Vaughan Williams Film Music

September 17, 2016

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I’ve always had the greatest fondness for the Naxos film music classics series of some of the films of the 40’s and 50’s including this latest offering of Vaughan Williams film music, something that the average listener was not aware that he wrote quite nicely in this genre. Who better to write about British war dramas than Vaughan Williams? This previously released recording in 1995 on Marco Polo was recorded in Dublin in November of 1993.

Don’t expect to hear a Hollywood type score with lots of brass, a bit of loudness, and memorable marching type themes. This is still Vaughan Williams and a wonderful addition to your collection. If there is a bit of agitation and excitement, it can be found in Coastal Command (1942). It was a documentary depicting real wartime happenings and the leading actors were in fact RAF members. When it was seen in 1944 by the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, he had little positive to say about it. I on the other hand found it to be an interesting film as I learned from a historical aspect and the highlight for me was the score by Williams.

49th Parallel (1940-1941) has the honor of the most melodic and memorable of the four suites. It is a proud majestic theme that will remain with you for a long time. The longest of the four is The Story of a Flemish Farm (1943) which plays out like a tone poem or orchestral suite which has 7 different movements. For the most part it is well laid back like many British composers and is my favorite of the four works.”The Flag Flutters in the Wind” sets the background for what kind of story this is going be. Majestic theme for the flag is followed by a danger mysterious section and it ends with the the major key melody. “Night By The Sea” continues withe eerie  music followed by a short motif “Farewell to the Flag.” “Dawn in the Barn-The Parting of the Lovers” “Dead Man’s Kit” offers a  wonderful flute solo backed by the reeds complete with flutterings and an ominous background. “The Wanderings of the Flag” ends the score with proud majestic material worthy of the flag.

Completing the CD is Three Portraits from the England of Elizabeth (1955). The opening track of the three is “Explorers gets us off to arousing start with music that could be the opening of a Korngold scored film with material that is rousing and warms the blood. “Poet” is completely the opposite as you’ll hear music from the court, a dance delicate in nature which conjures up courtly dancing. “Queen” as you can gather from the title is a majestic coronation type track that bestows honor on the queen.

Vaughan Williams had the unique ability to use classical music and whatever situation the film dictated to achieve the correct material. While these are considered more propaganda minor films this is not true of the music. The 67 minute could stand proud and tall with his symphonies. It is well recorded and a treat to have in my collection.

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