AOM Logo January 2000


GOODWIN Frenzy; BAX Oliver Twist; Malta G.C. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Coastal Command DOYLE Hamlet ALWYN A Night to Remember BENNETT Far From the Madding Crowd FRANKEL Battle of the Bulge EASDALE The Red Shoes SCHURMANN Horrors of the Black Museum BLISS Conquest of the Air ARNOLD Breaking the Sound Barrier

Various orchestras, conducted by Kenneth Alwyn, Paul Bateman


David Aspinall

Alwyn's Ealing collection The Ladykillers won many admirers and a Gramophone award last year. This collection, while less enterprising in the way of first recordings, is superior in sheer musical terms. We have a first rate version of Brian Easdale's enchanting Red Shoes which is good enough, both as interpretation and recording, to finally retire the forty year old Vladimir Golschmann/St.Louis performance. We also have the beautiful if brief suite of Vaughan Williams, which brings to mind the fifth symphony and Flos Campi in its evocative and elegiac power. Patrick Doyle's eloquent Ophelia's Funeral from Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet is here, too. Benjamin Frankel's prelude to Battle of the Bulge is quite a tour de force, with an orchestral hoe-down giving way to the Nazi anthem Der Panzerlied, intoned with due seriousness (and not a little sarcasm) by a tuba sounding its fundamental. I also liked the exhilaration of Arthur Bliss's Conquest of the Air, written on the cusp of the war, and touched by the same wand that wafted over Korngold's pre-war masterworks. Bennett's bleak Hardy landscape contrasts markedly with much of the bluster around it in this collection. Bax's Dickens has never been my cup of tea, and it's no surprise to read in the notes that he resisted scoring this David Lean opus. Bax's Malta G.C. also fails to register with more than professional proficiency. I looked forward to …Sound Barrier but, alas, like much Malcolm Arnold, it is more movement than moving. And Arnold, like Bax, doesn't have that most taken-for-granted virtue of his Hollywood peers - the happy knack of turning a good tune (though I must admit Arnold has an ear for the eerie effect). The recording, while emanating from several sources, is generally excellent, and in The Red Shoes, with its Ravelian orchestration, pays off wonderfully. Its fifteen minutes are the centrepiece of a collection all film music enthusiasts should own.

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