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Frankel: Curse of the Werewolf • The Net • The Prisoner

Frankel: Curse of the Werewolf • The Net • The Prisoner

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FRANKEL The Curse of the Werewolf: Excerpts . So Long at the Fair Medley . The Net: Love Theme. The Prisoner: Excerpts ? Carl Davis, cond; Royal Liverpool PO ? NAXOS 8.557850 (74:40)

CD?s of film music have experienced a renaissance of late, with older scores being rediscovered and recorded in droves. This CD retrospective of Benjamin Frankel (1906?1973) demonstrates the composer?s European style and lineage. Frankel, along with early pioneers in the field, including Korngold, Hermann, Mayuzumi, and Copland, redirected the classical tradition, bypassing atonality. In film scores to this day, it is acceptable to be traditional, because composers such as Frankel set the tone. The likes of John Williams still follow the lead with current neo-Romantic film scoring?no tricks or mathematical formulas.

The music is just good?and original. Novelty is not always complex, but may be fresh in its return to simplicity and comprehension.

The CD title selection here is Curse of the Werewolf , a 1959 cult film classic. The music is appropriately narrative, with more urgency than creepiness. Without seeing the movie, you can guess what?s happening by the musical allusions. Yes, it?s necessarily programmatic. Surprisingly, for all its accessibility and familiarity?it?s composed in 12-tone row, proving that what is serial may be packaged like cereal. There is a booming brass opening, some ominous Shostakovichian passages, punctuated by nervous snares and distant hunting horns. Castanets take on morbid significance, followed by a lilting string theme, the calm before the storm or, in this case, perhaps, clean-shavenness before the big five o?clock shadow. Musical wild howls and fangs follow. Frankel scores 12-tone bird sounds throughout, giving the impression of nature always watching, waiting for the grim game to be played out. There are, in addition, spooky xylophone riffs, mysterious harp glissandos, juxtaposed with more themes of virginal innocence, eliciting a chuckle, if your mind wanders to Mel Brooks?s Young Frankenstein . Later, Frankel introduces a relentless ticking motif, as if time is building to a crescendo of madness. Then the xylophone returns, with a momentary tonic chord, and more bird song, string plucks, and timpani, with a repeat of the distant hunting horns. An ironic waltz theme is recapitulated, followed by a denouement with furious swells of strings, screeching trombones, and a brooding bass leading to a bipolar coda.

Whether you view the werewolf tale as a metaphor for the onset of puberty, a depiction of the battle between nature and predation, as a cautionary tale about the evil of testosterone, or as a veiled reference to unbridled sexuality?or even if you?re not into Freud at all?this is a campy CD, but not a knockout. The other selections in this box, So Long at the Fair Medley and excerpts from The Net and The Prisoner , are pedestrian but pleasant, with So Long at the Fair being superior, with its familiar two-step dance, as well as nostalgic themes of childhood.

It?s all good music, but I?m just not sure it deserves its own CD?I?d rather rent the movies, and have the benefit of score and picture. Indeed, Frankel also wrote the scores for The Seventh Veil , The Importance of Being Ernest , The Man in the White Suit , Night of the Iguana , and Battle of the Bulge . Perhaps I?ll check Netflix.

The Royal Liverpool PO does a fine job of performing the scores, with Carl Davis in fine conducting form.

FANFARE: David Wolman
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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label:
    • UPC/Barcode: 0747313285020
    • Item Number: 8557850