July 28, 2013
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) seemed to have it all yet his work has never been accepted like so many of his contemporaries. He was a virtuoso pianist who was once paid by Steinway to tour the US at $200.00 per performance/recital, a lot of money at the time. He taught Tchaikovsky, started the St. Petersburg Conservatory, was a prolific writer of over 100 compositions but was a Jew, refused to be bullied into joining the “Mighty Five,” and had a Germanic approach to much of his material.
The main theme (moderato assai) of the first movement is presented by the woodwinds, a bright uplifting one that is repeated by the strings with pizzicato also provided by strings for harmony. This is definitely a Russian theme but it is blended with Rubinstein’s classic Mendelssohn/Germanic style, something which kept him at odds with Balakirev and his group for most of his life. A second theme is introduced by the woodwinds and this one is played as well as the main theme for the rest of the movement. No surprises here just a structurally sound movement.
The Scherzo offers a new theme which is introduced by the clarinet and is passed on to the oboe, flute, and finally violin. A somber second theme is introduced and like the first movement is intertwined with the first theme.
The Andante features a French horn which offers a somber quiet melody with minimal harmony from a trumpet. Strings along with the Oboe continue developing the theme. While a little more subtle in nature it has a Russian nature to it. The movement ends on a quiet note featuring the flute.
The Allegro Vivace is the fourth and final movement and departs from the nationalism of the previous three. The theme is allowed full development with a forte separating the return to the theme. The conclusion is a rousing one and a strong point of the work.
Dimitry Donsky (1850) turned out to be a failed Opera attempt which years later Rimsky-Korsakov referred to as somebody’s Opera. Presented here is the overture twelve minutes in length which is ample time to fully develop the main theme. It begins quietly with the first theme being offered by the clarinet which passes it on to the horns offering nice harmonic chords. It builds in intensity and the strings offer a second theme which is a slower pace but it builds in intensity and tempo. The flute and woodwinds introduce a third theme which is quickly replaced by the second which by now has a strong powerful feel to it. The conclusion is a nice majestic brass driven statement that will get your attention.
Faust (1864) was originally part of a symphony that was never fully published but Rubinstein preserved a single movement of 20 minutes (the prelude) which told the story of Faust. It is a very heavy Wagnerian style work with all instruments being given a workout as the story unfolds. A held brass chord opens the work and the strings offer a somewhat complex melody and this technique is repeated before a second heroic melody is introduced by the brass. The harmony is on the dramatic side and rather heavy in texture. This theme is offered by the woodwinds as it is exchanged. The strings offer another melody which is quite dramatic and urgent in nature. As the movement continues it seems to run the gamut of emotions ranging from a fanfare, a quiet passage that features a bassoon and English Horn, a trombone motif, and backing from the strings. This overall is not an easy listen and your attention must be focused intently on what you’re hearing.
While I can’t say that your collection isn’t complete without this recording I will say that Rubinstein does have something to offer classical music and this is a CD to be explored. One person says that the Faust performance is well worth the cost of the CD. Another person wondered why Naxos decided to re-release this recording from the somewhat defunct Marco Polo division. The orchestra gives a credible performance and the engineering staff nicely recorded the material. Samples of the material are available on Classics Online. This release is available as a download or CD. If you’ve not signed up at Classics Online your entitled to 5 free tracks so the Faust could be included.
Symphony No. 5 in G minor, Op. 107
1… Moderato assai (11.25)
2… Allegro non troppo- Moderato assai (7:29)
3… Andante (9:30)
4… Allegro vivace (11:06)
5… Dmitry Donsky-Overture (12:04)
6… Faust (19.56)
Total Time is 71:30
July 21, 2013
William Kraft will be remembered chiefly as a percussionist/timpanist, having served in this role for 25 years with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is also a conductor, teacher, classical and film composer. He has been commissioned to do work for some of the major symphonies of the world, won numerous awards, and summing it up he has devoted his life to music.
Fire and Ice was an animated film taking place in ancient past times and telling a story of Nekron and his mother who want to conquer the world but are thwarted by Larn and Teegra. Animated by Ralph Bakshi it is considered to be one of the highlights of his career.
