CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
18 APRIL 2011
The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the Web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.
D'Erlanger, F.: Vn Conc, Poëme; Cliffe: Vn Conc; Graffin/Lloyd-Jones/BBCWalNa O [Hyperion]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
While none of the selections on this tenth installment of Hyperion's "The Romantic Violin Concerto" are about to set the classical music world on its ear, they are significant additions to that repertoire, and well worth resuscitating. That's particularly true nowadays as it becomes more and more difficult for record companies to unearth new and interesting goodies.
Frédéric d'Erlanger (1868-1947) was born in Paris to a German father and American mother, but moved to London in his teens. He'd become a naturalized British citizen, and spent the rest of his life there promoting as well as writing music. Not a prolific composer to begin with, he's remembered for only a handful of works, none of which include the two here. Consequently both will come as welcome surprises to most.
The violin concerto of 1902 was quite popular in its day, and taken up by Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) a year after it was written. While it follows the usual three-movement concerto structure, this is far from just another one of those melodically mundane, blandly orchestrated violin display pieces. The opening allegro begins with the soloist stating a forceful robust theme (FR) that's reinforced by the orchestra. A couple of lovely subdued lyrical ideas (SL) follow in an immaculately scored exchange between soloist and tutti.
The development that's next includes a brief soaring cadenza, after which FR is recapped and embroidered by the violin. Wistful remembrances of SL return, and then FR reasserts itself as soloist and tutti rush towards the finish line. The movement ends definitively with some violin pyrotechnics, brass flourishes and ff chords for full orchestra.
The delicately scored slow movement is a gem! It opens with subdued tweets from the flute over soft strings, and then a plaintive Slavic-sounding melody on the cor anglais that brings Borodin's (1833-1887) Prince Igor (1890) to mind. The violin takes this up, lovingly elaborating on it, after which two more attractive ideas are introduced with subsequent approval from the soloist. All three themes are the basis for the developmental discourse that follows. The movement ends quietly with remembrances of past motifs.
The final allegro is a feathery scherzo where it's easy to imagine the violin as a colorful butterfly fluttering over an orchestral meadow of flowers caressed by summer breezes. The demands made on the soloist to keep everything airborne are considerable and beautifully met here. It's the perfect ending to a well thought out, skillfully written concertante work that's notable for its subtlety, and long overdue for revival.
In 1918 the composer wrote a seven-minute piece for violin and piano, which he called Poëme. Then in 1926 he produced the orchestral version that's next on the program. A tune-swept rhapsody, you'll find it's just as articulately orchestrated as the previous work. There's also that same sense of understatement which prevents it from becoming a romantic wallow.
The other composer represented here, Frederic Cliffe (1857-1931), was born and educated in England. He became a professor of piano at the Royal College of Music, but didn't make a serious effort to write anything until the age forty-two when he suddenly produced a full-blown symphony (1889). This met with astonishing success, and would be followed by five other major works, including the concerto on this release.
Then in 1911 he put down his pen never to compose again, devoting the rest of his life to concertizing and giving piano lessons. Born the same year as Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), maybe this was in part due to his feeling somewhat eclipsed by the immense popularity of his colleague's music.
A good friend and protégé of Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), Cliffe dedicated his violin concerto (1896) to him. It met with initial success following its first London performance in 1897, but would have to wait a century for its modern day revival by our soloist here. In three movements, the opening allegro begins with a brusque intervalic motif (BI) for orchestra that's picked up by the violin. A lyrical counter subject follows immediately, and then a lovely rhapsodic melody (LR) [track-5, beginning at 02:26], which is a languishment of BI.
The three ideas are subjected to an extensive dramatic development that includes a fiendish cadenza, which transitions into a hushed restatement of LR by all. A stunning coda recalling all the previous themes follows, ending the movement on a real high.
The delicately scored andante is a three-part affair whose subdued opening and closing sections are built around an extended sinuous melody (ES). They're offset by a feisty dramatic central episode, which by contrast makes them all the more appealing.
