THE MUSIC OF JOHN WILLIAMS-CONCERT.

THE MUSIC OF JOHN WILLIAMS
Richard Kaufman-Conductor
Joannes Moser-Cello
Royal Scottish National Orchestra

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Thursday 25th April Dundee
Friday 26th April Edinburgh
Saturday 27th April Glasgow

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RICHARD KAUFMAN.

Review by John Williams – (No, not the great man!)

I must admit, whilst travelling in by bus to Glasgow last Saturday afternoon, the thought crossed my mind, more than once whether I really wanted to do it. I mean, yet another Concert of Music by John Williams!!. Surely I have heard it all before, bearing in mind I have been around the block a few times, well, OK, more than a few times, and the first time I heard his Music live as it were, was at a Filmharmonic Concert at the RAH way back in the Seventies, let alone numerous TV Broadcasts, notably the BBC Proms Concert conducted by Keith Lockhart, which would have been, what a couple years back now. Let’s not forget the much-vaunted Concert by the LSO last year, which Mr Williams was due to conduct, but was sadly not well enough to attend. I heard this on the Radio courtesy of Classic FM, and whilst admittedly at first, I missed the actual meaning of the Concert. i.e. Scores of Mr Williams that he had recorded with the LSO. I felt it was a very, OK, let’s say it boring and forgettable Concert. I freely admit that STAR WARS and HARRY POTTER goes right over my head, both films and scores, so obviously a Concert that is so preoccupied with those titles, well it is going to be a uphill battle!

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So after dodging the heavy showers, arriving at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, I really wondered if we did the right thing. Before I go any further, I have no quarrel with the excellent RSNO. Their playing and interpretations of Film music in the past has been exemplary, especially the Varese Sarabande Concert last Fall. So no problem there.

So, picking up the programme, I gingerly opened to see what music they were actually playing. Well, if anyone had seen me, they would have wondered if anything was wrong with me-OK. more than normal!! WOW!! There in the first half was a suite from JANE EYRE. Yes JANE EYRE. This is one of Mr Williams own personal favourites, and this JW’s as well.

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Back in a Galaxy far way, in the last Century, this quite young Film Music nut bought this LP on Capitol Records of JANE EYRE, and fell in love with it straight away, a love that has never dimmed. I suspect it must have been a good 20 years before I actually saw the film, though I suspect it must have been a somewhat edited version, and funnily enough, it wasn’t a let-down. It sometimes can be, listening to a score for years, without the benefit of the visuals, and then it can be a real disappointment I recall vividly that Andre Previn conduced the “To Thornfield” cue on his ANDRE PREVIN’S MUSIC NIGHT in the early Seventies.

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Anyway. back the matter in hand. The first music up was THE COWBOYS, and if you think only an American Orchestra can play this sort of music, you should have heard it on Saturday Night. A rip-roaring, rumbustious Suite, not just the Main Titles from the John Wayne Western. You couldn’t have a better start.

After “Elegy for Cello and Orchestra” with Soloist Johannes Moser, a superlative performance, came, for me the highlight of the first half. “JANE EYRE SYMPHONIC SUITE. I haven’t heard John Williams’ version of his Suite for a number of years, as it appeared on “Pops Britannia” but I suspect it was basically the same three movement selectio . In any John Williams score, and especially in this, Flutes, Horns and Woodwinds are to the fore, and the RSNO has a superb section, an individual soloist in their own right. I freely admit, that time we got to “Reunion”, I was emotionally gone. It has taken me nigh on 50 years to hear a Concert version of this score live, and to think I nearly missed it!!

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Not being a Harry Potter fan, I wondered why some of the audience in front of us, was straining to see the piano – or as I later found out the Celeste – before it even started!! Obviously I now know why – superb playing suffice to say.. Joannes Moser came back for his interpretation of SCHINDLER’S LIST, and Part one wrapped up on a high with HOOK and “Flight to Neverland” which had all members OF THE orchestra in full flight!!. Nice play on words there.

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Part Two kicked off with JURASSIC PARK. One of my favourites to say the least. Although I have heard it so many times, to see the Orchestra actually play it live is a revelation. First the solo Horn, then woodwinds, flutes, Violas and Cellos, before the Violins take up the main theme. Great stuff, and the guy on the Timpani was absolutely brilliant.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is another favourite. Boy, I have used that word a lot!, , here in a three part suite. Joannes Moser was back again, and it is testament to Mr Williams’ talents that whilst the story was set in China, a Western Orchestra can play it and give it the flavour of the East, admittedly with some fine playing by the percussion department.
The string section of the RSNO is word class beyond doubt, as anyone listening to GEISHA, would have heard.

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After a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, up came THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, the “Devils Dance” to be precise. Richard Kaufman told a interesting story of his working with Jack Nicholson, who he had to teach to look as if he could play the piano.

Last up, officially was SUPERMAN. I must admit that after hearing it so many times, its appeal was beginning to pall. Now after the RSNO put it through its paces, I am converted once more, really breath-taking.

