the ears to listen to. Kathy’s Sequence (Skating) repeats the Caroline/Main Title theme but has more drama with Bernstein style strings and danger horns lurking in the background. Bruce and Annette (Jazz) is structured style jazz that has a catchy theme introduced by a piano that shares the melody with the woodwind section. It is nicely supported by the percussion. The cue leads to brass riffs harmonizing the theme nicely. The track ends with flute, bass, and piano as it begin. As I listened to this nice track my mind drifted to thoughts of Lalo Schifrin.
Annette’s Sequence (Skating) is quiet classical with frantic strings whirling around trying to decide where to land. There is a conversation between the strings and the flutes. The End Credit offers first the main theme and then the same horns and string motif you hear in the first track. Included on this release are two additional never heard before cues Snow Storm and Bruce Tries To Outrace the Avalanche both rather dissonant and disturbing? There are also 5 similar sounding alternate/short versions included.
This was a score that required several listens before I began to understand Kraft. There is a lot of texture and the dissonance parts are quite structured. It is worth having in your collection as this might be your only Kraft release.
1. Main Title (03:02)
2. To The Rescue (03:13)
3. Nick And Caroline (02:11)
4. Tina’s Hysteria (00:35)
5. The Aftermath (02:07)
6. Bruce Skiing / First Avalanche (01:47)
7. Sleigh Ride (01:23)
8. Burning Ambulance / Rescue (00:52)
9. Snowmobile Race (01:46)
10. Kathy’s Sequence (Skating) (02:37)
11. Bruce And Annette (Jazz) (02:55)
12. The Avalanche (02:51)
13. Mother Collapses / Henry Digs Out (02:50)
14. Death Of Mark (02:42)
15. Annette’s Sequence (Skating) (01:16)
16. End Credits (02:46)
Avalanche Outtake Suite (Mono)
17. Sleigh Ride (Short Version)
18. Nick And Caroline (Alternate version)
19. Snow Storm
20. Bruce Tries to Outrace the Avalanche / Avalanche (Alternate version)
21. Snowbound / To The Rescue (Alternate version)
22. Annette’s Sequence (Short Version)
Total Duration: 00:48:04
William Kraft conducts the National Philharmonic Orchestra of London
May 9, 2012
I like the fact that Hartswood Films is limiting the number of episodes to three per season. You don’t grow tired of the main characters and I for one am already looking forward to season three! This isn’t the Holmes your use to seeing at all but a modern day creation that is more in the style of a Batman/Harry Potter character. He doesn’t smoke a pipe and is a young dashing figure who will win your heart over after watching one episode.
“Irene’s Theme” starts off the new season with a wonderful solo on the violin that is far too short. It is a new theme to the series that hopefully will continue to be used in some way. A haunting melody you won’t forget. “Potential Clients” offers a very subtle variation on the main theme but you have to listen carefully for it as it is masked with Latin percussion and mandolin dominating much of the track. “Status Symbols” begins with a lush romantic moment followed by the Sherlock theme which turns into a pulsating version quite the modern sound. “The Woman” is rather quiet underscore. “Dark Times” makes strong use of the synthesizer electronics as does “Smoke Alarm” which is backed by frantic strings. “SHERlocked” the final scandal cue is a yearning one which builds to a climax followed by delicate harp and piano in a quiet section. It builds to a second climax and quietly ends with the violin theme in the background. “Pursued by a Hound” is the first cue of the Hounds of Baskervilles and is appropriate music for a chase sequence. “The Village” more underscore offers a creepy soundtrack with dissonant synthesizer. “Double Room” offers another dose of quirky underscore with the composers making subtle references to the Sherlock theme. “Deeper into Baskerville” uses special effects, and features unusual sounds with the Sherlock theme in the background. “To Dartmoor” offers a subdued version of the main theme and quickly changes to reference the Sherlock theme before turning into a tension filled track performed by the urgent strings. “The Lab” fills the ears with a steady pulsating from the strings that turns into the piano referencing the main title. The dissonance becomes quite apparent and the tension mounts to a conclusion. “Mind Palace and Solution” the final Baskerville cue builds to a climax and slowly dies away. “Grimm Fairy Tales” the first of five tracks for the third and final episode of season two Reichenbach Fall is a tense one with references to the Sherlock theme but overall quiet and creepy with interesting use of the mandolin. “Prepared to do Anything” is classic tense underscore with references to the main theme and urgent strings that build to an incredible crescendo. “Blood on the Payment” is underscore for the supposed death of Sherlock Holmes and is morbid solemn underscore. “One More Miracle” is the final cue on the CD and offers the piano playing the main theme with sad strings in the background. It ends with an upbeat offering of the Sherlock theme and we can now wait for season no. 3 to unfold.
This release from Silva is a positive addition to the material previously released on their release. Definitely a step above much of the material offered for television.
