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Editor's Choice -

Best Of The Month

April 2011  

  

DAVID RAKSIN CONDUCTS HIS GREAT FILM SCORES

 

Featuring music from: LAURA, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, and FOREVER AMBER.

Originally produced by Charles Gerhardt. Featuring the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by David Raksin. Mastering and engineering by Maria Triana. Recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall, London, August 18-19, and 21-22 1975. Originally released 1976 as RCA ARL1-1490. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by David Raksin and Christopher Palmer.

10 tracks – (Playing Time = 46:58)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77932 2

Rating: ****

 

From the time I first listened to this recording on an old LP back in the 1970s, I have felt this is a superior release. As an added plus, it is conducted by the composer himself. David Raksin is still an underappreciated film composer. Listening to this CD, it should be clear what a talented composer he was and I included this recording on my list of ten favorite classic film score recordings chosen about ten years ago...

 

     1  

Citizen Kane - The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann

National Philharmonic Orchestra, Charles Gerhardt, conductor - RCA Victor, 1974/BMG 0707-2-RG, 1989. Even though it includes only 5 selections from the film, this CD has the best recording of the famous "Aria from Salammbo" - beautifully sung by the great Kiri Te Kanawa.  Superb sound quality.                                                                                                             

 2

Ben-Hur  - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

M-G-M Studio Orchestra and Chorus, Miklos Rozsa, conductor - Rhino R2 72197, 2 CD set, 1996. As monumental as the film itself, this complete score is a must for fans of this score.  

 3

The Best Years of Our Lives - Original Motion Picture Score

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Frank Collura, conductor - Entr'acte Recording Society EDP 8101, 1978 (this LP has a wonderful 50th anniversary tribute to Friedhofer by Gene Lees on a bonus 33 1/3 single). The CD is on Preamble PRCD 1779, 1988. Wonderful recording of this warm and nostalgic score.                                                                                                                   

 4

Vertigo - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Orchestra conducted by Muir Mathieson - Varese Sarabande VSD-5759, 1996.  Enhanced with missing tracks from the film - taken from the acclaimed restored film and video. A superb restoration job. CD produced by Robert Townson.  The greatest film score re-release of recent years. Mathieson far more passionate than the McNeely recording.
       

 5

King Kong - Complete 1933 Film Score Moscow Symphony

Orchestra, conducted by William T. Stromberg - Music reconstructed and restored by John W. Morgan - Marco Polo CD 8.223763, 1997. Out of the jungle at last, this is the ultimate recording of Steiner's first great score.  
 
                                  

 6

The Adventures of Robin Hood - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Music composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  Score restorations by John Morgan. Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Stromberg.  Recording Engineer & Editor: Genadiy Papin.  Notes by Rudy Behlmer and Brendan G. Carroll.  Recorded at Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, Russia in February 2003. Marco Polo CD 8.225268.

                                                                           

 7

David Raksin Conducts Laura, The Bad and The Beautiful, and Forever Amber

Arranged and conducted by the composer, New Philharmonia Orchestra - RCA LP ARL1-1490, 1975/ CD 1490-2-RG.   Beautifully recorded music from three of Raksin's best known scores.                                                  

 8

Sunset Boulevard - The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman

8 1/2 minute suite from A Place in the Sun, featuring an alto saxophone solo by Ronnie Chamberlain, National Philahomic Orchestra, Charles Gerhardt, conductor, RCA Victor, 1974/BMG CD 0708-2-RG, 1989.  A beautifully realized setting.        
                                

 9

To Kill a Mockingbird - Original Motion Picture Score

Royal  Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Elmer Bernstein -   Varese Sarabande CD VSD-5754, 1997.   Elmer Bernstein's greatest film score.  This recording has far superior sound quality to the LP version.                                                                                                                                        

10

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Conducted by John Williams (one of his favorite scores) - Arista 07822-19004-2, 1977/1998.  The Collector's  Edition.   The new expanded CD includes much unreleased music. Listen especially to the last track on the CD - over 12 minutes of luminous scoring. With 26 tracks and 77 minutes of music, this CD release is a "close encounter" with John Williams' brillliance as a film composer.  Top notch sound too.
                 