Despite a mysterious vaporous beginning, the finale turns into a gypsy fantasy with Magyar-sounding melodies and plenty of fiddle fireworks. One of the themes [track-7, beginning at 02:00] is quite song-like, and will recur in rondo fashion throughout the movement. There are also allusions to ES, and then the concerto ends frenetically with an exuberant final coda.
Violinist Philippe Graffin is no stranger to these pages (see the newsletter of 23 February 2011), and once again works his magic with these three works. Technically speaking his playing is all one could ask for, while from the interpretive standpoint, his sensitive handing of the d'Erlanger scores, and more dynamic approach to Cliffe's concerto are perfectly in line with what it would seem the composers intended. Conductor David Lloyd-Jones and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales are ideal allies providing him with enthusiastic support. All together they make a strong case for this music.
Recorded in the extensively wood-paneled BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales, the sonics are commendable! A generous soundstage is projected in this warm sylvan acoustic, and the balance between the violin as well as the many other solo instruments and tutti is ideal. Clarity characterizes these recordings to the point where massed string passages are at times a tad bright, but not fatiguing.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P110418)
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Fuchs, R.: Serens 1 & 2 (stgs), Andante grazioso & Cap (stgs); Ludwig/Col ChO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
In his day Austrian-born Robert Fuchs (1847-1927) was known more as a distinguished pedagogue, who could count Gustav Mahler (1860-1911 see the newsletter of 23 June 2006), Jean Sibelius (1865-1957, see the newsletter of 7 May 2006), Franz Schmidt (1874-1939, see the newsletter of 15 January 2010), Max Steiner (1888-1971, see below) and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957, see the newsletter of 31 March 2011) among his students. But he was also a composer of considerable merit, and those liking the Brahms (1833-1897) and Dvorák (1841-1904) serenades (1858-59 and 1875-78) will find much to enjoy on this new release from Naxos.
A bit of a curmudgeon, Brahms was critical of young aspiring composers, but not Fuchs who became a good friend, and whose music he greatly admired. Robert was strongly influenced by him, particularly in his later works, which point the way towards Richard Strauss (1864-1949, see the newsletter of 11 July 2007).
The first three of Robert's five serenades for orchestra are for strings, and it's the earlier two that are included here, His initial effort dating from 1874 is in five movements, and opens with a winsome andante having all the melodic mellifluence of Schubert (1797-1828). A gracefully delicate minuet and scurrying, colorfully modulatory scherzo follow. The latter presages the orchestral version (1892) of Hugo Wolf's (1860-1903, and another Fuchs pupil) Italian Serenade (1887).
The moving, pathos-filled adagio brings to mind Edvard Grieg's (1843-1907) more brooding things for strings. But not one to take himself too seriously, Fuchs ends the work in high spirits with a perky allegro that has all the wiggle of "Jell-O on springs."
The second serenade, which came two years later (1876), is in four movements. It opens with a skipping allegretto that's as delicate as a lace doily, and just as intricately fabricated. The following larghetto is in the same stylistic ballpark with Dvorák's string serenade of 1875 alluded to above.
The penultimate movement is an allegro whose progenitor could have been some Central European folk dance. Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) Italian Symphony (No. 4, 1833) comes immediately to mind upon hearing the presto finale. Set to a cantering rhythm, there's an appealing chromatic fickleness about this movement that leaves the listener smiling.
The disc closes with a much more serious work, the two-part Andante grazioso and Capriccio for strings from 1900. The melancholy opening section is a masterpiece of string writing that glows like a red sunset. Perhaps Fuchs was experiencing the darker side of life as he aged.
It's offset by the final movement, where jaunty waltz-like passages surround a central more introspective episode. The piece concludes matter-of-factly in the minor, leaving one feeling the composer wasn't the "happy camper" he'd once been.