Fire and Ice was one of a handful of films that he composed and conducted being presented here by BSX for the first time 30 years after its release. Orchestrated by Angela “Watership Down” Morley the 70 minute score was performed by an 80 piece ensemble and is a nonstop rollercoaster of emotions that begins with the very first track. When Kraft listened to the temp tracks which consisted of “Night on the Bald Mountain” and “The Rite of Spring” and suggested that his film was even more primitive and suggested a piece by Prokofiev “Scythian Suite” Quite a statement considering the Stravinsky work. The bright upbeat beginning featuring tinkling percussion is quickly joined by a statement of the “Dies Irae” (day of wrath) performed by the lower register string section both of which give way to the main theme a majestic theme played by both brass and strings. This is a theme that will be repeated in the score representing good over evil. “Prologue” begins with a long string note played behind the soulful oboe. “The Subhumans Appear” introduces a dissonant “Dies Irae” theme with a tuba offering a melody against distorted brass. “Nekron” continues with the tuba theme as well as eerie string chords. It is an 8 note motif that you’ll hear throughout the score. Larn’s theme is first introduced by the horns and is an upbeat one depicting the hero of the picture. If there is a romantic cue then it has to be “Larn and Teegra” with soft woodwinds and uplifting flutes with background coming from the strings which alternates the melody with the woodwinds. “Larn Escapes/Darkwolf Appears” gives you both the Larn theme as well as a variation of the Darkwolf theme. “Flight of the Dragonhawks/The End of Nekron/ Reunited” is a climatic ending to the score and at 10 minutes is the longest of the tracks. You’ll revisit “Dies Irae,” Nekron, Darkwolf, and all of the themes from the film. Included are some strong percussion bars, the forte of William Kraft which I think is directly responsible for all of his years with the LA Philharmonic as the chief timpanist.
Fire and Ice is an important release even though it took thirty years to become available. Since Kraft is poorly represented and is a force in 20th century modern classical music it is one to have in your collection. It is a combination of classical and movie music and I think you’ll be surprised at what you hear after a couple of listens. Recommended.
Total Duration: 01:09:28
July 14, 2013
Filmed in the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico The Tall Texan starred Lloyd Bridges, Lee J. Cobb, and Marie Windsor in a pretty ordinary story of greed for gold and Indians getting in the way. I realize that the film wanted a female co-star but Windsor seemed terribly out of place in this film. The on location shooting, a $100,000 budget, and the score from Bert Shefter were all positive things for Lippert who has had his share of bombs over the years. Films such as Motor Patrol, Radar Secret Service, and Square Dance Jubilee were not films that people knocked the doors down to go and see. Having said that he did do Quatermass Experiment and had his hand in the original Fly movie both good films.
Shefter approached the film in the traditional motif fashion using the traditional melody “Blow the Man Down” for Capt. Bess (Cobb) and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” for Josh (Adler). The Indian themes are exactly what you would expect to hear complete with the tom tom drums, the trilling clarinets, and brass statements of a proud and majestic people you’ve heard before. The “Main Title” which is featured throughout the score is a really good one that you’ll not want to miss. I’m including it as an audio clip Track 1 It begins with Copland sounding horns and segues into a melody that ranks right up with the classic western themes. The major strings are complemented by the brass which shares the melody. If you want to listen to a romantic version of the main title you’ll find it in the track “Laura and Ben,” which features a nice solo violin and trumpet. Might just bring a tear to your eye… If there is a drawback it’s that it isn’t in stereo but mono albeit a nice clean recording. In fact as I listened to it I noticed nothing that would draw your attention away from the music. “Gunfight” is an effective cue that combines the Copland sound of the main melody with harmony being provided as Indian music consisting of trilling and tom tom phrases. Throughout your listening you’ll find that Shefter will make references to “Blow the Man Down,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” making it fun at least for me to listen for them as they will crop up when you least expect it. I didn’t count the number of times but there are several. “Tinnen Gets It” has a couple of bars with the slide effect which I didn’t hear in the film but are very effective in the CD. I mention this because so many times you’ll just dissonant material which is not easy to listen to on the years, not the case with Shefter. All of his orchestration seems to make sense as he uses the entire ensemble across the board.
The highlight of the album is a faded color photo of Cindy Williams (Elmo’s niece) and Jeff Bridges (Lloyd was his dad)!!! Liner notes are excellent as is usually the case with MMM releases along as well as the mastering by Ray Fiaola who did some pretty great work for Screen Archives/BYU over the years. This is one that I heartily recommend for your collect but always remember with MMM releases that they are limited edition and will sell out eventually so act sooner rather than later so you won’t be disappointed. It shows that Schecter isn’t just about sci- fi horror music anymore.
Because of my interest in stamps something that I’ve been experimenting around with are cachet of the film along with cancellations that are appropriate to the picture, in this case where it was filmed. Faywood NM is close in proximity to the “City of Rocks” park and the two New Mexico stamps depict the feel of where it was filmed.
