Christian Lindberg and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra have come up with a fine recording of the Bernstein film/Broadway works of Bernstein. They’ve made in my opinion a jazz sound from a symphony orchestra, something I’ve not heard before. The percussion section must be given thumbs up for a special performance. I knew this would be a good one when I heard the opening strains of Candide.

The five works that makeup this recording were were all done in the 40’s and 50’s. He turned his works to the classical side and spent his time teaching, conducting, and writing religious classical music during the last thirty years of his life. For all of those reasons he is a true icon in the classical world.

Candide (1956) is likely Bernstein’s most popular piece. The short four minute piece consists of three different themes nicely blended together in a wonderful overture. The tune you’ll remember most is the middle tune “The Best of All Possible Worlds” but listen carefully for the other two.

West Side Story (1957) began on the Broadway stage and went on to become a movie in 1961 winning 10 Oscars. The nine dances encompass nearly 22 minutes of different styles including ballet, mambo, jazz, cha-cha, and a fugue. This is the place where “Maria,” “To and “Somewhere” came from. This is one of the more popular Broadway plays as well as the movie.

Fancy Free” (1944) was Bernstein’s first major work which served as the inspiration for the popular film/broadway  On the Town. It didn’t share the music, however. It consists of three dances Galop, Waltz, and Danzon, he shared with Aaron Copland who used it as “Danzon Cubano.”

On the Waterfront (1954) was the only film that Bernstein did for Hollywood and his friend Elia Kazan. It  is a gritty somewhat dissonant score except for the main theme which was also used in Chinatown. We can say that the style was something like Alex North and the two films he did for Kazan Streetcar Named Desire and Viva Zapapta.

On the Town (1946) also became a movie with Sinatra and Kelly with different music of course. We hear three dances from the play. The first two are ballet and the last a showy Gershwin type music.

While not classical it certainly deserves a place in your Bernstein section of your CD’s. It shows the versatility of this very talented man.


cowen marco polo 001

A newly discovered composer I quickly found that Cowen was a bright spot in my day with his light and tonal material. He was born in Jamaica in 1852 and he proved very early on that he was a child prodigy having done an operetta at the age of 8. At 14 he wrote an Overture in D Minor performed by the Alfred Mellon Promenade Orchestra. It was the 3rd Symphony ‘Scandinavian’ premiered in 1880, performed on this CD that vaulted him into prominence for well over a decade. He married in 1905 to a woman 30 years younger than he but it proved to be no problem although she outlived him by 36 years. During the next 25 years is when he did the majority of his works including the other two works on this CD The Butterfly’s Ball and  Indian Rhapsody. 

The Butterfly’s Ball (1901), a concert overture, tells a lovely little story about butterflies and there flitting and waltzing to the music. This a bright cheery overture for the first part , switching to some sort of danger music until it segues back to a passage of urgency. This continues until the romantic strings call for no danger of predators and a calming of the wind only a fast allegro leading to a rousing conclusion. A well done piece as is the second overture Indian Rhapsody (1903). The flavor of India is apparent early in the score with fast urgent passages until a solo andante violin emerges followed by a continuing of the non Indian melody. It is quiet and romantic. A very quiet melody emerges from the bassoon followed by reeds with soft harp in the background for harmony. The strings emerge quietly and then become more forceful until they become tranquil. A pause and then the strings are off again on another staccato type melody. It is first exchanged by the woodwinds until the strings become front and center singing brightly. If one listens carefully one can hear a similarity to some passages in the The Butterfly’s Ball. The work ends on a sense of driving playing from the strings and the rest of the orchestra. A well played piece that was somewhat difficult from the Czechoslovak Orchestra conducted by Adrian Leaper.

Symphony No. 3 in C Minor ‘Scandinavian’ (1880) begins with a powerful melody that dominates the first movement and it is shared by all sections of the orchestra, the prevailing section being the strings followed by the woodwinds. The timpani signals the end of the movement and the mood of the second movement completely changes. It is the only movement with a title ” A Summer Evening on the Fjord.” As the title indicates this is a quiet and tranquil movement with no dominate melody. This is  followed by a Scherzo with the primary work being done by the strings.  There is a melody but nothing like the tune in the first movement. The fourth movement returns to the first movement with it’s infectious melody, passed around from section to section until it  settles with the strings.

As I previously mentioned the CD case was broken (crushed), no liner notes, and poor copying of the artwork. However, the sound of the CD, the conducting of Adrian Leaper, the playing of the Czech Orchestra, and the selection of the works for the CD were all outstanding. I was introduced to Cowen and am looking forward to hearing more, although this recording is pretty much it. While he was extremely popular during his lifetime he is pretty obscure. Let Naxos that you want more. He has written other symphonies and many concert overture pieces.



573839 rr Wagner EU

As many of you know in addition to classical music I also have quite a fondness for film music which in my opinion is some of your modern classical music. How can you not listen to “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Trek” and not conjure up thoughts of Rimsky-Korsakov or Wagner. These two composers of the 19th century were the template of material that started 20th century film music. Both of them would have made fine Hollywood composers as they could write the type of music necessary for the wide range of emotions necessary. While there were others these two seem to standout as excellent examples.

The 64 minutes of material is the orchestral material to the 16 hours of opera, something that few people have ever listened to in it’s entirety. It shows the mastery that Wagner had. His ear was tuned to pick up the small nuances that were way over my head such as the use of a bass clarinet and a sax at a critical moment. He wrote as liner note writer Edward Yadzinski described as ‘small tuneful fragments as thematic material for individual characters’ (Leitmotifs). He pioneered the way for Strauss, Mahler, and Stravinsky and influenced Hollywood writers such as Korngold, Horner, and Williams.

