April 27, 2013
SILVA SILCD 1421
Entering the wonderful world of film music with the score to the independent movie The Weekend (1999) starring Brooke Shields and Gena Rowlands lead to her discovery by the 5th Beatle Sir George Martin, who quickly began producing her material and vaulted her into stardom to the point where she is in high demand. Her ethereal side, which is quite necessary in the world of documentary soundtracks, is balanced with sounds of slide and Spanish guitar, percussion, and strong brass when called for. It is the harp which first got my attention on this Richard Attenborough 6 part series on Africa for BBC Earth. Sarah has taken her place alongside of Gunning, North, and Barry who has produced must have scores about Africa for your collection.
Class has written a score that is as varied as the weather and animals of Africa itself. Just when you’re settled in with the soft strings, quiet piano, and delicate harp the music will do a 180 on you and open your sleepy eyelids. “Mystery Path” begins very quiet and peaceful with wordless choir in the background, harp, and percussion that compliments the track. Suddenly the style switches to a comical motif style from a silent film with a bassoon offering the melody. “Giraffe vs. Giraffe” with its guitar, pipes, and solo trumpet puts you right in the middle of a Morricone western film. “Beauty of Aguillus Sands” is a proud and majestic theme with ascending major chords that shows the positive side of the desert. “Leopard Mirage” is a mixture of the quiet and the Morricone guitar, the feminine and the masculine sounds blended together. The opening track “Journey of the King Fish” doesn’t sound like anything you would expect from a series on Africa but more like the Barry theme for Out of Africa. Piano and oboe give this track a feeling of sadness. Each track is a story within a story with no thread to tie them all together as is sometimes done with the end credits.
Elizabeth Purnell conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra with orchestrations also by Purnell. This CD will appeal to many age groups and comes with my recommendation.
Total Duration: 01:08:03
April 23, 2013
Franz Waxman (1909-1967), well known Hollywood composer for such films as Sunset Boulevard, Taras Bulba, and Rebecca was also involved in the world of classical music conducting a series of concerts in Los Angeles beginning in 1947, the year he arranged the music of Carmen for violin and orchestra for the film Humoresque (1947) starring Joan Crawford and John Garfield. Originally to be performed by Heifetz it was played by a young Isaac Stern (his hands are photographed for the movie).
Carmen, composed by George Bizet (1838-1875), has turned out to be one of the more successful operas of all time with melodies that fit perfectly into this compilation to showcase some virtuoso violin playing. The orchestration was completed by his close friend Ernest Guiraud who completed the work as instructed by Bizet. Not too long after his Bizet’s death violinist Navascuez wrote a fantasy for violin and orchestra based on themes and often incorrectly given credit for the Waxman arrangement which is the preferred arrangement.
While the recording of choice for many is the RCA CD with Heifetz don’t overlook this new D’Alba release on Warner Brothers with the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire conducted by John Axelrod. Her technique reveals a flawless performance without the showmanship of Heifetz. There is a delicacy, flowing and lightness that Heifetz has failed to find in his recording. The Swiss born D’Alba also includes Porgy and Bess and Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium on her “American Serenade” CD. The other bonus to this CD is the digital recording which seems to have found a good balance between the violin and the orchestra. Each note or phrase is distinct and easy to hear and the yet the orchestra doesn’t seem too distant as I’ve heard on other recordings.
Available as a download on Classics Online or purchase at your store of choice this is one to consider for your collection. I wasn’t disappointed and I’m sure you won’t be either. Recommended
April 8, 2013
I apparently missed this film and if I were to judge from the reviews it was a good thing except for the score from Basil Poledouris (1945-2006) which BSX has made available for the first time out of Asia. This limited edition CD of 2000 units has turned out to be a real sleeper of a score for this reviewer who was instantly surprised from the very first track. Having talked briefly with Mark Banning from BSX he revealed that he was very proud of this release and well he should be.
“Legend of the Touch,” the main melody, is divided into two sections. The beginning introduction from the delicate chords of the harp leads the listener to the melody from the strings and then the flute. There is a hint that it could be from the mysterious orient but nothing pentatonic. In fact there is a chord from the flute that made me conjure up a western film! The second part with the Chinese percussion clearly makes it evident that this takes place in the Orient. It is at a very fast pace and dominates the remainder of the track. The percussion was a mixture of samples (wood blocks, Taiko drums) and live material from some of the traditional percussion such as cymbals, snare drum, and tam-tam. This mixture came through crystal clear on my speakers almost a Dolby like sound except I still use a traditional two speaker system. I’ve included Legend of the Touch as an audio track to give you an idea of the sound.
