Things To Come (1936)/Bliss

February 26, 2013

things to come

The story behind the making of the “Things To Come” is almost as interesting as the music itself. Did you know that there are some people and critics who consider this score to the be the greatest of all time? Arthur Bliss (1891-1975), was handpicked by Alexander Korda (producer) and H.G. Wells to do it producing a score of 45 minutes along with 30 minutes being recorded on 10 shellac LPs. Gratefully 8 of the 10 LPs were available in pristine condition but two containing the rebuilding and idyll movements were lost (shellac records break easily). This has made it much easier for Philip Lane’s reconstructions. Because Bliss was not interested in rewrites Korda hired L. Salter to rework based on the new editing and he butchered the score so badly that people who had heard the original performance on Sept. 12th 1935 didn’t recognize it! The thirty minute score that Lane produced for this recording is how Bliss envisioned it to be played.

The film produced by Alexander Korda was a high production one starring Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, and Cedric Hardwicke. Both the novel and screenplay were done by H.G. Wells and the film was directed by William Menzies. Early science fiction the story dealt with a destructive war forcing people underground and the eventual rebuilding met with opposition.

The premiere recording of the concert music from the film, 30+ minutes in length begins with a “Prologue” which I’ve included as an audio clip to you give you a feel for the style of music being presented.prologue things to come  It is majestic in nature but has an air of darkness to it and the overall track is on the depressing side. “Ballet for Children” is 180 degrees from the “Prologue” offering a bright uplifting theme where one can envision children playing. There is a bright fanfare from the trumpets which introduce the entire brass section. “March” has a marching band flavor to it with the brass offering the theme and the percussion providing a nice background. “Attack” is a typical sounding war track depicting the struggle back and forth. “The World in Ruins,” a favorite track of mine, features the wind section of the orchestra with the strings answering the deathly calls they make. “Pestilence” presents more despair with woodwinds similar to ruins. “Excavation” sets the mood with metal clanging depicting the excavating going on with the brass leading the orchestra. “Machines” is a short cue giving us staccato type music with the strings in harmony along with the ever present timpani at a steady beat. Action is the best word to describe “Attack on the Moon Gun,” as the brass expresses a sense of urgency. The final track “Epilogue” is a summary with first majestic patriotic songs giving some ray of hope that all will be well and we have learned a hard lesson.

No worries as far as the recording and mastering are concerned as Chandos offers top notch in both areas. This 31 minute suite seems to be the one to choose as far as amount of material is concerned.

2.

Prologue (02:31)
“Things to Come”

3.

Ballet for Children (03:38)
“Things to Come”

4.

March (03:37)
“Things to Come”

5.

Attack (01:53)
“Things to Come”

6.

The World in Ruins (02:40)
“Things to Come”

7.

Pestilence (02:52)
“Things to Come”

8.

Excavation (01:53)
“Things to Come”

9.

The Building of the New World (02:15)
“Things to Come”

10.

Machines (01:26)
“Things to Come”

11.

Attack on the Moon Gun (01:18)
“Things to Come”

12.

Epilogue (07:33)
“Things to Come”

Total time is 31:58

Chandos CD# 9896

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Hot Spell/North

February 21, 2013

hotspell

KRITZERLAND KR20023-6

Hot Spell (1958) was ½ of a new Kritzerland release #KR 20023-6 starring Shirley Booth, Shirley MacLaine, and Earl Holliman. Directed by Daniel Mann the Lonnie Coleman novel dealt with a dysfunctional family in the south. Having seen the film it is rather tame by today’s standards but in the 50’s this was rather risqué. The soundtrack assignment was handled by Alex North and he was right at home with the story material having composed two Oscar nominated films Death of A Salesman and Streetcar Named Desire.

