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2016 Soundtrack CD Reviews – 21 total

HOWARD SHORE: Denial – Howe Records HWR-1022 (9/30/16)

This film was based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. It recounts the legal battle Deborah E. Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz) had to fight against David Irving (well-played by Tomothy Spall), who had accused her of libeling him when she said he was a Holocaust denier. Shore not only composed and orchestrated the effective score but he also conducted the Royal Philharmonic and pianist Simon Chamberlain in it. Very moving music for a very moving motion picture.

HOspotlightWARE SHORE: Spotlight – Howe Records HWR-1021 (11/6/15)

“Break the Story, Break the Silence” is the subtitle of this film, which deals with the many offenses of Catholic priests against young people. Not as much time spent in court as in Denial – most of it is researching the evidence. A piano-fronted orchestral sound sets the tone for the picture. The music well conveys the sense of dread waiting that nobody wants to acknowledge until the last moment when they win out. 18 cues from the film are presented, and James Sizemore arranged and co-produced the film score material by Shore.

shore-sevenHOWARD SHORE: Seven (Collector’s Edition Vol. 7) – Howe Records HWR-1012

Shore is keeping plenty busy as one of the leading film music composers at present. He also did the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies. He writes some great film music. Seven (a 1995 film) had Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in it, and was a neo-noir mystery-thriller film which was highly praised by the critics. It had quite a bit of brutality in it.

palaceamongruinsHOWARD SHORE: A Palace Upon the Ruins – Selected Works – Howe Records HWR-1020

In a way this CD doesn’t quite belong here because it is not a film soundtrack album but five works by the primarily film composer Howard Shore. The first is a song cycle with lyrics by Elizabeth Cotnoir and provides the title for the CD. Second is Peace, with a young people’s chorus singing a text by Eleanor Roosevelt. Third is a chamber choir singing The Garden – a text by Robert Penn Warren. Next are six pieces by Shore, featuring two orchestral sections, two sections for string orchestra, one featuring The Kronos Quartet, and finally one with lyrics again by Elizabeth Cotnoir, accompanied by ten cellos. The closing short work is titled Catania. As with Rota and a few other primarily film composers, Shore created some excellent abstract music as well, which has been pretty much ignored.

robinhoodcdERIK WOLFGANG KORNGOLD: The Adventures of Robin Hood – Moscow Sym. Orch./ William Stromberg – Naxos Film Music Classics CD 8.573369 or Marco Polo/Naxos 5.220501 DVD-Audio, DTS-HD, Dolby AC-3 5.1

This original was recorded in Moscow in 2003 and released then on a totally compatible surround sound album which plays back on any DVD-Video or DVD-Audio deck. It is 48K and 24-bit. Of course its fidelity is ahead of the current Naxos CD version and it is in hi-res surround. It is the definitive restoration by John Morgan of the music which Korngold wrote for the 1938 Warner Bros. film which starred Errol Flynn as the ultimate swashbuckler. That is still – at this late date – one of the most-loved of motion pictures. The lavish spectacle, romance, color, pageantry and humor of the score are all here, and the whole thing runs 82:43 in both versions – surely an achievement for a single digital disc. There are 26 cues total, including the original theatrical trailer music. The CD version is still very good.

lisitsalovestoryValentina Lisitsa – Love Story – Piano Themes from Cinema’s Golden Age – Decca 478 9454

Russian pianist Lisitsa (who caused cancellation of Toronto Symphony concerts due to her Tweets supporting Russian separatists in the Ukraine) has a piano and orchestra CD which looks back at cinematic glory days with some of the finest piano concerto music for the films. Rachmaninoff was the original influence on these tracks, and the scores for Dangerous Moonlight, The Apartment and While I Live have become famous. There are also some more modern tracks such as from Murder on the Orient Express and On Golden Pond. 

The BBC Concert Orchestra backs pianist Lisitsa, and such luminaries as Nino Rota, Richard Addinsell, Richard Rodney-Bennett and Dimitri Shostakovich are represented. Some of the actors in these films included Lauren Bacall, Katie Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Ingrid Bergman. 