The eighteen members of the Cologne Chamber Orchestra featured here under their music director Christian Ludwig acquit themselves well. They play this superbly crafted music with great precision, but instill it with enough feeling to ensure it never sounds the least bit academic.
The Cologne radio studio where these recordings were made was an ideal venue for a chamber ensemble of this size. The soundstage projected is perfectly proportioned with just the right amount of reverberation to insure a rich silky tone without any loss of clarity. There's no hint of that rubbery bass which often characterizes many string orchestra recordings. Audiophiles will find this release a good test of their system's ability to reproduce massed strings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110417)
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Gade, N.: Pno Trio, Novelettes (6, pno trio), etc; Selditz/Parnas Trio [MD&G]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
With a legacy that includes eight symphonies, a superb violin concerto (1880, see the newsletter of 29 September 2009), and a significant number of chamber works, some of which are sampled here, Copenhagen-born Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890) could be considered the father of Danish romantic music. He was a good friend of Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), under whom he served as assistant conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (see the newsletter of 21 December 2009) from 1844 to 1848. Consequently you'll hear echoes of them in the selections on this CD.
The program begins with what many consider one of Gade's finest creations, his piano trio of 1864. In four movements, there's a Scandinavian wistfulness about it tempered with Germanic structural rigor. The opening allegro begins with some memorable ideas, which are topics for the beautifully written three-way conversation that follows. It's offset by a Mendelssohnian scherzo, and dark andantino that anticipates Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) and Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), both of whom Niels taught.
Gade's claws show through in the possessed rondo finale, which with minor modifications could have been a Danish tarantella. It concludes with energetic flourishes that end the trio in a shower of sparks.
Moving right along, we have the first movement of a piano trio from 1839, which the composer never finished. It begins tragically with the piano tiptoeing past lethargic strings. But the pace quickens as the piano exhorts the violin and cello, who respond lyrically. An ambulatory development with melodic asides follows, and the movement ends in Beethoven (1770-1827) fashion.
In 1853 Gade wrote a five movement work for piano trio, which he called Novelettes. Then in 1954 he heavily revised it (see the album notes for details), and this is the version presented here. As an encore we're also treated to the original fifth Novelette, which got lost in the shuffle.
The opening allegro is a fleeting scherzando which grabs the listener's attention, setting the stage for a lovely andantino that sounds folk-derived. And no, the MD&G editors didn't get their tapes mixed up! Gade begins the moderato [track-8] by quoting the first few notes from the last movement of his good buddy Robert's piano quintet (1842). It's a delightfully cheeky number based on the Schumann, and contrasts nicely with the autumnal larghetto and scurrying final allegro that end this set of winsome character pieces.
As promised, the original fifth Novelette is next. Equally as engaging as its replacement, it's more angst-filled, and you may want to try programming it as the finale. You may find you prefer it!
The disc is filled out with the scherzo from a piano quartet he was working on in 1836, but never completed. A bravura piece with themes that recall Mendelssohn and Chopin (1810-1849), it's a real teaser for what might have been a significant addition to the body of romantic chamber music.
We sang the praises of the Parnassus Trio about a year ago (see the newsletter of 31 May 2010), and easily do so again here. Virtuosity tempered with sensitivity characterizes their adept handling of these delicate Danish delights. In the process they easily sweep away all extant recorded competition. Also violist Thomas Selditz gets plaudits for an assist in the concluding scherzo.
The MD&G folks make some of the most natural sounding discs in the business, and this one's no exception with its silky strings and well rounded piano tone. Almost a year separated the recording sessions for the trio pieces from and the final quartet selection. This probably explains why the soundstage projected for the former is ideal, while the latter seems a bit more confined, but not distressingly so. Chamber music fans will be delighted, and any audiophiles among them won’t be disappointed.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110416)
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Steiner, Max: Gone With the Wind Ste; Newman, Alf.: Selznick Fanf; Gerhardt/LonNa PO [RCA]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Steiner, Max: Now, Voyager (w Warner Bros Fanf & exc fm 9 other films); Gerhardt/LonNa PO [RCA]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Previously we told you about some of Sony Music’s recent rereleases from the RCA "Classic Film Scores" series, and the rest are covered here. For general remarks about these, please see the Korngold recommendations in the newsletter of 31 March 2011. A summary of highlights to be found on these new additions follows, beginning with the two discs devoted to the music of Max Steiner (1888-1971) pictured above.