North developed a unique sound that had its roots in the west coast jazz a cool laid back style, quite the contrast to the frantic sound of the east coast. The “Main Title” is immediately brass driven with a wa-wa from trombones, biting almost ear piercing trumpets, and a swaggering beat from the percussion. The material switches to the strings which offer the main melody with harmony being provided by a sax. There is a pause and an almost childlike second melody is offered. Both of these themes you’ll hear throughout the soundtrack. I’ve included an audio clip.  hot spell maintitle “The Lonely Woman,” sets the mood with the reed section (oboe and bassoon) along with a well placed violin solo offering a third melody. The track makes a reference to the main melody with variations before it reverts back to the second melody. “We Never Close” is trumpet driven with excellent harmony from the saxophones. It is the perfect background music for a bar/nightclub scene. “Jack Leaves” is quite melodramatic, material that is meant to pull at your heart strings. While tonal it doesn’t prominently feature a melody although if you listen to this track carefully you’ll hear themes coming in and out of the track. “End Title” (original) ends the material on a happy note with a carousel type arrangement of the main title in a happy upbeat version.

The source for this material is mono and I would classify it as archival material meaning it isn’t perfect and you’ll hear a bit of wow and flutter on a small portion of the material. For this reviewer I’m happy to see more Alex North music being introduced, especially in his jazz style.

Track listing

1.

Main Title

2.

Happy Birthday

3.

Reminiscence Theme

4.

The Lonely Woman

5.

We Never Close

6.

The Truth Hurts

7.

The Awful Truth/The Late Comer

8.

Jack Leaves

9.

Alma’s Story/Goodbye Jack

10.

News About Jack

11.

Memories Fade

12.

End Title*

13.

End Title (original) Composed and Conducted by Alex North
*Composed by Alex North,
Conducted by Irvin Talbot

Tracks 1-13 – from Hot Spell

The Matchmaker (1958)/Deutsch

February 19, 2013

matchmaker (1)

This film began as a play in 1835 when it was called A Day Well Spent written by John Oxenford. In 1954 Thorton Wilder reworked the material and it ran on Broadway for nearly 500 performances under the new name The Matchmaker. Three years later Paramount released the film starring Shirley MacLaine, Anthony Perkins, Shirley Booth, and Paul Ford. After making that movie it was further reworked again and really became a success under the new title Hello Dolly.

 

Directed by Joseph Anthony The Matchmaker was a light fluffy comedy about you guessed it matchmaking and the Adolph Deutsch score didn’t disappoint music wise turning in an appropriate sounding score. My first experience with Deutsch was the Marco Polo/Naxos release of his material. For a time I became obsessed with the Maltese Falcon soundtrack. This CD is still available in the market place for under $10 and would give you an introduction to some of his early writing for Warner Brothers where he informally held the position of ‘B’ writer taking films that Steiner and Korngold weren’t interested in.

 

The “Main Title”, which I’ve included as an audio clip main title matchmaker begins with a lively upbeat waltz that brings visions of a huge ballroom filled with dancers. Just when you’re settled in the tempo and melody change to a modern sounding romantic theme. It further changes again offering a third melody before it returns to the Viennese style sound. “Soliloquy” is a lovely harpsichord offering the two themes from the “Main Title.” “Soliloquy No.2/No. 3 offers the main theme, again on the harpsichord, with a trumpet playing “Here Comes the Bride” in the background. The overall flavor of the soundtrack is a mixture of European romantic, polka parts for a lot of fun, and topped off with Hollywood type music very typical of the 50’s era, the kind of material Previn, Duning, Hefti, and Scharf would write.

 

The majority of the material is mono that was mastered to give the best possible quality. It won’t awards for clarity and background noise but like so many that Kimmel has introduced to the market I put them in the classification of archival material. In addition, there are four stereo cues which are a real improvement in high fidelity. “Van’s Store” is a good example as the tuba comes through crystal clear from your speakers.

 

As a single soundtrack purchase it would be hard to justify paying $20.00 for The Matchmaker but Kimmel has nicely packaged another soundtrack Hot Spell with the tie in of sorts being Shirley Booth and Shirley MacLaine appeared in both films. Hot Spell, composed by Alex North will be reviewed separately. Now both soundtracks are well worth $20.00 and should be considered for your collect.

 

14.

Prelude (Main Title)

15.

Soliloquy No. 1 (Mrs. Levi)/Van’s Store/Trap Door

16.

