If there had not been a mistaken identity as to who wrote the ‘Jena’ symphony Friedrich Witt (1770-1836) might be deeper in obscurity than he already is. Born in 1770 in Niederstetten, Germany he was the son of a cantor and court clerk. Early training appears to be a bit vague but in 1789 he became a cellist or violinist in the court orchestra of Oettingen-Wallerstein where he also took composition with Anton Rosler. It was in 1790 that the A major symphony came into being one of his earliest works. It was in 1792 or 1793 that Haydn sent his London Symphonies to Wallerstein where Witt became aware of them. Two years later he composed his ‘Jena Symphony which was mistakened for an early work of Beethoven. Time and study have unfogged this and one can clearly hear the influence Haydn had on him. One writer goes so far to say that he became a copy master of Haydn. If this statement is true how could his ‘Jena Symphony’ be mistaken for a Beethoven work? It was while he was on tour with the clarinetist Franz Beer that he composed the ‘Jena’ Symphony along with a clarinet concerto written for Beer. Witt next took a position with Prince Wurzburg where he composed operas which are now lost. His final years were spent as court composer for Prince Carl Friedrich zu Lowenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg. Witt lived during a time where he saw the disappearing of the classical era and the entering of the romantic period with Beethoven. While none of his works appear to have been patterned after him I’m sure there had to be some sort of influence. Witt during his lifetime amassed a large body of work consisting of symphonies (23), wind serenades, church compositions,concertos, and chamber music.
Written in sonata form for a chamber size orchestra the first movement opens with an adagio which introduces us to the main theme in allegro vivace a much quicker tempo and very nicely developed. The flutes provide a simple counterpoint and harmony to the relatively short movement which ends in a recapitulation. A short (4) but very nice minuet is in store for you trio style with the bassoon providing harmony. I’ve included this as a clip to give you a good idea of what the work is all about. Being quite structured there are no real surprises in store for you. The third movement is an andante in a major key with several variations as the strings carry the melody with harmony coming from the rest of the orchestra. The finale, an allegretto, offers a quite lively opera buffa finale with the structure in a sonata film with a rather abrupt ending. Overall this is a nicely structured work well played and recorded. Hopefully this will trigger more interest in a forgotten composer. The Hoffmann material makes for a nice listening experience and the fact that Hoffmann reviewed two of Witt’s symphonies, that they were in close proximity to each other, and knew about each other makes for an interesting tie in. The Hoffmann material will be reviewed in its own review.
If your primary interest is the Witt symphony don’t buy this recording. There is a fine recording of the A major as well as the Jena and his flute concerto on Naxos 8.572089 still available. I feel that this is a brighter recording. However, if the Hoffmann material intrigues you and it should then this is the recording for you.
A young rising composer on the scene these days in Hollywood is Matthew Llewellyn whose sound for this new horror film has a flare for the romantic and because of circumstances developed a unique sound for this soundtrack that is not the chalk squeaking, thunder bolts that vibrate your house or apartment with bass, and frankly just noise or filler material because the audience expects to hear something. What is missing are the woodwinds an important section in most horror scores. They are nicely replaced by the lower string section. Coupled with the brass the untrained ear is not going to pick up on the fact that they are missing. A graduate of Berklee College in Boston Matthew moved west to intern with Richard Gibbs and attend the Thornton graduate school at USC. He has gone on to work with Brian Tyler on several projects, has completed three movies, and is currently working on Fast and Furious 7.
The storyline is a typical one as a doctor leaves the hustle and torment of NYC to a small quiet town of Ashborough with hopes of bringing his family closer together. But the town has its own torment in the woods. As expressed by one of the characters “Legends never go away.” Starring Dean Stockwell, Blanche Baker, and Sean Patrick Thomas the film was directed by Colin Theys who had Matthew Llewellyn compose for his last three films.
“Deep in the Darkness,” the first track, makes it crystal clear that this is a horror film with an opening of brass, exploring the lower strings and some mild shrieking of the violins. “The Deighton Residence” introduces the somber main theme which has a feel of the gothic romance. You’ll hear this theme throughout the score as it is repeated in “Welcome to Ashborough.” Frantic strings combine with solid horn work to introduce the “Rise of the Isolates” to the screen. This section is certainly terrifying and will put you on the edge of your seat. Having watched the movie his music supplies an underlying current that something is going to happen and it guides you through a web of horror and suspense. The final cue “Back Into the Light” reprises some of the major themes but ends with the disturbing motif that began the film. “You Can Protect Me” offers some good percussion work coupled with the rising and falling strings another tried and true horror technique.