Like Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), see the newsletter of 9 August 2007), Steiner was born and trained in Central Europe. A child prodigy he had early piano lessons with Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), and went on to study with Robert Fuchs (1847-1927, see the recommendation above), Felix Weingartner (1863-1942, see the newsletter of 22 November 2010), and Gustav Mahler (1860-1911, see the newsletter of 23 June 2006).
In 1914 he came to America where he worked in New York as a musical jack-of-all-trades. Then in 1927 Hollywood introduced feature-length "talkies," and within two years Steiner had relocated there to do film scores for RKO Radio Pictures. He would spend the rest of his life in Tinseltown, working on over three hundred movies. Consequently it's not surprising he's sometimes referred to as "the father of film music."
The first CD considered here is devoted exclusively to Max's music for one of the greatest American movies of all time, Gone With the Wind (1939), based on Margaret Mitchell's (1900-1949) popular book (1936). This was his magnum opus, and he met with conductor-producer Charles Gerhardt on several occasions to plan the extended suite on this disc. Unlike previously recorded compendiums, this skillfully structured symphonic synthesis, which follows the story line, includes all the major thematic ideas, and is performed by a large orchestra like the one used for the film.
In eleven dovetailed subsections, it begins with Alfred Newman's (1900-1970, see the newsletter of 31 March 2011) fanfare for Selznick International Pictures, who produced the film. The timeless "Tara" theme (TT) soon follows [track-1, beginning at 00:32], and will act as an idée fixe throughout the suite. Steiner frequently draws upon musical Americana just like Charles Ives (1874-1954, see the newsletter 21 December 2009) in his works.
The more memorable moments include a lively dance montage [track-4], and an amorous number depicting Scarlett's infatuation with Ashley [track-5]. There are also stirring sequences related to the Civil War [track-6] and its aftermath [track-7], followed by the nostalgic rebuilding of Tara that ends in the heartbreaking death of Scarlett and Rhett's daughter Bonnie [track-9]. The suite concludes with a towering apotheosis [track-11] where TT is gloriously reprised as Scarlett declares, "After all, tomorrow is another day!" -- They sure don't make 'em like they used to!
The other disc has selections from another ten of Steiner's best film scores [see track-listing], and opens with the familiar Warner Bros. fanfare. Originally part of his music for Tovarich (1937, currently unavailable on disc), the studio executives liked it so well they made it the company signature tune. It's immediately followed by excerpts from Now, Voyager of 1942, which won him the second of his three Academy Awards®. Starring the inimitable Bette Davis (1908-1989, see the "Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis"), the main theme [track-1, beginning at 03:09] is a knockout, and would become the hit song "It Can't Be Wrong" of the same year.
Next, a pint-sized tone poem based on his 1933 score for King Kong, which is the earliest film represented here. With special effects anticipating today's CGI “crash-and-burn” extravaganzas, Steiner creates a thrilling symphonic prehistoric world, which is the musical embodiment of "going ape!"
Other high points include the march from The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) with the dashing Errol Flynn (1909-1959, see the "Classic Film Scores for Errol Flynn"). Do you suppose Alfred Newman (1900-1970) might have had this in his subconscious when he wrote the "Conquest" march for Captain from Castille (1947, see the newsletter of 31 March 2011)?
There's also the Symphonie Moderne from Max's music for Four Wives (1942, currently unavailable on disc). It's a combination tone-poem-concerto for piano and orchestra based on a theme by one of his studio musicians, and played here by none other than Earl Wild (1915-2010). The expanded version of it on this CD was done by conductor Gerhardt, and met with Steiner's enthusiastic approval just before his death. Is that a veiled reference [track-5, beginning at 03:30] to the fate motif in Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) fourth symphony (1877)?
