March 23, 2014
While it is still early in 2014 this new Chandos release of Rozsa material has got to be a contender for an award from the IFMCA for best re-release of concert hall material previously performed. The superb arrangements coupled with the baton of Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra makes this a gold star entry in the Chandos film series collection and as a reviewer I’ve listened to all of them. Overall this has been a wonderful addition to the film music world.
Miklos Rozsa (1907-1995), born in Budapest, was as influential in Hungary as a contemporary, Bela Bartok. Rozsa’s true love was classical or serious music and it was financial that he hooked up with Alexander Korda (1893-1956), also Hungarian, and did a series of award winning films for him, two of which The Thief of Bagdad and Jungle Book are included in this compilation. Rozsa went on to win three Oscars, was nominated for Oscars a total of 13 times, and became a powerful composer in Hollywood. If there was an epic picture to be scored Rozsa got the call.
Thief of Bagdad (1940), winner of three Oscars for Cinematography, Art Direction, and Special Effects, was also nominated for an Oscar for best score. An early Technicolor film tells the story of Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) who tricked and threw King Ahmad (John Justin) out of Bagdad. Ahmad joins forces with Abu (Sabu) to recapture his throne, city, and his princess (June Duprez). The seven tracks begin with an overture that sounds like it could have come from his biblical epics and since this predates them could have been the source for future ideas. It offers the march with brass motifs, swirling strings, and pounding timpani. The “Cortege” is definitely Oriental sounding with the reeds offering a theme with harmony being provided by the brass. “The Love of the Princess,” included as an audio track, is one of with sweet strings with the Rozsa touch. It could be a love theme for any number of films. “Sultan’s Toys” has a bassoon solo that reminds me of the grandfather in Peter and the Wolf, a plodding playful theme. “The Flying Horse” is a gallop pace with yet another theme that has a mocking style and could fit into a cartoon. “Silvermaid’s Dance” is yet another melody that has the flavor of the orient mixed with a Hollywood sound. The full orchestra is used giving it that sound of the dancer luring the cobra snake out of hiding. The concluding track “The Market at Basra” is in the style of Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance a rollicking melody that comes to a rousing conclusion to end the incredibly entertaining twenty minute suite. They just don’t write material like this anymore. The suite has been around having been released by Varese Sarabande and others but this recording has the advantage of the Chandos recording team who seem to go a step beyond others.
Jungle Book (1943) brought together Korda, Sabu, and Rozsa again in the Rudyard Kipling story of a boy being raised by wolves who comes to the city and does very well for himself. It was a three time Oscar winner also directed by Korda with another nomination going to Rozsa for his fine soundtrack. The opening track “Beginning,” is a compilation of the themes within this compilation and runs the gamut of material in this 30 minute suite. You’ll hear the lush main theme which has a similar style to the Bonanza theme, the romantic love theme, mocking material quite classical in nature. There is a hint of what I like to call his noir style. This suite was also released by Varese but lacks the Chandos touch along with the fine playing of the BBC.
Sahara (1943) was a Bogart movie about World War II which Rozsa fashioned a fine score for using some military sound along with that yearning feeling he became so famous for. The suite which is extended by a few minutes from the Gerhardt version on RCA was orchestrated by Christopher Palmer. There are some bars that remind me of the Max Steiner style but then Bogie did a lot of pictures for Warner Brothers the studio were Steiner worked for many years.
Ben Hur (1959) is the picture that Rozsa will be best remembered and a favorite one of Rozsa fans. The “Parade of the Charioteers” was introduced to me in high school and college band as recognizable to many as Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes forever. The “Love Theme” is yet another example of Rozsa being able to capture your heart and pull at the strings. “The Prelude” is rich infected with a feeling of spirituality letting you know that this film has religious overtones. The twenty one minute suite passes quickly and you’re finding yourself hitting the repeat of tracks 19-24 again.
I would classify this recording as one for the listener who has occasional interest in soundtracks and highly recommend it to the classical listener. Remember that Rozsa was classically trained and because of the unusual contract with Hollywood would spend his summers in Italy composing material. The soundtrack collector may or may not have an interest as they likely own a previous version or in the case of Ben Hur complete soundtrack of the original material. If you’re a collector of the Chandos collection it will be a welcome addition. The recording is superb by the Chandos staff as always.
March 21, 2014
REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-132
The Kansas City Symphony has released a new recording with their CD Company Reference Recordings, this being the fourth in recent years. The theme is 20th century and each of the works included represent three composers: Hindemeth, Prokofiev, and Bartok. They were written in 1943, 1926, and 1926 respectively. Both the works of Prokofiev and Bartok were determined to be detrimental to their countries while Hindemeth, who was German, had fled Nazi Germany to come to America and received a more positive welcoming, determining that his music was “degenerate art.”
