June 30, 2014
FOGHORN CD 2012
What a diverse set of releases I got to review this month! A DVD of Stravinsky in Hollywood, The Banner Saga a video soundtrack, piano music of Bronislaw Kaper, The Rat Patrol, a 60’s TV Series, and finally a new recording of Brahms. Along with coffee I put on the String Quintet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 88 (1882) of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and what a pleasant way to start the day! Brahms had written to Clara Schumann declaring it as one of his finest works. Part of a new release from the Alexander String Quartet a 2 CD release which also includes his second String Quintet in G Major, Op. 111 (1890), the String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18 (1860), and the String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36 (1864-65). This is my second experience with the Alexander String Quartet, the first being Gershwin/Kern release https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/alexander-string-quartetgershwin-and-kern/, delightful and well played arrangements of two 20th century American composers.
Written in the last third of his life the upbeat well structured Quintet No. 1 is a breath of fresh air and is sure to put a smile on your face whether you’re listening to it or doing something else it radiates brightness. Some have given it the title “Spring” but this was something that Brahms had never heard. The quintet adds an additional viola to their standard two violin, viola, and cello combination. This is a work that features some very nice harmony as well as counterpoint.
If the first Quintet was considered upbeat the second Quintet is even more so. Brahms had returned from a vacation in Italy and the rest and relaxation showed even more. No darkness at all in this composition it shows Brahms in a positive light. This work also features some extremely fine harmony and counterpoint. While some of his works have been labeled heavy and Germanic sounding this sounds more like Mozart might have written it.
The second CD features his two Sextets written in the first half of the 1860’s. The ensemble features two cellos, violas, and violins which open the door to a work that offers more in the way of a complex work. While Brahms thought that he was the inventor of this combination it had been done earlier by Boccherini. It can be said that these works can take its place with Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence and Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nacht . The combination has not been done often and I would encourage listeners to also explore these works. The first Sextet written at the age of 23 is a bit more on the stoic style that you’re more familiar with when you think of Brahms. It shows striking maturity. The Second Sextet written five years later reveals a motif that spells the first name of the woman, Agathe von Siebold, who he was engaged to at one time but abruptly broke it off. The work translates into a work of love, relief, and regret. Brahms, who also had strong feelings for Clara Schumann, remained a bachelor for his entire life.
Well recorded and played this CD further establishes The Alexander String Quartet as an important force in chamber music. If you like chamber music you won’t be disappointed.
STRING SEXTET NO. 1 IN B-FLAT MAJOR
1. Allegro (14:03)
2. Andante ma moderato (9:16)
3. Scherzo (3:19)
4. Rondo (10:02)
STRING SEXTET NO. 2 IN G MAJOR
5. Allegro (14:24)
6. Scherzo (7:32)
7. Adagio (8:23)
8. Allegro (8:46)
STRING QUINTET NO. 1 IN F MAJOR
1. Allegro (11:01)
2. Grace (9:36)
3. Allegro (5:31)
STRING QUINTET NO. 2 IN G MAJOR
June 28, 2014
STREWN ACROSS A BRIDGE
Having just completed a review of the 1981 film Pennies from Heaven which dealt with 80 year old music from the 30’s the next selection in the stack was about as different as oil and water. This is a video game and only my second review of one, the first being one I did for Naxos back in 2011. https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/the-greatest-video-game-music/. That was a compilation and this is 70 plus minutes of material from one game. So in a way this is a first. It is also a first for Reference Recordings who are expanding their horizons on their new Fresh music sub-label now has nine releases and I look forward to reviewing more in the future.
Another label I review for BSX introduced me to Austin Wintory with their releases of Grace, and Captain Abu Raed, scores because of their affiliation with the Sundance Festival brought his name into the spotlight. Both of these releases are still available from them at only $4.99 each, a very good buy. http://buysoundtrax.stores.yahoo.net/caaburaorsob.html
The Banner Saga is an epic role-playing game inspired by Viking legend. Hand-painted landscapes portray a world eerily suspended in perpetual twilight. Cities and towns begin to crumble into chaos. Heroes abandon their hearths and homes to traverse the snowy countryside, gaining allies along the way to help battle a strange, new threat.