In conclusion I like this score in many respects. While it uses some of the tricks of the trade for a horror score they are done tastefully and they are coupled with some true romantic gothic passages that make me want to go back and relisten to them. I’m impressed with the score and that is usually not the case with these low budget horror efforts. The ending of the film did surprise me and it neatly tied everything together with a single word. I look forward to hearing more of this talented composer.
This reviewer is always on the lookout for new and exciting ideas that are being explored through earlier or later versions, and in this case a rather unique arrangement of some very popular recognizable melodies from many of the Russian masters performed by the german hornsound 8.1 (eight horns plus percussion) While I’ve heard different kinds of recordings of Pictures At An Exhibition including brass and guitar the other selections are new to me. To further add to the uniqueness of the recording is each member was responsible for arranging their own part in the orchestrations of compositions that the group selected. It gives you the feeling of being able to hear how each member adds his own special touch. To make it an even more distinct sound they added selective use of percussion, celesta, and piano. Add to this original art from one of the members and excellent liner notes and you’ve got an experience not to be missed.
To give you an idea of the sound difference I’ve included two audio clips of the same work, Arabian dance, with full orchestra followed by the brass version. It’s like listening to two completely different works and I like both of them.
Other tracks that got my attention were the two by Shostakovich, “Waltz No. 2” and “Dance #1. The “Waltz #2” is played and arranged like a beer garden melody without tuba but it has the feel of a tuba. It sounds more like a polka and is definitely positive and upbeat. “Dance #1” is a showpiece for the horns as they engage in all sorts of impossible to play passages but they do and extremely well. I’m not sure if there is quadruple tonguing but it sounds to me like this is what they are doing. When one thinks of “Night on Bald Mountain” I think of a spectacular orchestral work but this again is not the case. The arrangement is cleverly designed and smoothly flows so that the highlights of the work are all included. This particular arrangement would not have been possible without the fine talents of Simon Rossler, percussionist for the Berlin Philharmonic. While I included clips for one of the Nutcracker Dances four more are performed including the overture, waltz of the flowers, overture, and Russian dance. The Prokofiev selections from Romeo and Juliet seem to fit in nicely with the style of the hornsound. Bridging the entire CD are selections from Pictures as it does in the work. Very well thought out as the promenande is played followed by a selection.
John Preston (Michael Caine) is given the task of trying to prevent the Russians from detonating a nuclear weapon. Directed by John Mackenzie the film also stars Pierce Bronson, Ned Beatty, and Joanne Cassidy. The film was shot in the UK and is based on the Frederick Forsyth novel. It did well at the box office and if you enjoy these types of films it is definitely worth a watch.
My preconceived idea was that the score was going to somehow mirror the “Mission Impossible” music he did for the popular television score and while there are moments similiar in some of the underscore it really isn’t like that at all. The opening cue “Fourth Protocol,” which I’ve included as an audio clip, will give you an excellent idea of the sound. It opens with two gunshot noises from the percussion followed by two more with the trumpets giving off a funeral salute followed by shimmering strings and a lumbering theme from the clarinet and bassoon a prelude for the brass to introduce the main theme with the lower strings playing a prominent part. “Govorshin, Karpov, Borisov,” the second track, opens with the bassoons a prelude to the clarinet who plays the main theme solo followed by an exchange between the orchestra which builds in intensity. String plucking from the double basses highlight the third track as they play against the orchestra. This is a technique that Schifrin uses throughout the score along with a three note motif that is followed by strings, what I like to call a Morse code sound from the string, trumpets, or other harmonic combinations. The strings in “The Freezer” have a tempo familiar to the original Batman television series.
