SOUNDTRACK CDs - May 2002
Let's start our movie music section with two of the most prolific and honored film composers alive today - Jarre & Goldsmith...
Maurice Jarre - The Emotion and the Strength - Various orchestras all conducted by the composer - Sel. From: Fanfare for the Popular National Theater of Paris, Grand Prix, Witness, The Tin Drum, Ghost, Gorillas in the Mist, Dead Poets Society, Sunshine, Villa Rides, Dr. Zhivago, The Man Who Would be King, A Passage to India, The Year of Living Dangerously, Shadow of the Wolf, Fatal Attraction, A Walk in the Clouds, Ryan's Daughter, Uprising, Jacob's Ladder, Lawrence of Arabia, Is Paris Burning? - Milan 73138-35980-2 (2 CDs):
Jarre's strong melodies and emotional feeling have propelled many feature films into stronger experiences than they would have been without his talents. The CD booklet points out that nearly all the main characters of these 20 films were confronted with another way of life, culture, behavior or way of thinking different from their own. And that Jarre unknowingly prepared himself for the use of different ethnic musics in his scores by opening himself to the music of Japan, India, Arabia, Russia and the Southern U.S. This came in handy in his use of traditional instruments and melodies in many of his more exotic scores, including many in this compendium. The tracks range from three-minute cues to as long as 12 minute suites of his music for some of the films, comprising almost a readers- digest aural version of a film.
Goldsmith Conducts Goldsmith - The Philharmonia & National Philharmonic Orchestras: The Blue Max Suite, TV Themes Medley, Masada main theme, Gremlins Suite, Motion Picture Themes Medley, MacArthur/Patton Suite, Lionheart theme, Legend themes - Silva America HDCD surround SSD 1135:
This is a reissue in HDCD and Dolby Surround of a l989 studio album recorded by Goldsmith. It was taped in l987 shortly after the leading Hollywood composer had conducted the Philharmonia at a London concert of his music - the first time he had done that anywhere. This CD was the first Dolby Surround source I had to try out on a new receiver I am evaluating which sports both HDCD and ProLogic II decoding. Wow! PLII sounds excellent on most two-channel stereo material, but on a matrix source already encoded for surround such as this CD it really shines. This sounded as good to my ears as many of the discrete 5.1 hi-res discs. I want to get out all my Dolby Surround CDs and experience them again - I bet the Gerhardt-conducted soundtracks and Tomita's CDs will be a trip. Goldsmith often begins a theme with some sort of percussion figure leading into the statement of the melody, and those snare drums or tympani or whatever always came out of the surround speakers. As the orchestra builds up to the front soundstage MacArthur seems to march right over you! The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was the only TV theme I recognized, not being heavy into TV series. The evocative themes from Chinatown and Poltergeist stood out in the movie theme medley, and hearing the five part little suite from The Blue Max made me want to right out and rent the DVD.
- John Sunier
Both of the next two classic films had heavily classical scores and both won all sorts of Oscars, but decades apart from one another...
Amadeus - Music of Mozart - Soloists/Choruses/Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Sir Neville Marriner - Special Edition Reissue, newly remastered in 24 bit on 24-karat gold discs - Fantasy 2WAMCD-4435-2 (2 CDs):
Hard to believe this winner of eight Academy Awards first hit the nation's screens back in l984. My laserdisc of Amadeus is a treasured one, and the soundtrack is superb, but now it's even better in the DVD reissues and on these newly remastered gold CDs. Plus in the meantime Director Milos Forman added 20 minutes of material cut out of the original feature. What makes this soundtrack such a gem apart from the film itself is that - as conductor Marriner says in his liner notes - the film was shot around the music and not the other way around as is usually the case.
30 selections are on the pair of very full CDs. Of course they are complete works or at least complete movements here, whereas in the film they were often truncated or run underneath dialog for filmic purposes. Along with the Mozart big hits such as the Magic Flute Overture, Eine kleine nachtmusik, the Requiem, Piano Concerto in D Minor, and Concerto for Flute and Harp, there are excerpts from his operas The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, from two symphonies and some of his serenades and divertimenti. There are five sections from the landmark Requiem. Marriner recorded all the works especially for the film soundtracks - these are not already-existing commercial recordings cleverly married to a film soundtrack as Kubrick and others have done. After this listening experience I now have another DVD to add to my rental wish list.
- John Sunier
ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD: Music from the Films - The Sea Hawk, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Captain Blood, The Prince and the Pauper - London Symphony Orchestra/Andre Previn - DGG 28937 13472-5:
Our second Wolfgang was another Austrian composer of a bit later era than Mozart (he died in l957). Korngold came to Hollywood as a young man and brought with him the European classical Romantic-period symphonic style - quickly making it the musical voice of Hollywood movies for years to come. He didn't have to change the style of his previous serious music. It was a happy accident that his lush harmonies and spectacular orchestrating talents fit perfectly to communicate the on-screen emotions which directors wanted to get across to audiences in the theaters. Korngold regarded these movies as "operas without singing" and pulled out all the emotional strings when appropriate. No wonder he is sometimes described as The Father of American Film Music.
All four of the movies on this CD starred screen idol Errol Flynn. The Sea Hawk is considered one of the best swash-buckling movies ever. It also runs well over two hours and has one of Korngold's most elaborate scores. There are different themes for the main characters and a love theme, all in the thematic style of Wagner. In a climactic duel scene, every parry and thrust of sword is depicted in the score. Previn is the perfect choice to conduct all this music; his professional life began as a Hollywood arranger, composer, and conductor. He breathes great excitement into the Sea Hawk music especially, bettering in both performance and sonic values the other CD I had on hand of some of this score - James DePreist and the Oregon Symphony on a Delos disc. The Prince and the Pauper came from a Mark Twain novel, and Korngold later used several of its themes in his Violin Concerto.