Decisions have consequences; wise choices must be made when conversing with possible allies during intricately crafted dialogues. Turn-based strategy brings tactical challenge in hand-animated battle sequences. With visuals evocative of the golden age of animation, The Banner Saga brings skillfully crafted art, story and strategy to gamers waiting to re-experience classic adventures and tactics*
The opening cue “We Will Not Be Forgotten” a scant forty seven seconds does set the mood for the remainder of the score. It is a proud majestic opening featuring the horns of the Dallas Winds. “How Did It Come To This” opens like an orchestra tuning up before it switches to a contrabassoon solo that will test the woofers of your system! Remember this is a Reference Recording and all recordings are not equal. Johnson and his recording crew make it better. They just have superior clarity. “No Tree Grows To The Sky” begins with an epic statement with the horns calling out, another excellent example of the superior playing of the Dallas Winds. This segues into a male chorus who are chanting.
The theme is one that is developed and also introduces the didgeridoo an Australian instrument which seems to adapt well to this recording. “Cut with a Keen Edged Sword” intoruduces an extended solo of the violin performed by Taylor Davis. Wintory’s addition of the violin, electric guitar, and didgeridoo definitely enhance this recording as do the Icelandic vocals. “No Life Goes Forever Unbroken” brings back a return to the theme we heard in “No Tree Grows to the Sky.” The track is one that you can feel the strong presence of the percussion.
Overall with a minor amount of annoyances I really like the score. The recording is superb like all Reference Recordings material. I’m interested enough to try the game and see how the material fits into the framing as long as it doesn’t take too long to learn. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Buy direct from Reference and receive a special sale price of only $14.98.
- We Will Not Be Forgotten (0:47)
- How Did It Come To This (2:50)
- No Tree Grows To The Sky (2:44)
- Only The Sun Has Stopped (1:22)
- Cut With A Keen Edged Sword (3:33)
- Huddled In The Shadows (3:03)
- There Is No Bad Weather (1:00)
- Teach Us Luck (0.34)
- No Life Goes Forever Unbroken (2:51)
- Little Did They Sleep (2:12)
- An Unblinking Eye (1:07)
- Thunder Before Lightning (2:51)
- Embers In The Wind (1:27)
- A Long Walk Still Our Hearts (1:22)
- The Egg Cracks (2:04)
- Three Days To Cross (2:05)
- Walls No Man Has Seen (1:57)
- Strewn Across The Bridge (6:04) track is included
- Weary The Weight of the Sun (1:52)
- An Uncertain Path (2:11)
- Into Dust (2:45)
- On the Hides of Wild Beasts (1:24)
- From the Table to the Axe (1:17)
- A Sunken City (1:44)
- Our Heels Bleed From The Bites of Wolves (2:01)
- Long Past That Last Sigh (2:47)
- Of Our Bones, the Hills (10:20)
- We Are All Guests Upon the Land (2:23)
- Onward (3:13)
June 25, 2014
PERSEVERANCE # 059
Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries
I think that all of the younger generation should be made to sit and listen to this soundtrack just like I’ve listened to some of the newer material that I must listen to as a reviewer and indirectly their music when I venture out in public at a restaurant as an example. This is the thirties and the depression era when Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the thing and musicals made one forget the hard times. The lyrics were a contrast to the hopelessness of the era. My father who is 88 and very much alive has given me his experiences growing up in North Dakota at the time.
MGM took a very bold move in 1981 by deciding to revive the musical and going a step further cast Steve “The Jerk,” Martin, the new Jerry Lewis in the lead role. Martin wanted to shed his comedy side and show to the public that he could act. They invested fifteen million dollars in the project and the response from the public was lukewarm at best. Having said that Bernadette Peters, the female star in the film, won a Golden Globe for her performance and it was nominated also for two Academy Awards. As a bit of trivia for your friends Christopher Walken played a role as a tap dancer.
The soundtrack was mainly music of the time with additional material provided by Marvin Hamlisch and some very fine arranging by Billy May who is known for his skills as a composer/ orchestrator for Capitol Records in the fifties. Billy played trumpet with the Glenn Miller band in the early forties. I best remember May for his television work on Batman, Naked City, and Green Hornet. Because of the period music this is a mono soundtrack that features from very nice restoration work. You’ll hear very little noise in the background on this one. Yes the material is compressed but keep in mind some of this material is eighty years old.
Liner notes are provided by Daniel Schweiger a long standing writer in our soundtrack community. They provide a nice blend of the period, the making of the film, and the soundtrack itself. Give this one a spin or download and take yourself back to the time when the original King Kong ruled. I give Robin Esterhammer an A for taking a chance and making a good effort.
Total Duration: 00:58:21
June 25, 2014
LIMITED EDITION OF 500 UNITS
Sound clips are available at the website
As a reviewer many different kinds of CD material pass by my desk and it is impossible for me to review all of them thus the selection process. I’m involved with big band, marching band, classical, golden age as well as modern soundtrack material. It was the beginning of this score that got my attention.
