- 8 February, 2013
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It’s the heavy metal season, and there’ll be lots of it exchanging hands now that we’re in the middle of the annual TV and cinema awards season, that time of year when Emmys, Baftas, Grammys and Oscars pop up like daisies.
Amid all the hubbub of the lead-up, however, it possibly went unnoticed in some quarters that, last Christmas Eve, the English composer Richard Rodney Bennett died in New York, his adoptive home since 1979. He gained a deserved reputation for his music on celluloid, having written over fifty scores for film and television and adding to the distinguished list of composers who have been attracted to the medium. If you’re in the mood for some easy listening, samples of his imaginative writing can be heard on BENNETT: Film Music (CHAN9867) that showcases his knack for serving up evocative backdrops for films such as Murder on the Orient Express, Far from the Madding Crowd and Lady Caroline Lamb.
Dmitry Shostakovich also got up to his elbows in soundtracks for films and stage works that account for some fifty entries in his catalogue. If you were unaware of his penchant for can-cans, carnival music and crazy turns of musical phrase, then check out his score for New Babylon (8.572824-25), the Naxos 2-disc set that boasts the first complete recording of all the surviving manuscripts for the film. Conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald’s two previous Naxos world première recordings of Shostakovich’s film scores for Alone (8.570316) and The Girlfriends (8.572138) have been highly acclaimed.
While Leonard Bernstein made only a single foray into the film music industry, it certainly made its mark. The American crime drama On the Waterfront was released in 1954 and the soundtrack has lived on in a number of arrangements. One such forms part of a new Naxos release this month from Scott Weiss and the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble (8.573056), who perform a number of transcriptions of Bernstein’s wide-ranging output, including the Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront.
Also among February’s batch of new releases from Naxos is a loose strand worth following on three discs featuring Anglo-German-French-flavoured composers, who both fall into a chronological and stylistic sequence and share a motley background of provenance and study.
A descendant of the English aristocracy, Georges Onslow was born in France, subsequently composing and studying both there, in London and in Hamburg. Listening to his three cello sonatas (8.572830), you could be easily persuaded to think they were from the pen of Beethoven, or even a young Chopin. If it hasn’t crossed your path yet, the slow movement of the latter’s Cello Sonata in G minor (8.553159) will take you one step nearer heaven.
Of French descent on his father’s side, Eugen d’Albert had even more of a patchwork pedigree: born to German parents in Scotland, he subsequently studied in both England and Weimar (with Liszt). Written in 1886, his Symphony in F major (8.572805) resonates with the style of Brahms’ symphonic output and gives an early inkling of his eventual rise to become a key figure in German post-Romanticism.
Finally to Anthony Girard’s disc of music for piano, clarinet and cello (8.572993). Although born in New York in 1959, Girard is now a unique voice in contemporary French music with a catalogue bursting at the seams. If you’re unfamiliar with his oeuvre, let this disc take you for an introductory step into Girard’s world of myth, mysticism and minimalism.
“…sizzling … refined … sparklingly swaggering…”
This is how Christopher Dingle of BBC Music Magazine recently arrived at his five-star thumbs-up for JoAnn Falletta’s recording of Gershwin’s music for piano and orchestra (NBD0025). The disc includes the Rhapsody No. 2, which was also originally intended as music for a film.
Falletta herself recalls that it seemed a natural choice to record Gershwin’s music with the Buffalo Philharmonic, “an orchestra of American musicians who understand [Gershwin’s] voice, who never counted the rhythms but swung to them with an intrinsic understanding that seemed part of their physical makeup!”
If you’re on the lookout for a disc that combines the experience of fine sound with fine performances, then this item from the Naxos Blu-ray Audio catalogue should be high on your shopping list.