1. Irene’s Theme (00:42)
2. Potential Clients (01:57)
3. Status Symbols (02:33)
4. The Woman (02:31)
5. Dark Times (02:16)
6. Smoke Alarm (03:01)
7. SHERlocked (03:44)
8. Pursued By A Hound (01:46)
9. The Village (02:30)
10. Double Room (02:21)
11. Deeper Into Baskerville (02:44)
12. To Dartmoor (03:11)
13. The Lab (03:40)
14. Mind Palace And Solution (02:05)
15. Grimm Fairy Tales (03:12)
16. Deduction And Deception (02:45)
17. Prepared To Do Anything (04:18)
18. Blood On The Pavement (02:07)
19. One More Miracle (02:08)
Total Duration: 00:49:31
To those who have a good knowledge of soundtrack material the name Eugene Zador (1894-1977) is a familiar one as he spent 20+ years as the chief orchestrator (89 films) to fellow Hungarian Miklos Rozsa. Immigrating to the United States like Waxman, Korngold, and other Europeans he seemed to have found an excellent relationship with Miklos. Unlike Hugo Friedhofer, another famous orchestrator for Korngold and Steiner, he did little original soundtrack composing but did spend time on classical works and he composed some excellent material, relatively unknown until this new release from Naxos, champion of the little known composers. Hopefully this release will alleviate the situation.
Aria and Allegro for Strings and Brass got its premiere in Los Angeles in 1967 and was well received. A couple of years later performances by the Utah Symphony/Abravanel enforced the popularity of this fine example of neo-classical composition as called it novel among other adjectives. The first movement features a horn fanfare which is nicely counterpointed by the strings. A somewhat complex fugue follows in the second movement but still arranged and orchestrated to give the ear nice accessibility.
Five Contrasts for Orchestra was first performed in 1965 by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The opening “Introduction” is one that would certainly fit into a film noir situation and the sound makes one recall Rozsa. The horns quietly open the movement with a mellow fanfare theme ominously backed by lower register strings. It quickly changes to jagged staccato strings which call back and forth to one another. It continues with swirling strings and bold brass statements and ends quietly as it began. The second section called Autumn Pastorale has a delicate oriental flavor of flute and harp mixed with a yearning harmony from the strings. The mixture is truly contrasting in styles as east meets west. Phantasy, the third movement, begins with first dissonant type piano chords followed by a solo trumpet which gives way to distorted fanfare from the brass. This dance is a mocking one of the dead. The Scherzo is full of spirit and Zador has fun with the accordion and bassoon. The finale is a fugue filled with melodies and counterpoint and a fitting end to this wonderful study in styles.
A Children’s Symphony is written in a traditional four movement style it was first performed in New Orleans in 1941 and begins with a very classical style with the strings evoking a happy and uplifting mood well supported by woodwinds and brass. It leads to more peace and serenity with the clarinet offering a melody backed by a hint of the orient from the flutes and woodwinds. The middle section offers some tension and turmoil but in the end the melody from the beginning returns. Another great example of an easy accessible movement is the march beat from a single snare drum with a solo trumpet leading the orchestra with a melody and response being given back by different orchestral combinations. There is a laughing playful section with the tuba and bassoon calling to each other. The movement ends as it began. “The Farm” takes one through a day on the farm. Zador uses the public domain tune It’s Raining, It’s Pouring while we hear geese, cows, and chickens all to an Americana scene reminding one of Copland. He ends the work by returning the prelude of the opening movement for closing. Overall this is a very nice introduction to classical music for children.
Hungarian Capriccio got its first performance in 1935 in Budapest and offers a free moving piece that the listener doesn’t know which direction it’s going to turn. Beginning as a symphonic movement it is quickly off course with swirling strings, brass, and woodwinds offering multiple motifs and tempos.
Csardas Rhapsody was composed in 1939 and performed in New York the following year. The clarinet begins with a slinky introduction offering a sharp contrast between it and the harp. The dance turns into a playful cheery situation similar to his “Children’s Symphony.” It ends with a wonderful gypsy dance which becomes quite frantic ending with climaxes!
While the hours of Rozsa listening has made me quite aware of Zador, this CD furthers enhances my opinion of how talented an orchestrator he had. Mariusz Smolij conducts the Budapest Symphony in a spirited performance. It sounds like their quite familiar with his material. Take a chance and you won’t be disappointed.
Aria and Allegro for Strings and Brass:
1… Aria (Andantino) (3:14)
2… Allegro (7:21)
Five Contrasts for Orchestra
3… Introduction (3:26)
4… Autumn Pastorale (3:59)
5… Phantasy (3:50)
6… Scherzo rustico (3:58)
7… Finale: Fugue (4:31)
A Children’s Symphony
8… Allegro moderato (con spirit) (3:17)
9… Fairy Tale (4:09)
10.Scherzo militaire (2:44)
11. The Farm (6:32)
12. Hungarian Capriccio (9:41)
13. Csaridas Rhapsody (9:20)
Total Time is 66:49