Hans Salter, when I was growing up, was a big favorite of mine because of the horror movies that he did with Universal in the 40’s with Frank Skinner. This was a time when there was nothing available except to record the sound of the movie by attaching a wire to the television speaker and copying it on my reel to reel recorder. Along with listening to Henry Mancini, a favorite of my parents, I began to learn how talented these composers were and the contribution they made to the film, actually making it better. Today, as far as Salter is concerned, I have lp’s that Tony Thomas released, a complete set of Marco Polo re-recordings from Morgan and Stromberg. By reading the extensive liner notes I learned a lot about Salter. One has to rank him at the top of the ‘B’ composers.
Far Horizons (1955) was a Pine-Thomas production and like PRC and Monogram were in the business of making the ‘B’ movie or second feature, something that was commonplace in the 40’s and 50’s. They were considered the second unit for Paramount and this film was considered a step above. This was the first film dealing with the Lewis-Clark expedition. Time magazine has given the film one of the ten worst film for historical inaccuracies. Starring Donna Reed, Charlton Heston, Fred MacMurray, and Barbara Hale it was directed by Rudolph Matz and was based on a novel written by Della Gould Emmons. However, I think if you’re reading this review you don’t care about the movie and your interest lies in the Salter score.
“Prelude/Virginia Reel” begins the soundtrack with a powerful opening melody expressing the vastness of the USA. The strings offer the melody with harmonic chords from the brass. Preparing for the review I found myself humming the melody which is one that you’ll hear throughout the score. The second part of the track is devoted to music for a reel dance, an English style melody using a harpsichord to give it that 18th century feel. “Minnetarees/Indian Tepee begins with the typical sounding Native American music complete with the tom-tom type of music. The second part is solo flute in the lower register. “Proclamation” has a majestic feel which is conveyed in a military melody before the prelude takes over. It concludes with a Native American statement. “Fork of the River” is another variation of the prelude or main title with a romantic/majestic line to it. “Separation” repeats the prelude melody before it segues into Janey another theme quite lovely in nature. This theme is used in several of the tracks. Bonus tracks include “Julia’s Minuet,” a French classical period sounding dance that was written in the traditional double minuet style aba. “Salter’s Gavotte,” is similar in style to the minuet. “Choose Your Partner” is a hoedown dance with fiddling and Jew’s harp, a typical sound that you might hear in a western setting. “To the Colors” is a solo bugle statement.
This mono release has good archival quality. The drawback is it’s not as full a sound as you might like it to be but except for minimal background music it acceptable.
Secret of the Incas (1954) was the inspiration for the Indiana Jones pictures and for this fact alone it has its place in Hollywood films and is worth a watch to see the costuming. The film featured Charlton Heston and Inca gold was the prize. It co-starred Thomas Mitchell, Robert Young, and exotic singer Yma Sumac.
To a lesser extent than Hans Salter, who did have an Oscar nomination, David Buttolph was a very busy ‘B’ film composer who did well over 100 films in a twenty year span for film and television. This score is a good example of what he was capable of. He seemed to be at home in science fiction, and home but westerns were his assignments on many occasion. “Prelude (Parts 1 & 2) begins with a fanfare and quickly segues into pounding drums leading the listener to the main theme enhanced with harp. A secondary theme High Andes written by Moises Vivanco,is introduced which is repeated in “Morgan’s Death.” The second part of the prelude is a bustling mocking cue with horns chiming in without notice. “Native Music #1” is an alternate cue and the typical Native American sound. “Elena Arrives” begins with the second part of the prelude, expands upon it and concludes with underscore material. One thinks of South America and their wonderful percussive beat in “Cocktail Music #2.” Written for small combo it sets the mood nicely. “By the Campfire” is overall a romantic track with underscore mixed in and is one of the longer tracks at nearly four minutes.
This soundtrack is in stereo, what remaining tracks there are and the sound is most acceptable. As is usually the case with Kritzerland releases it is limited to a 1000 copies so it is a good idea to act sooner rather than later.
July 3, 2013
Originally released through BYU/SAE in 1999 it sold out over a period of time and SAE has released a very small quantity (300 copies) to give collectors an opportunity to purchase this fine CD if they missed the first time around. I would hurry because 300 copies isn’t very many copies.
By the time 1950 had rolled around Hugo Friedhofer had already broken away from his orchestration duties with Warner Bros. and had won an Oscar for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), had Oscar nominated scores for The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and Joan of Arc (1948) and was considered to be an ‘A’ composer. While Broken Arrow (1950) won no rewards for him it is considered by some to be the finest score that he ever did. It was his very first western and like the film he broke the mold on how a western should score. Gone is the cowboy and Indian sound with the tom-tom drum (track 14 is an exception) sound that audiences identify with western films. This film treated the Indians as human beings, not savages and is considered to be one of the early adult westerns.