Overall this is a score that you’re not going to walk away humming a memorable tune. There is no romantic love song. The closest that you’ll come to is the final track where you hear “Going Home” which makes use of the full orchestra and has a melody to it. However, having said that, there are several motifs and sound ideas some of them with the Schifrin sound that in the ears of this reviewer could easily fit into many other films. It on first listen will be a hard score to listen to unless you’re familiar with the film which I wasn’t. On further listens your ear will be waiting for all of the different motifs that Lalo conjured up for this thriller making it a worthwhile listening experience.
This soundtrack has been recorded before as noted in the Larson liner notes both on LP, which I have, and CD which I don’t have. I can say that this sounds to me as a nice improvement over what I previously had. If you’re a Schifrin collector this will be a welcome addition to your collection.
George Enescu (1881-1955) like so many other composers was a child prodigy. He was but seven years old when he entered the Vienna Conservatory, graduated six years later and entered the Paris Conservatory in Paris to study from the famous composers Massenet and Faure. While still a teenager he had already written four study symphonies (not to be confused with his symphonies) and his very popular Poeme Roumain, a very popular work to this day. He was to spend his life between Paris and his native country of Romania for the next 50+ years. While he didn’t achieve the status of Debussy and Ravel I still consider him to be a major player in the early 20th century.
The horns call out in majestic fashion to open this assez vif et rythme (assertive lively rhythm). One can definitely hear an influence of both Wagner (dramatic) and the sound of Debussy. The call of the horns leads right into the first theme. There is a change signaled by the strings which brings on a dark yearning section which quickly ends after a struggle of conflict very much Wagnerian. It ends in a melodic uplifting fashion with a robust conclusion.
The second movement begins in a dark fashion before it settles into some very nice counterpoint as the two themes become one in a good display of orchestration. This movement for the most part is very French sounding to me. It ends as it began with a danger signal followed by a quiet moment of reflection.
The final movement, the shortest of the three movements, begins in an energetic fashion, vif et vigourex (energetic with vigor) and this is where Enescu shows off his fine orchestral mastery. Keep in mind this is from a 23 year old who has already seemed to have mastered the art of orchestration as well as counterpoint. I can hear the sound of an Eric Korngold film score along with the sound of Brahms and Debussy. Through the entire symphony you’ll hear the call from the horns which is a trademark to this fine first ‘serious’ effort of a symphony from Enescu. I say serious because he did do four study symphonies before he wrote this.
This recording will replace my 1991 Marco Polo 8.223141 recording which is still a servicable recording but can’t compare to this new release in terms of clarity, color, and improved recording techniques. As I enjoyed Lintu and the Tampere Philharmonic in their recording of the third symphony I also like this one too and I look forward to more Enescu from an orchestra and conductor who seems to have a good feel for Enescu’s music.
To me there is nothing more satisfying than listening to a new recording for the very first time while reading the liner notes. It is preparing myself for the review that will take place. It is a listening experience where I can truly enjoy the recording with no thoughts of finding the right word or phrase. Listening to the new live recording from Reference Recordings of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 is as close to being there as you’ll ever experience. The conductor wrote the liner notes and he explains to the listener what he’ll hear and it makes a difference.
Conductor Martin Honeck chose to perform the version that was premiered in February 1881. It is the 1878/1880 version that was edited by Nowak and one that seems to be a popular choice but keep in mind that there were six other revisions of the work. If you wish to read about them on the net you can find an abundance of information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._4_%28Bruckner%29. This is the third recording in the live series the other two being Dvorak/Janacek FR710 and Strauss FR707.
The 4th was the only one that Bruckner gave a nickname to “Romantic” not in the sense we think of but the medevial romance that Wagner wrote about in Lohengrin and other works. Wagner and Bruckner were close friends and in this particular work you’ll find little sacred material that you’ll hear in his later symphonies. To put it into a time frame it was around the same time as Mahler’s 1st and Dvorak’s 8th. Honeck says it is “a tone poem in the robe of a symphony?”
The opening movement begins ever so quietly with the horns offering the melody with the strings offering a tremolo background. It quickly increases in intensity with the horns completely taking over. This is followed by a second theme quite sprightly in nature from the woodwinds only to take a backseat to the brass again.
The second movement an andante approaching an allegretto is explained by Bruckner as an “amorous boy sets out to court in front of the window.” It is night and the theme reflects that. Overall this movement is very quiet. There is an overall sadness about it although it does have its uplifting moments.