Moving right along, the Warner fanfare introduces a dark foreboding suite from one of the great Bogie-Bacall collaborations (see the "Classic Film Scores for Humphrey Bogart"), The Big Sleep (1946), which is notable for a gorgeous, underlying, somewhat disembodied amorous melody [track-6, beginning at 03:55]. The following potpourri from Johnny Belinda (1948) [track-7] is permeated right from the start with a charming theme reminiscent of one Steiner wrote fifteen years earlier for Jo, played by Katherine Hepburn (1907-2003), in Little Women (1933, see the newsletter of 31 March 2011).
Excerpts from two more Academy-Award®-winning scores are next. There's the opulent chime-ridden main title for the World War II drama Since You Went Away (1944), and some folk-tinged selections from John Ford's (1894-1973) The Informer (1935) inspired by the Irish War of Independence (1919-21). Interestingly enough, Alexander Tansman (1897-1986), another European expatriate (see the newsletter of 22 November 2010), had already finished music for the former film, but at the last minute producer David O. Selznick (1902-1965) decided he wanted something with the sentimental Steiner touch. As for the latter, it ends in church where the main protagonist breathes his last as the chorus (The Ambrosian Singers) with orchestra intone seraphic "Sancta Maria"s.
The CD concludes with a suite from The Fountainhead (1949) based on Ayn Rand's (1905-1982) 1943 best-selling novel of the same name. Ultimately concerned with the construction of the world's tallest building, the score is one of Steiner's most colorfully orchestrated and dynamically powerful. It concludes with the music soaring skywards, perfectly capping this disc featuring some of the most lush silver screen scores to ever come out of Hollywood.
Like the other releases in this series, the performances and recorded sound on both of these CDs are superb! Please see the Korngold recommendations in the newsletter of 31 March 2011 for details.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110415, Y110414)
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Rózsa: Spellbound (w excs fm 8 other films);
Gerhardt/Na PO [RCA]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Tiomkin: Lost Hoizon (w excs fm 5 other films);
Gerhardt/Na PO [RCA]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Waxman, F.: Sunset Boulevard (w excs fm 7 other films);
Gerhardt/Na PO [RCA]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Sony Music's rerelease of "Classic Film Scores" originally on RCA continues with the three albums pictured above. For general remarks about these, please see the Korngold recommendations in the newsletter of 31 March 2011. A summary of highlights to be found on these new additions follows.
Like Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1928-1987) and Max Steiner (1888-1971), the three composers represented on these CDs were born and studied in Europe. The first disc is a sampling of Hungarian composer Miklós Rózsa's (1907-1995) movie music [see track-listing]. Classically trained in Leipzig, he moved to Paris in 1934 where his friend Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) suggested he begin writing film scores to supplement his modest income.
To make a long story short, Rózsa soon moved to London where he'd compose a number of successful ones for his fellow countryman, British film producer Alexander Korda (1893-1956). Then in 1939 Korda headed for Hollywood to work on The Thief of Baghdad (1940), taking Miklós along to do the score. It won Rózsa an Academy Award® nomination, thereby establishing his reputation in Tinseltown, which would remain his home base for the rest of his life. The rapturous love theme from it [track-6] shows he could turn out tunes the equal of Max's (see above).
A montage from The Red House of 1947 begins the program on this disc. A haunting story bordering on the horrific, the grim threatening prelude, which presages the house and its grisly secrets, is in complete contrast to the innocent pastoral music of the surrounding countryside. The terror builds featuring some eerie passages scored for female voices (The Ambosian Singers) and synthesizer [track-4, beginning at 00:42]. But rather than going into more detail and spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it, suffice it to say the fright clouds clear as the movie ends in sunny passages that find Rózsa at his romantic best.