One of the things that you’ll hear in a Friedhofer score is the heavy use of the leitmotif/Wagner way of writing music. There are several of them in this score and they are all repeated. Beginning with a fanfare of brass with support from timpani we hear the Cochise theme majestic in nature but also filled with an element of danger also from the horns. The music segues into a second theme Treaty which is in contrast to Cochise ( Jeff Chandler)giving the track a feeling of war and peace. These two themes together is our “Main Title” and we’ll hear both of these melodies throughout the score. “Good Samaritan” offers the Apache #1 theme a melody introduced by a clarinet and then soft strings making it somewhat romantic in nature. It segues into the Treaty to end a strong track. “Torture and Return to Tucson” begins with a dissonant version of the Cochise theme and concludes with another theme called Tucson, a bright update melody that could fit into any number of pictures. Alfred Newman, who conducted the orchestra offered his own track “Tucson and Cochise” which is a compilation of Friedhofer themes which ends in a powerful version of Cochise. “White Painted Lady” is the introduction of Sonseeahray (Deborah Paget) to Jerrod (Jimmy Stewart) and Friedhofer chose a spiritual version of the Apache #1 theme. “Mail Montage” shows a classical side of Friedhofer with an allegro vivace version of the Tucson theme very nicely developed. “Tucson and the Lovers” is yet another two part motif split between the Tucson and Lovers themes. The Lovers theme is nicely performed on the cello. There are two different endings offered for the film, one by Friedhofer and one arranged by Powell which prevailed as 20th Century Fox was looking for an upbeat version. Friedhofer’s, which I prefer, is on the darker side.
As far as this reviewer is concerned this is one of those must have CD’s for your collection if you have any interest at all in golden age material. The recording overall is quite good, especially some of the stereo tracks. Yes there is some background noise and the mono can be a bit flat but overall the work Faiola did on this release is to be commended. Don’t delay.
Total Duration: 00:42:52
July 1, 2013
Tale of a Forest, a film about Nordic wildlife, has already won an award for best documentary score from International Film Music Critics (2013) and hopefully more will come in the future. Panu Aaltio, composer of Home of the Dark Butterflies and Dawn of the Dragonslayer, and is fast becoming the go to guy for Nordic films in the 21st century. His style is refreshingly melodic something that other modern day composers could learn a thing or two about.
In an interview Aaltio called his Music for a Forest a hybrid score (new term to me) because the low budget wouldn’t permit the use of a full symphonic orchestra. When you listen to it you’ll be amazed at his wizardry with his mixing and use of samples making this release a wonderful listening experience It isn’t perfect as there are spots that cry out for a full orchestra or some of the sampling is far too obvious but overall it’s an excellent release and one of the best examples of what someone can do with a limited budget.
Beginning with a rather dark statement from the lower register “Tales of a Forest” quickly moves to the first melody from the oboe. This is the theme for the world tree, the foundation of life. The track ends on a majestic note. “A New Beginning” begins with a flighty melody from the clarinet with counterpoint being provided by the flute, oboe, and bassoon. This track ends on the same majestic style chords that we heard in the “Tale of the Forest Track.” “The Little Ones” begins with keyboards in yet another melody but a solo violin as well other instruments give support to the keyboards. This is another upbeat happy track. “A Midsummer Treasure”adds another melody offered on the violin in a bright major key. One can hear some traditional classical period music reminding me of something that Mozart might have written. I’ve included this as an audio track. Track 4 “Woodland Spirit” repeats the theme from “Tale of the Forest” track in a somber stoic style. A statement from timpani and melody from oboe lead to some nice harp chords to conclude this track. “Spring Wonder” is a repeat of the “A Midsummmer Treasure melody this time offering a bit more complex arrangement with lots of counterpoint. “Spring Wonder” is a repeat of the “Midsummer Treasure” melody with a far more complex arrangement with lots of counterpoint. “Ant Kingdom” begins with plucking on the harp which leads us into an oriental mystery world with oboe and tambourine. It is a track that reminded me of what some of the 19th century Russian composers might have written. “Bird and the Squirrel” starts with the main melody and then the real fun begins with brass and pizzicato strings. There is nice interplay between bassoon and flute. The bassoon playing of Sari Seppelin is nothing short of outstanding. The theme, style, and ideas continue in “Twig Traffic.” “A Forest Adventure,” the concluding track, is a restatement of the themes we’ve just heard. Of all of the tracks it is the weakest one showing the low budget. The forte of the midsummer theme is very evident that it came from samples.
This is yet another release from the catalog of Moviescore media that should not be missed. It is one that I’ll revisit often.
Total Duration: 00:51:22