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The audience by now didn’t want the orchestra to go, and of course we had a Encore. It was E.T. and as in SUPERMAN all members of the Orchestra gave it their all. The trumpets of course here were fantastic.

Just before this though, as Mr Kaufman thanked each section of the orchestra to loud cheers from the Audience, he gave this interesting allegory, that in this troubled world, we have enough things to think about, and we come to Concerts like this to and I quote to “feed your soul”.

If anything, this has rekindled my admiration of some of Mr Williams’ efforts, and I am actually liking some of his scores i never really cared for.

This was a really well thought out Concert, all time popular hits, some ones you didn’t expect. The spectacular and the subtle. Yes, first rate, and indeed the RSNO is really a first-rate Orchestra and everyone up here, should be truly proud that such a World Class Orchestra is virtually on their doorstep, and once more, heck, I nearly missed it!!

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As Maestro Richard Kaufman said, “feed the soul” and a lot of Music lovers had a great meal that night!

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SCACCO INTERNAZIONALE.

 

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Originally released on one of those CAM two for one soundtrack long playing records back in 1968, (mag 10.017) SCACCO INTERNAZIONALE, is a soundtrack composed by vintage Italian Maestro Carlo Rustichelli. At the time of its release on record the track total was limited to just eight cues, with another eight tracks from another Rustichelli spy film score SETTE UOMINI E UN CERVELLO on the B side of the album which featured the song DOMANDE performed by popular singer turned composer Nico Fidenco. The film directed by Rossano Brazzi starred Brazzi and Ann-Margret and was released outside of Italy as CRIMINAL SYMPHONY,SEVEN MEN AND ONE BRAIN or CRIMINAL AFFAIR. This soundtrack I have to say is also worthy of a CD release, so maybe BEAT might consider this for a future project.

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Ok, back to SCACCO INTERNAZIONALE or THE LAST CHANCE as it was known outside of Italy. The film  featured Tab Hunter and Michael Rennie and took its inspiration from the James Bond films that had become popular during the early 1960’s as we all know this was something the Italians were good at doing, taking an established brand or genre and then creating something similar but not quite the same, but doing this so well. The score is typically Rustichelli, containing many of the composer’s little quirks of orchestration and musical nuances such as organ, big band jazz sound and a more classical orientated dramatic symphonic approach, all of which worked on their own levels and together when the Maestro employed them simultaneously. Many of the score’s cues can I suppose be referred to and categorised within the lounge or easy listening genre of music. But there are some nice little touches as in upbeat passages and even a march of sorts that the composer utilises to great effect. This in my opinion is probably one of the composers better scores form this period in his career, the use of a Smokey and even sleazy sound created by breathy woods and vibes sets the scene perfectly and Rustichelli builds on this with his inclusion of muted trombones, trumpets and jazz bass. As I already have said the LP contained just eight tracks, this compact disc release from BEAT records has a staggering thirty three, eight of which are from the original LP and are track numbers twenty six through to thirty three, so if its value for money you are looking for then this certainly delivers.

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The music is wonderfully melodic and entertaining with a number of polished piano solos that stand out throughout the recording.   The CD itself is presented wonderfully, with stills from the movie, poster art work and interesting notes on the film and the composer by Pier Maria Bocchi. Sound quality is excellent and it’s the first time I have heard this in stereo because the LP was a mono recording. This is certainly worth adding to your collection, if you have never heard it you are in for a treat, if you already own the LP record then you will be delighted by the extra tracks and also the great sound quality.

PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH.

frizzi2Composer Fabio Frizzi is a master at writing atmospheric and affecting music for film, his scores have graced numerous genres of movies from the late 1960’s up until the present. His music becoming the mainstay of the Horror genre, and is responsible for adding the chills, the jolts and the jumps to many Italian horror films that have now become classics. Composers such as Christopher Young and more recently Joseph Bishara have named Frizzi as a composer that inspired and influenced them in the way they wrote music and, in the way, that they placed it within movies to create maximum effect. Frizzi worked on PUPPET MASTER THE LITTLEST REICH last year and his score is nothing short of genius, the composer fashioning a subtle and melodic work to accompany the horror that unfolds on screen. The music being at times delicate and even soothing only helps the moments of horror on screen be more well, horrible, simply because the score gives away no secrets or even hints that something untoward is going to occur. Because this is a horror movie many straight away assume that the music will be driving, chaotic and blasting in its persona, but Frizzi utilises this more relaxed and somewhat unsettling melodic style to create a foreboding and virulent atmosphere which is perfect for the movie and its many violent and unnerving scenarios. The composers at times light but apprehensive touch is probably more disconcerting than any amount of shrieking strings or blaring rasping brass. Because when the music is driven and loud one expects that violence or something scary will be occurring, but with Frizzi one just does not know. Used sparingly at times this is a score that works so well for the film, but also is a great and entertaining listen away from the picture.

