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Thursday, September 10, 2009


Apologies for the lack of reviews again this week, illness again, I'm afraid, but I'm having tests at the minute, so hope things can be sorted out without too much pain and difficulty! Anyway, here goes with the latest offering from Chandos Movies:-

The Film Music of Mischa Spoliansky
Chandos Movies CHAN 10543
23 Tracks 73:03 mins

The latest in the excellent Chandos Movies series concentrates on the film work of Russian-born composer Mischa Spoliansky, who came to England in 1933 after his expulsion from Germany where he had been working in the theatre for Max Reinhardt. The years before and after the war saw him work in a variety of British films, some of which enjoyed international acclaim, and this collection features selections from eight very diverse productions, performed, as usual, by the BBC Concert Orchestra, under the baton of Rumon Gamba.
The disc commences with a suite of four tracks from 1959's North West Frontier, an India-set adventure, directed by Lee J. Thompson and starring Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall. The "Main Titles" is a big, brassy affair, and is followed by the exciting "Attack on the Train," with its tribal rhythms battling with more traditionally western elements, the latter proudly emerging on top. A complete change of pace is "Scott and Mrs Wyatt," a charming, violin-lead theme; the suite concluding with an heroic rendering of the familiar "Eton Boating Song."
Next up we have three songs, co-written with Arthur Wimperis, from 1935's Sanders of the River, with Mark Coles subbing for Paul Robeson; followed by a three-track suite from the 1936 comic-fantasy The Man Who Could Work Miracles, which opens quite whimsically with "The Miracles," the mood continuing into "Scherzo," with Ileana Ruhemann featuring on flute. The suite concludes with the bombastic "Grand Palace March," though even this has its whimsical moments, before concluding in fine style.
At the time of scoring 1946's Wanted for Murder, the practise of taking film themes and making them into concert pieces was quite popular (the Warsaw Concerto, Cornish Rhapsody etc.), and "Voice in the Night" was duly added to the catalogue, a pretty dramatic piece, with a quieter middle section, reflecting the film's dark subject matter, here played by Roderick Elms and the Orchestra.
1935's fantasy The Ghost Goes West, starring Robert Donat, is a fondly remembered film and here we have a four-track suite, commencing with the "Prelude," a suitably Scottish flavoured piece. "Ghost's Walk" follows, treading its way mysteriously and giving way to the "Love Theme" which, after an expressive violin solo, develops quite nicely. "Chase and Finale" concludes the suite, opening lightly with a mini-scherzo, before coming to a somewhat solemn conclusion.
Another piece for piano and orchestra follows, "Dedication" from 1948's Gainsborough-styled Idol of Paris and, unlike "Voice in the Night," this is a much more romantic and likeable effort.
Paul Robeson once more featured in the 1937 version of King Solomon's Mines and here again Mark Coles features on three of the songs, co-written this time with Eric Maschwitz, which are accompanied by the opening titles, a somewhat jazzy piece, which has a Gershwin feel to it, sounding more suited to the urban jungle than darkest Africa; the largely mysterious "The Desert," and the "Finale," which reprises the jazzy opening theme.
Spoliansky also composed his share of scores for straight-ahead comedies, including Norman Wisdom's debut film Trouble in Store. Here his lively and slapsticky "Galop" features, taken from the 1950 film The Happiest Days of our Lives, a kind of prequel to the riotous St Trinian's films, starring Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell.
The collection concludes with the composer's "Toccatina" (for solo organ) from Otto Preminger's 1957 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, here featuring John Wright on the Harrison organ of Cheltenham College chapel. My one criticism is the placement of this piece, which makes for a somewhat solemn and spare ending to the collection.
Accompanying the disc is the usual quality booklet from Chandos, including arranger Philip Lane's notes on the composer and the works featured, in three languages, together with profiles of the conductor.
You can now purchase or download Chandos releases directly from the label's website at


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