Here are the 15 tracks on this CD:
[1] Warsaw Concerto, from Dangerous Moonlight (Richard Addinsell)
[2] Murder on the Orient Express, from Murder on the Orient Express (Richard Rodney-Bennett)
[3] The Storming of Red Hill (Assault on Beautiful Gorky), from The Unforgettable Year 1919 (Dmitri Shostakovich)
[4] Jealous Lover, from The Apartment (Charles Williams)
[5] The Legend of the Glass Mountain, from The Glass Mountain (Nino Rota)
[6] Seashore, from Players – TV Advert (Robert Farnon)
[7] Invocation, from Journey to Romance – Radio (Richard Addinsell)
[8] The Mansell Concerto, from The Women’s Angle (Kenneth Leslie-Smith)
[9] Cornish Rhapsody, from Love Story (Hubert Bath)
[10] Portrait of Isla, from The Case of the Frightened Lady (Jack Beaver)
[11] New Hampshire Hornpipe, from On Golden Pond – solo piano (Dave Grusin)
[12] Rhapsody, from Stage Fright (Leighton Lucas)
[13] Legend of Lancelot, from Train of Events (Leslie Bridgewater)
[14] The Dream of Olwen, from While I Live (Charles Williams)
[15] Main Theme from Pride and Prejudice – BBC (Carl Davis)

cafesocietyWoody Allen’s Café Society – Original soundtrack – Sony Classical 88985 54226 2

This fairly enjoyable Allen film had Steve Carell and Parker Posey in it and the soundtrack of 15 cuts is full of the type of pop and jazz which Allen obviously loves. These are some originals – such as the Benny Goodman (on a 78!) and Count Basie tracks – while many others are modern recordings featuring Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, which I had personally never heard of before. But they do an excellent job of capturing the sounds of the ‘30s.

Here’s the 15 tracks:
1. The Lady is a Tramp (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
2. Jeepers Creepers (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
3. Mountain Greenery (Kat Edmonson; Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks)
4. Have You Met Miss Jones? (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
5. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (78rpm version) (Benny Goodman & His Orchestra)
6. Taxi War Dance (Alternate Take) (Count Basie & His Orchestra)
7. Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart (Vince Giordano And The        Nighthawks)
8. Manhattan (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
9. My Romance (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
10. Pick Yourself Up (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
11. I Only Have Eyes For You (Ben Selvin)
12. The Peanut Vendor (El Manisero) (YeraSon)
13. There’s a Small Hotel (Vince Giordano And The Nighthawks)
14. Out of Nowhere (Conal Fowkes; Brian Nalepka; John Gill)
15. This Can’t be Love (Conal Fowkes)

desplat-trafficTraffic Quintet Plays Alexandre Desplat – Mercury Classics/DGG (CD # unreadable)

The Traffic Quintet consist of two violins, a cello, a bass, a viola and a keyboardist who plays both piano and celeste. The composer, Alexandre Desplat, joins in on flutes, glockenspiel and celeste. The transcriptions are terrific, and the overall sound is more classical than jazz. Flute and piano are prominent in the musical palette. Desplat came to public attention with his score for the film The Grand Budapest Hotel and he’s also done many others, including The Tree of Life, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Queen.  He also did three films for Roman Polanski. One of the two violinists is Dominique “Solrey” Lemonnier, who has collaborated closely with Desplat and also was the producer of the album.

TrackList:
1. The King’s Speech 3:40
2. Girl With a Pearl Earring 5:36
3. Love, etc 4:27
4. Le Plus Bel Age 2:46
5. The Ghost Writer 4:38
6. Un héros très discret [II] (A. Desplat) 4:05
7. The Tree Of Life 4:19
8. Un Prophète 8:46
9. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close 5:11
10. Lust, Caution 6:24
11. Chéri 4:54
12. Sur Mes Lèvres 5:23
13. Coco Avant Chanel 4:05

bachinbrazilBach in Brazil – original soundtrack – Henriqu Cazes/ Jurandir de Oliveria/ Barock Orch. L’Arco/Knabenchor of Hannover – Berlin Classics 03007468C

The film of 2015 was a true story about two outsiders from opposite parts of the world who are thrown together: Brazil and Germany. There are other CDs with the same title but this is the only soundtrack cues from the film.

Cazes plays the cavaqinho, Gilvan de Oliveria is heard on guitar, and Fabian Schmidt plays the euphonium. Although Bach has been done by the likes of Wendy Carlos, Richard Galliano, the Jacques Loussier Trio, the Swingle Singers and the Modern Jazz Quartet, doing Bach Brazilian style seems to work extremely well. The story of the film is that a retired German music teacher has inherited an original sheet of music from one of Bach’s sons. He has to collect the sheet in person in the Baroque city of Ouro Preto in the heart of Brazil. Funny circumstances have him eventually teaching music to kids in a juvenile detention center.

The music is unfortunately faded out on some tracks or cut off, but this is after all a movie soundtrack. The spectrum goes from full Brazilian to guitar transcriptions, brass chorales and Latin-American-flavored numbers. In the film, old J.S. appears in full gaucho garb for the penultimate track, and the CD ends with an arrangement for music box of Bach’s fifth harpsichord concerto’s Arioso movement. Recording quality is good.

