MAXWELL DAVIES - MUSICAL SUITES NAXOS 8.572408
Born in Salford, Peter Maxwell Davies is a prolific composer who has written music in a variety of styles and idioms over his career, often combining disparate styles in one piece. His lighter orchestral included Mavis in Las Vegas and Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise (which features the bagpipes), as well as theatre pieces for children. He also wrote the scores for Ken Russell’s films The Devils and The Boy Friend, and orchestral suites for both these very different works are included on this CD, performed by the brilliant Aquarius ensemble conducted by Nicholas Cleobury. The Boyfriend, based on a 1954 musical by Sandy Wilson, introduces a large dance band and period motifs to great effect, while dramatic extremes depicting the film’s themes of corruption, exorcism and execution within a medieval religious setting are explored in The Devils. Also include here are Seven in Nomine, which evokes Maxwell Davies’ interest in medieval plainsong. Davies himself plays two beautiful piano excerpts from The Yellow Cake Revue, a piece that he composed in 1980 following the publication of a report into the possibility of mining uranium (‘yellow cake’) near the town of Stromness in Orkney. Opposition by the local community persuaded the Secretary of State for Scotland not to give the go-ahead.
RED RIVER - DIMITRI TIOMKIN NAXOS 8.557699
William Stromberg conducts the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Choir in this digital recording of Dimitri Tiomkin’s impressive score for Howard Hawks’ great classic western, Red River. The film stars John Wayne and Montgomery Clift and tells an epic story of the first great cattle drive up the famous Chisholm Trail, named after a man who blazed a way all through the Indian nations. It could be argued that Russian-born Tiomkin invented what we now think of as the Western film ‘sound’, since he also composed the music for Rio Bravo (some of which was reworked for Red River), Duel in the Sun, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and The Big Sky. He was among the highest paid and best known composers in Hollywood, earning Oscars for High Noon, The High and The Mighty and The Old Man and the Sea, and nominations for twenty more. His music for Red River a bold orchestral sound and soloists from every section in the orchestra, plus a full choir, banjo and accordion. Sometimes a soft solo violin obbligato accompanies the whole ensemble, all playing softly, to create an intense effect that still seems distant. Or the brass section makes brash, almost painful sounds. This stirring and evocative score for one of the greatest Westerns ever made takes full advantage of the exciting story, reprising the main themes often but always with interesting variations. The score has been lovingly restored by John Morgan and is performed in great sweeping style by the excellent Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Choir.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS - ALEX WURMAN MILAN RECORDS 51011 1105 2
Each winter, in the forbidding ice deserts of Antarctica, an astonishing journey takes place. Thousands of Emperor penguins abandon the security of the ocean to begin their long trek over seventy miles of bleak frozen ice, marching in single file and blinded by blizzards as they head for their traditional breeding ground. The March of the Penguins is a powerful French film telling the story of this miraculous journey, with the penguins struggling to survive against predators and the harshest weather conditions on earth. This outstanding documentary, directed by Luc Jacquet and filmed on location in Antarctica, shows the birds’ struggle to eat, live and reproduce. When released in the USA in 2004, the film became the second highest grossing theatrical documentary (after Fahrenheit 9/11). For its American release it was given an English narrative track by Morgan Freeman - it originally had three French narrators - and a new music was composed by Alex Wurman, which has now been released by Milan Records. The expressive score is subtle and skilfully-crafted to reflect both the harshness of the landscape and nobility of the birds, without overwhelming them or distracting from the commentary. A single flute or bassoon sometimes emerges from the the music to emphasise a scene, providing humour or drama, and the strings add a majestic sweep to the proceedings.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD - KORNGOLD MARCO POLO 5.220501
Marco Polo's series of film-music re-recordings by William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra features Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s magnificent score for the 1938 movie of Robin Hood. The score has been meticulously reconstructed by John Morgan, based on the original Hugo Friedhofer-Milan Roder orchestrations and careful scrutiny of the still-surviving original recording sessions. Previously available on CD, this digital recording of ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ is now also available in DVD-audio format with 5.1 Dolby Digital AC-3 and DTS Surround Sound. This disc only plays on DVD-Audio and DVD-Video machines - it will not play in a standard CD player - but the luxurious depth of sound that results makes this a very welcome release.
