January 8, 2016
Victor Young (1900-1956) spent much of his entire life with a sweet band (singing strings was his trademark) and chief composer for Paramount Studios doing over 300 scores many with memorable tunes that when you left the theater you were humming it. When you looked at him with his slick black hair and rough complexion you would picture a chicago gangster/prize fighter who was in the illegal booze racket during the prohibition years. You certainly wouldn’t want to meet this cigar smoking man on a dark street. He was known to participate in marathon card poker games with Tiomkin and Steiner and seemingly had inexhaustible energy. The coveted Oscar eluded him for his entire life although he was nominated 22 times. His last film “Around the World in 80 Days” was given to him posthumously. My favorite song that he did for Hollywood and a jazz standard performed by my favorite jazz pianist Bill Evans Stella by Starlight was even nominated. It shows you how little Hollywood knows sometimes. The song is given first row treatment in the ample reconstruction of the film “Uninvited.”
The CD starts out with the main theme from “The Greatest Show on Earth ,” a circus march that would have made Sousa and Barnum proud. This is a tune to be played by marching bands in parades and sporting events.
“The Uninvited (1944),” a tale of a ghost and dark mansions gives Young ample opportunity to write underscore that is both playful and dark. Blended into the score is the wonderful Stella by Starlight theme which is nicely woven into the tracks by John Morgan and nicely performed by William Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. A short but wonderful track is The Village which takes you to Ireland for a brief but enchanting track. Another good underscore track is The Sobbing Ghost which is playful but also eerie and ends on a bright note with the Stella theme. The 24 minutes pass by very quickly.
“Gullivers Travels (1939),” also reconstructed by John Morgan was not a success at the box office but what does that have to do with score. Young came up with a fine offering of sentimental, melodramatic, and cartoon like music all with the trademark sound he did 300 times. The Prelude and the Storm offers stirring storm music, the main theme, and a bit of comic relief. The brass have a section where they earn their money with a bit of complicated playing.
“Bright Leaf (1952),” a film Young did for Warner Brothers about a tobacco farm starring Gary Cooper. As is the case with most scores Victor Young offers us a bright major key theme which is followed by a second theme written in harmony to the first one in Prelude-Welcome to Kingsmont. The six minute track also has a danger cue and a bit of frivolity, an excellent track. Sonia is yet a third theme that is light and delicate, a fine example of a theme for the lovely Lauren Bacall. Machine Montage is exactly what you think it might be depicting machines in machine sometimes at a frantic pace and mixed in with the main theme.Margaret is another sweet sentimental love about the character in the film who is cast aside for Sonia. Tobacco Montage is similiar to the machine track except there is quite a display of brass. Southern Vengeance has all sorts of things happening in the final six minute track.The Fie begins with strains of desperation and display. The Finale recaptures the memorable music that you heard in the beginning of the film.
The sound which was once special is little more than adequate today as digital quality has taken a leap forward. With the cost today of soundtracks this one coming in at $8.99 is quite a bargain. This release is identical to the Marco Polo #8.225063 which was released in 1998.
September 10, 2015
Did you realize that the London Philharmonic has recorded over 25 film music albums? I for one was quite surprised as I always considered it to be the orchestra that Sir Adrian Boult conducted because one of my very first albums purchased was a recording of Tchaikovsky’s HAMLET FANTASY OVERTURE, a recording I still own today although I must admit that I’ve worn it out and I have replaced it with many other recordings of this fine work.