Riparetti has 48 film credits and there are two more on the horizon. The multi talented composer has been involved in the music world since the 60’s and brings an interesting approach to the films he works with. He has recently opened a record studio where he offers other services to the industry.
As I listened to the “Intro” track to the film Cool Air (2006) the urge to get out my short stories of H.P. Lovecraft and have a read of one of the best story writers of horror material. The beginning is filled with storms, creaking doors, bats, and a perfect sound bite to play on trick or treat night! This film, made for video, was directed by Albert Pyun who has worked with Riparetti on several projects with more on the horizon. Pyun, will be best remembered for Sword and the Sorcerer (1982). Cool Air tells the story of a struggling young writer who moves into an ancient mansion to write his great American screenplay. The other residents include a strange doctor, a somewhat eccentric lodger, and the autistic daughter of the landlady. This is the setting for the story. Having a heart attack sets off a chain of events that will keep your attention till the exciting climax of the film told as only HP Lovecraft can write a story.
While you might think that classical guitar solos mixed with sound effects and controlled chaotic noise consisting of science fiction noises, dissonant percussion, and wordless choir would make no sense it does come across very well in the film. While there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the music, I’m sure there is and it does keep you on the edge of your seat as you wonder what is going to come next.
Invasion (2007), a novel by Robin Cook who is another favorite author of mine, was adapted to film and features another score by Riparetti, this one guitar based with pulsating percussion to build the tension.
Overall the soundtrack is going to appeal to the people who like these types of lower budget films. I’m glad I listened to it and will look forward to more releases.
If you wish to read the story it is available on line for free along with other stories.
June 19, 2014
INTRADA EXCALIBUR MAF 7132
It is a fact that these days there are fewer releases of material from the 40’s and an absolute rarity that someone would reconstruct and re-release material but this is exactly the case with this latest release from Intrada of lesser known works of Miklos Rozsa (1907-1995). Long time film buff Allan Wilson conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in a fine performance of selections of films Valley of the Kings (1954), The Man in Half Moon Street(1945), Jacare (1942), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and Sahara (1943). Far from a movie expert I had never even heard of the film Jacare. And the other films I’ve seen them but never more than twice. Because of this review I took the time to watch The Man in Half Moon Street which is available for viewing free on the net. Of the scores that are represented on this CD it is by far my favorite. There is a basic theme, a good one, and it is used in several different ways such as dramatic, romantic, classical, and mysterious. It is a theme that is not unlike other films he did in that era such as Lost Weekend. For this score alone I can recommend this CD especially if you’re a fan of Rozsa.
Sahara has been released by RCA/BMG as well as Chandos. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers was released nearly two years ago and this is the recording to have of this material although it has sold out copies are still around if you look hard.
Valley of the Kings has an interesting spin in that Daniel Robbins reconstructed the concert version of this release which had been previously released by FSM in 2005. Part of the liner notes is an explanation of this came to be recorded by Robbins himself. I especially like the coda which Robbins wrote that is a wonderful flurry of the brass section.
Jacare was a documentary film featuring Frank Buck who was looking to capture and return animals to the US zoos. Even though it is a minor film it has a very decent theme which will be a welcome addition to your Rozsa collection if you’re a fan.
This release got my attention enough to order it from Intrada as they issue no review copies, at least to me. I’m not disappointed as I’ve acquired material that I previously didn’t own. Recommended.
June 16, 2014
Naxos, one of the companies I review for, released a documentary DVD that caught my attention with a somewhat misleading title as far as this reviewer is concerned. It dealt with the period in his life that Stravinsky (1883-1971) lived in Hollywood from 1939-1969. The beginning of the film did touch upon his relationship he had with the studios, a section of the film I found interesting. For instance while Walt Disney did pay him $6000.00 for the use of his “Rite of Spring” he found the film silly. This film was the one that got Stravinsky to immigrate to America.
Stravinsky did try to work with the studios being offered films such as Song of Bernadette, Jane Eyre, North Star, and Commandos Strike at Dawn. His rigidity and sense of order prevented him from changing even a single note and as a result nothing ever happened. The film showed the apparition of the virgin scene with part of the middle movement of his “Symphony in Three Movements.” This piece of music didn’t fit. As history unfolded Alfred Newman did write the soundtrack and won the Oscar in 1942 for it. Commandos Strike at Dawn was another story as Stravinsky chose part of his “Four Norwegian Moods” for the wedding cake scene and dance which seemed quite appropriate but again never used. He used his Ode for Jane Eyre and Hollywood chose Bernard Herrmann and they were correct. Perhaps as a result of these rejections he commented “there is only one function of film music and that is to feed the composer.” He also said “I find it impossible to talk to film composers about music. They use their music like perfume to invoke their remembrances while I need music for the health of my soul.” This was from the same composer who wrote a circus polka for a young elephant. Stravinsky loved animals and perhaps this was one of those for the health of my soul situations.
