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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Le Demon de L'Himalaya
Music by Arthur Honegger
13 Tracks 74:40 mins

Naxos have reissued this collection of music from four films scored by Arthur Honegger in the '30s, the music having been recorded in 1992/93 by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Adriano.
The generous disc begins with a suite of five tracks from 1937's Regain, director Marcel Pagnol's interpretation of the novel by Jean Giono, which tells a heartwarming tale of villagers in Provence. "Le Panturle" introduces a surprisingly heroic, march-like theme, with a stormy and turbulent interlude. "Hiver" (Winter) is appropriately bleak and gloomy; the mood continuing for much of "Printemps" (Spring), with the main theme returning hopefully at the end. "Gedemus le Remouleur," by complete contrast, offers a comical miniature polka. The concluding title track ends the score on a positive rendition of the main theme.
A five-track suite from 1935's Crime et Chatiment (Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment) follows, opening the "Generique" dramatically, before turning distinctively Russian in style. The subdued "Raskolnikov - Sonia" follows, and briefly introduces the bleak sound of the Ondes Martenot, played here by Jacques Tchemkerten. "Depart pour le Crime" is suitably dark and dramatic, as is "Meurtre d'Elisabeth; with the Ondes Martenot returning in "Visite Nocturne - Final," giving an almost supernatural feel to the early part of the track, before the music builds to a dramatic crescendo; the Russian theme returning to conclude proceedings.
Third up are "2 Symphonic Movements" from the album's title score, Le Demon de L'Himalaya, a mix of fiction and documentary, directed by Andrew Marton. The opening "Tempete de Neige" is an exercise in bleakness and ascending tension, which all ends very dramatically; whilst "Ascension et Chute" is constructed around a passacaglia, increasingly dramatic, and culminating with a big choral, here performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Choir.
The disc concludes with the complete25-minute score from 1934's L'Idee, one of two animated films scored by the composer. The music is presented as one continuous track, and opens very dramatically. Ondes Martenot returns in this score, playing in a more serene and poignant manner, and there is also a subdued march figure for solo violin and orchestra, as well as some dance-like rhythms; a strong, somber processional, together with a later scherzo variation thereon; leading to a turbulent passage, in which the Ondes is played quite wildly; concluding almost funereally, before the serene Ondes plays us out in more pastoral fashion.
Accompanied by an eight-page booklet, featuring the conductor's detailed notes on the films and their scores, together with brief profiles of the orchestra, choir, soloist and conductor, this is a very good example of the kind of film scoring of the period going on away from the Hollywood norm we are more used to, and a makes for a good introduction to the composer's work, if you are not already on familiar terms.


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