The Battle of Neretva 1969-70 (SCCD1005)
Before and After 1995 (HR62039.2)
The Cell 2000 (FILMCD346)
Cliffhanger 1993 (514 455.2)
Cop Land 1997 (73138 35827.2)
Dead Ringers 1988 (FILMCD115)
Dogma 1999 (9362 47597.2)
East is East 1999 (7243 5 23361.2)
Ed Wood 1994 (012002.2HWR)
Existenz 1998 (09026 63478.2)
The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 (9362 48110.2)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Decca)
The Two Towers 2002 (9362 48421.2)
The Return of the King 2003 (9362 48609.2)
The Fly 1986 (VCD47272)
In the Name of the Father 1993 (518 841.2)
Iron Man 3 2013 (Hollywood Records B00B9JDAYO)
Lawrence of Arabia 1962 (CINCD 008)
Looking for Richard 1996 (CDQ7243 5 56139.2)
Madame Butterfly 1993 (VSD5435)
The Mission 1986 (CDV2402)
Naked Lunch 1991 (73138 35614.2)
Nobody’s Fool 1994 (73138 35689.2)
Now You See Me 2013 (Glassnote Records)
Philadelphia 1993 (EPC475800.2)
Thor: The Dark World 2013 (Hollywood Records B00G3Q5VT0)
The Yards 2000 (SK89442)
There are many compilation releases of movie music released every year in different forms but this release has the advantage of having John Mauceri re-arrange/orchestrate the material so you’ll hear it like you’ve never experienced before. Anna North, widow of Alex North, commissioned John to do a suite of material from the film Cleopatra( 1963)and the result is a spectacular 25 minute work that captures the music in a way you’ve never heard before and is the highlight of this 2 CD set released on the London Philharmonic’s label. It is delicate, romantic, majestic, brash, and dissonant all part of the package. It has a sound of the ancient as well as modern jazz. This suite alone is worth the price of the CD’s but there is more a lot more. The Godfather, a symphonic portrait, was also given the Mauceri touch and plays out like an operatic overture. It comes complete with romance, samba, early 20th century jazz, and excellent orchestrations. The 15 minute suite plays out quite nicely. Completing the first CD is the famous “The Ride of the Cossacks” from Taras Bulba,” a tune that Waxman found in a book of historic Russian folk sounds. It plays out like the style of Ravel’s Bolero, becoming quite frantic by the end. Both Shostakovich and Waxman had used this previously in other works each teasingly saying they stole the idea. Bronislaw Kaper wrote one of his last scores Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and it is nicely presented here in a 12 minute suite that not only features the love song, Oscar nominated along with the score, but all of the exotic material that he wrote for the Marlon Brando film. Kaper like Waxman and Korngold escaped to America and found a new home in Hollywood where they contributed unforgettable material. It is presented in a way that I had never heard before, again playing out more like a symphonic suite. Similar things can also be said of Psycho, a narrative for string orchestra, which Herrmann composed and recorded in 1968 while living in London. Norma Herrmann was kind enough to share this wealth of material with Mauceri who created a performing edition. Written somewhat like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in short cell like melodies they performed a pattern that the moviegoer has never quite heard before. Rounding out the CD’s are themes from Star Trek, Once Upon A Time in America, and Lawrence of Arabia. The 90 minutes goes by rather quickly as the sound quality and mixing enhance the superior playing of the London Philharmonic even more.
- Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox Fanfare 0:24
- Alex North Cleopatra Symphony 25:43
- Nino Rota The Godfather 15:20
- Franz Waxman Taras Bulba
- Bernard Herrmann Psycho 14:49
- Bronislaw Kaper Mutiny on the Bounty 12:17
- Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek 5:43
- Ennio Morricone Once Upon A Time In America 5:43
- Maurice Jarre Lawrence of Arabia 2:16
Total Time is 89:15
I put this release in the classical category as the tracks are wonderful duets of a husband and wife team on violin (Hedman) and piano (Redfeld) as well as three selections featuring clarinet (Foster) and trumpet (Washburn) also with Redfeld on the piano. John Williams music translates very nicely into this chamber music style, something that can’t be said of other composers. I certainly applaud BSX for continuing this unofficial series of young composers in a most intimate setting. In my opinion I feel that the listener is being exposed to chamber music and it will encourage them to seek out additional material. On this particular CD some of the selections are arranged by Williams, others by Redfeld, and some are Williams arrangements that have been modified by Redfeld.
There isn’t a nicer way to listen to Schindler’s List than in a duet with piano and violin of not only the main title from the film but also the tracks “Jewish Town” and “Remembrances.” This arrangement comes from John Williams and is performed by Hedman and Redfield. The violin offers the melody (voice) and the piano the harmony making for an effective arrangement). A very pleasant way to listen to fifteen minutes of Schindler’s List.
In The Terminal: “Viktor’s Tale” Donald Foster, clarinetist of John Williams, is featured in a reprise of his solo in the film. Talk about a catchy theme this is one that you’ll remember once you’ve heard it. Again in this arrangement the clarinet provides the melody (voice) and the harmony comes from the piano. Monsignor’s “Main Theme” features the fine trumpet of David Washburn in a track where the melody is shared with the piano as each offer harmony. This is also true of the “Main Theme” from JFK. Both of the trumpet solos are of the proud and majestic type, what you might expect from a trumpet. One of my favorites on the CD is “End Credit” from Dracula. Both share the melody in one of the better Gothic romantic themes ever. This reviewer thinks of a raucous fast paced arrangement of Fiddler on the Roof but to my surprise it is somewhat refrained and very nice to listen to.
