Special Features

15 Film Soundtrack CDs 

Scores from MAX STEINER, BERNARD HERRMANN, ERICH W. KORNGOLD, MAX STEINER, GABRIEL YARED, HOWARD SHORE, PHILIP GLASS, CARL DAVIS, DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH, SIR ARTHUR BLISS & LALO SCHIFRIN

Published on June 6, 2010

15 Film Soundtrack CDs 
15 FILM SOUNDTRACK CD REVIEWS

MAX STEINER: The Charge of the Light Brigade – complete film score (1936) – Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William Stromberg – Tribute Film Classics TFC-1005 (2 CDs), 65:18, 34:54 [www.screenarchives.com/]:

Unlike Korngold, Max Steiner (1888-1971) wrote scores for hundreds of films. He arrived in the United States during the early days of the First World War, having been working in London at the outbreak and so in danger of being interred as an enemy alien.  After working as a music director in New York responsible for many well-known productions involving Gershwin, Kern among others he went to Hollywood in 1929 at the start of the talkies era. His first big success came with “King Kong” in 1932.

There was something of a fashion for blockbusters about the British Empire, some based on fact, others entirely fictional. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is an example of the former and is a vehicle for that rough diamond with a heart of gold, Errol Flynn. Two brothers – Geoffrey and Perry Vickers – played by Flynn and Patric Knowles, fall for Elsa, played by Olivia de Havilland, who is engaged to one but loves the other.

This score was restored partly from the full score and parts in Warner Bros’ library; this represents about half of the music here. The remainder had to be reconstructed from Max Steiner’s sketches in conjunction with listening to the soundtrack. This is truly a labour of love and a long-time ambition of the musicians working on this project,:  William Stromberg the conductor,  Anna Bonn (Mrs Stromberg), producer, and John Morgan, who reconstructed and orchestrated the score. It is a substantial one, nigh on ninety minutes of music with great variety and inspiration, a wall-to-wall score much-liked by Jack Warner, though Aaron Copland rather dismissed Steiner’s work as “Mickey Mousing”.  Some of the tracks consist of music for deleted scenes restored for this release.

Steiner had studied composition with Gustav Mahler among others, and had taken on board writing styles of Strauss, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky and his work in turn inspired contemporary and later film music composers, even Korngold himself.  A substantial overture and scene setting piece opens the film, a track brimful of military strength though towards the end the menacing theme of the villain, Surat Khan interposes itself.  “At the Lancers’ Ball” and “Ballroom Waltz” are two longer pieces where Steiner adopts an older style most successfully. The battle scenes produced some very influential music, here the “Attack of the Suristanis”, “Treachery under a White Flag” and “Massacre” impressive with their power of construction. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” itself lasts over nine minutes full of atmosphere on its own without the accompanying pictures.  The film ends unhappily so Steiner’s short coda during the end credits is upbeat to raise the audience’s spirits.

The extras include music for the promotional trailer, well over four minutes for a single reel, and the music for the trailer for “Arsenic and Old Lace”.

The enormous orchestra’s forces are marshalled expertly by William Stromberg, though for many scenes it’s advisable to ensure your neighbours are out. The recording, made in the Mosfilm studios is fairly closely miked and detailed. The big battles scenes need a little more air round the sound.

Tribute Film Classics have produced a superb booklet to accompany this release, 32 pages on high quality paper and in colour with plenty of stills, and several very interesting essays about the film, the music, its restoration and Steiner himself. The double CD set comes in at a slightly higher price than a single CD.

TrackList:

DISC ONE (65:28)
1. Main Title/Palace of Surat Khan 4:08
2. Dispensing with Formalities 1:45
3. A Brilliant Shot 2:59
4. Little Prema and Geoffrey :51
5. Soldiers on Parade 1:36
6. Calcutta :53
7. Perry and Elsa 1:43
8. Brothers Reunited :40
9. At the Lancers’ Ball 3:38
10. Elsa’s Waltz 4:42
11. Ballroom Waltz 1:05
12. Geoffrey Warns Perry 1:14
13. Geoffrey Bids Farewell/Trek to Buy Horses 5:13
14. “I’d Rather Hoped for Some Action!” 4:39
15. On to Chukoti 3:35
16. Prema Tries on a New Salute :24
17. Colonel Campbell Annoyed/Lady Warrenton 1:47
18. In the Garden with Perry/Convoy Returns 2:04
19. Leaving Chukoti Undefended 3:47
20. Attack of the Suristanis 3:05
21. Retreat to the Barracks 4:21
22. A Chance by Moonlight 1:28
23. Surat Khan Proposes a Truce 3:06
24. Treachery under a White Flag 2:31
25. Massacre/A Debt Is Paid 4:00