A good part of the film dealt with his relationship with Robert Craft, a composer and conductor, who spent twenty years living with Stravinsky. I found it ironic that Craft also spent an equal amount of time with his rival Arnold Schoenberg, a person who he never spoke to and avoided any meetings with. It was only after his death in 1951 that emotions poured from Igor as well as adapting some of his twelve tone techniques. The film also brought out the strong influence of Anton Webern (1883-1945) and his twelve tone technique that changed the thinking of Stravinsky in his later life. The impact was enough for me to listen to a recording of his work Naxos 8.557530 coincidentally conducted by Robert Craft.
While I was disappointed with the use of actors that were not seamlessly inserted into some of the actual Stravinsky footage that doesn’t influence me enough not to recommend this video to you. It is available through Naxos or Amazon on June 24th.
June 14, 2014
BSXCD 8944 (2 CD)
Limited Edition of 1500 Units
LOVE THEME BEHOLD HAWAII
A WHALE FOR THE KILLING
When I think of Basil Poledouris (1945-2006) I also think of The Hunt for Red October a favorite of mine as well as Lonesome Dove ( Emmy winner) , and Conan the Barbarian. The list can go on and on with this ‘A’ composer in the 80’s and 90’s, who frequently used the synthesizer and he was partially responsible for me learning to like the instrument. Coming from the Golden Age era this has been a big step in my listening as at one time I would have nothing to do with it at all.
The set features three of his lesser known films Behold Hawaii, Flyers, and A Whale for the Killing, all melodic and quite easy to listen to on the ears. I’m including audio clips from all three to give you an idea of the melodies.
Behold Hawaii (1983) was an IMAX documentary about the big island and the music reflects what you might expect to hear. “Ocean Quest” with its harp glissandos, quiet soft strings, and a peaceful passage from the synthesizer all make for a good track as it builds to a crescendo with the synthesizer offering an organ phrase to end it. If you close your eyes you’ll hear the presence of the surf. “Pristine Hawaii” continues the mood and feelings. Somewhat disturbing is “River Run” begins with a Pino Donaggio chord, a prelude to the Hawaiian drums. “Hula,” the final track, is a lovely theme with flutes giving way to strings and finally the main theme bringing it to a conclusion. Mostly relaxing it nicely represents Hawaii.
There are two tracks reworked from “Conan the Barbarian, one done by Larry Hopkins, a rather subdued “Anvil of Crom” and the other a piano driven arrangement of “The Orgy” from Joohyun Park with vocalizes from Basil’s daughter Zoe. Both are well worth repeated listens.
Flyers (1983) is a short thirty five minute documentary done in IMAX about what else flying. The seven tracks range from soaring melodies to a comedic line, to Star Wars type material. It is an easy listen to score and the twenty plus minutes pass rather quickly. It is definitely the softer side of Basil and material that might fit other situations.
A moody atmosphere begins the soundtrack “A Whale for Killing,” a made for television movie that was nominated for two Emmys starred Peter Strauss and Dee Wallace. It deals with a farfetched idea about a whale that gets caught up in low tide and certain redneck townsfolk want to kill it while others are attempting to save it. The story takes place on the Newfoundland coast and the town of Barris has a definite flavor of the Irish. Listening to tracks “Sailing Into Barris,” “Unloading the Boat,” “Morning in Barris,” “Graduation Ceremony,” and others make you feel like you’re in Cork. When I saw the title “A Whale of a Tale” my thoughts drifted to Kirk Douglas and the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was a very nice version of the main theme which has a catchy melody, one you’ll want to listen to over and over. The vocal to the main theme “A Whale For the Killing” has an unusually long prelude before the male vocalist offers his shanty. I like it.
Three themes (The Blue Lagoon, Big Wednesday, It’s My Party) for solo piano are nicely played in a classical style by BSX house pianist Mark Northam, someone who I’ve grown to feel very comfortable listening to over the years. If you’re not interested in purchasing the set these three would make a fine trio to download.
I understand including Misfits of Science as it is Poledouris but frankly it seems to be out of place on this set as it doesn’t fit the overall theme of the relaxing laid back style.
A Whale For the Killing bonus track is definitely damaged with background noise and was really only included for the Poledouris collector who wishes all of his material.
Total Duration: 01:47:15
July 4th is coming up soon so also look
for additional savings from BSX.
That $19.95 price might just come down a bit.