MISCHA SPOLIANSKY – Film Music: Voice in the Night; The Happiest Days of your Life; The Man who could work Miracles; The Ghost Goes West; King Solomon’s Mines; North West Frontier; Dedication – Mark Coles, bass / Roderick Elms, piano / BBC Concert Orchestra / Rumon Gamba – Chandos Movies CHAN10543 [Distr. by Naxos] 73:03 *****:
Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985) lived in Warsaw, Vienna, Dresden and Berlin as child and young man, studying at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin and becoming a friend of Max Reinhardt with whom he worked on several productions. Like so many, he was expelled from Germany in 1933 and went to London with his wife and young family.
He was soon spotted by Alexander Korda and for him wrote his first film score for the 1935 production, “The Ghost Goes West” telling of the sale of a Scottish castle bought by an American, dismantled and rebuilt in the US, complete with ghost. The Scottish flavour to the Prelude is quite delicious.
“Sanders of the River”, another Korda picture, was also released in 1935, in the US with the title “Bosambo” and starred Paul Robeson, playing the part of Bosambo. Robeson later regretted making the film, feeling that he had played a caricature. While the film is very much of its time, pre-War British colonialism, the music, songs written for Robeson, survives nicely on its own. Robeson’s own recordings have been issued on just about every recording medium going, and are still available, sounding superb in a recent box from EMI. However, this new recording has Mark Coles thoroughly in the idiom, “Congo Lullaby” (My Little Black Dove) sounding especially moving. Coles has a deep rich voice much like Robeson’s, and with the benefit of Chandos’s first-rate engineering the results are quite captivating.
“King Solomon’s Mines” released in 1937 also starred Paul Robeson, and the suite here contains two more songs, not recorded for 78s at the time, and like so much this CD’s programme is a recording première. Mark Coles is accompanied beautifully and sensitively by the BBC Concert Orchestra, a band much experienced in playing for solo singers.
The previous year, 1936, saw Spoliansky write the music for a film based on an H.G .Wells story, “The Man Who Could Work Miracles”, something of an idealist fantasy starring Ralph Richardson and Roland Young, and the quirky score melds nicely with the action. There’s some lovely wind playing in this suite, especially by the flute and bassoon soloists. After the War, Spoliansky worked on “Wanted for Murder” in 1946, contributing, as Philip Lane writes in his excellent guide to this disc, a “Denham Concerto”. The mini-piano-concerto had become a popular conceit in film-making, especially it seems in Britain, and Spoliansky’s is as good as any, and very well played by Roderick Elms. The music for “Idol of Paris” (1948) uses a similar construction.
The Galop from “The Happiest Days of Your Life” is a delightfully high-spirited romp much in the mould of Malcolm Arnold’s “St. Trinian’s” music. Opening the CD is the suite from “North-West Frontier” which Spoliansky scored in 1959. Described as a “Boy’s Own” adventure after the magazine for boys very popular until the end of the 1960s, it opens with a big bold theme for the prelude, has a delightful waltz and ends with a brief and muscular rendition of the “Eton Boating Song”.
Finally on the disc, from 1957, an organ solo, and very effective, written for the fine film “St. Joan”, starring Jean Seberg, John Gielgud, Anton Walbrook and Richard Widmark. John Wright plays the organ in Cheltenham College’s Chapel, a building with excellent acoustics, and is given top-class sound by the engineers.
In addition to writing the essay for the beautifully-presented booklet with its many black-and-white stills, Philip Lane has arranged the music for most of the tracks. The BBC Concert Orchestra, recorded in the Watford Colosseum, are on top from under the adventurous conductor Rumon Gamba. The Colosseum is a very fine recording venue and Chandos has provided superb, rich, warm sound for this issue.
— Peter Joelson