DISC TWO (34:54)
1. Rescue Troops to Chukoti 2:51
2. “They’re Dead! They’re All Dead!” 2:31
3. “The Finest Man I’ve Ever Known” 2:46
4. Orders to Withdraw the Light Brigade 1:18
5. Forging the Order to Advance on Balaklava Heights 3:10
6. “It’s Come at Last”/Noble Gesture 2:35
7. “Our Objective Is Surat Khan!” :51
8. The Charge of the Light Brigade 9:27
9. “For Conspicuous Gallantry” 1:04
10. End Cast :39

BONUS TRACKS
11. The Light Brigade Rides Again Promotional Trailer 4:37
12. Arsenic and Old Lace Original Theatrical Trailer 2:59

The enormous orchestra’s forces are marshalled expertly by William Stromberg, though for many scenes it’s advisable to ensure your neighbours are out. The recording, made in the Mosfilm studios is fairly closely miked and detailed. The big battles scenes need a little more air round the sound.

Tribute Film Classics have produced a superb booklet to accompany this release, 32 pages on high quality paper and in colour with plenty of stills, and several very interesting essays about the film, the music, its restoration and Steiner himself. The double CD set comes in at a slightly higher price than a single CD.

BERNARD HERRMANN: Fahrenheit 451 (1966); The Twilight Zone – Walking Distance (1959) – Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William T. Stromberg – Tribute Film Classics TFC1002, 77:40:

Bernard Herrmann was to contributed the score for “Torn Curtain” in 1966 but was fired by Alfred Hitchcock after a difference of opinion about the music. Ray Bradbury, coincidentally, had visited Hitchcock, Herrmann and Paul Newman on the set, and a couple of months later suggested Herrmann to Truffaut for the writing of the score for Fahrenheit 451, based on a 1953 novella by Bradbury.

It is a tale of a dystopian modernist U.S. society where books are banned as they encourage free thinking, and teams of firemen travel round to burn any discovered ones.  The title refers to the temperature at which paper ignites.  Although a number of actors were considered for the parts, including Paul Newman, the film stars Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Anton Diffring, Cyril Cusack, Bee Duffell, and, before his hit in “Oliver!”, the very young Mark Lester. It was Truffaut’s only film made in English and he is said to prefer the French language edition as he found the English dialogue stilted.

Herrmann scored for strings and harps, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel which Truffaut thought too much like a combination for a comedy cartoon and watered down Herrmann’s work in some places. John Morgan and William Stromberg have restored the music to Herrmann’s original intentions and also replaced music written for some deleted scenes. What we hear is a very atmospheric and mysterious score veering towards the flavour of minimalist scores written much later by Glass and Nyman. The invention in “The Nightmare” and “The Novel”  is  particularly rewarding, as is the “Finale” shot in a fortuitous snowstorm.

“Walking Distance” is an episode of “The Twilight Zone” and dates from 1959, the tale of man who stumbles back into observing his own childhood. Again, the orchestra has strings only, with the addition of a single harp. And what an effective piece of writing it is! The Mahlerian simplicity of some of the writing grabs the attention as in “Martin’s Summer” and “The Parents”, the whole quarter hour suite making very rewarding listening.

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra under William Stromberg play with almost tangible concentration so that the music retains its disciplined transparency to the full. The booklet is a very fine production in colour, the essays making valuable and very interesting reading. The recording sounds superb, the tuned percussion coming across with startling realism.

An excellent production all round!