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Tracks such as CARNAGE HOTEL one would think are ripe and full of harsh stabs and jagged flourishes, but no, ok yes it is slightly more upbeat than a lot of the other cues, but it still remains melodic and interesting, Frizzi employing fuzzy electric guitar, that is supported by percussive elements and synths to create an unworldly and hauntingly mesmerising sound. Sinewy strings weave their way in and out of the proceedings also, giving the track more substance. The same can be said for track number, ten, NAZI PUPPRTS ACTION Frizzi combining a kind of feint martial style and adding strings, choral sounds, electric guitar and brass to give this a more forthright style. This is a score I know you will enjoy, there is so much more to it than just creepy horror sounds and music, recommended.

BRUCE MONTGOMERY, AUTHOR AND COMPOSER.

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Bruce Montgomery was born on October 2, 1921 in Chesham Bios, Buckinghamshire, England as Robert Bruce Montgomery. He is know, for his work on the CARRY ON, movies mentioned previously, plus he also enjoyed a career as a successful author writing Under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, he penned a series of mystery novels and short stories featuring the character Gervase Fen. Also, as Edmund Crispin, he edited several collections of science fiction short stories. The first, “Best SF” (1955), had a great influence on acceptance of the Sci Fi genre as serious writing in Britain. His Gervase Fen novel “Frequent Hearses” takes place in and around a British movie studio, and contains many insider jokes about actors, directors, musicians, and others in the business. Towards the end of his career his alcoholism became worse, which resulted in him not being able to meet deadlines and complete scores for movies, it was at this point that he enlisted the assistance of fellow composer Eric Rogers and CARRY ON producer Peter Thomas decided that Rogers should be the main composer for the films. Bruce Montgomery, passed away on September 15, 1978 in West Hampstead, London, England, which was a sad ending to a career that could have been even greater. Apart from his music for the CARRY ON, movies the composer wrote the scores to numerous other pictures, these included, THE BRIDES OF FU MAN CHU, DOCTOR IN LOVE, DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, DOCTOR AT LARGE, TWICE AROUND THE DAFFODILS, THE KIDNAPPERS, RAISING THE WIND and many others. Bruce Montgomery’s CARRY ON scores too would be welcomed in their original form as releases onto compact disc I am sure. CARRY ON SERGEANT, NURSE, TEACHER, CONSTABLE, REGARDLESS and CRUISING. Were all typical of British films scores from the late 1950, s through to the first part of the 1960, s, with Montgomery’s style being more akin to and belonging to the era of the war years, with the music running continuously more often than not. However, there were some strong themes within all the scores, the march that Montgomery penned for CARRY ON SERGEANT for example ended up being the CARRY-ON THEME and endured throughout the series being heard in some form or another in each CARRY-ON outing, and alongside the serious music if you can categorize it as being serious that is, were jazz orientated pieces of light music which was at the time popular with most.

UNSUNG HEROES OF THE SILVER SCREEN- MARTIN SLAVIN.

 

The name of Martin Slavin is probably not one that is familiar to film music collectors, but it really should be. Slavin worked on numerous film scores providing the main score for many and also contributing songs and other cues as source or background music for scenes in bars and coffee bars which were the mainstay of British society during the late 1950’s through to the end of the 1960’s. Slavin was born in London on February 19th 1922, Like so many musicians composers and indeed film music composers during the 1950’s and into the 1970.s Slavin contributed numerous tracks to various music libraries, and was also well known as a jazz musician and composer/arranger. He served in the British army as a bandsman with the rank of sergeant, and soon after his de-ob formed a band of his own which comprised of seven members. It was during this period that Slavin and his band performed with many artists including, Kenny Baker and Eddie Calvert, having a hit in his own right in 1958 with a novel arrangement of KNEES UP MOTHER BROWN entitled CHA CHA MOMMA BROWN, which reached number 18 in the then British music chart or hit parade, the recording was released under the artist name of Martinas and his music.

 

 

 

It was however during the 1960’s that Slavin began to become better known, firstly as a session musician and then gradually moving into the area of writing music for film and television. He also worked on musicals one being NANCY WAKE, Slavin worked on a number of British movies, most notably INFORMATION RECEIVED, DANGER BY MY SIDE, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE and PIT OF DARKNESS, the last two titles being directed by British film maker Terence Fisher. Slavin also worked on arrangements for THE COOL MIKADO working with John Barry, Frankie Howard, Stubby Kaye, Mike and Bernie Winters and Tommy Cooper.

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Some of the composers music that he had written for library use, was utilized on the DR WHO TV series for the BBC in the 1960’s, the most prominent piece being SPACE ADVENTURE which was used to accompany the dreaded CYBERMEN in the episodes under the title of THE TENTH PLANET and later tracked on future episodes including THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN and THE WEB OF FEAR amongst others.

The composer re-located to Canada during the early 1970’s, and then moved to Hollywood where he continued to write music for film and TV, sadly his own claim to fame whilst Stateside was an adult animated feature entitled ONCE UPON A GIRL which was released in 1976 and an erotic version of PINOCCHIO on which he acted as musical director.

 

He then decided to take up a position of musical director aboard a cruise ship. Slavin returned to England during the 1980’s but after being back for a while was killed in a car accident on May 25th, 1988.