Music by Anis Fuleihan, Miklos Rozsa, Ferde Grofe, Pat Charles & Warren Baker, Al Dubin [incorrect track - see review].
15 Tracks (Playing Time = 50:55)
CD Producer: J.S.R. Lasher. Disc transfers: J.S.R. Lasher and Toby Learmont. Mastering engineers: Ben Chesterman and Toby Learmont.
Label X LXCD15 (Distributed by Hot Records UK)
What do we have here? It appears to be a sampling of music demonstrating that eerie sounding instrument known as The Theremin, developed and named after Professor Leon Theremin (1896-1993). It has become popular again after its initial use back in films of the 1940s.
This CD consists of both concert works and film music excerpts from the distant past and was compiled for Digeridoo and released by Label X in Australia and distributed by Hot Records in the UK.
The first work is from 1945 and titled: Concerto for Theremin and Orchestra by the Cypriot composer Anis Fuleihan (1901-1970), with the New York City Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The theremin soloist is Clara Rockmore, who was both the pupil and lover of Professor Theremin himself. This is not the most melodic or involving of concert works but has a few moments of interest. Still, this work rambles on and is not a very inviting opener.
The Theremin became well known after it was used in several psychological films in the 1940s, that is, SPELLBOUND and THE LOST WEEKEND, both classic film scores by Miklos Rozsa.
One of those film scores is next on this CD: Suite for Theremin and Orchestra from SPELLBOUND (1945). The theremin soloist is another specialist from that era, Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman. Miklos Rosza conducts the Hollywood Studio Orchestra. There are seven tracks that make up the suite, beginning with the famous Prelude (track 4, 3:05). The theremin enters prominently on the next track titled, "Subconscious" (track 5, 3:04). Though this suite has been available before on other compilations, it is a most appropriate work to include since SPELLBOUND won an Oscar for Rosza's distinctive score and is probably the film music most associated with the Theremin. Sound quality for this suite is extremely good for its age.
There is also an excerpt from Rozsa's THE RED HOUSE titled, "Screams in the Night" (track 11, 2:44), once again conducted by Rozsa with the Hollywood Studio Orchestra and a female chorus, with Dr. Hoffman as soloist on the Theremin.
Next is a short track titled "Lisa's Theme" (track 12, 1:33) from Ferde Grofe's ROCKETSHIP X-M (1950), with Dr. Hoffman again as soloist. This is too short to appreciate without hearing more of Grofe's low budget film score. Lasher calls it "a competent - if not exactly inspired - score." Then why include it at all, especially being so brief?
There are three bonus tracks.
First, there is a strange mood piece from 1958 titled "20th Century Venus" by Pat Charles and Warren Baker, with Andre Montero and his Orchestra (track 13, 5:55). The soloist is Paul Tanner on "electro-theremin."
This is the weakest piece on the CD, too long in length and sounding like very bad mood music. Yuck!
Going from that mood piece to an old Hollywood song is quite a leap. On the CD case it is listed as the Al Dubin song, "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes." Actually the music for that song is by Joe Burke and lyrics are by Al Dubin. But that doesn't matter since someone made the tremendous mistake and replaced that song with a recording of "The Sheik of Araby." At least that brought a smile to my face since it's a more upbeat song. Did anyone check this CD before it was released?
The last track might be of special interest to Theremin enthusiasts (track 15, 2:39). It features an Dutch interview from 1938 with Lucie Bigelow Rosen, a high brow lady and musician who commissioned many works for the Theremin. Her stuffy comments left me cold.
John Lasher's notes are meant to be humorous but are mostly self-serving and ponderous. Maybe that's due to his writing them while sampling "a very dear bottle of Penfold's Grange 1971." His comments, written while drunk or sober, are directed mainly at Theremin fanatics and the collectors.
The CD cover design looks as strange as the Theremin sounds, but more grotesque.
Lasher mentions two landmark sci-fi scores of the 1950s which feature Theremins but not available for this CD, that is Herrmann's THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and Tiomkin's THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. Fortunately, both have been released on CD and are preferred to almost anything on this Theremin sampler.
There are two main reasons to get this THE THEREMIN CD, the excerpts from SPELLBOUND and THE RED HOUSE by Rozsa.
Everything else on this CD compilation is just not very good, except for "The Shief of Araby" which isn't even mentioned.
This CD is for those who want an odd assortment of Theremin pieces and don't mind what they get.
15 September 2008
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Hot Records UK
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FMR Fall Issue 2008
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