LOVE FROM A STRANGER - FOUR BRITISH FILM SCORES NMC D073
The earliest work on this CD is Benjamin Britten’s only feature-film score, Love from a Stranger, written for a 1937 Agatha Christie thriller starring Basil Rathbone. The music was transcribed by Colin Matthews (former assistant to Britten) from the film, the original score having been long since been lost. Also featured on this unique album is Roberto Gerhard’s score Lindsay Anderson’s This Sporting Life (1963). Gerhard was chosen by director as an antidote to what he saw as the ‘sentimentally melodic’ film music typical of the time. Although it perfectly complemented Anderson's intense, gritty Northern drama, much of the music remained unused in the final cut; and it has here been arranged into a suite by David Matthews. Elisabeth Lutyens’ creepily atmospheric music for 1965 horror film The Skull is one of the best of her many film scores; scored for low strings, bass clarinets, cimbalom and organ, it uses her atonal style with alarming effectiveness. Finally, the lush romanticism and melodrama of The Return of the Soldier (1982) is one of veteran film composer Richard Rodney Bennett’s own favourites. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Jac van Steen, and this album will delight film buffs as it revives rarely heard pieces by four of the most interesting mid-twentieth century British composers.
THE MUSIC OF UNDERTOW - PHILIP GLASS ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC OMM0016
Set in an American South untouched by time, Undertow is a uniquely American thriller film directed by David Gordon Green, starring Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney and Devon Alan. It tells the story of two boys being raised in a rural district by their father, who mourns the death of his wife. Further compications ensue when the hardworking father’s older ex-convict brother.pays an unexpected visit and is looking to settle an old score. Producer Edward R Pressman approached Philip Glass to write the score and after reading the script Glass visited the set in the swamps of Georgia to get a feel for the film. The resulting score combines immaculate string orchestration, the simple purity of the childrer’s voices and the gritty drone of the didgeridoo to create the atmospheric mix of mystery, sensitivity and grunge that the film required. With its tonal complexity and intensity, the score becomes as integral to the suspense-driven narrative as the character portrayal and brilliant direction contained within the film.
MUSIC FOR BETTE DAVIS FILMS - MAX STEINER MARCO POLO 8.225218
Maximillian Raoul Walter Steiner was born in Vienna in 1888 and he found his way via London to New York in 1918. There he worked for fifteen years as an arranger, orchestrator and conductor of musical productions by Herbert, Kern, Youmans and Gershwin. After moving to Hollywood he composed scores for more than a hundred RKO films, including King Kong, and was the arranger-conductor on musicals such as The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat and Follow the Fleet. Later, at Warner Brothers, he wrote some of the greatest scores of all time for, among others, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Dodge City, Now Voyager, Casablanca, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Glass Menagerie and The Searchers. The sumptuous Steiner music on this album, expertly restored to its original grandeur by John Morgan and performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg, was written for two Bette Davis classic melodramas: All This, And Heaven Too (1940) and A Stolen Life (1946).
AFTER THE DELUGE - SOUNDTRACK ALBUM MOVE MD3272
After the Deluge is the excellent soundtrack to an acclaimed Australian TV series, the music for which was written by award-winning Australian/Polish film composer, Cezary Skubiszewski. Lavishly scored for full orchestra and choir, the music features haunting violin solos, 1940s jazz, Irish traditional airs, works by Mozart, Massenet and Handel, and original pop music by the on-screen band featuring one of the main characters. The story of After the Deluge weaves together the lives of four ordinary men at a critical time in their family history, and the music plays a prominent role throughout this four-hour drama. This hour-long CD from Move includes a comprehensive 16-page booklet featuring a complete synopsis, details of how each track relates to the visuals, production stills and shots from the orchestral recording sessions in Melbourne. ‘A stunning soundtrack’ - The Northern Star.
MOZART NOIR - TAFELMUSIK ORCHESTRA CBC SMCD 5225
Jeanne Lamon conducts the Tafelmusik Orchestra in performances of rarely-heard music by Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He was a composer and violinist working at the time of Mozart and occupied a unique place in 18th-century France as a black man in aristocratic society. This excellent recording is also the soundtrack (and more) to a documentary film, Le Mozart Noir, produced by in collaboration with Tafelmusik. The remarkable Joseph Boulogne was one of the most important musicians in Paris during the pre-Revolutionary period and was a great all-round athlete (considered the finest swordsman in Europe) as well as a man of arms. This album includes several orchestral works, including both his symphones, as well as works by two of his mentors, Jean-Marie Leclair and François-Joseph Gossec. The solo violinists are Linda Melsted and Genevieve Gilardeau.
THE RIVER/THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS ESSAY CD1005
Richard Kapp conducts the Philharmonia Virtuosi in definitive performances of Virgil Thomson’s scores for two brilliant documentaries that were written and directed by Pare Lorentz in the 1930s for the Farm Services Administration of the USA. Great care has been taken to make this recording true to the films and to the composer’s intentions, so the music is by turns stirring, melodic, thoughtful and touching. The orchestral playing is superb throughout and Richard Kapp conducts with great sensitivity and verve.