I can find no fault at all with any aspect of this recording except for a bit of a couple of the digital images beginning to break up. The sound recording and mastering, liner notes, and selection of material are all top notch. This would be a nice selection to your collection. Give BSX a gold star for continuing on this fine series. Recommended.
January 18, 2015
The World Only Lovers See
As a sequel to https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/jerry-goldsmith-collection-rarities-vol-1compilation/ without Dominik Hauser but with the addition of Dan Redfeld to the talents of Northam and Park, the trio individually performs 21 songs of a man who like Gershwin was never without creating a new melody, Jerry Goldsmith. In a 40 year span from 1960-1990 he was the dominant force of Hollywood soundtracks producing 71 scores in the 70’s alone. This compilation spans a 30 year period from 1963-1993 offering something from all of the different genres Goldsmith wrote for.
The three soloists chosen for this BSX project are as diversified as the subject material and multiple listens to this CD will reveal the style of each pianist. A good example of this is the main theme to “100 Rifles” which is treated in the style of an etude de concert. Joolyun Park is delicate and forceful with an arrangement of some degree of difficulty. You wouldn’t know that this melody came from a western! The arrangement that Northam chose for the theme Free As The Wind from Papillon again hardly sounds like it belongs in a film only lacks a tinkling of glasses in the background to make it complete. The love theme from “Coma” rather than approached with softer touches is approached by Redfeld with strong powerful strokes in parts. Free as the Wind from “Papillon” is arranged in such a fashion that you’ll scarcely recognize the theme from the complex arrangement created by Northam without overdubbing. A well done quite classical interpretation. “The Sand Pebbles,” one of my favorite love themes from Goldsmith is created in a simple rather laid back fashion again by Northam. Who wouldn’t like “Rudy” treated in grand fashion by Redfeld who uses chords to make his point that this is a must have for Goldsmith fans and people who just like nice easy to listen to music. Even the “Walton’s Theme” which I associated with a sappy corny television series seems to flow rather easily in my audio canals.
While I can’t classify this as a soundtrack recording I can say that this is one a soundtrack listener will enjoy. It is a different way to listen to some of the themes that Goldsmith created. If you’re with a non soundtrack listener you can be the star by being able to tell what movie these were written for as well as having nice background music. Who knows that the theme might not inspire someone to purchase the entire soundtrack. The sound quality produced a nice smooth listening experience for me through my Intersound speakers.
1…. Rudy (3:16)
2…. Dennis the Menace (2:32)
3…. The Walton’s (2:27)
4…. Babe (1:47)
5…. 100 Rifles (2:11)
6…. Forever Young (3:09)
7…. Warning Shot (1:43)
8…. The Chairman (3:18)
9…. Morituri (3:39)
10.. The Prize (2:35)
11.. Coma (3:27)
12.. The Edge (2:57)
13.. The Other (3:36)
14.. Runaway (2:11)
15.. Explorers (2:02)
16.. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (2:40)
17.. Justine (2:38)
18.. The Sand Pebbles (2:38)
19.. Papillon (3:00)
20.. In Harm’s Way (2:37)
21.. The Russia House (2:37)
Total Time is 57:47
December 8, 2014
Victrola RCA 60016-2-RV
Serenade for Strings Waltz
Now more than ever before seems to be a good time to pick up bargains galore of used CD’s in thrift stores, pawnshops, and places that specialize in used audio material. Let’s face the facts and realize that this media form is going to go away and sooner than we might think. In my travels I found many CD’s for under a dollar and while I have many of Tchaikovsky’s works in my collection like a true collector this one caught my eye and I couldn’t resist. I’ve picked up several others and these will also be featured with their own review in the coming months.
RCA/Victrola was introduced in the early 1960’s as a way of reissuing material from their RCA/Red Seal catalog at a much lower price. Part of the releases were a series of 10 “BEST OF” and the Tchaikovsky CD was one of them.
The overall selection process seems to be awry from what I would have chosen as “BEST OF” from this talented composer. Missing are “Romeo and Juliet,” “Overture of 1812,” “Marche Slave,” “Violin Concerto,” “Nutcracker Suite” and “Swan Lake” among others. Instead the featured work is “Serenade for Strings” with three selections ( the waltz is featured in an audio clip) followed by two selections from his “Symphony No. 6.” I realize that some of my other favorites shouldn’t be included in releases such as the one that is being reviewed but I would have chosen differently and it would have been a lot more varied and interesting for the listener.
