March 19, 2013
Gershwin and Shostakovich weren’t the only composers in the 20th Century who could write in the symphonic jazz genre. Let’s add the name of Duke Ellington (1899-1974) to the list whose compositions compiled by Naxos on this CD reveal some of the best American compositions ever in the genre. Ellington was quite taken with the American folksongs and incorporated symphonic, jazz, and his roots from Harlem in a wide range of subject material ranging from Harlem night life, to the river, to religious material, to the war effort, quite an achievement whose name is also associated with some of the best swing band material ever. He was certainly quite the versatile talent.
HARLEM (1950): Sub-titled A Tone Parallel to Harlem is a raucous, bluesy, depiction of the night life in the center of jazz in New York “The Cotton Club” in Harlem. The suite is filled with wonderful brass statements from trumpets and trombones, a pulse pounding percussion solo, sax solos, all mixed together with ample support from the strings and reeds. Listen for a reference to the ‘A’ Train. The fourteen minute work arranged by Maurice Peress passes very quickly. If you like your jazz on the loud side this will certainly fit the bill.
BLACK, BROWN, AND BEIGE-SUITE (1943): tells the story of the Negro and his religious beliefs, his participation in war, and the gin mills and lonely life of the single drinker. Black is somewhat built around the tune Come Sunday and features some nice brass work. Brown incorporates some of the classic Americana tunes such as “Swanee River,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “The Girl I Left Behind” in a somber setting. Beige offers some really loud brass statements as it makes reference to the Charleston as well as returning to restate the theme from Black.
THREE BLACK KINGS (1943):
Completed by his son after his death, the ballet of three parts each representing a king (Balthazar, Solomon, and Martin Luther) offers three different styles of music. The first movement features the xylophone quickly followed by bongos, drums, piano, strings and finally brass which is repeated with intervals of lush strings and brass intertwined. Solomon begins with a romantic violin and harp followed by an oboe offering before tempo and style change to a big band dance style with smooth brass and woodwinds complimented by pizzicato from the strings. A nice alto sax solo from Sal Andolina adds to the movement nicely. Martin Luther King, the final movement, depicts a dirge written in a bluesy style with clarinet taking front and center. The brass also takes their turn with wonderful harmony that enhances Andolina’s exquisite solo.
THE RIVER-SUITE (1970): Orchestrated by Ron Collier the five movement suite begins with the oboe in a tranquil style complemented by flute and harp. “The Meander” begins quiet enough but quickly turns into a bluesy swaggering type of jazz before ending as it began with the flute. “The Giggling Rapids” begins with solo piano as many Ellington compositions but it isn’t long before the brass take over in a raucous style offering the melody as well as wonderful harmony. The brass section of the Buffalo Philharmonic really shines on this track. I’m including an audio clip to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. giggling rapids “The Lake” begins quietly begins with the oboe and clarinet depicting the sound of a slow moving tranquil setting. “The River,” the finale is a rockem sockem that builds to a climax that will bring the house down and then ends quietly as it began.
TAKE THE ‘A’ TRAIN (1939): I’ve had the privilege of hearing many versions of this ever popular tune (still sounds fresh) but this six minute version is right at the top of my favorites with Lalo Schifrin, Erich Kunzel, and the Boston Pops. There are some nice riffs from the sax, trumpet, fiddle, and drums. I like how the arrangement ends with a statement from all the soloists, nice touch.
This recording comes with my highest recommendation and should be a part of your collection.
JoAnn Falletta conducts the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
1… Harlem (14:27)
Black, Brown, and Beige-Suite
2… Black (8:25)
3… Brown (5:26)
4… Beige (4:38)
Three Black Kings-Ballet
5… King of the Magi (4:44)
6… King Solomon (6:27)
7… Martin Luther King (6:59)
8… The Spring (3:30)
9… The Meander (3:57)
10. The Giggling Rapids (3:00)
11. The Lake (7:18)
12. The River (3:19)
13. Take the ‘A’ Train (6:19)
Total Time is 78:30
March 17, 2013
With the modest success of their first release of Zador material
Naxos has introduced a second volume of Zador using the same orchestra and conductor with nothing short of spectacular results.
Did you know that when Rozsa signed his contract with MGM Eugene Zador (1894-1977) as his orchestrator was part of the deal? Zador worked for many years for Rozsa (1941-1963) and orchestrated Oscar and Oscar nominated films putting him in an elite class with names like Friedhofer. Unlike Friedhofer Zador did very little composing for films but concentrated on his own classical material writing music in a ‘Hungarian’ style as well as neo-classical. His writing is very tonal making it easy to listen to but his understanding of counterpoint gives the music so much more if you want to listen on a deeper level.
Elegie and Dance (1954) begins with a solo flute but quickly changes to a yearning mood offering chords that will remind you of noir film music from Rozsa. The flute continues with its fluttering but now seems to be in conflict with the mood of the piece. The track ends with the clarinet replacing the flute and a statement from the brass. The dance portion begins with majestic staccato chords from the brass which are complemented nicely by the strings creating nice counterpoint. The dance relates a sense of urgency and could be considered an active somewhat urgent composition. I’m including the elegie as an audio track to give you a sampling of what Zador has to offer. elegie zador
Oboe Concerto (1975), a favorite instrument of mine is nicely represented on this relatively short concerto in the ABA form with the third movement continuing the development of the first allegro. Sandwiched in between is a mournful sounding andante. The soloist Laszlo Hadady seemed right at home with this work and the recording is crystal clear with no hint of any distortion.