Soliloquy No. 2 (The Barber)/ Soliloquy No. 3 (I’ll Give You a Good Day)/ Bloomers

17.

Close to His Heart/No Time Off/Chief Clerk/ Hot Tomatoes

18.

The Matchmaker Polka

19.

Flirtation

20.

Bad Weather/Run For Cover

21.

Quick Disguise/In Hiding/Soliloquy No. 4

22.

Mrs. Levi’s Discovery/No Room for Sneezes

23.

The Yonkers Polka

24.

A Note to Irene/We Walk to Yonkers

25.

Discord in Harmonia Gardens

26.

Love and Spirits/Soliloquy No. 6

27.

Something Rotten in Yonkers

28.

The Proposal/Finale

Tracks 14-28 from The Matchmaker

29.

Van’s Store/Trap Door

30.

Soliloquy No. 3

31.

Run for Cover/Quick Disguise/The Yonkers Polka

32.

We Walk To Yonkers/Finale (alternate)

Tracks 29-32 – The Matchmaker – The Stereo Cues

 

Orchestral Suites/Shebalin

February 16, 2013

 

Shebalin

Did you know that Shostakovich dedicated his 2nd String Quartet to Vissarion Shebalin? I hadn’t heard of the man until I received a recent release from Toccata Classics through their USA distributor Naxos of America. Founded in 2007 by Martin Anderson, the business plan of the company was releasing obscure, neglected, and material for the first time. Such was the case with Shebalin’s two orchestral suites as neither had been available on CD.

 

Born in Omsk Siberia Shebalin (1902-1963) became a student of Gliere, Myaskovsky, and Shostakovich. Having read the liner notes prior to my first listen, with the background Vissarion had I knew I was going to like this material and I wasn’t disappointed.

 

ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO. 1 (1934-1936) revised in 1962

 

 

1… “Funeral March” A fanfare from the brass with snare drums leads to a funeral march, very somber, with heroic statements from the brass, a somber beginning to a dance/theater suite.

2… “Dance” is an upbeat somewhat jazzy cue with distinct staccato and a saxophone leading the way in the arrangement somewhat in the same vein that Shostakovich might do. Definitely the overall theme is one for the theater.

3… The Slow Waltz features a slithering clarinet which integrates itself with the orchestra which offers string work, solo violin in a harmonic sound not unlike Prokofiev and Shostakovich. I found that my best listen was through the headphones as the dynamic range on this cue was quite a little bit lower and I had to strain to hear the material over my normal ambient noise in my listening environment.

4… “Dance” returns to the jazzy style with sliding trombone, clarinet, flute, and the return of the saxophone once again.

5… Song begins with a mourning oboe which builds to a tutti and returns to the oboe still mourning but with strings offering a harmonic contrast.

6… “Waltz” is an upbeat one giving the listener gaiety and a feeling of better days. A very richly orchestrated movement that features the entire symphony it ends with another full tutti and concludes in rousing fashion.

ORCHESTRAL SUITE, OP. 22 (1962)

1… “Waltz” begins in grand ballroom style with a melody from the string section which harmony from the brass which complements the thematic material.

2… “Tarantella” is a lively dance with a fast tempo. It swirls with bold statements from the brass and a very persuasive percussion line.

3… “Slow Waltz” starts with a lonely bassoon and the melody is taken over by the reed section in a very slow tempo. A solo violin makes a statement which the clarinet becomes a part of.

4… “Bolero” adds a bit of Spanish flavor with strong percussion to the different dance styles that Shebalin wrote for this theater type suite.

5… “Romantic Waltz” is similar in style and tempo to the slow waltz with an emphasis being placed on the string section

6… “Potpourri” is a combination of different styles and tempos ranging from circus music to quiet passages. There is an interesting trumpet fanfare at the end of the track.

 

7… “Romance without Words is a lovely melody featuring bassoon and clarinet to begin with followed by sweet serene strings.

8… ”Galop” is a wonderful way to end the suite with a lively almost frantic at some points with the entire orchestra participating.

