If you read my reviews and also articles you will probably already be aware that I have always been of the opinion that the so called golden age of film music was not just restricted to Hollywood and the lavish productions of tinsel town, British film music also had a golden age and it is thanks to labels such as CHANDOS that we collectors have had a chance to get to listen to some of this wonderfully dramatic and lyrical music without watching the movies that it was intended to support and enhance. A composer who was particularly active between 1937 and the early 1960,s was Alan Rawsthorne who wrote the scores to 27 motion pictures, his music although never overpowering became a vital and an important component of any movie that he was involved with. Born in 1905, Rawsthorne did not turn to music straight away as his preferred profession, indeed he trained as a dentist firstly before he then went onto to train as an architect but soon decided that this also was not for him. He began his musical studies at The Royal Manchester college of music in the latter part of the 1920,s and finished his time there in 1930,he then continued to study music in Europe, in 1932 he began to teach music at Dartington Hall and became composer in residence for the school of dance and mime. During the second world war he served in the army, after which he devoted his time and the remainder of his life to music. This compact disc in my opinion is an excellent representation of his work for the cinema and contains many of his key scores but in effect still only just scratches the surface in the discovery of a great composer and his contributions to the art of film music. The compact disc opens with a near 19 minute suite from THE CAPTIVE HEART, the film which is set in the summer of 1940, stars Michael Redgrave who’s character Karol Hesek is a Czech who has escaped from the Germans and because of this takes on the identity of a dead British officer, the Germans become suspicious of him but he attempts to conceal his identity and throw the Nazi,s of the scent by engaging in at times intimate correspondence with the dead British officers wife Celia, played by Rachel Kempson. The Germans still remain suspicious and begin to close in on Hasek, his fellow captives however decide to help him and break into the camp commandants office and place Hasek’s details on a list for repatriation. Hasek then has an emotional meeting with Celia and attempts to explain his deception of the past four years. Rawsthorne’s music greatly aided the film and brought to it a deep and emotional atmosphere and at the same time underlined the more dramatic moments within the storyline. The composer creating beautiful thematic material that worked marvellously supporting, embellishing and enhancing this at times tense drama. He music here is arranged into a suite by composer Gerard Schurmann who was also responsible for writing many scores for British movies and worked alongside Rawsthorne on many of his scores.
I would say the sound achieved by Rawsthorne was fairly typical of the sound associated with British movies at this time, but there is just something about Rawsthorne’s music that makes it stand out and also makes the listener sit up and take notice. Section two on the disc is from WEST OF ZANZIBAR, we are treated to the Main titles from the score, which have for this recording been arranged by Philip Lane, the 3 minute cue is rousing and quite busy in its overall sound and style, but even though there is no real lush or outstanding theme it still remains and imposing and impressive composition, with the strings and brass taking centre stage accompanied by flyaway sounding woods and crashing percussion and timpani. THE CRUEL SEA is probably one of the most well known naval war movies ever produced in Gt. Britain, Rawsthorne’s score is powerful one with robust and rousing flourishes acting as its MAIN TITLE and then the cue segues into the more calming NOCTURNE from the soundtrack, again arranged wonderfully by Philip Lane who combines two compositions from the score into a seamless and balanced suite of sorts to create a fair and entertaining representation of the composers work from the movie. Other scores represented within the compilation are, WHERE NO VULTRES FLY, UNCLE SILAS, LEASE OF LIFE, THE DANCING FLEECE, SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS and the composers pulsating and at times urgent sounding music for BURMA VICTORY. This is just one of many compilations within the Chandos THE FILM MUSIC OF series, and like all of the others is an enriching listening experience and a fascinating insight into the music of one of Britain’s most talented film music composers. Wonderfully performed by The BBC Philharmonic under the direction of Rumon Gamba. It is certainly an essential purchase.