All of this talk of theory, harmony, and orchestration took a second seat to his #1 love a lyricist. He built a special theater in Bayreuth to control the sound of the orchestra. It had levels to control the volume like a modern day equalizer. Pure genius!

I’m not very smart about Wagner so I can’t tell you how this recording is compared to the Maazel as an example. I can tell you I have nearly all the Buffalo Philharmonic recordings and like them very much. If you’re not familiar with Wagner give this a try and perhaps it will encourage you to try one of his operas.



One of the more difficult reviews for me to write is this one because anyone who has even a modest collection of material will have these two works in their collection. Some won’t have the vocal but many will. Why then would you buy this recording? The Bergen Philharmonic know this as well as the Marine band playing The Star Spangled Banner. The Chandos recording is in the SA-CD mode so if you have the system the sound is unbelievable. Chandos for the most part makes superior recordings. If for some reason you  don’t have these two wonderful melodic recordings they will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was the Gershwin of Norway. Even today he is wildly popular for his material. Peer Gynt sound clips are heard in many films. As most of you know it is a very pleasant piece to listen to and the Bergen Philharmonic is  top drawer.

There are many boxed sets of piano concertos and this one is often included. It stands on the same ground as the Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff concertos. It is romantic and filled with wonderful melodies. A real winner.

If you don’t have these recordings get them. This is a good recording.


February 15, 2018



A noted critic commented ‘after a single acquaintance with this fantastic film and its music, it is naturally only possible to receive a general impression. Most striking was the cohesion of the two mediums with Huppertz’ music providing a significant orientation in the complex film.’

One can make the argument that this was the finest score ever written for a silent film in the 20’s especially Huppertz who only did 8 films out of his 40 compositions, the others being concert pieces for orchestra. I further argue that this ranks as an equal with my favorite score which is Nosferatu  written by James Bernard, composer of many Hammer horror films.

Did Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, and Erich Korngold  go to school and learn from this score; a resounding yes! In fact all six components detailed in Fabich’s book were used in their scores. It consisted of “leitmotifs, scene-related themes and motifs intended for a single passage within the film, longer sections primarily adhering to musical rules, ostinato figures with leitmotif character, musical description and quotations.” For those who are not familiar a leitmotif is a theme or phrase that denotes an actor, idea, or thought. The best example I can give is the “Jaws” theme to denote the shark danger. The ostinato phrase is one repeated over and over, probably a leitmotif. A good example in this score is the use of the Dies Irae death theme used a lot.

The reason for the greatness of this score was the hands on approach that Huppertz took. Instead of waiting to do the score upon completion Huppertz studied and researched the film on a daily basis. This aided in  the synchronization process which made this score so superior to so many of its contemporaries. I can’t encourage you enough to watch the film and see how the music is an integral part of the movie and would be quite ordinary without it.  https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Metropolis-Silent-Brigitte-Helm/dp/B004R0LJ5E

The music doesn’t sound like a typical silent film but more modern sounding. I’ve listened to it three times all the way through and the time goes by a lot quicker than one might think. The themes roll out one after another and after the third time you’ll find yourself humming the different melodies as the score is quite tonal in nature with very little in the way of atonal passages.

I’ve given you the prime amazon link to view the film. It has been cleaned up and is an easy watch for you. If you own any of the older CD’s get this new one and enjoy the complete unedited version of this classic score. Highly recommended.




BRK 900154


“The Bells” (Die Glocken)  was written in 1913 and is based on the Edgar Allen Poe poem. To put this in perspective Sergey was to do only 10 compositions until his death in 1943, a period of 30 years. The poem was sent to Sergey anonymously along with a letter urging him to write a work about it. It was translated by Konstantin Balmont (1867-1943) and it was different in many ways from the original Poe poem. Divided into four parts the work tells the story through the bells, orchestra, and voice. The first movement with sleigh bells  suggests youth and care free times. The chorus is singing a lullaby and it is a dreamy sequence. All is happy and well in Russia. The beginning of the work reminds me of Bernard Herrmann. Only a few bars but a noteworthy observation.

In the second movement Balmont’s verses switch to the golden bells ringing, solemn, serious, and significant. A wedding? A solo soprano reveals a sensual bliss for the blessed occasion.

In the third movement we now hear the fierce real world of day to day life. The movement is quite disturbing offering little hope.

The final movement talks about death. The swinging bell is the coffin’s peace.There are many references to the end in this movement. The bell has spoken.

Rachmaninov’s final work, “Symphonic Dances” (1940), is a return to his ballet “The Scythians” (1915) where he dealt with ancient horsemen.

The first movement begins with staccato type phrasing complete with drums which represent the riders. The mood quickly shifts and we hear a theme from a mourning alto saxophone which is peaceful.

Tempo di Valse is the order of the day for the second movement and we hear a somewhat typical Russian Waltz with flute, the blaring of trumpets, and clarinet.

Rachmaninov knew that this final third movement was to be his last and he gave indications with “Dies Irae” and “Blessed be the Lord. “This was subtly written to be his swansong in nature although it begins as a piece that Ravel could have written (Rhapsody Espangol).

Overall this is one of my favorite orchestral works that I have several of in my collection. The advantage of this recording is the coupling with “The Bells” 74 minutes of material by a seasoned conductor on nicely recorded CD. If you don’t have these works they will be a welcome addition to your collection.




Music From the Original Scores
Ships the week of February 5th


Review will follow soon. As you know I like Lee a lot. Look forward to a new Chris Young too.