Mental illness is the subject of the 1945 films, The Lost Weekend and Spellbound (see the newsletter of 30 June 2007). Alcoholism dominates the story line of the former, while the latter, which won Miklós the first of three Academy Awards®, explores psychoses and psychoanalysis. The excerpts on this disc give a good idea of the pathologically intense music Rózsa created for these movies. He uses the otherworldly sound of the theremin (see the newsletter of 30 August 2007) in both [track-8, beginning at 00:00; track-14, beginning at 00:21] to underscore the deranged mental state periodically suffered by each of their main characters.
Written in London, Rózsa's score for Korda's The Four Feathers (1938) was destroyed in a German World War II bombing raid. But by listening to the soundtrack, arranger Christopher Palmer (1946-1995) managed to come up with a suite, which the composer revised and approved just for this recording. It begins with an episode depicting a searing desert journey that ends in a case of sunstroke, and has a whack on the anvil [track-10 at 01:09] reminiscent of Donner's hammer blow in Wagner's (1813-1883) Das Rheingold (1869). The mood then shifts as the music becomes a melodic river, ending the suite with a picturesque trip down the Nile.
Other highlights on this disc include a flighty scherzo from Knights of the Roundtable (1954, currently unavailable on disc) with splashes of orchestral color recalling moments in Respighi's (1879-1936) Fountains of Rome (1914-16 see the newsletter of 9 March 2006). There's also a raga-inspired "Song of the Jungle" with wordless male chorus (the Ambrosian Singers) from The Jungle Book (1942).
The CD ends with the overture to Ivanhoe (1952), which is a Robin-Hood-related tale of twelfth century England (see the newsletter of 31 March 2011). The composer reportedly researched and incorporated period troubadour and trouvčres tunes into this rousing prelude to the movie. It has that same imperiousness and grandeur present in his music for those 1950-60's Hollywood Biblical Epics (see the newsletter of 25 July 2007).
It should also be noted that Rózsa along with his colleagues Korngold and Hermann (1911-1975), all of whom were classically trained musicians, wrote a substantial amount of distinguished concert music. This bears serious investigation by those not familiar with it.
Music for the silver screen by Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979) is the subject of the next CD [see track-listing]. Born in the Ukraine, he studied composition with Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936, see the newsletter of 20 August 2009), but began his career as a concert pianist, coming to America in 1925, where he found employment in New York City. Not long thereafter he met and became good friends with George Gershwin (1898-1937, see the newsletter of 31 March 2011), giving the European premiere of his Concerto in F (1925) in 1928.
With the onset of the Great Depression the following year, he was forced to abandon concertizing and take up residence in Hollywood, where he'd pursue a career writing film scores for the flourishing movie industry. In 1937 he became a U.S. citizen and achieved his first major success with music for Frank Capra's Lost Horizon. This disc begins with a highly coherent symphonic suite distilled from it by conductor Gerhardt. Containing some of his most imaginative music, it was recorded in the presence of the composer, thereby assuring his imprimatur.
Calling for chorus (The John Aldis Choir), a huge orchestra with an enormous percussion section and organ, over one hundred and fifty performers took part in this recording. With forces of that magnitude and Tiomkin's Slavic background you're assured a psychedelic sound spectacular with all the color of those exotic scores by "The Russian Five." The lush opening contains several gorgeous, percussively punctuated Glazunovian themes with an organ-bass-drum underpinning that makes them all the more sonically memorable.
The beautifully written and orchestrated central Shangri-La sections will leave inveterate romantics in tears. Bells and chimes -- enough to require the services of twenty-two players (see the informative album notes for specifics) -- are much in evidence starting with the "Funeral Cortčge for the High Lama" [track-1, beginning at 16:07]. The music ends with an overpowering apotheosis featuring all the main themes plus choral embellishments, and not a dry eye in the house!
