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VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Film Music, Vol. 1

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Film Music, Vol. 1

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Of all the recent issues in Chandos' excellent series of film scores by British composers, this may well be the most interesting and important, not just because of the stature of Vaughan Williams himself, but also because of his work in recasting the score of Scott of the Antarctic as his Seventh Symphony. Now obviously you have to know the latter work well to get maximum enjoyment out of the former; not that film score isn't enjoyable on its own, but as in so many cases it consists of little bits, some less than a minute long, that often have no form, stop suddenly, and repeat themselves without any ostensible musical purpose. In other words, it's a typical film score. Also, in making the symphony, the composer shrewdly chose all of the most evocative and atmospheric music and very cleverly expanded it, enriching the orchestration and most importantly enhancing its melodic interest. So the symphony actually gives a much more powerful sense of the moods and atmosphere of the film than does the film score itself. Still, here you will find music omitted in the symphony, such as scenes prior to Scott's arrival at the South Pole, or a brief portrait of his sculptress wife, though not surprisingly these contain the least interesting music.

Of the other two pieces here, the Coastal Command Suite is colorful WWII documentary material of minor interest in the context of Vaughan Williams' work, but The People's Land is quite a find, more than 13 minutes of continuous music based on several folksongs. It was composed in 1942 for a brief narrative "infomercial" describing the work of the British National Trust, and it's a fine example of the composer's breezy, "open air" manner that surely deserves some currency as a concert item.

Rumon Gamba leads aptly vigorous performances and the BBC Philharmonic plays with its customary professionalism. The wordless soprano solo in Scott of the Antarctic is taken by one Merryn Gamba, no doubt a relative of the conductor and an excellent argument against nepotism in musical projects. She sounds shrill and quite unpleasant, even from offstage! Big, rich, slightly soft-edged sonics round out a very worthwhile release that all Vaughan Williams fans will want to sample. [11/11/2002]
--David Hurwitz,
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Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 01, 2002

  • UPC: 095115100721

  • Catalog Number: CHAN 10007

  • Label: Chandos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams

  • Conductor: Rumon Gamba

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus

  • Performer: Merryn Gamba