TrackLists:
FAHRENHEIT 451
Prelude (1:34)
Fire Station (0:53)
The Lamp (3:29)
Clarisse (1:06)
Happiness (0:43)
TV Signals (1:28)
Bedtime (2:02)
The Boys (1:51)
Home (0:50)
Pink and Gold Pills (1:37)
Recovery (0:51)
The Bedroom (1:44)
The Monorail (1:01)
The Novel (David Copperfield) (3:03)
The Garden (1:22)
The Bridge (1:23)
The Café (0:46)
The Box (0:57)
The Corridor++ (1:23)
Montag’s Books (1:16)
The Pole (1:08)
Fire Alarm (1:40)
The Books (1:28)
The Hose (1:34)
Flames (1:30)
The Basket (1:21)
The Reading (1:33)
The Nightmare (2:13)
The Skylight* (1:28)
The Windows (0:37)
TV Aerials (0:27)
The Photos (1:08)
The File (0:50)
Vertigo (1:06)
Information (0:52)
The Vase (2:02)
The Mirror (0:35)
Fire Engine (1:11)
Farewell (0:17)
Flame Thrower (0:33)
Flowers of Fire (1:16)
The Captain’s Death (0:53)
Freedom (1:56)
The Railway (1:52)
The Road (1:57)
First Snows of Winter (0:32)
Finale (2:01)

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: WALKING DISTANCE
Prelude (0:30)
Memories (2:33)
The Park (1:44)
The House (1:27)
The Parents (1:47)
Martin’s Summer (1:07)
Elegy (3:59)
Finale (1:14)

BERNARD HERRMANN: Mysterious Island (1961) -  Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William T. Stromberg – Tribute Film Classics TFC1001, 71:27:

Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) collaborated with some of the finest directors in the history of theatre, radio and cinema, among these, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and, in this film, Cy Endfield and the doyen of special effects directors, Ray Harryhausen. Cy Endfield, like Sam Wanamaker and others, had made a career in the UK after blacklisting during the “McCarthy era”.

“Mysterious Island” was based on the Jules Verne tale of the eponymous island populated by giant animals and plants, a “Swiss Family Robinson” on steroids.  Again, while the tracks are short, the whole hangs together as an organic creation very successfully, a tone poem of mystery and suspense, punctuated by descriptive section to relieve the tension.

A good deal of work went into John Morgan’s restoration of the score, comparing the poor copies of the original with the soundtrack, and Herrmann’s own Decca recording from the 1970s, and removing the many errors, and crossings out, where Herrmann made use of this music for other projects.

For a fantasy film, Herrmann used as unusually manned orchestra; there are eight horns and four harps (arranged antiphonally for marvellous stereo effects), four tubas, four timpani and quite a variety of percussion instruments, including a pair each of glockenspiels, vibraphones and xylophones. Such combinations allow great variety in the results which are most effective.

There is a wide dynamic range to this music – I waited for the neighbours to go out – and recording quality is excellent, with frighteningly accurate immediate reproduction of the percussion in particular. As with other restored scores, music for scenes deleted by the director is restored to its rightful place.

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra and all the additional percussionists play splendidly for William Stromberg; such transparent music needs more than usual ensemble for success and this is certainly achieved here. Presentation is at the exemplary standard Tribute Film Classics has adopted, a 32 page booklet, in colour on high quality paper, with valuable detailed essays.

This is another major addition to film music’s and Herrmann’s discography.

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)
Prelude (1:34)
The Battle (1:21)
The Gates (0:38)
The Stairs (0:24)
The Tower (0:31)
The Escape (0:38)
The Balloon 1 (1:18)
Introductions (0:29)
The Clouds A (1:06)
The Clouds B (0:55)
The Clouds C (0:47)
The Clouds D (0:41)
The Clouds E (1:03)
The Balloon 2 (2:09)
The Island (0:39)
The Rocks (0:36)
Exploration (2:27)
The Giant Crab (3:02)
The Volcano (1:18)
The Crater (0:31)
The Beach (1:46)
The Stream (0:46)
The Cliff (1:34)
The Cave (2:30)
Narration (1:38)
R. C. [Robinson Crusoe] (0:15)
Elena (0:34)
The Shadow (0:40)
The Bird (2:43)
Duo (1:52)
Honeycomb (1:02)
The Giant Bee 1 (1:59)
The Sail (0:29)
The Giant Bee 2 (0:51)
The Flag (0:52)
The Fire (0:38)
The Nautilus (1:38)
The Bridge (1:14)
The Pirates (1:32)
Gunsmoke (0:42)
Attack (0:53)
The Sinking Ship (1:05)
Captain Nemo (0:41)
The Bottle (0:31)
The Pipeline (1:18)
Underwater (1:28)
The Smoke (1:39)
Danger A (0:20)
Danger B (0:23)
Lava Flow (1:16)
The Octopus (1:31)
The Raft (0:26)
The Rock (0:39)
The Sub Deck (0:35)
The Tentacles (0:31)
The Fight (2:50)
The Divers (1:17)
The Air Hose (0:51)
The Ship Rising (1:19)
The Earthquake (1:04)
Finale (1:26)
Surprise Bonus Track (2:10)