Next, an all-time audiophile demonstration favorite, the rousing prelude to one of the best-loved World War II movie sagas, The Guns of Navarone (1961). It's followed by a couple of extracts from The Big Sky (1952), the serene "Forest at Night," and expansive "The Wide Missouri," which show why Tiomkin was so well-known for his horse opera scores. In that regard he'd go on that same year to win two of his four Academy Awards® for the song and music from one of the all-time great Westerns, High Noon (1952).
Other highlights include a delicately developed brief excerpt from Friendly Persuasion (1956, not currently available on disc), which was a sublime domestic drama about a pacifist Indiana Quaker family during the American Civil War. It ends with one of Dimitri's most endearing love themes.
The disc concludes with the thrilling finale for chorus (again The John Aldis Choir), orchestra and organ from the Cinerama production, Search for Paradise (1957, not currently available on disc). It's the musical equivalent of that unforgettable roller coaster ride in the original eye-popping This Is Cinerama (1952, not currently available on disc)!
Composer Franz Waxman (1906-1967), who was born and educated in Germany, is in the spotlight for the third CD [see track-listing]. As Korda had done with Rózsa (see above), German film producer Erich Pommer (1889-1966) brought Franz to Hollywood in 1934 to arrange the music for the film version of Jerome Kern's (1885-1945) Music in the Air (1934, not currently available on disc). Waxman would remain there for the rest of his life, scoring around one hundred and fifty films.
Our survey of them begins with a suite from one of his most popular, Prince Valiant of 1954. Set in the days of King Arthur, the vibrant opening features a soaring heraldic motif (SH) [track-1, beginning at 00:22] and gorgeous expansive love theme (GE) [track-1, beginning at 01:04]. It's followed by a couple of pageantic episodes replete with offstage brass enhancements. SH and GE are reprised in the finale by the full orchestra with organ, ending this swashbuckling suite basking in romantic sunshine.
Other high points on this disc include the monster-creation sequence from James Whale's (1889-1957) horror movie classic, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Waxman creates a spooky heart-pounding passacaglia complete with disembodied riffs on the ondes Martenot [track-3, beginning at 02:48] and percussive whirring spark-wheel effects [track-3, beginning at 05:08].
Then there are some extracts from Sunset Boulevard (1950), which won him the first of his two Academy Awards®. A scowling opening sequence, which portends the eventual mental breakdown of the faded movie queen who's the main protagonist, is followed by a couple of rhapsodic episodes.
Does that melody on muted trumpet about a third of the way through [track-4, beginning at 03:24] sound familiar? Well, it's the signature tune for the old Paramount Eyes and Ears of the World newsreels (see the album notes for more details). The conclusion features a bizarre tango, and ends with a final shrug-of-the-shoulders reference to the Paramount motif.
1940 was a standout year for Waxman, during which he did the music for a brace of Academy-Award®-winning films, namely Rebecca and The Philadelphia Story. Hearing the suite from the former, which was Alfred Hitchcock's first American movie, you can understand why the composer considered it his best score.
The other begins with the fanfare he wrote for MGM complete with leonine roar. Can you name the lion [see answer]? The jazzy Gershwinesque, piano-sax-embroidered main title and love theme follow. You may find the former reminds you of the song "Stormy Weather" (1933), which would soon be the subject of the similarly titled movie (1943).
In 1961-62 Waxman visited the former Soviet Union, conducting several of its orchestras. While there he collected some folk material he’d use in his upcoming score for Taras Bulba (1962). This was a film based on Nikolai Gogol' s (1809-1852) novel of the same name (1835, revised 1842) about a Cossack war hero and his two sons. What we have here is the music for their hard-charging ride across the Ukraine into Poland, which occasionally recalls the more animated moments in Aram Khachaturian's (1903-1978) Gayane Ballet (1942, revised 1952 and 1957). It closes the CD on a frenetic high, revealing yet another stylistic facet of this great Hollywood composer.
Like the other releases in this series, the performances and recorded sound on these CDs are exceptional! Please see the Korngold recommendations in the newsletter of 31 March 2011 for details.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110413, Y110412, Y110411)
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