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Perry: The Innocents Abroad & Other Mark Twain Films

Perry: The Innocents Abroad & Other Mark Twain Films

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American composer William Perry was born in Elmira, New York and began actively composing and conducting at the age of fifteen. This led to musical study at Harvard University where his teachers included Paul Hindemith, Walter Piston and Randall Thompson. He has written in a number of forms, and his music has been performed by the Chicago Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Detroit Symphony and other leading orchestras in the United States, Canada and Europe.

As a film composer, Perry has written more than a hundred film scores, many of them for the silent film collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he served as music director and pianist for twelve years. His music for The General, Orphans of the Storm, Blood and Sand, The Mark of Zorro and other classics has received international recognition for helping to restore public interest in the great films of the silent era.

He has achieved prominence as a theatre and concert composer in addition to his film work, and he also has enjoyed an important career as a producer. His television productions have won Emmy and Peabody Awards, and he received two Tony Award nominations for his score to Broadway’s Wind in the Willows.

For this recording, selections are presented from William Perry’s scores for six feature films based on the major works of Mark Twain. These were originally sponsored and premiered by the national television networks of the United States (PBS), Germany, Austria, Italy and France and have since been seen throughout the world.

The six Mark Twain films in this recording present a series of exciting challenges in the variety and range of their musical requirements. The Mysterious Stranger is set in medieval Austria and contains elements of mysticism and other-worldly dreams. The Innocents Abroad takes place in 19th century California, Paris, Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Athens, the Crimea and Cairo, with each location calling for characteristic musical backgrounds. Pudd’nhead Wilson is a murder drama built around themes of slavery and misidentification. Life on the Mississippi evokes the by-gone days of riverboat traffic on the mighty Mississippi. The Private History of a Campaign That Failed carries a compelling anti-war message drawn from events in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is, quite simply, the most famous book in American literature.

For all of these, Perry has created music completely appropriate to the subject matter, with a common thread of melodic sweep combined with wit and inventiveness. His use of wordless chorus and unusual orchestration gives a special sense of color to the writing.

The orchestration is for woodwinds in threes, plus oboe d’amore and heckelphone, four horns, three trumpets plus flügelhorn, three trombones and tuba, harp, piano, organ, celesta, concertina, harmonica, banjo, strings, and a full and varied percussion section including timpani, tenor drum, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes, triangle, tambourine and whip. Forty-eight voices of the Vienna Boys’ Choir are heard in The Mysterious Stranger and the Slovak Philharmonic Choir participates in Pudd’nhead Wilson. The haunting harmonica solos are performed by Richard Hayman.

Jane Iredale
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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label:
    • UPC/Barcode: 0747313020072
    • Item Number: 8570200