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LE CHOIX DES ARMES/FORTE SAGANNE.

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Composer Philippe Sarde has always been one of my own personal favourites, he is a composer that seems to be able to adapt easily to any genre of film and any scenario within any movie. His music is never predictable and has always surprised amazed and delighted me, whether it is a jazz orientated work or a lush and lavish symphonic affair there is always something that just mesmerises and attracts the listener either when heard in the context of the movie or away from it, the composers music just works and fit’s the images like a glove, underlining, embellishing and supporting each and every scene. The composers adaptability, flexibility and artistry is showcased perfectly within the compact disc release on Universal jazz France, Music from the films of Alain Corneau, which contains the scores to LE CHOIX DES ARMES (1981) and FORT SAGANNE (1984), the first score has to it a more contemporary sound but saying this it does also contain moods that are romantically laced which the composer integrates with some slightly jazz influenced passages to create a soundtrack that is lushly hypnotic and grandiose but at the same time can be dramatic and infectious it has about it an intimacy and fragility. In many ways the music for LE CHOIX DES ARMES oozes a sound and style that one automatically associates with being French, in fact I was reminded of fellow French composers Michel Legrand and also Francis Lai, when listening to the work for the first time. Sarde fuses a handful of differing styles layering one upon the other to create a style that is arguably original but definitely one that is all of his own. Contrabasses feature large within the score and at times are the foundation for many of the compositions and act as punctuation for others. LES CHOIX DES ARMES has to it an air of sophistication with its luxurious string led flourishes and almost opulent sounding themes, it does also however contain at certain points offbeat, and somewhat surprising interludes, that one could be mistaken for coming from another score completely, but maybe this is the attraction of this work and others by Sarde, inventive and innovative I think would best describe his contributions to the world of film music. Orchestrations are by Peter Knight who also conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and also like fellow British composer/arranger/conductor Harry Rabinowitz has been a long time collaborator of Sarde. For this score like many of his others the composer utilises the LSO and the association between the composer and this famous orchestra has certainly created some magical moments in music for film. The second score on the compact disc is from the 1984 motion picture FORTE SAGANNE.

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This is unquestionable one of my top five film scores, forget the grandiose and the blockbuster soundtracks for just a moment, concentrate if you will upon the beauty, the romanticism and the elegance of FORTE SAGANNE, which is obvious from the very start of the score with the poignant and heart rending cello solo that the composer employs within the soundtracks opening theme, it literally tugs at ones heart strings and leaves you with an aching and also a yearning for more after it has finished. This emotive composition is given an moving and mesmerist performance by Xavier Gagnepain of the LSO. The cue is one that I personally never tire of, it is fragile, delicate, filled with romantic melancholy and filled with expressiveness that is highly affecting, the haunting piece is surely an iconic composition for film music aficionados. The remainder of the score to contains some of the most expressive and haunting thematic properties that I have ever heard, the composer creating a lavish and lush atmosphere with romantic strings and poignant woodwinds that together bring forth totally absorbing tone poems that linger in ones mind long after the music has ceased. It also has its rousing moments when Sarde brings into play martial sounding passages that utilise percussion, brass and strident dark strings. All I can say is I recommend this compact disc, and FORTE SAGANNE in particular. Presented well with lots of liner notes. Released as part of the excellent, ECOUTEZ LE CINEMA series.

THE MISSING.

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composer Dominik Scherrer

composer Dominik Scherrer

THE MISSING was a great series that aired on ITV in the UK back in October 2014, it was a compelling series and one that touched upon things that maybe other such programmes in the same ilk did not, or maybe avoided or skimmed over treating them as taboo but to be honest I don’t think that there has ever been anything quite like THE MISSING before. I found that watching the series brought to the surface so many emotions, sadness, fear, frustration and in fact sheer devastation at certain times, James Nesbitt was wonderful in his role as Tony a Father who becomes frantically obsessed with finding his son Oliver who has been abducted whilst the family holiday in France and I don’t think that any other male leading actor could have brought anymore emotion, realism or depth to the role. The series became essential viewing and it was composer Dominik Scherrer’s atmospheric soundtrack that not only introduced THE MISSING each week but underlined the events unfolding each time , the composer providing a sound-scape of electronic and conventional instrumentation which supported and also heightened the darkness, frustration and exhaustive anxiousness of each episode. I have to say that away from the images the score is surprisingly listenable which I did not think it would be, but saying this I at times indeed did not notice the music whilst watching the series because the action was so riveting and compelling, but then I think if you don’t notice the music whilst watching a TV series or movie the music is in fact doing the job it is intended to do, embellish, elevate and enhance without being overbearing and intrusive. The composer certainly achieved this with his score and even if one does not notice the music in the context of the film it made an invaluable contribution to the proceedings and was a vital component becoming not just music but part of the actual film, it was an extension of the characters personalities and purveyed and underpinned perfectly the feelings of these characters, the score being integral and supportive at all times and an essential part of the filmmaking process. The opening song COME HOME is something that sets the scene perfectly for what it to follow, it is an eerie almost uncomfortable listen, and although a brief performance it immediately gets the attention of the viewer and kind of draws them in. There are in fact two versions of the song on the compact disc release, the out going or final track on the disc is in my opinion arranged in what I think is a very 1950,s like fashion, with near lush and romantic strings in the background and stroked timpani accompanied and punctuated by bass, whilst the female vocalist (Inne Eysermans) performs in a somewhat blurry and downbeat way, never the less it is highly effective and very haunting.