BERNARD HERRMANN: The Kentuckian (1955); Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot (1956) – Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William T. Stromberg – Tribute Film Classics TFC1004, 73:19:

Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) is represented on this CD by two scores dating from the mid-1950s, and those familiar with other scores will recognize his fingerprints here, especially in “The Kentuckian”.  A native New Yorker with a somewhat hard-nosed personality and sometimes abrasive manner, Herrmann excelled as a composer for cinema and the concert hall and as a conductor. Indeed, he had a good working relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra from 1955 onwards, and in 1961 did stand a chance of being appointed chief conductor; in the end the orchestra appointed Pierre Monteux. His Symphony (1941) was issued on Koch and deserves a remastering to correct the original faulty one, and reissue.

“The Kentuckian” was a Harold Hecht, James Hill and Burt Lancaster production, and tells the tale of a father-and-son adventure, starring Burt Lancaster, who also directed the film, and among others, Walter Matthau as a baddie in the days before he became much loved for his sardonically humorous roles.

There’s much open-air music, as well as Herrmann’s inimitable music for scenes with suspense. The tracks are quite short yet nevertheless the score hangs together as a unit really successfully in this presentation.

“Williamsburg: The story of a patriot” is a short film of just over half an hour, starring Jack Lord and shot on location in Williamsburg. It holds the record for the film longest running in a theatre, this happening every day in Williamsburg since 1957. For the music for this film, Herrmann exercised his love for Handel, Boyce and other 18th century composers writing in this earlier style a witty and delightful score for an augmented chamber orchestra, and is comparable to Beecham’s concoctions once so popular. Unlike Beecham’s works, though, much of the music is original.

Both performances and recordings are excellent, with tight ensemble from the Russian orchestra under the experienced baton of William Stromberg. Presentation, too, is first-rate, the booklet with  a treasure of information and superbly illustrated. This is an excellent double bill.

TrackList :

THE KENTUCKIAN (1955)
Prelude (1:50)
The Stagecoach (1:18)
The Jail (0:26)
Daydreaming I (1:36)
Decker (0:37)
The Fromes (0:43)
Trio (1:01)
The Key (0:46)
The Forest (1:12)
Morning and Night (2:04)
The Whip (0:42)
The House (0:20)
Hannah (0:55)
The Pearl (1:21)
The Bar (0:14)
The Attic (0:59)
Miss Susie (2:16)
The Letter (0:57)
The Loafer (0:25)
Anger (0:18)
The School (0:14)
Daydreaming II (1:08)
The Steamboat (1:03)
Welcome Aboard (0:34)
Supper (1:03)
Nocturne (2:49)
The Vigil (1:19)
Confession (1:14)
River Queen (0:36)
Saloon Piano (1:47)
The Gamblers (Piano) (0:33)
The Captain (0:13)
Scherzo (1:02)
The Boy and Dog (0:44)
The Drunk (0:33)
The Rope (1:15)
The Wheel (0:20)
Victory (0:35)
The Reproach (2:00)
Boyhood’s End (3:42)
The Boy’s Call (Horn) (0:17)
Night Sounds (1:31)
The Still (1:10)
A-waiting (0:30)
The Rifle (1:30)
The Body (0:50)
The Kill (0:13)
Finale (1:27)