“The Loveable Thief” had Thomas Newman type harmonic chords in an eerie sounding cue. “Memories of Days Gone” takes the main theme and develops it in a different way as it has a touch of sadness to it. Well played by the China Philharmonic. “Time to Choose opens the gates of a major key as the strings perform music of hope. “The Touch” sung by Kelly Chen in Chinese is very pleasant to the ears as her beautiful voice doesn’t have to resort to loud bursts but loud enough that you don’t have to strain to listen. The violins and percussion nicely complement her voice.
At this time I would have to consider this one as the re-release of the year. It is very well done with informing liner notes from Randall Larson along with the mixing magic of Eric Colvin and the playing of the China Philharmonic. Recommended.
Total Duration: 01:07:22
April 7, 2013
Lately I’ve found that new CD’s seem to arrive with one or more of the plastic teeth that securely hold the CD in place broken. I use to just replace the case with another until I found these centers available for 6 cents each in a pack of 100. I break off the remaining tabs and substitute this self adhesive hub center in its place. For many of you this might be old business but for me it has turned out to be a valuable accessory. I’ve purchased blank CD’s, ink cartridges, labels, and paper sleeves with no problems. A $50.00 order is prepaid.
April 6, 2013
Kritzerland KR 20024-8
Lately Kritzerland has been releasing a lot of Shirley MacLaine movies so much so that maybe Bruce should change his company title? It wasn’t too long ago that he released “Matchmaker” and “Hot Spell” both starring Shirley. Maybe he should change it to the Geisha label as he has released “Geisha Boy,” “The Barbarian and the Geisha,” and now this fine new release “My Geisha.”
A very typical comedy of the 60’s, the plot featured a common theme of fooling the husband by changing her appearance. The score by Franz Waxman blends opera, oriental, and a sweet sounding melody that you’ll hear often while listening to this soundtrack. Waxman was right at home with the classical material as he conducted many world premiere works in his twenty year concert series in Los Angeles.
The CD begins with “Main Title (You Are Sympathy to Me),” not only introducing us to the main theme but a hint of pentatonic to make the listener aware of the oriental tie in and after a fanfare we hear a little bit of the New York sound. Being the consummate professional that Franz Waxman was, this was just a day’s work for the maestro. By the third play in the reviewing process I found myself humming this easy on the ears melody. I’ve included the main title as an audio clip. There is also a demo version that features the song.”Koto Theme,” definitely Japanese sounding is in three parts with the theme being played in all of the sections on Mandolin. There is single string plucking as well as a difficult passage in the last section. “The True Geisha” is another Japanese sounding piece that is underscore with little thematic material to offer the listener. “Geisha House” is also mandolin playing. “Indistinguishable Melody” is a brief melody performed on the accordion. There are four Madama Butterfly tracks, also conducted by Waxman that feature some of the main themes from the Opera as well as a libretto. Also mixed in are some appropriate sounding underscore tracks including “Preparations” does offer a hint of style that sounds like it could be from some of his noir material.
Don’t expect a sound like “Sunset Boulevard” but more of a style you might hear from Duning or Previn. The stereo mastering offers a nice sound, not the archival sound you might hear on other recordings from that era. The CD is a limited recording of 1000 units so act sooner rather than later and add this score to your Waxman collection.
1. Main Title (2:16)
2. Goodbye, Lover (2:25)
3. Arrival in Tokyo (2:05)
4. Pittsburgh Surprise (0:20)
5. Koto Theme (2:08)
6. The Plot/Lucy’s Poster (1:46)
7. The True Geisha (3:21)
8. Preparations (2:21)
9. One Fine Day (from Madama Butterfly) (4:42)
10. Love Duet (from Madama Butterfly) (2:31)
11. You Are Sympathy To Me (3:26)
12. The Real Yoko (2:10)
13. Call Me Paul (2:44)
14. Finale from Madama Butterfly (3:03)
15. Lucy’s Arrival (0:58)
16. Overture to Madama Butterfly (2:10)
17. End Title (0:24)
18. You Are Sympathy to Me (demo) (2:58)
19. Pittsburgh Surprise (alternate) ( 0:20)
20. Geisha House, Part 1 (Yajuro Kineya) (1:26)
21. Indistinguishable Melody (0:39)
22. Call Me Paul (without insert) (2:42)
Total Time is 47:05
Madama Butterfly Composed by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by L. Illica and G. Giacoso
Conducted by Franz Waxman