Divertimento for Strings (1954) was written for the world famous La Jolla music festival (near San Diego) this is another work that has a definite sound of Rozsa. The beginning of the work could have easily been written for a jovial frolicking part of “Ivanhoe,” while other parts have that noir feel that Rozsa brought to the screen in several different movies. Like the oboe concerto the andante is sandwiched with two energetic movements.
Studies for Orchestra (1969) were considered by Zador to be his finest work and could have easily been called contrasts for orchestra as the eight movements consist of many styles of orchestration that would have made Rimsky-Korsakov proud. Each idea is a different tempo and style including Scherzo, Capriccioso, Fantasy, Jazz, and Rhapsody. As an example the seventh movement begins ppp rises to fff and then becomes a mirror as the notes are played backwards. My favorite of the studies was the symphonic jazz piece which made excellent use of the trombone, an instrument I played for many years. It had a sound not unlike Shostakovich or Prokofiev yet his own style comes through crystal clear. The liner notes written by Frank DeWald include an explanation by Zador of the work itself.
If you’re interested in the works of Rozsa, both classical and film, this will be a welcome addition to your library. The Budapest Symphony is right at home with this material as the notes flow seamlessly.
Budapest Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mariusz Smolij
Oboe soloist is Laszlo Hadady
Elegie and Dance
1… Elegie (7:27)
2… Dance (5:13)
3… Allegro (3:44)
4… Andante (4:48)
5… Allegro (3:58)
Divertimento for Strings
6… Allegro moderato (6:37)
7… Andantino (5:06)
8… Moderato energico (5:05)
Studies for Orchestra
9… Prelude (2:36)
10.Slow Phantasy (2:54)
Total Time 68:21
March 5, 2013
How many films have been made about the Conan A. Doyle characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? Well over 200 and continuing to grow as this review is being written. This film comes from Hungary and deals with two youngsters who pretend to be Holmes and Watson and solve the mystery of disappearing children who act strangely when they come back, like “Children of the Damned” only the parents don’t notice the changes only the kids. It is a fun time for all ages.
My first experience with composer Robert Gulya was with his score to “Atom Nine Adventures” a Bruce Broughton type action/fantasy score. For those who are interested, Gulya has a website with quite a few clips to introduce you to his style of music. http://www.robertgulya.com/
Gulya nicely captures the essence of Holmes in “Main Title,” with a catchy melody featuring a delicious violin solo by Gergely Kuklis, concertmaster of the Hungarian National Symphonic Orchestra. The recording and mixing of the samples truly gives the feeling that it was recorded with an orchestra. This theme you’ll hear all or part of throughout the soundtrack and would be a welcome addition to a compilation CD. I’m including this track as an audio clip so you can get the feel for the CD. in the name of sherlock holmes The opening track “Goldi” introduces a melody with clever use of the bassoon and percussion. Along with the strings repeating the “Main Title” in “120 Doorsteps” there is also use of the bassoon again. “Kettesben jo,” performed by Fool Moon” seems out of place as it’s a pop song sung in Hungarian and I’m sure it’s enjoyed by the younger set. “It’s A Bad Dream” is a bit on the creepy side with dissonant brass and chorus. Featured are the lower register strings as they suddenly break out into that catchy “Main Title.” “Someone’s Coming” is yet another melody with a Thomas Newman sound to it.
Well recorded and mixed samples help to take away that synthy sound you so often hear in lower budgets scores. It is a limited of only 500 units so it is better to act sooner than later as it will sell out. Gulya musically has something to say on this soundtrack and that is not afraid to use melodies. Yes there is some landscape music but overall the soundtrack is filled with melodies as well as offering a variety of styles.
Total Duration: 00:59:17
March 2, 2013
Abandoned for five years in a shack in a desolate area Victoria and Lilly are found by their Uncle and returned to civilization. The question is were they really alone in that cabin? An excellent Guillermo del Toro film that deals with the spirits and supernatural it stars Jessica Chastain, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelissa, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldu. Directed by Andres Muschietti, who also contributed to the screenplay, Fernando Velazquez produced a fine but somewhat complex score for the movie. He seemed to be right at home in the horror genre having done del Toro’s “Pan Labyrinth” in 2006.
According to the sparse liner notes written by director Andy Muschietti the goal of the score was to achieve total polar differences in the music. The living and the dead, the innocent and sinister, and the earthly and the unknown are all well represented in the soundtrack. “The Car and the Radio” (I’ve included this as an audio clip)mama begins the musical journey with a long continuous note from the lower register strings a prelude to the distorted harmonics of the strings. It continues with the idea adding a sense or running or urgency from the string section. “The Encounter and Main Title” continue the theme and then a change. The strings switch to a major key and there are children singing wordless in the background. “Helvetia” in its own way sums up some of the ideas of the soundtrack. The 7+ minute cue begins rather quiet and tranquil but not for long. Tremolos, from the strings, give off the warning that this music is going to be loud with loud bars of horns and the sound of a thunderstorm going on. If there is somewhat of a comforting cue “A New Home” fits the bill. While it is certainly not warm and fuzzy the strings show a bit of warmth and there is a flute line. Another quiet track is “Good Night” which offers a piano, solo violin, and cello playing against a layer of strings. “Mama Fight” slowly builds the tension and you just know that something bad is going to happen. If you like horror tracks this is a good one and not to be missed.
Velazquez did his homework on this one and gives us material that others are striving to achieve. Sound quality is top notch from the engineering and The Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. People that have already seen the movie have asked me if I was going to review material. Here it is there is no limited edition status and I recommend it.
Total Duration: 01:04:06