The overall quality of the recording is fine as the selections are divided between three orchestras and two soloists and the actual mastering is up to the usual RCA/Erato standards. If you’re fortunate enough to find this one for a dollar like I did and you’re interested in classical music I certainly wouldn’t hesitate getting this.
Look for more of my bargains in the future.
1. Serenade For Strings Waltz (3:54)
2. Symphony No. 6 First Movement (18:09)
3. Piano Concerto No. 1 Third Movement (7:14)
4. Serenade For Strings Elegy (9:03)
5. Serenade Melancolique (8:54)
6. Symphony No. 6 Second Movement (7:50)
7. Valse-Scherzo (5:30)
8. Serenade for Strings Tema russo (7:24)
Total Time is 68:30
September 5, 2014
Toccata Classics 0241
AUDIO CLIP REAR WINDOW
Featuring three of the finest composers from Hollywood; Herrmann, Waxman, and Tiomkin, John Mauceri offers a slightly different take on suites that have been created over the years of some of his biggest hits. John Mauceri has revised some of these suites to make a good one even better. As listeners we can only hope there will be more releases in the future. In addition there is a work from Benjamin and Elfman closes out the CD with his recently made film Hitchcock. The 81 minute CD offers music from Psycho, Rear Window, Rebecca, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, which includes the “Storm Cantata” and Hitchcock.
The CD begins with the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with its bright brass and a very strong emphasis on the percussion (timpani and cymbals). For those who are not familiar with the film the crescendo of the work has a very loud crash of the cymbals to muffle the sound of the gunshot. We quickly move to an extended suite from Rebecca (1940) from Franz Waxman the second of his many Oscar nominations and one of his better efforts in my opinion. It is a darkly romantic suite with a rich memorable theme which weaves its way through the score and will not be forgotten once you hear it. Waxman was in top form when he composed it for the Hitchcock/Selznick compilation.
The other entry from Waxman is the jazz style score to Rear Window (1954). I like the opening “Prelude” which sounds like it has a bit of that Sunset Boulevard style with a bit of improvisational feeling. I’ve included this one as an audio clip for you to enjoy. The ballet plays out like another track from Sunset Boulevard with an emphasis on a Leonard Bernstein cue from West Side Story. This is definitely one of Waxman’s underappreciated scores and is one that should be revisited often. This release also coincides with the remake of the film in 1998 and very recently released from MSM. That score was done by the talented David Shire.
Dimitri Tiomkin, Russian born, studied under Glazunov, a favorite classical composer of mine, immigrated to the United States and had a fine career in Hollywood. While he is probably best known for his High Noon theme he has so many more to offer. Strangers on a Train” shows the listener the versatility of Tiomkin as the suite offers classical, playful, fugue, and ends with a stunning waltz. This is quite an array of material for this suspense/thriller film from Alfred Hitchcock. Dial M for Murder begins with a classic Tiomkin fanfare opening somewhat similar to Red River and others. It quickly changes gears to a waltz which is the main theme of the film. Delicate, nicely flowing, it is one of his nicer efforts. The remainder of the suite is filled with danger and tension cues, something that Tiomkin knows well. Listen to the clock like cue with growly brass and the ever present vibraphone. There is also a fairly brief passage of the fugue that could have been taken from Strangers on a Train.
It can be argued by many that Vertigo was the best effort that Herrmann ever did. The dark romantic material will stay lingering in your brain as you hear the haunting melody that only Herrmann can write. “Prelude” and “Scene d’Amour” are the two selections from the film and both feature the haunting melody. The latter is quite a romantic bit of writing from Herrmann, probably the best he ever did.
North by Northwest (1959) is yet another memorable theme with the entire orchestra participating with staccato brass providing the main melody with excellent harmony coming from both the brass and the woodwinds. I like the way he uses the forceful notes to emphasize his theme.
Psycho (1960) was a film that at one point was almost never made and with that said it created a stir as well as a paycheck for life for Hitchcock. Herrmann went back to his “Sinfonietta” (1936) and drew material and the idea of making the score only strings. The strings provide just what the doctor ordered for the film and the narrative was created by Herrmann afterword. It has become a well played suite being recorded and performed by many orchestras. In 1968 Mauceri reworked the material and this is what is heard on this recording.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) was a remake of his film from 1934 and much of the suite you hear is not original Herrmann material but that of Arthur Benjamin’s material. I say that this short piece is as close to many that they will ever get to opera material. It is a very nice classical piece that worked very well in the film.