Paul Hindemeth (1895-1963) was an extremely well rounded composer who played several instruments, wrote pieces that the amateur could perform, and was a recognized musicologist. His work Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber is divided into four parts “Allegro,” “Turandot: Scherzo,” “Andantino,” and “March.” The allegro offers an orchestration which includes the entire symphony to be involved with the ear catching oriental flavored melody. It has a background of harmony, complex brass passages, and a state of great activity going on. The scherzo was a tune which came from the Chinese published in 1735. It shows the neo baroque style in the fugato form. Hindemeth wrote for the trombone section which shined in playing the complex passages. In addition the percussion section is to be given a star for their performance making it sound very 20th century. The strings and wind section provide a break in the frantic pace of the work with a relaxing sense of peace and tranquility in the “Andantino.” That pace is quickly renewed in the final movement which is a rousing march filled with fanfares from the trumpets, horns, and trombones. It reminds me of passages like Bruckner’s 4th symphony. I’ve included the first movement of the work as an audio track which will allow you to further explore the work.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) took highlights from six parts of the Love For Three Oranges and created an overture in 1926 based on the comical and spoof of an opera that was commissioned by the Chicago Opera five years earlier. While the opera met with cool reviews and helped form a negative attitude toward the US from Prokofiev. Time has been kind to the suite especially the third part, the March which Hollywood took a liking to over the years. Its march has an infectious melody that I recall performing in school on many occasions. The Kansas City Symphony which is fast beginning to grow on me performs the suite with all of the necessary emotion. This is a must have for your collection if it has somehow avoided you.
Bela Bartok (1881-1945) wrote The Miraculous Mandarin and suffered a similar fate to the Prokofiev work as far as a government stance on it not being fit for the public. Again time has been kind to this work and it has been performed and recorded by many symphonies. It is considerably darker in color than the two previous works on this CD and is a nice contrast to the previous thirty six minutes you listened to. Bartok has a style that fits into the 20th century style of music and definitely has been a trendsetter. While many of his works have a distinct Hungarian style to them this work definitely leans toward the dissonant side with little melody and a patchwork style to it making it one that the listener will need to listen to several times before many of the ideas unfold. I especially enjoy the ending with the frantic playing of the string section melded with dissonant brass statements from the symphony.
Reference Recordings offer a little bit extra to the listener in terms of clarity, recording (Prof. Johnson), and a distinct separation of each of the individual sections that make up the orchestra. The extended dynamic range makes a difference and if you’re fortunate enough to have SACD CD unit you’ll even
more than from a regular CD player. This is a recording not to be missed. It can be purchased direct from www. Reference Recordings. I was impressed enough to request review copies of the other releases from the Kansas City Symphony. Look for them in the future.
Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
1…. Allegro (4:10)
2…. Turandot: Scherzo (7:45)
3…. Andantino (4:14)
4…. March (4:30)
The Love for Three Oranges-Suite
5…. The Odd Fellows (3:00)
6…. Infernal Scene (3:54)
7…. March (1:43)
8…. Scherzo (1:25)
9…. Princess and the Princess (4:15)
10…. Flight (2:09)
Miraculous Mandarin- Suite
11. Suite (17:36)
March 3, 2014
During the course of a month there are many CD’s that are sent to me for listening and possible review. When I opened this one I immediately became intrigued because it was a new composer, a work about Colorado paintings, and performed by the Colorado Symphony. Speaking to Charles Denler I found that he was self taught with no formal training but spends an hour every day studying the works of composers. I can assure you that the sound you’ll hear is melodic, well orchestrated and arranged to make your listening experience easy on the ears. This is the second composer, the other being Rikard Borggard, in less than a month who is self taught. Both are extremely talented.
Commissioned by the Colorado Symphony each of the ten movements tells a story about a painting as well as the time Charles spends in the Rocky Mountains. Some of the paintings by Jerry Malzahn, five of them, are included in the liner booklet. In addition to the symphonic portion there are also six variations for piano and violin to complete the 44+ minute CD. It starts with ”Rocky Mountain Odyssey,” the longest movement and a majestic trumpet is featured throughout with string motifs, some which sound like Copland, nicely interwoven with piano and flute. Choosing the trumpet to lead the orchestra depicts the majesty of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. As Denler explained in the liner notes our music tastes today are playlists that fall into the three to five minute range and this is the reasoning for the basic structure of this work.”Where the Wild Horses Run” offers nearly the same trumpet call as in “Rocky Mountain Odyssey” with a rising majestic conclusion. In between there are some long piano lines with a strong backing from the horn section. “A Walk in the White Forest” somewhat reminds me of something that Copland might have done with the Denler style. He makes excellent use of the French Horns and trombone in this segment. He nicely sums up the work with a reprise and finale in movement 10 “Mountain Odyssey.” The style and mood shifts for the next tracks as they are written for piano and violin. These variations are built around the main theme that you heard in the opening movement. It is calm and peaceful making the end of your day relaxing.
This is a work that you can listen to as background music or concentrate and try to listen for the different variations of the basic theme. Well recorded and performed this would be a nice addition to your collection. I just found out at the time of this writing that Charles is going to write a theme for the Colorado Rockies baseball team. Stay tuned for more.
Portraits of Colorado, An American Symphony
1. Rocky Mountain Odyssey (4:51)
2. The Sangre de Cristos (3:08)
3. A Walk in the Forest (2:12)
4. Where Wild Horses Run (3:07)
5. The Dance (1:53)
6. Ranch in the Highlands (2:55)
7. Sunset Over Longs Peak (2:06)
8. Moment at Dawn (2:00)
9. The Columbine’s Tribute (2:43)
10. Mountain Odyssey, reprise with finale (3:47)
Six Variations for piano and violin
11. Colorado Portraits (2:34)
12. Moment at Dawn (2:12)
13. Vivet I (2:29)
14. A Walk at Sunrise (3:09)
15. A Glimpse of Longs Peak (2:06)
16. The White Forest, freshly falling snow (2:45)
Total Time 44:03