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The version that opened the series each week, is more dramatic, but still not in a grandiose way, penned by AMATORSKI the Belgium pop rock band who also perform the beguiling and somewhat unsettling song, the sound that they achieve being original and mesmerising. The song which was not written specifically for the series, fitted it like the proverbial glove, the style that the group employ can in many ways be compared to that of PORTISHEAD. Dominik Scherrer’s score is in no way a grand affair, in fact it is quite sparse, but this I think is what is attractive about it and also why it worked so well for the series, a big lush or fully symphonic work would have simply swamped the storyline, Scherrer’s soundtrack is intimate, apprehensive and compelling, definitely one to add to your collection.

Available on MSM.

COL FERRO E COL FUOCO–(WITH FIRE AND SWORDS)

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I have to begin this review by stating that I am probably not the most receptive person when it comes to movies from this genre in Italian cinema, but we cannot judge the quality of the musical score on the calibre of the film it was written for. We are all aware that there have been some wonderful film scores written that have faded into obscurity simply because the movies they were intended to support have simply been so bad that they have been instantly forgotten. COL FERRO E COL FUOCO (with fire and swords) is set in the seventeenth century during the Ukrainian uprising against Polish conquerors, and is an enjoyable romp which does verge on being epic in its proportions and scenarios, it however does fall slightly short of Hollywood movies that were set in the same period. But saying this it most certainly did not have the same budget or even close to the budget that American producers were allowed to make their movies. The musical side of things however seems to have stood well the test of time and to do this proves that the soundtrack was something that probably outshone the film it was intended to enhance. Written by two musical giants of the Italian film music world Maestro Francesco de Masi and Maestro Giovanni Fusco, De Masi in particular was in later years to become one of the most sought after composers of film music in both Italy and Europe, with the odd excursion into scoring and conducting music for American productions, De Masi is probably best known for his scores for the Italian western genre or the Spaghetti Western, but this composer worked in more or less every genre and created so many wonderful highly thematic soundtracks fusing the style that we associate with the Hollywood establishment i.e. grand sweeping passages and highly dramatic and tense interludes with a style and sound that was all his own, De Masi,s sound I think was unique as he did not rely solely upon the sound or the style that was being adopted and employed by numerous composers that were working in film in Italy during the early 1960,s, instead he actually took that style and amalgamated it with the already established epic formula as adopted by tinsel town thus creating a whole new sound. Fusco too worked steadily within the Italian film music industry and although not so much in demand as De Masi still managed to create some memorable works for Italian productions.

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WITH FIRE AND SWORDS was released in 1962, and the soundtrack was sadly never released in any format, thanks to Kronos records we can now savour the delights of the driving and robust score. Written mainly for brass and strings the work contains heroic and highly dramatic themes that are supported and given even more emphasize by rumbling percussive elements, woodwind and crashing cymbals, the score also contains its more intimate and romantic influences and these are richly purveyed by the string section and also plaintively relayed by soothing sounding woodwind and heartrending solo violin. But it is the brass section that has the lions share of the work to do within the score, in many ways the music from WITH FIRE AND SWORDS evoked memories of two scores by composer Dasan Radic, THE LONG SHIPS and also GHENGIS KHAN, there is so much going on brass fanfares, brass stabs, dramatic percussion booming out and rolling along underlining the action, then full on lush and lavish themes of a romantic nature seem to segue into the proceedings seamlessly giving the work depth and also a haunting and lavish musical foundation. Its hard to tell who composed what or who was responsible for what within the score, but styles and sounds that are now synonymous with both De Masi and Fusco can be heard during the soundtracks duration. This is one to look out for, again a wonderful production from Kronos, with interesting and very personal notes by Filippo De Masi and attractive art work. Recommended.

A BETTER PLACE.