WILLIAMSBURG: The Story of a Patriot (1956)
Overture (2:09)
Pastoral Prelude (2:45)
Departure (0:38)
The Street and the Inn (1:08)
Barrel Organ Music I (1:31)
Barrel Organ Music II (0:44)
The House of Burgesses (0:29)
Treason (0:18)
The Governor (0:57)
Taxes (Scherzo) (1:03)
The New Hat (0:43)
Homecoming (1:06)
Gown and Court (1:01)
The Bench (0:37)
The Palace (0:47)
The Garden (1:06)
The Mock Hanging (0:35)
The Church (0:44)
Royal Marines (0:41)
The Drummer (0:44)
Concord (0:39)
The Park (0:37)
Drafting (0:28)
Finale (1:33)

ERICH WOLFGANGKORNGOLD: The Prince and the Pauper (1937) – Moscow Symphony Orchestra /William T. Stromberg – Tribute Film Classics TFC1006, 64:52:

Korngold arrived in the United States for the first time in 1934 to adapt Mendelssohn’s music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for Max Reinhardt’s film, and he made several more visits before settling in Hollywood just after the Anschluss in 1938. He contributed nineteen original scores between 1934 and 1946, from “Captain Blood” to “Escape Me Never” and “Deception”; thereafter he tried to resurrect his career back in Vienna in more serious music.

“The Prince and the Pauper” was his seventh film score after “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a great deal of music written music in but a couple of years made possible by the orchestral scoring being completed by Hugo Friedhofer (who also assisted Max Steiner) and Milan Roder. Based on Mark Twain’s tale of a Prince Edward and a pauper, Tom, accidentally changing places, having changed clothes, having adventures and all being resolved happily at the end, the baddies getting their comeuppances.  Shooting began in January 1937 and the film opened on 8 May, with the indistinguishable twins Bill and Bobby Mauch in the title roles (and on the cover of Time magazine) with Errol Flynn (hooray!) and Claude Rains (boo!).

The score of over an hour works very well indeed on CD, the tableaux linking together in a way a little similar to Richard Strauss’s “Symphonia Domestica”. The bold Straussian writing especially for horns, and the lush string writing are given an English flavour in parts.  Those who know Korngold’s Violin Concerto will recognize some of the themes coming from this film score.

There is much to enjoy in this score,  the exciting "Dual and Knife Fight, " music with pomp and circumstance, and the sensitive and touching prayer.  "The Prince" (6) paints a fine portrait of the boy,  as does the "Dining Scene" (20). The orchestral demands are huge,  with much extra brass, an enormous battery of percussion as well as two harps, celesta and piano.

William Stromberg and John Morgan have worked together for some years the latter restoring the scores and the former conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and readers may well be familiar with previous recordings on Marco Polo and Naxos. This issue is one of several new releases on a new venture “Tribute Film Classics” and come with the advantage of luxuriously printed 32 page booklets in colour with many stills and containing valuable essays about Korngold and the film.

The orchestra responds with excellence to all the demands; those hoping for a Russian brass sound of 50 years ago will be disappointed as the extensive vibrato is no longer.  Sound quality from Mosfilm Studios is pretty good, quite closely balanced, making the strings sound fewer in number than there possibly were, but with depth. Extras include the British version of the end title  complete with National Anthem and the music for the near three minute trailer.

A most entertaining hour.

TrackList:

1.Main Title (1:44)
2.A Prince is Born (0:33)
3.Tavern and Palace (3:15)
4.Tom/Tom Continuation (6:36)
5.The Bench (0:45)
6.The Prince (3:25)
7.Biscuit and Seal (1:53)
8.The Prince Goes Back (1:43)
9.The Captain (0:48)
10.The Boys Go to Play (0:49)
11.Mirror (1:56)
12.Prince Outside Palace (1:49)
13.The Next Morning (1:14)
14.Pauper Goes to King (2:12)
15.That Is My Son (0:35)
16.The King is Dead (1:27)
17.The Dog (0:55)
18.The Church (1:13)
19.Riot (1:23)
20.Dining Scene (3:44)
21.The Crown (0:59)
22.His Majesty (0:58)
23.Exit (0:32)
24.The Murder (1:06)
25.Street Scene (1:27)
26.Nuts Knocker (0:26)
27.Pauper’s Coronation (0:42)
28.Flirt (2:11)
29.Robbery (0:34)
30.Knife Fight (2:14)
31.The Maid and the Ride (1:44)
32.The Prayer (0:52)
33.Duel (2:26)
34.Fanfares (0:10)
35.Organ (0:28)
36.God Save the King (0:07)
37.Seal #1 (1:05)
38.Seal #2 (0:58)
39.Hurrah! (0:57)
40.Epilogue (2:10)
41.End Title (1:11)
42.Trailer (2:43)
43.British End Title (1:16)

