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Friday, January 27, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Two from Chandos

The Film Music of William Alwyn Volume 3
Rumon Gamba conducting the BBC Philharmonic
Chandos Movies CHAN 10349 (U.K.)
29 Tracks 77:49 mins

A third splendid volume of film music by one of the most prolific British film composers, especially of the 40s and 50s, again expertly performed by conductor Ruman Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic.
Content this time is a 6-track suite from 1951's The Magic Box - pretty routine, but with some nice polkas and a waltz; variations on another waltz from 1953's The Million Pound Note; the lively march from 1944's The Way Ahead; a 4-track suite from 1960's Swiss Family Robinson, with its turbulent opening, romantic violin interlude, and comical capers with Ostriches and Waterslides, ending in a charming waltz; the Devilish Paul's Last Ride from 1949's The Rocking Horse Winner; the highlight for me - 6 tracks from 1955's Geordie, which utilises two well-known Scottish melodies in the splendid Main Titles, the second of which goes on to become the film's love theme. Along the way there are whimsical and jolly moments, some effective drama and a lively Highland reel; another waltz for piano and orchestra from 1949's The Cure for Love; a 5-track suite from 1941's Penn of Pennsylvania, almost regal at times and with some passionate Love Music; the heroic march from 1944's The True Glory; and a 4-track suite from 1962's The Running Man, a Spanish-flavoured score, which includes some romantic Spanish guitar and the lively dance in Spanish Gipsy Wedding.
Once again, Philip Lane deserves high praise for his arrangements, and the accompanying booklet, in three languages, features Andrew Peter Knowles' detailed notes on the composer and the films covered in this collection.

Malcolm Williamson: Orchestral Works, Volume 1
Rumon Gamba conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Chandos Digital CHAN 10359 (U.K.)
13 Tracks 57:13 mins

Film Music fans will know Malcolm Williamson for the four scores he wrote for Hammer Films at their peak, but they might like to check out this CD, which shows other sides to the composer, starting out with his 1956 composition Santiago de Espada, which features a very nice theme at its heart, after a rhythmic opening. There follows his Suite from 'Our Man in Havana,'
which is the true highlight of the disc and is taken from the 1963 opera of the same name. Prelude is suitably Latin in style to begin with, but ends in a glorious waltz. There's plenty to like in Passacaglia and Threnody, the former perhaps being an inspiration to Howard Shore when writing his theme for The Aviator, which it strongly reminds me of. Serenade is a wonderfully gay affair; whilst Intermezzo opens and closes busily as one would expect, but features a flowing string theme at its heart. Finale ends the piece reprising material from the Prelude, but also carries music of almost regal manner. 1965's Concerto Grosso, although I'm not familiar with the Hammer scores, seems to me, along with the folowing piece, more in the vein of what Williamson might write for those productions, a busy, turbulent piece, initially on strings, but then for full orchestra; with 1965's Sinfonietta featuring some mysterioso and threatening moments, but with an energetic string movement and a lively ending.
Lewis Foreman's booklet notes, again in three languages, provide a guide to the composer and the featured pieces.


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