If you’re like me and willing to experiment a bit Shebalin, who might be new to you, is a nice blend of several different styles of dances and tempos.

ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO. 1 OP. 18

1… Funeral March (5:18)

2… Dance (4:28)

3… Slow Waltz (5:07)

4… Dance (3:36)

5… Song (6:04)

6… Waltz (6:27)

ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO. 2 (Op. 22)

7… Waltz (3:50)

8… Tarantella (3:07)

9… Slow Waltz (3:34)

10… Bolero (2:00)

11. Romantic Waltz (3:40)

12. Romance Without Words (7:35)

13. Galop (4:59)

 

Total Time is 62:19

 

 

 

 

First Love/Barry

February 1, 2013

 

first love

FIRST LOVE was a film that came and left the theater and completely escaped my attention. Reading the Jeff Bond liner notes while having my first listen I quickly discovered that this John Barry soundtrack was a rejected one for the most part with only eight minutes being used and no credit being given Barry by the composer’s choice. Sibelius (Karelia Suite), Cat Stevens, and Paul Williams were substituted and the Barry material which had already been recorded found its way to the storage room at Paramount.

The younger generation soap opera starred William Katt (Carrie), Susan Dey (Partridge Family) and was directed by Joan Darling, something Paramount took advantage of as she was the only female directing a motion picture at the time.

“The Main Title” is a very lush Barry theme, a signature in the first few bars that there was only one composer who could have done this. It uses a synthesizer that simulates the sound of a gull or dolphin to give it a sound of serenity and peacefulness.  It switches styles part way through and an electric guitar and trumpet are featured before it settles back into the romantic interlude. The revised version, a bonus track, eliminates the guitar and trumpet but features a harpsichord as harmony layered against the main theme. I certainly prefer this version as the synthesizer is gone and while I like the theme I found it somewhat annoying. “Elgin’s Room” and “The Hallway” are upbeat, uplifting, jazzy, featuring the saxophone of Gene Cipriano, who is allowed to wail off some improvisational riffs. It gives the impression of music from a sleazy nightclub where an exotic lady is pole dancing. It is a commonplace sound from the 70’s. “The Restaurant” is a classical acoustical guitar underscore you would hear in an upscale eating place. The melody is subtle but the playing is excellent as his chords nicely meld into the performance and when it ends the music has put you into a relaxed mood. The same serenity comes across with “The Piano Source” which sounds like an exercise in how to play a sonata. “The Big Love Scene (original version” is my choice between the two offerings on this CD. The harpsichord is more prominent and compliments the flute as the main theme is played out on a seven minute cue. This cue alone is worth the price of the CD to John Barry fans as it fills a hole in their collection that they didn’t know they had. The concluding cue is from a string quartet from Mozart and ends the nearly one hour CD.

As explained in the liner notes there was a bit of engineering done to achieve a truer sounding stereo mix to this Dolby mono recording. Jeff Bond, a good liner note writer, explains what had to be done. Being a John Barry enthusiast I found this CD to be a satisfying experience. Remember that limited edition means it will sell out at some point so act sooner rather than later.


Track listing

1.

Main Title (04:03)

2.

Elgin’s Room (03:55)

3.

No Coffee / Enjoy the Book (01:14)

4.

Dante’s Theme (01:15)

5.

The Big Love Scene (07:26)

6.

The First Time (01:37)

7.

The Hallway (05:03)

8.

Two on a Bike (00:44)

9.

Soccer Game (02:38)

10.

Caroline’s Note (01:36)

11.

Model House (01:06)

12.

Shelley Waits (02:16)

13.

Wait Till It Happens / I’m Shelley (02:02)

14.

Interchange / Night Intruder (01:20)

15.

The Train (01:55)

16.

End Credits (01:13) Total Time: 39:22

BONUS TRACKS

17.

Main Title (revised) (03:59)

18.

The Big Love Scene (original version) (07:35)

19.

End Credits (original version) (00:31)

20.

The Restaurant (03:07)

21.

Piano Source (01:14)

22.

String Quintet No. 5 in D Major, K. 593 (Mozart) (01:55)Total Time: 18:18