Total Disc Time: 64:52

MAX STEINER: She (1935) – complete film score – Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William T. Stromberg – Tribute Film Classics TFC-1003, 71:07:

She was made by RKO studios in 1935 directed by Holden and Pichel, starring Helen Gahagan in the title role, and Randolph Scott, Helen Mack and Nigel Bruce. The screenplay was based on the novel of the same name by Sir Henry Rider Haggard, whose novels “Allan Quartermain” and “King Solomon’s Mines” I found terrifically exciting at age nine.

“She” is one of several “Lost World” films to be made over the years, but was not well received on release.  The novel, one of a several in the Ayesha series, is actually set in Africa, “She” being the white queen, “She, who must be obeyed”, who found immortality by bathing in a pillar of fire. As a small boy travelling to the Zimbabwe ruins, the ruins of a real lost city, my imagination ran riot and I felt I had been to the places which had inspired Haggard in the 19th century.

For the purposes of the film, the location was changed to the Arctic, and as with many films of the era, the Art Deco sets are magnificent – when will we see a DVD of “Madam Satan”? – but that was not enough to save the film at the box office.  While it did take in a reasonably average amount at the box office in 1935, it lost $180, 000 and effectively ended Helen Gahagan’s career before it had taken off. The reviewers were either cool or hotly hostile and the film itself was later lost and only turned up again as Buster Keaton had a copy.

However, the music is entirely another matter, a superb score from Max Steiner. Praised at the time for “the last word in modern dissonance – and harmonies” and for being “practically an opera wherein the vocal lines are spoken” the score still astounds with the quality of its invention. In addition on this release, William Stromberg and John Morgan for the first time present what Steiner had in mind, including music from the deleted scenes and also using the orchestration originally envisaged but not used due to financial cuts.

The chilliness of some of the scenes is most effective in “The Cave”, and the action music “The Sabre-Toothed Tiger” and various fights are suitably energetic. The Stravinskian feeling for the rites in this film hold on to their individuality whilst nodding to their inspiration. Extensive scenes in the “Hall of Kings” show Steiner at his best. The whole score presents here as an integral piece worthy of its length.

Music for James Whale’s Frankenstein is provided as an extra. The deluxe booklet has several  really interesting and informative essays and is printed on high quality paper with extensive stills and poster illustrations, all as appears the norm with all Tribute Film Classics releases. These booklets really do give an impression of a labour of love.  The orchestra with added brass and percussion is excellently recorded the players evidently enjoying their experience in the studio with some really incisive playing.

A superb production!

TrackList:

1. Main Title/Time Passes (02:07)
2. Uncle John’s Vision (01:06)
3. To the Northern Rim (00:35)
4. The Barrier (01:07)
5. At the Campfire (01:21)
6. The Saber-Tooth Tiger (02:19)
7. Avalanche (01:21)
8. The Cave (03:14)
9. Fight With the Natives (00:49)
10. Trek to Kor (03:39)
11. At the Gate (00:29)
12. The Queen/Tanya in Bed (05:07)
13. Tanya’s Unrest (03:21)
14. Leo Asleep (03:06)
15. Fanfares (00:40)
16. The Trial (05:10)
17. Forgotten Place (01:51)
18. The Memory Pool/Cremation (04:29)
19. The Terrace (07:46)
20. Hall of Kings Part 1 (03:55)
21. Hall of Kings Part 2 (03:35)
22. Hall of Kings Part 3 (01:19)
23. The Escape (03:22)
24. The Flame of Life (05:01)
25. Finale (02:39)

-- All above reviews, Peter Joelson

COCO & IGOR (2009) – Film by Jan Kounen; Music by STRAVINSKY & GABRIEL YARED: The Rite of Spring – Berlin Philharmonic/Sir Simon Rattle; 5 Easy Pieces: andante; Les 5 Doigts, moderato – Christophe Bukeudjian, piano; Original score by YARED, Jeff Atmajian, conductor – Naive V 5223:

