RAWSTHORNE: "The Film Music" Music from
Heart, West of Zanzibar, The Cruel Sea, Where No Vultures Fly, Uncle Silas,
Lease of Life, The Dancing Fleece, Burma Victory and Saraband for Dead Lovers.
Bernard Herrmann said of British composer Alan Rawsthorne's score for Uncle Silas (known in the U.S. as The Inheritance) was one of the finest film scores ever written. I don't know the circumstances of his statement, but he was being very kind. Dating from 1947, the film stars Jean Simmons, Charles Frank and Derrick de Marney, and tells the story of an innocent young girl and her corrupt uncle. Leonard Maltin gives the movie 3 stars. The seven-minute suite on this CD consists of the main and end titles, the opening scene and "Valse caprice." Doubtless the music served its purpose well in the film, but like other music on this CD it lacks the melodic impulse of the finest film composers, including Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman and Herrmann himself.
In spite of advocacy of Sir Adrian Boult and several other British conductors, British Rawsthorne's music has had limited acceptance with the general public. Chandos is to be commended for their efforts to rectify this by issuing fine recordings of the piano concertos, as is ASV for their issues of chamber works. Another side of the composer is evident in this enterprising Chandos CD of premiere recordings of a variety of his film music.
Between 1937 and 1964 Rawsthorne wrote scores for 27 films. Apparently most of this music has not been properly maintained; most of it had to be reconstructed from original soundtracks, arranged and orchestrated as well. Gerard Schurmann and Philip Lane handled this task admirably. The new CD begins quite spectacularly with an 18-minute suite from The Captive Heart, a 1940 film featuring Michael Redgrave about British P.O.W.s during WW2 and their German captors. Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 1/2 stars. The 7-movement suite ends with an exuberant representation of VE Day. Main titles from the 1954 film West of Zanzibar feature some vibrant brass fanfares. The Cruel Sea (1953) starring Jack Hawkins is another 3 1/2 star film according to Maltin, a documentary about the crew of British warships during WW2. From this we have the main titles separated by a gentle " Nocturne.". Where No Vultures Fly (known in the U.S. as The Ivory Hunters) starred Anthony Steel and has as its subject establishment of Mount Kilimanjaro Game Preserve Park in Africa. There are three brief movements to this ten-minute suite.
The 1954 film Lease of Life starred Robert Donat as a poor vicar with but a year to live, struggling to send his daughter to college. The main titles and "Emergency" take less than three minutes. The documentary Burma Victory is about the brutal drama of the Burma Campaign, using films supplied by British, American and Indian combat cameramen of the South East Asia Command. There are four descriptive cues: "Dropping Supplies," " Dawn and Jungle Advance," "Building Boats" and "Mandalay." Rawsthorne wrote a twenty-minute score for a film promoting British wool called The Dancing Fleece. The three dances from this suggest activities inside the factory including, "girls as sheep march quickly into the factory, doors closing behind." The CD ends with some of the finest music, "Saraband and Carnival" from Saraband for Dead Lovers (known in the U.S. as Saraband) about the tragic love affair between Count K–nigsmarck and Sophie Dorothea, wife of the Elector of Hanover who was later to become George I of England.
Performances on this new CD are superb. The BBC Philharmonic plays brilliantly under the direction of Rumon Gamba who for two years has been Assistant Conductor of the orchestra. This young conductor surely is someone to watch. He also recorded Chandos CDs of film music of Georges Auric (CHAN 9774) and Nino Rota (CHAN 9771).
R.E.B. (Nov. 2000)