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Composer Jerome Leroy may not be that familiar to you, but I am confident that at some point you have heard some of his compositions via his work on numerous projects as additional music composer or even as an arranger and orchestrator, he has worked on THE HUNGER GAMES, THE LIBERATOR, 50 TO 1, TOUCHBACK, IL VOLO:WE ARE LOVE and THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX to mention but a few. One of his latest projects as a composer in his own right is A BETTER PLACE (2014) which is the directorial debut of Dennis Ho. Leroy’s score is a fusion of both symphonic and synthetic, the composer mixing, intertwining and intermingling all of the elements of both the orchestra and synths etc and creating a score that is haunting, dramatic, upbeat, dark, unsettling and also delicately beautiful and touching. It is also a brooding and at times quite ominous and anxious sounding work which contains its fair share of harsh and jagged stabs and passages which although could be described as atonal still manage to posses some musicality and hints of melody In many ways the style and also the sound that the composer has achieved for this score reminded me very much of some of the early scores that were penned by James Newton Howard, THE MAN IN THE MOON for example, it has a certain intimacy and warmth to it, there is also a presence and polished aura that at times shines through that is reminiscent to the style of Thomas Newman, in particular his music for AMERICAN BEAUTY, again an intimacy gleams through and via a reoccurring piano performance hints to the listener that things maybe not as black as they look. There is at the works foundation a core theme, this or at least hints of it open the score but it is but a fleeting few notes that we hear at the beginning as it is not fully developed, however as the work progresses so does the theme begin to become more developed becoming more prevalent and opening out into what will be the central thematic material of the score. The composer makes excellent use of electronics within the soundtrack but never overdoes the synthetics or at least one does not really notice which is synthetic or orchestral because of the way in which they compliment and embellish each other throughout which is I think down to the way in which the score is written and also skilfully orchestrated. For me personally the highlight of the score is track number 10, THE FINAL BEATING, which seems to include most of the scores key thematic properties, there is drama here, but also melancholy and maybe an atmosphere of hope that is being purveyed by strings and plaintive woodwind, the quieter parts soon give way to a stirring passage that is underlined by percussion which gives depth and also power to the string section. A BETTER PLACE is a compelling work and a quality soundtrack which I am sure will be followed by much more of the same from this composer. Check this out you will not be disappointed.

Momentum records(USA).

PHILIP MARTELL.

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The name of Philip Martell is now synonymous with the Hammer horror movies of the 1960,s through to the early 1980’s. Martell was Hammer films musical supervisor from 1963 after the untimely death of John Hollingsworth. Martell was born in the east end of London in 1915, he came from a very poor family but because he was attracted to the sounds of the violin coming from a neighbouring house where a music teacher lived the young Martell set his heart of being able to play violin. His Father managed to get together enough money to buy a violin for his son and at the age of five Martell began to practise. As he grew and became more proficient Martell was advised to go to the Guildhall school of music and sit the entrance exam, he did this and passed. He began to study at the school under the tutorship of Benoit Hollander who more or less immediately saw the potential in the young Martell, after a while under the guidance of Benoit, Martell aged just 11 years got a scholarship at the Guildhall this would run for three years and at the age of 14 he was awarded another scholarship which again gave him another three years of study. He continued under the watchful gaze of Hollander until he was 15 when to earn some money Martell began to play in orchestras that were in cinema’s accompanying silent movies. This was something that Hollander was not keen on as it meant that his star student was wasting time performing when he could be practising to become what Hollander had envisaged for him a top concert violinist. Martell began to have a change of direction at this time and started to work in music more as a job and a way of earning money rather than having aspirations of being great performer. He remained at the Guildhall at this time also, taking lessons in piano and studying composition and harmony. Martell managed to get a job in a west end theatre as violinist and soon established himself as a talent and was given the position of lead n the orchestra. It was whilst at the theatre that the conductor was taken ill and the theatre manager asked Martell to step in and conduct the orchestra which he did. It was at this time that Martell first met Val Guest, who then began to ask Martell to act as musical director on films that he directed such as MISS PILGRIMS PROGRESS in 1950 and also MISTER DRAKES DUCK in 1951. Martell took to film scoring with relative ease because of his experience in performing for silent movies and also because of his time in the theatre. Two years after Mr Drakes Duck Martell moved to Angel Productions and it was here that he worked on COSH BOY amongst others, Val Guest still wanted Martell to be involved with the music for his movies so in 1954 he asked Martell to work on THE RUNAWAY BUS and later THE LYONS IN PARIS. In 1963 Martell was asked to be the musical supervisor for Hammer and began by taking up where John Hollingsworth had left off on the Don Banks score THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. Martell returned to Hammer in 1964 to supervise and conduct HYSTERIA and that is where he remained until 1978 finishing his time with Hammer on the companies final movie THE LADY VANISHES. But he did return to the podium as it were for Hammers television productions HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR in 1980 and then worked on two episodes of HAMMER HOUSE OF MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE IN 1983. Martell did not confine himself to working on hammer productions however and during the 1960,s through to 1985 he acted as supervisor on movies such as, DR BLOODS COFFIN, DIE MONSTER DIE, THE HORROR OF IT ALL, BRIDES OF FU MAN CHU, THE FROZEN DEAD, DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE SKULL, THE GHOUL, THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF,MASKS OF DEATH and THE TRRORNAUTS to name but a few. He worked with Amicus films and Tyburn pictures, one of his last supervisory assignments was to be present at the recording of the milestone release from Silva Screen MUSIC FROM THE HAMMER FILMS, the label had hoped that Martell would conduct the sessions but due to ill health he was unable to do so and Neil Richardson took his place. Philip Martell passed away in 1993 he had suffered a stroke in 1988 and never really recovered from that. Martell was a musical giant an immense talent and without his contributions I feel that British film music would have sounded very different.

MURDER AT THE WINDMILL USA POSTER.

MURDER AT THE WINDMILL USA POSTER.

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