 

So, it is with great pleasure that I name this remastered superb sounding CD with three of Raksin's greatest film scores as Best of the Month.
Please read Steve Kennedy's perceptive review below.

-- Roger Hall, FMR Editor

 

CD Review:

RCA’s remastered reissue of their Classic Film Series continues with a second batch of seven discs featuring music by Herrmann, Waxman, Korngold, Rozsa, and Steiner along with a compilation of scores for Bette Davis films.

And, there is this disc, the one anomaly in the series in that it featured the actual composer of the scores conducting his own works—a bit of ground breaking in its own right. David Raksin was in his 60s when these recordings were made and they are a crowning achievement in some ways. For this release, Gerhardt and Raksin selected music from three of the composer’s film scores.

The album opens with what is arguably Raksin’s most famous melody, of not one of the most themes in film music, “Laura” from the 1944 film. Like the other music in the release, the arrangement is one that Raksin had developed for pops performances, though it is as lush as the subsequent music on the disc.

The other two scores represented include the Oscar-nominated music for Forever Amber (1948) and 1952’s score for The Bad and the Beautiful. Each of these works are described by the composer as “scenarios” for orchestra.

The Bad and the Beautiful contains another of Raksin’s iconic themes that is prominently stated in the opening of this four-movement work. The structure of the scenario suggests the symphony more than a suite of disconnected musical tracks with the primary theme serving as a connective thread through the work as a whole. The final movement, “Nocturne and Theme,” uses a concert arrangement Raksin wrote for a Boston Pops performance.

Forever Amber feels more like a suite of film music in the best sense with a variety of thematic relationships threading their way through the five “movements” of this scenario and creating one of the best ways to reintroduce oneself to this score. This is music that is wonderfully romantic, without being cloyingly so, and the melodic ideas soar. The music is a cross between film noir and romance at times with simply brilliant orchestration. And there are moments of very English faux Baroque period writing (“The King’s Mistress”) that are as fascinating to hear against the more romantic sections of the score.

There is no denying that this is a one of many classic and integral film score releases to have in one’s music library. The sound of the new re-issues is simply gorgeous and this beautifully rich music never sounded so wonderful as it does here. The composer’s presence on the podium lends the music a little more authority and what is most fascinating is how the essence of the original performances are captured years later by the composer stylistically, and in tempo with just a hint of interpretative nuance. And then there is the detailed and fascinating essay Raksin wrote for the release which is a wealth of information.

Younger film music fans will do themselves a great favor in acquainting themselves with the music of David Raksin. One is struck by the dearth of releases of his some 100+ film scores on CD even with the resurgence of interest in film music of the 1940s and 1950s.

At least this disc remains as a testament to his greatest, if most well-known, music. In the meantime, a few releases from Gerhardt’s series remain, not the least of which are his recordings from the Star Wars films, another groundbreaking effort that might not have happened had it not been for these recordings of music from Hollywood’s Golden era.

-- Steven A. Kennedy, 4 April 2011

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: stev4uth@hotmail.com

 

 

See other CDs in this Classic Film Scores series:

CITIZEN KANE - The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann
[Best of the Month - March 2011]


ELIZABETH AND ESSEX - The Classic Film Scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold

 

 

NOW VOYAGER - The Classic Film Scores of Max Steiner

 

SPELLBOUND - The Classic Film Scores of Miklos Rozsa

 

SUNSET BOULEVARD - The Classic film Scores of Franz Waxman

 

Classic Film Scores For Bette Davis

 

See also:

"They're Either Too Young or Too Old" - A Centennial Tribute to Bette Davis


 

 


 

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