ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.

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Composer John Scott has contributed much to world of film music both as a composer of film scores and also in his early days as a performer playing on soundtracks for the likes of John Barry. The composer has scored numerous movies some of which have been high profile releases and success’s at the box office, however I as a collector of soundtracks feel that this great British Maestro still has not received the applause and recognition he so richly deserves, I am not entirely sure why this is but it seems that this talented and versatile music-smith is sadly almost ignored or shall we say is overlooked. His musical triumphs for the big screen include movies such as ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, ROCKET TO THE MOON, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, THE DECEIVERS, SHOGUN MAYEDA, WILLIAM THE CONQUERER, THE LONG DUEL, GREYSTOKE, SHOOT TO KILL, MOUNTBATTEN and many more. He also worked with film maker Jacques Cousteau scoring his interesting and colourful films such as AMAZON. One of my favourite scores by the Maestro is the aforementioned ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.

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Directed by Charlton Heston who also played the part of Mark Anthony with the alluring Hildegard Neal as his Cleopatra. The movie was released in 1972 but it did not fare well at the hands of the critics, in later years however it has been given the acclaim it so rightly should have received upon its release. A soundtrack album was issued on Polydor records with a gatefold cover that sported attractive original art work, the release contained selections from Scott’s beautifully constructed score, but much of the music did not make it onto the recording.

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It would not be released in its entirety for another twenty years and this was thanks to the composer himself making the complete work available on his JOS records label in 1992. It was a long drawn out process and a labour of love for Scott, he approached the publishers of the music and told them of his idea to release the complete score, but his words fell upon near deaf ears the publishers telling the composer that it would be too costly to record. So over the years the composer would record sections of the score at the end of sessions for other recordings, the process began in Berlin or East Berlin as it was then called in 1987,it was at this time that Scott managed to find time to record the OVERTURE from his score, he returned in 1988 and recorded more sections and after a while he managed to finance a session and complete the recording of the soundtrack. The completed recording was then assembled and edited in Los Angeles almost twenty years to the day after the original recording sessions in London.
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The compact disc opens with the near ten minute OVERTURE, which is basically an opener for the film and the score and gives us the feel flavour and style of the work, the cue offering up a glimpse of many of the soundtracks principal thematic material and setting the scene for this monumental and supremely lyrical work in which we are treated to THE LOVE THEME, CLEOPATRA,S THEME plus themes for ANTONY, CAESAR and OCTAVIA as well as the highly dramatic BATTLE MUSIC which accompanies the BATTLE OF ACTIUM during the movie, Scott’s music perfectly accompanying both Caesar’s fleet and Antony’s opposing forces. Track number two is THE MAIN TITLES music for the film, this is in short a soaring and romantic piece that builds slowly with its central theme growing in not only volume but in lushness and splendour. Scott employing woodwind and brass that is supported by percussion and timpani until it reaches its magnificent and lavish crescendo with the string section making the composition their own in a thundering and sumptuous arrangement of LOVE THEME that comes to a powerful and tumultuous end with brass and percussion adding more weight to the string section. The remainder of the score is filled to overflowing with haunting themes, intricate tone poems, luscious romantic interludes and highly dramatic and fearsome action tracks. For me personally this is one of John Scott’s most accomplished works for the cinema.

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Performed flawlessly by THE BERLIN RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHOIR under the direction of the composer, this is a score that every discerning film music collector should own. Highlight cues if there are any as all of them are so engrossing, include, THE BARGE SHE SAT IN, SOMETIMES WE SEE A CLOUD THAT’S DRAGONISH, HE GOES FORTH GALLANTLY, BATTLE OF ACTIUM, EPILOGUE-ETERNAL REST. Seek this compact disc out, it is magnificent and glorious.

DICKENSIAN.

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I have to be truthful and tell you I have not watched each and every episode of DICKENSIAN when it has been aired, in my defence I have been a little busy of late, however I have recorded every episode and as the series reaches its conclusion I am ever more intrigued and sucked in by the very clever storyline. The score by the wonderfully talented British composer Debbie Wiseman is for me one of the many high points of this series, I had no doubt when I discovered that the music was by Debbie that it would be something quite special and I have to say I was not wrong or in any way disappointed. Debbie Wiseman has become one of the most established and popular composers of music for television and film, I for one was devastated when her music for WILDE was not given a special award because it is in a word EXCELLENT. The same too can be said for DICKENSIAN, this is a haunting and entertaining work which contains some deliciously intricate and melodic themes that are supported and accompanied by an equal amount of dramatic and melancholy pieces. The composers use of cimbalom within the score is one of its stand out features and I think it was this that first grabbed my attention whilst watching the first handful of episodes it became an integral and an important component of the series at times it was as if it were another actor on screen, the cimbalom is I think an instrument that in most cases when utilised purveys to any listener a sense of uneasiness, apprehension or even fear, this is the atmosphere that came across in the music for DICKENSIAN on a personal level, but saying this it at the same time brought to the proceedings a mood that was slightly comical and even jaunty and awkward in a unsettling kind of fashion. Not sure if you understand what I am saying but this is the mood that it evoked for me personally, the score contains some lilting and delicate sounding performances on solo piano which is underlined by subtle use of solo violin, harp and fragile sounding woodwind at certain points.

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There is darkness here and clusters of sombre sounding passages which work their way in and out of the score but these are even given a intimate and more human persona because of the way in which they are orchestrated. The music I think you all will agree fitted the series like the proverbial glove but never seemed to intrude or overwhelm the images and the stories being acted out on screen. Wiseman’s beautifully crafted soundtrack will I think be one that is enjoyed by many and returned to numerous times and on each outing the listener will be taken back to the cold snowy streets of London in DICKENSIAN times and remember their own personal favourite characters from the series. Thoroughly recommended.
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