Here are the 14 tracks on the CD:
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) =
1. Choro Air: Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 [4:23]
2. Opening Title: Arioso from BWV 1056, BWV 1067, BWV 846 [2:02]
3. Journey to Brazil: Badinerie from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in b, BWV 1067 [1:37]
4. Unhappy Marten: Larghetto from Concerto in D major (after Vivaldi), BWV 972 [1:11]
5. Guitar Rehearsal: Jesus bleibet meine Freude, BWV 147 [3:19]
6. Lonely Marten: Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 [0:56]
7. Disappointed Fernando: Largo from Concerto in d (after Marcello), BWV 974 [4:36]
8. Ensemble’s First Time: Prelude in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 84 [1:23]
9. The Big Rehearsal: Little Fugue in g, BWV 578 [2:59]
10. Happy Marten: Larghetto from Concerto in D major (after Vivaldi), BWV 972 [4:01]
11. Trem da Caipirinha: Prelude from Suite No. 1 G major, BWV 1007 [2:10]
12. Arrival at the Castle: Prelude from Partita III in E major, BWV 1006 [4:16]
13. Opening Concert: Schafe können sicher weiden, BWV 208 [1:45]
14. Knut Disapproves: Allegro from Sinfonia in D major [3:14]
15. Concert of “Filhos de Bach”: From BWV 144, BWV 140, BWV 846 [2:41]
16. The Music Box: Arioso from Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 in f, BWV 1056 [1:22]
Johann Christoph Friedrich BACH (1732–1795) =

—Above reviews by John Sunier


paradisotonyfosterTONY FOSTER Plays ENNIO MORRICONE and HENRY MANCINI – Project Paradiso – Tony Foster Music TFM002

Pianist Tony Foster transforms the iconic film music of Ennio Morricone and Henry Mancini into a smooth, lush jazz experience. “Cinema Paradiso”, a favorite theme of mine, is taken up a beat over the romantic original. It’s playful, yet preserves the beautiful original theme by Ennio. “Deborah’s Theme” is just as beautiful as ever through the keys of Tony Foster. I imagine drinking a Manhattan on a cool rainy night, small club with this trio providing the proper music. There’s no elevator jazz here, Tony along with Nate Parker on bass and Joe Poole on drums provide a solid jazz take on the music of Morricone and Mancini. Recommended!

danishgirlALEXANDRE DESPLAT:  The Danish Girl – Decca Records 4771247

Wistful, dreamy, romantic, grandiose are the best I can do to describe this score by Alexandre Desplat. I find his themes often a scotch too laid back and dark, but this one is captivating, drawing you in like a soft fur throw. The score is the perfect companion to this fascinating movie and a character of its own. If you are looking for the sweeping, epic sound of classic film composers like John Williams or Bernard Herrmann, then Alexandre’s more intimate approach might feel a little different. Still, I would rank The Danish Girl as one of Desplat’s better works and is a must buy for his fans.

sicariocoverJÓHANN JÓHANNSSON: Sicario – Varese Sarabande 302 067 369 8

Wow that’s an intense score. Jóhann’s soundtrack helps a great deal in creating the dark and disturbing atmosphere of the fantastic movie Sicario. The drum beat layered with low dissonant tones in “The Border” is not something you would find yourself casually listening to, however it fits the movie perfectly. It is an interesting score on its own, but certainly deserves a listen for its uniqueness. Jóhann Jóhannsson is one to watch as his scores for The Theory of Everything and Prisoners are equally impressive.

walk-inwoodsVARIOUS ARTISTS – A Walk in the Woods – Varese Sarabande 302 067 371 8

A mix of tunes from Blake Mills, Lord Huron, Chatham County Line, Dwight Yoakam and more. Country blue grass dominates the tone of this album, but the sound of Lord Huron leans more towards indie folk – ala Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, or Mumford and Sons. They produce a great sound and “Ends of the Earth” is a wonderful song. Solid mix of music on this album, but look elsewhere for original content.

elcidMIKLOS ROZSA: El Cid performed by organist Phillip Pelster – Bella Musica Edition BM319296

This album features the powerful score for El Cid by composer Miklós Rózsas. The music was transcribed for the pipe organ and recorded in Spain at the Léon Cathedral on a Klais pipe organ. Phillip Pelster does a grand job at recreating the grandiose sound from El Cid. “Prelude From El Cid” is exactly the theme you expect to hear from a 1960’s period piece featuring Charlton Heston. The sweeping orchestral sound is well captured by the many pipes on the organ. Fans of El Cide or pipe organ music would most likely enjoy this album. Those who prefer the orchestral original should look elsewhere.