The third movement, a scherzo, you might recognize as the famous hunting music on a compilation of classical music you might have. Bruckner says “a dance that is played before hunters during their meal.” This movement was entirely recomposed from the original 1874 version. The horns make this a memorable movement that you’ll remember once you hear it.
The final movement begins with a reference to the opening movement and the thunderstorm is on with passages of beauty as well as extreme agitation. The Coda returns to the main theme in a majestic fashion worthy of the alps themselves.
On the very first play you’ll hear that the Pittsburgh Symphony under Honeck’s direction play this work as if they’ve played it a 1000 times. I’ve heard recordings that sound like the orchestra is merely going through the motions but there is no vigor and vibrancy to what they are playing. To make this recording even more incredible is the fact that it’s a live recording done by sound mirror. If you have a blu ray player it will likely have SACD and your listen will be even better. The DSD process is better. With the possible exception of a cough or rattling of some paper, unavoidable in a live recording, it gets gives my highest recommendation. It even comes in the new Super Jewel box which is a definite improvement over the standard CD case. The Pittsburgh has brought a new meaning to this work and I’m certain that Bruckner would approve!
Behind on my schedule, this review should have come out for Xmas 2014 (you won’t hear traditional Xmas music) but it is better late than never as the music does fit the broad template of the comedy style of music with some very lovely romantic moments thrown into the mix. Rather new to the scene Matthew Llewellyn offers his third score since 2012, the first two being of the horror/suspense category “Deep in the Darkness,” released earlier this year and “Dead Souls” from 2012.
The Wally Lamb best selling book comes to life on the silver screen in this story of a small Connecticut town just prior to Xmas in the 60’s. The story revolves around 10 yr. old Felix Funicello, cousin of Annette. Throw into the mix a substitute teacher and a new student, a fiesty Russian who teaches Felix the art of French kissing and you have the makings for a hilarious story. The picture stars Molly Ringwald (teacher), Chevy Chase (narrator), Conchata Ferrell (Sister Agrippina), Meatloaf (Monsignor) and Annabella Sciorra (Ma). The story is a celebration of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
“Introducing the Class,” the opening track or main title, introduces the theme on the clarinet. It is an uplifting theme putting a smile on your face and giving you the impression that there is going to be more to come. While this is the main theme that will be repeated often we hear a second theme from the flute which the strings take over the melody on with harmony coming from the flute. A nice beginning. “The Nefarious Penguin” is another delightful track as the flute offers a motif followed by another motif from the woodwinds. The track ends with a few bars of the main theme using the strings in the upper register. “Madame Frechette” begins with a restatement of the main theme followed by the second theme again from the flute. “Top Secret Big Award” offers a subtle reference to Jaws as well as the main theme and the third theme which we briefly heard in the opening track. I very much like “Lilly of the Valley” as it offers a classical arrangement which uses the full orchestra and includes the main theme. “Heads Will Roll” is a cue that could have come about as a variation from the film “Deep in the Darkness.” It too has a very brief subtle reference to Jaws also. “The final track “Annette and Felix” offers a nice romantic version of the main theme with both the clarinet and flute giving solos. It’s a nice way to end the soundtrack. I’ve included “A Wonderful Disaster” as an example of what this wonderful score sounds like.
Don’t be surprised if you see Matthew’s name as composer of an ‘A’ list movie this year. He is a bright young talent who certainly got my attention. I for one hope that “Wishin and Hopin” will get a CD release. Uncompressed is so much better than compressed. Off my soap box and on to the next review.
1 Introducing the Class 1:42
2 The Nefarious Penguin 1:50
3 Madame Frechette 1:41
4 The Mortal Sin 1:51
5 The New Student 0:54
6 Top Secret Big Award 1:11
7 Lincoln Log Life 1:19
8 Heads Will Roll 1:04
9 The Russian Menace 2:19
10 Tableau Vivant 2:11
11 Openly Defiant 1:20
12 My Current Event 2:09
13 Revealing the Cast 1:19
14 She Like Likes You 2:17
15 The Silent Treatment 2:37
16 A Little Woozy 1:14
17 Backstage Blunder 1:14
18 Lily of the Valley 1:32
19 A Wonderful Disaster 1:34
20 Annette and Felix 1:47