I’m intrigued to see this alternative to the recent film on Coco Chanel, but I don’t know how many collectors will want yet another version the Stravinsky’s Rite, which takes up half of this CD. The performance is passionate, and ties in with the film since Chanel was present at the wild premiere of the work in 1913. Yared has done some excellent film scores, and his 11 short cues for this film are interesting listening even if one hasn’t seen the film. The note booklet is quite detailed concerning both the background of The Rite of Spring and the story of the two main personalities in the film.

ANGELS & DEMONS – Film by Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks. Music by HANS ZIMMER featuring violin solos by Joshua Bell – Sony Masterworks 88697-52096-2:

More holy smoke and mirrors from Howard and Hanks, with nine lengthy cues supporting the story concerning cosmic secrets, science, religion, good and evil. Probably mostly for fans of the two films.


HOWARD SHORE: Collector’s Edition Vol. 1 – Music from AFTER HOURS (Scorsese), HEAVEN (Diane Keaton), and various previously unreleased music – composed and orchestrated by Howard Shore – HOWE Records HWR-1003:

One of the most listenable CDs of film music I’ve heard in some time.  For over 40 years Shore has created music for documentaries (such as Dian Keaton’s), features, concert works, chamber music and songs. This is the first of a series highlighting some of this music. The first four tracks are from Shore’s score to Martin Scorsese’s film, which have never been released before. The final track is music from Keaton’s documentary, and in between are some works for both guitar and harmonica and orchestra, as well as some jazz-influenced pieces.  I’m personally looking forward to more in future.

PHILIP GLASS: The Secret Agent (Philip Glass Recording Archive: Vol. V) – English Chamber Orch./ Michael Riesman – Orange Mountain Music  0059, 52:00:

This is a reissue of the original soundtrack on a Nonesuch disc of Glass’ score for a 1996 independent film on the same sabotage plot that Hitchcock did better much earlier.  Though the film starred such great names as Bob Hoskins, Gerard Depardieu and Robin Williams, it was not well received. It was even felt that Glass’ music was too repetitious (imagine that!). Actually, the score by itself is quite enjoyable listening, possibly due to the more conservative orchestral settings instead of the electronic keyboards of many of the Glass Ensemble recordings.

CARL DAVIS: Napoleon – The Wren Orchestra/Carl Davis – Threefold Music CDC007 (Distr. by Naxos):

This is also a reissue – of a recording dating originally from 1983.  It is original music which Davis composed to accompany the epic 1921 French silent extravaganza by Abel Gance, Napoleon. He invented new equipment, experimented with color, widescreen, 3D. The final film was partly tinted and concluded with a three-screen portion called Polyvision. Thuout unusual camera movement was introduced to make the audience active participants instead of just spectators. Arthur Honegger composed and arranged a score for a 1927 showing of the film.  It was originally shown in two parts totaling five and one-half hours. Restorations of Napoleon were made in 1980, 1983 and 2000, but the only Region 1 DVD now available is a rather poor version of the earliest restoration, with the 3-screen ending section letterboxed. Francis Ford Coppola has legally blocked a proper DVD release unless it incorporates the score composed by his relative Carmine Cappola, while the general feeling is that the score excerpted on this disc by Carl Davis is superior.

The longtime restorer of the Gance film, Kevin Brownlow, has stated that Davis’ is “the finest score I have ever heard for a film – it not only fitted precisely the action and mood of every sequence, it enhanced the emotional quality of the film.”  The music is a pastiche of already-existing music, traditional music and new composition by Davis, which only follows the tradition of scores for silent films in major theaters. He uses a number of Beethoven selections, including the main themes from the Third Symphony and The Creatures of Prometheus. Other composers working in France at the time are also excerpted here and there: Gluck, Cherubini, Gretry, Gossec, etc. The expected  quintessential French tunes of La Marseillaise and Ca Ira are also featured. There are 14 cues on the disc.