everestDARIO MARIANELLI: Everest – Varese Sarabande 302 067 368 8

The score to the mountain climbing epic Everest is filled with sweeping themes, but whimsical and dark. Tibetan drums and bells make an appearance throughout the music. “A Close Shave” starts heroic and ends suspenseful, as the track name implies. I don’t remember the music standing out much when watching the movie, but about half the album stands well on its own. The rest feels like it requires visual cues to really enjoy. The piano solo on “Starting the Ascent” is one of my favorites on the album. Dario does wonders with just a piano. A good album, but not quite enough substance for multiple listens.

schindlerslistVARIOUS ARTISTS – Schindler’s List The Film Music of John Williams – BSX Records BSXCD 9103

The iconic music of composer John Williams has been featured on many compilation albums. This album takes a simplistic approach, featuring mainly piano and violin duets. There are three selections from Schindler’s List that encompass most of the thematic works from the movie.

It’s nice to hear the “JFK: Main Theme” on this album as it is a beautiful theme and often ignored. The trumpet and piano combination is a thing of beauty. Another great lesser known theme is from “The Patriot” and is wonderfully executed by violinist Elizabeth Hedman and pianist Dan Redfeld. Often not a fan of rearranged compilation albums, this one is well done and features some lesser known works by Williams that should not be missed.

illusionistPHILIP GLASS: The Illusionist – Orange Mountain Music 0108

The playful, meandering score the The Illusionist is unmistakably Philip Glass. The tone of The Illusionist score is decidedly somber. There aren’t any playful moments akin to his popular score The Truman Show.

It’s hard to track down the main themes in this score and each track is different, yet sounds the same. I suppose this is partly the style of Philip Glass, but the score for The Illusionist just isn’t very intriguing to me. The track The Search is interesting, with solo’s moving from flute to horns to strings. The final track, “Life in the Mountains”, is another strong one. A bit more melodic, keeping within the same key for more than five notes at the same time. I could see myself returning for this final track, but not much else.

houseofcardsJEFF BEAL: House of Cards Season 3 – Varese Sarabande 307 067 363 8

The Season Three soundtrack is a little behind as House of Cards has since finished its Fourth season. Although season Four was better, the third season helped to delve deeper into who Frank and Claire Underwood are and what made them this way. The album starts out with Losing Rachel, a track that is haunting and dark. Violin and trumpet solos take place off in the distance and carry the listener through a series of minor chords. Two full CDs pack in 33 tracks of music. Many feature the quintessential House of Cards trumpet solo, that immediately makes me think of Frank Underwood. There’s a lot of music here, but not a ton of variety to the sound and themes. If you enjoyed the music from the show, then this album is a fine purchase and you won’t be disappointed.

theaffairMARCELO ZARVOS – The Affair – Varese Sarabande 302 067 374 8

This album features music from the Showtime original series The Affair as composed by Marcelo Zarvos.  Marcelo is a Brazilian composer mostly producing film scores for the past 16 years. The Affair is mostly atmospheric tracks, like “Noah Wanders,” a piece with bells and synths, feels like you might be walking through a foggy forest. Most tracks are piano with slow strings in the background and a few bells for depth. Not bad music if you are trying to relax or focus on work. I quite enjoy this album just for that. The 28 tracks are mostly calm and relaxing with a few eerie melodies to invoke suspicion and curiosity.

rockthekasbahVARIOUS ARTISTS – Rock the Kasbah – Varese Sarabande 302 067 373 8

Rock the Kasbah, a film starring Bill Murray, features a mix of music along with some of the original score by Marcelo Zarvos. You get a bit of Cat Stevens with Pop Star, the classic Bob Dylan tune “Knockin on Heaven’s Door,” and even a performance of “Smoke on the Water” by Bill Murray. Twelve tracks make up Rock the Kasbah and only two of them are original music by Zarvos. His tracks have a middle-eastern tone to them. The “4 Sacred Bonds transitions into a trumpet solo theme with a western sound. It’s an interesting mix. If you saw the movie and enjoyed the music, it’s a decent pick up, but otherwise can be skipped.

mobydickPHILIP SAINTON: Moby Dick – Naxos 8.573367

The original score to the 1956 movie Moby Dick by Josh Hustons is a sweeping epic by Philip Sainton. I could immediately hear the time period as the music paints just as much of a picture as the images on screen. Tunes like “Queequeg’s Entrance” tell in my imagination without having seen the movie. “The Ribs and Terrors in the Whale” is a beautiful hymn and “Dock Scene” takes the listener on a whimsical trot. This album features some music not released on the original album and was re-recorded in 1997 featuring the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. There is over an hour of music and 26 tracks to enjoy on this release. The recording quality is good with solid dynamics and excellent clarity. This is a fun taste of how film scores were composed in the earlier days of cinema and a great pickup for fans of the genre.

—above reviews by Stephen Hornbrook

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