- John Sunier
Enigma - Music Composed and Conducted by John Barry/Members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - Decca 289 467 864-2:
Barry, known both for his action-movie scores such as the James Bond series and more lyrical work that has won him five Oscars, here met the challenges of establishing a l940s feeling and mood along with plenty of energy and suspense. The story revolves around the Bletchely Park group of code-breakers in Britain who were able to find the key to be able to translate the Nazi secret code during the Second World War. (One of the film's co-producers was Mick Jagger.) In addition to the 19 musical cues from Barry there are two numbers from old 78s of Bunny Berigan and his band, plus the New Queen's Hall Orchestra in an excerpt from Vaughan Williams' Dives & Lazarus. Lovely music that stands alone well even if you haven't seen the film - as I haven't as yet.
Music for the Movies by Alfred Schnittke - My Past and Thoughts, Agony, The End of St. Petersburg, The Master and Margarita - Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin/Frank Strobel - CPO 61203 97962-2:
(Sorry about the disgusting cover art, but you know those Russians - can't be helped.) Schnittke, who died in l998, rose to great prominence in the West as a leading modern Russian composer of abstract works - often requiring a strong effort of attentiveness to appreciate. Most listeners haven't heard any of his film music, and this CD is their chance. Schnittke wrote over 60 film scores for a great variety of films, and this music is generally much more accessible. Each of the four film scores is presented as a short suite ranging from 12 to 21 minutes. The longest is Agony, concerning the great influence that Rasputin had over the Tsar and the plans to murder the monk. As with Korngold, Schnittke later used themes from this film score in his abstract works such as the Second Cello Concerto. A strong Mahleresque quality creeps into the music for The Master and Margarita. There is even an unmistakable reference to Richard Strauss' Also Spach Zarathustra. Kudos to the German Radio for making these performances available on commercial CD.
- John Sunier
Celluloid Copland (World Premiere Film Music) - From Sorcery to Science, The City Suite, The Cummington Story Suite, The North Star Suite - Eos Orchestra/Jonathan Sheffer - Telarc CD-80583:
Copland was our most "American" composer and of all the leading American composers he wrote the most music for films. These early scores were commissioned for various film projects and Copland used them as opportunities to test out compositional ideas that he would use in refined form in later abstract works. From Sorcery's music was created for a booth on the development of modern medicinal drugs at the l939 World's Fair, The City was a Pare Lorentz documentary and Copland hoped his music for it might get him work in Hollywood - which it eventually did. The North Star, starring Walter Houston and Erich von Stroheim, boasts Russian-flavored battle music reminiscent of Prokofiev's stirring score for Alexander Nevsky. Its cue Song of the Guerrillas, has lyrics by Ira Gershwin.
Tron - Music by Wendy Carlos performed by London Philharmonic Orchestra - Walt Disney Records 60748-7:
A reissue of the futuristic l982 film that transported a man into the world of computers and machines, this CD has been released in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary DVD of the feature film. Carlos' electronic music is fused with standard symphonic scoring here, much as she had done with her score a decade earlier for A Clockwork Orange. Three bonus tracks are included, as well as two songs in the film from the rock band Journey. Audio writer Michael Fremer was the Music Supervisor for the film and first suggested Wendy Carlos to the Disney Studio. This was a 70mm production with six-channel surround; wish this CD was a six-channel hi-res one - I think it would add greatly to the musical interest of the rather dry and unemotional score. Does hearing this again make me want to go out and see the film again? No.
- John Sunier
Silk Stockings (Orig. Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter- Fred Astaire, Carole Richards, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre - Rhino Movie Music R2 74368:
This is another of the wonderful true stereo reissue CDs coming from the huge MGM film library of Turner Classic Movies. Although the musical came out a year before the stereodisc LP hit the market, movies were trying to lure viewers away from TV and back to the theaters with multichannel surround sound and widescreens. There's even a hilarious Porter song on that very subject sung by Astaire and Paige, "Stereophonic Sound." (Since the LP could only be released in mono at that time, they just put a big reverb on the words Stereophile Sound every time they were sung.)
If the name Carole Richards doesn't ring a bell for you movie triviaphiles, she was the singing voice for Cyd Charisse in the film. Other great Porter tunes heard here include Paris Loves Lovers, Easy to Love, All of You, Silk Stockings, It's a Chemical Reaction That's All, and the delightful Siberia - sung by the trio of Soviet would-be expatriates including Peter Lorre. Here's yet another movie I want to rush out and rent; when am I going to see all these? I decided to illustrate the Soundtracks section this month with the actual CD - just one example of the creative printing on CD labels that we're beginning to see lately.
The Importance of Being Earnest - Music for the Movies by Benjamin Frankel (Also: Curse of the Werewolf, Night of the Iguana, Trottie True, The Years Between, Footsteps in the Fog) - Queensland Sym. Orch./Werner Andreas Albert - CPO 999 809-2:
British film composer Frankel, who lived until l973, felt that performing the scores of films away from the films for which they were written was detrimental. So he made little effort to save the scores and parts once the soundtrack was completed. This is true of much film music of the past, and it thus requires a great deal of work to re-construct scores from the original soundtracks or sketchy notation. The longest of the filmic suites here is not the classic Oscar Wilde title film but the 25-minute Night of the Iguana. Written for a smaller ensemble, this is one of Frankel's most personal scores and handily fits the alternating moods of tragedy and comedy in the Richard Burton/Ava Gardner film. The brief two-minute cue from the Hammer horror film Curse of the Werewolf is included because it is thought to be the very first 12-tone serial score for a British feature film. Strangely, though, this cue is quite tonal in nature.
- John Sunier
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