WILLIAM SUSMAN: Music for Moving Pictures = When Medicine Got It Wrong; Balancing Acts: A Jewish Theater in the Soviet Union; Native New Yorker – Joan Jeanrenaud, cello & all string parts/Wm. Sussman, piano & keyboards/Mira Stroika, accordion & vocals – Susmanmusic.com SM2, 57:15:

William Susman is one of those classical composers who is affected by a variety of influences, including jazz, pop, Afro-Cuban and other non-Western folk traditions. He was trained in both classical and jazz piano and rhythm is an important part of his music. He has been especially active in scoring films, concentrating on documentaries, as on this CD. The first film uses historical and contemporary footage in a story about psychiatry. Balancing Acts uses archival films from the beginning of the Soviet Union, and Native New Yorker is a silent film shot on a hand-crank 1924 camera before, during and after 9/11. Alternative cellist Jeanrenaud – formerly of the Kronos Quartet – is prominent in the tracks for the first two films.

SHOSTAKOVICH: Music from the film Alone (1930-31) – Byelorussian Radio and TV Sym. Orch./Minsk Chamber Choir/Walter Mnatsakanov – Delos DRD2002, 71:27:

Although Dmitri Shostakovich wrote many different film scores during his career, he considered it a distraction from his main musical efforts. The 1929 film New Babylon was his first score, and he continued with films thru 1971. The film work did provide a way to support his family, and also offered some protection from the attacks Soviet officials on his serious works not being suitably in the “peoples’ style.”  However, all this films show great skills in meeting the demands of the film genre musically.

Alone was his second work for the new Soviet film industry, and in fact the film was originally intended to be silent, with an orchestral accompaniment in some showings. Soviet film sound was extremely low quality, so Shostakovich had a major challenge in getting across his musical ideas that would be so sorely compromised by the soundtrack fidelity. The beginning of the film takes place in Leningrad and nearly all the music is full of implicit satire – which was a specialty of Shostakovich. The chorus “Stay” is an exception, being meditative and quite beautiful. The rest of the film happens in the remote Altai Mountains and the mood here is slow and laconic, accompanying scenes of deep sorrow with the lower voices of the orchestra. The music also portrays nature as majestic yet full of dangers.  There are 29 short cues on this packed CD.


SIR ARTHUR BLISS: Christopher Columbus Suite; Seven Waves Away (3 Orch. Pieces); Baraza – Concert Piece for Piano & Orch. (from “Men of Two Worlds”); Men of Two Worlds (4 excerpts) – Silvia Capova, piano/Slovak Philharmonic Male Choir/Slovak Radio Sym. Orch./Adriano – Naxos 8.572226, 50:11:

This album is another achievement of Swiss composer-conductor-arranger Adriano.  The Alexander Korda film Christopher Columbus, of 1949, was recalled later by the composer as “comic” in many scenes. It had a naive and absurdly simplistic approach to the Columbus story, but the ten cues here bring us some beautiful musical themes. Bliss had to use Spanish idioms to suggest the atmosphere of the settings, although all the actors were English and American. Seven Waves Away was released in the U.S. in 1956 with the title Abandon Ship, and is about an ill-equipped lifeboat and the adventures therein. According to Bliss himself, the music included harmonica and “the regular…hurry-flurry of disaster.”

The 1946 Men of Two Worlds was about an African composer/pianist who studied music in Europe and then returned to his village in Tanganyika as a schoolmaster, where he comes into conflict with the forces of witchcraft. The film opens with a piano concerto, and also includes some authentic East African folk music. The concerto also includes men’s voices for an interesting effect.

LALO SCHIFRIN (composer/conductor): Music for SkyRiders – Aleph Records 043, 48.8 minutes:

The 1976 SkyRiders starred Robert Culp, Susannah York, Charles Aznavour and James Coburn in a rather far-fetched story about an industrialist’s wife and children being snatched from him by terrorists in Greece, and in the end their daring guerilla rescue by the good guys on hang gliders. The gliders are introduced in the waltz-time opening cue, “Flying Circus,” and the final cue “Copters and Gliders” brings everything to a head with a floaty, exciting seven minutes of orchestral gusto. The bouzouki and other Greek touches are heard in Schifrin’s imaginative score – one cited as a good example of the superlative score from an unexceptional movie.

– All above reviews, John Sunier

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