The Film Music of Sir Arnold Bax

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This recording was first reported about on the Internet in 2002, and finally showed up in the waning weeks of 2003. Sir Arnold Bax 1883-1953 came to film music relatively late, at age 59, and produced two soundtracks during the final 11 years of his life. Though he had intended to retire at the outset of the 1940s, Bax found new stimulus from a request from Muir Mathieson, the conductor and movie music director, to write the score for the patriotic documentary short Malta, GC, which told of the island's resistance to Axis air attacks during the first three years of World War II. Bax had spent most of his life writing for the concert hall and found the project not to his ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This recording was first reported about on the Internet in 2002, and finally showed up in the waning weeks of 2003. Sir Arnold Bax 1883-1953 came to film music relatively late, at age 59, and produced two soundtracks during the final 11 years of his life. Though he had intended to retire at the outset of the 1940s, Bax found new stimulus from a request from Muir Mathieson, the conductor and movie music director, to write the score for the patriotic documentary short Malta, GC, which told of the island's resistance to Axis air attacks during the first three years of World War II. Bax had spent most of his life writing for the concert hall and found the project not to his liking -- it was music generated solely by an outside source of inspiration, and though in the end he turned in a much-loved score, he never took to film-related work in the manner of his decade-older contemporary Ralph Vaughan Williams who, in his seventies, generated a whole symphony -- his seventh -- inspired by the subject behind a film assignment. In 1947, Bax was again engaged to do a soundtrack, this time for David Lean's Oliver Twist -- this proved to be his magnum opus in the genre, an hour's worth of finely crafted, lively, clever, and almost all memorable music. Ironically, because of a two-year delay in releasing the movie in America and heavy cuts made in the movie when it did finally open all because of Alec Guinness' portrayal of Fagin, audiences in the United States didn't get to hear Bax's music or see the movie intact until the 1970s. This CD marks the first presentation of Bax's complete composition for Oliver Twist, rescued from the actual movie recordings and the concert suite assembled by Mathieson -- this is film music written on a level that American soundtrack music seldom ever approached, closer in spirit to Bax's concert works than to any plain description of the screen action. With the string harmonics, the tumultuous wind and reed writing, and the running scales on the strings for "The Storm," listeners are plunged into a body of music that stands on its own. There are moments in which certain visuals from the movie do come to mind, such as the pompous march associated with Mr. Bumble in "Oliver Asks for More"; "Oliver Meets the Artful Dodger," with its music evoking the majesty and the sad irony-laced visuals of London's rotting tenements with St. Paul's Cathedral in the background; "Fagin's Romp," a delightfully bizarre burlesque of the fast movement from Mahler's "Symphony No. 9," depicting the thieves' mentor's antics as a teacher this was a section long missing, along with its film sequence, from American prints; and "The Chase," with its running scales for the strings and ultimately most of the rest of the orchestra in which Oliver is pursued by the mob of people after one of Fagin's boys botches a pickpocketing attempt. But just as often, the score, including such pieces as "Oliver at Mr. Brownlow's House," "Oliver at Play," and "The Portrait," could easily have come out of the composer's symphonic poems or concerti; the entire body of work is a very full, richly melodic, and finely orchestrated feast for the ear. The second half of Bax's score for Malta, GC is also represented, and all of the music is worthwhile. The conducting of the BBC Philharmonic by Rumon Gamba is generally to be praised for bringing out the detail and richness of the score, though it seems that Gamba also pushes the tempos a little too fast -- this is music, especially in "Fagin's Romp," that ought to be allowed to breathe a bit, and the conductor seems to have pushed some of the score faster than the movie ever demanded. Still, the playing is impeccable, and anyone who enjoys classic orchestral soundtrack music will have to own this CD. The annotation is very thorough as well, though it fails to explain how Bax was persuaded, after his experience with the documentary, to do the feature film.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/25/2003
  • Label: Chandos
  • UPC: 095115112625
  • Catalog Number: 10126
  • Sales rank: 201,203

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Prelude. Lento moderato (1:54)
  2. 2 The Storm. Con vivo (3:20)
  3. 3 Oliver's birth. Molto moderato (2:48)
  4. 4 Picking oakum. Poco lento (2:21)
  5. 5 Oliver asks for more. Allegro moderato e feroce - (1:22)
  6. 6 Mr. Bumble's March. Pomposo - Vivace (0:31)
  7. 7 Oliver sent to bed among the coffins. Moderato (2:11)
  8. 8 Oliver as funeral mute. Molto energico - (2:34)
  9. 9 Death of Mrs. Thingummy. Lento (2:03)
  10. 10 The Fight. Allegro (1:25)
  11. 11 Oliver's sleepless night. Andante - (2:28)
  12. 12 Oliver's flight to London. Poco allegretto (0:31)
  13. 13 Oliver meets the Artful Dodger. Allegro moderato (1:58)
  14. 14 Fagin's romp. Allegro con vivacità (2:04)
  15. 15 Oliver's pickpocketing lesson - (0:41)
  16. 16 Pickpocketing. Allegro semplice - (0:56)
  17. 17 The Chase. Allegro vivace (1:59)
  18. 18 Oliver faints in court. Tempo rubato - Rumon Gamba (0:46)
  19. 19 Comic panic. Allegro (0:55)
  20. 20 Oliver at Mr. Browlow's house. Poco lento (6:03)
  21. 21 Oliver at play. Poco lento - Allegretto semplice (1:23)
  22. 22 The Portrait - (1:03)
  23. 23 Oliver's abduction. Lento (1:08)
  24. 24 Mr. Browlow's grief. Lento - (1:46)
  25. 25 Nancy's hysterical outburst. Allegro moderto - Andante (1:23)
  26. 26 Nancy's flight in the rain to meet Mr. Brownlow (3:17)
  27. 27 Dawn after the Murder. Moderato sereno - Bill Sikes' rêverie. Poco lent (3:24)
  28. 28 Wanted for Murder. Moderato - Lento (1:25)
  29. 29 Finale . Moderato brillante (3:08)
  30. 30 Finale . Moderato brillante (3:33)
  31. 31 Part 2. Gay March. Quick march tempo (1:24)
  32. 32 Part 2. Quiet Interlude. Allegretto (1:46)
  33. 33 Part 2. Work and Play. Moderato molto energico - (3:52)
  34. 34 Part 2. March. Lento ma non troppo - Allegro - Moderate march tempo (5:32)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
BBC Philharmonic Primary Artist, Performing Ensemble
Paul Janes Piano
Rumon Gamba Conductor
Technical Credits
Michael George Producer
Brian Pidgeon Executive Producer
Stephen Rinker Engineer
Josee Begaud translation, Liner Note Translation
Stephanie Wollny translation, Liner Note Translation
David Lean Composer
Graham Parlett Liner Notes
Mike George Producer
Yuri Torchinsky Orchestra Leader
Lewis Foreman Liner Notes
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