Finally we have Danny Elfman and his score to the film Hitchcock (2012) which tells the story of Hitchcock himself and the making of the film Psycho. The style is somewhat different and there is only a reference to the original film with the urgent violins. It plays out a lot more like a Sherlock Holmes film with a violin solo that weaves in and out in the beginning of the track before a love melody finishes out the track.
Everything about this release is top notch from the John Riley liner notes to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra to the conducting of John Mauceri, and finally to the recording. It will be a most welcome addition to any collection and comes with my highest recommendation.
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1:57)
- Rebecca (8.22)
- Rear Window (9:30)
- Strangers on a Train (8:39)
- Dial M For Murder (7:47)
- Vertigo (9:32)
- North By Northwest (2:47)
- Psycho (15:42)
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (9:55)
- Hitchcock (2012) (5:50)
Total Time is 81:00
July 16, 2014
RPO SP 042
NIC RAINE CONDUCTS THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
THEME FROM THE IPCRESS FILE
Here is yet another compilation of John Barry material for the listener so what makes this one special from the others. Nic Raine has had a long successful working relationship with John Barry and it’s because of this connection that this CD is slightly superior to the others in the marketplace. Raine’s knows the material and has an edge, a strong one. While there are others who guest conduct it’s Raine who did the arranging and the orchestrating and you can hear the difference. This would be the attraction to the soundtrack collector who likely already has all of this material already. I think the RPO put this CD out for the few places like Walmart where the customer can still look the bins and seeing the name Barry turning it over and reading the track listing thinks this would be a nice addition to his modest collection.
A very unusual thing about this CD is the absolute absent of any James Bond material which leads this reviewer to believe that there is a future installment featuring only Bond selections. Bond and Barry go together like tuna and mayo as there was a twenty five year run of Barry being the composer.
This CD is the ideal background music as the lovely sweet strains of Born Free, Somewhere in Time, and Out of Africa fill your date’s ear with music that she is likely familiar with. The arrangements are very pop and could be called elevator music, yet the tempos and the accenting of the right note in a passage is all there. One reviewer called Born Free syrupy which I question. The drum roll beginning is an eye opener to me that certainly got my attention.
Controlled light jazz is the description for Ipcress File as it begins with a cool sounding drum solo followed by the throaty strains of a flute playing in the lower register and then the theme is introduced by a cimbalom which has support orchestration from flutes, piano, double bass, and muted trumpet. This is a favorite of mine that I’ve got several different jazz interpretations of, that include artists other than John Barry.
Chaplin will tug at your heart strings as an especially romantic version of “Smile” is introduced by the piano and continued by lush sounding strings all designed with love in the air. The initial piano offering brought a tear to my eye.
One of the most seductive themes that Barry wrote was the theme to Body Heat with the strains of the alto sax luring the male into a situation he knows is bad but can’t resist the temptation. The sax was nicely played by Martin Williams and properly arranged by Nic Raines who knows Barry all too well.
Mary, Queen of Scots offers a solo violin that plays the melody that Tchaikovsky would be proud of. It is very yearning and well played by Clio Gould. Not complicated at all but very elegant.
Midnight Cowboy is one that misses the mark in my opinion. The harmonica arrangement is weak and not nearly as defined as the original recordings from John Barry. The recording itself doesn’t have the separation of the instrumentation that I listen for. The overall sound I found shrilly.
There are no liner notes at all only a listing of the soloists and a small biography about the RPO. This also leads me to believe that this CD was not aimed at the collector at all. I can say that overall I like it and I’ve already included The Ipcress File in one of my playlists on my iPod. This is a case where I feel that the good outweighs the bad. It’s available from Amazon in MP3 or CD format as well as other places.
- Born Free (3:58)
- The Ipcress File (4:20)
- King Kong (5:09)
- Dances with Wolves (3:52)
- Chaplin (5:07)
- King Rat (3:13)
- Enigma (3:26)
- Zulu (2:27)
- Mary, Queen of Scots (3:23)
- Midnight Cowboy (4:41)
- The Specialist (4:41)
- Somewhere in Time (6:31)
- The Quiller Memorandum (2:48)
- The Knack (1:43)
- Indecent Proposal (3:58)
- The Persuaders (2:12)
- Body Heat (4:05)
- Out of Africa (3:30)
Total Time 68:53