Light Music From The Silver Screen

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Many of the best films have benefited from a soundtrack featuring light music, and this new Guild Music collection in the ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series reminds us of some gems from a little over 50 years ago.

Light Music From The Silver Screen

1 Early One Morning (trad., arr. Robert Farnon) featured in "Spring In Park Lane"
Robert Farnon and his Orchestra
2 Song of the Mountains (La Montanara) (Ortelli, Pigarelli) from film "The Glass Mountain"
Sidney Torch and his Orchestra
3 Dancing in the Dark (Arthur Schwartz) soundtrack recording from "The Band Wagon"
MGM Studio Orchestra Conducted by Adolph Deutsch
4 Adoration (Bronislau Kaper) soundtrack recording from "Lili"
MGM Studio Orchestra Conducted by Hans Sommer
5 Call of the Faraway Hills" (Victor Young) from film "Shane"
Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra
6 The Beggar’s Theme (Francis Chagrin) from film "Last Holiday"
Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra
7 Seascape (Clifton Parker) from film "Western Approaches"
London Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Muir Mathieson
8 Theme from the film "The Man Between" (John Addison)
Cyril Stapleton and his Orchestra with Dave Shand, saxophone
9 Dedication (Mischa Spoliansky) from film "Idol Of Paris"
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch with Mischa Spoliansky, piano
10 La Violetera (José Padilla) from film "City Lights"
Philip Green and his Orchestra
11 Theme from the film "This Man Is Mine" (Allan Gray)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Charles Williams
12 Men of Arnhem – March (Guy Warrack) from film "Theirs Is The Glory"
London Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Muir Mathieson
13 Romance (Philip Green) from film "The Magic Bow"
Louis Levy and his "Music From The Movies" with Reginald Leopold, violin
14 Quebec Concerto (Andre Mathieu) from film "Whispering City"
Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra with Arthur Dulay, piano
15 Valse Grise (Maurice Jaubert) from film "Le Carnet De Bal"
Sidney Torch and his Orchestra
16 Throughout the Years (Charles Williams) from film "Flesh And Blood"
Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra
17 Vision d’Amour (George Melachrino) from film "Woman To Woman"
Melachrino Strings Conducted by George Melachrino
18 Hour of Meditation (Philip Green) from film "Twenty-Four Hours Of A Woman’s Life"
Sidney Torch and his Orchestra
19 Saga of Odette (Anthony Collins) from film "Odette"
Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra
20 Danse d’Extase (George Melachrino) from film "No Orchids For Miss Blandish"
The Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino
21 Mansell Concerto (Kenneth Leslie-Smith) from film "The Woman’s Angle"
Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra – piano Arthur Sandford
22 Gaelic Fantasia (Philip Green) from film "Saints And Sinners"
Philip Green and his Orchestra

Guild GLCD5109

In selecting the music for this collection, a deliberate decision was taken at the outset that it should not attempt to be a "Best Of…" CD. There are already many interesting compilations of film themes available, and collectors understandably prefer not to keep duplicating music already on their shelves, merely to obtain one or two new items. Just a few of the tracks included here may be familiar, but it is believed that the majority are appearing on CD for the first time.

Some of the films will already have faded from memory – perhaps with good reason! But if weak plots and wooden acting have consigned such efforts to the rubbish bins of history, the same criticism does not necessarily apply to their musical scores. This collection includes many well-constructed and tuneful compositions by talented writers, who merit having their music preserved for posterity.

Film music takes many different forms, and it sometimes has its origins far away from the silver screen. Our opening track is a case in point: Early One Morning is a well-known traditional English folk song, but in the hands of a master arranger such as Robert Farnon (b. 1917) it can become something very special. Farnon first worked with his Canadian Army Band briefly for Herbert Wilcox in 1945 as World War II was coming to an end in the film "I Live In Grosvenor Square". But he had to wait until 1948 to have his name prominently on-screen in a Wilcox production when he was musical director of "Spring In Park Lane", which proved to be the most successful British film at the box office up to that time. The star was Wilcox’s wife Anna Neagle, and the same successful formula was repeated in several more films, notably "Maytime In Mayfair".

The opening title sequence of "Spring In Park Lane" featured Early One Morning taken at a slow pace by the full orchestra, which then developed into a faster, catchy tune lightly scored mainly for strings and woodwind as the story commenced with Michael Wilding walking through Mayfair. When Robert Farnon adapted his film score for broadcasts (and the recording on this CD), he reversed the running order of the two main movements, and added a strong finale. Otherwise, there is a distinct similarity with the original soundtrack.

Before he became one of the finest film composers through his work in many great Italian movies, Nino Rota (1911-1979) was engaged for several British films, perhaps the best-known being "The Glass Mountain" in 1949, which achieved box office success largely due to the popularity of the music. Many orchestras recorded Rota’s Legend of The Glass Mountain, but another piece from the film – La Montanara (Song of the Mountains) – has been unfairly neglected. It was not composed by Rota, but has its own simple charm, and it deserves to be included in this collection.

Not all of the music featured here was composed specifically for the films where it gained recognition. A prime example is the outstanding Arthur Schwartz (1900-1984) melody Dancing In The Dark. It was first heard by the public as long ago as 1931 in John Barker’s stage revue "The Band Wagon". Artie Shaw made a memorable recording in 1941, but even that was surpassed by the MGM film version of "The Band Wagon" in 1953, when Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse danced their way into the hearts of millions. This remains one of the greatest moments in the history of 20th century cinema, and the original soundtrack is heard on this CD. Much of the credit has to go to Conrad Salinger, a brilliant arranger responsible for that unique sound achieved during a period of 23 years in so many MGM musicals of that era. Sadly during his lifetime (he died tragically in 1961 aged only 59) he didn’t receive the public acclaim he richly deserved, although his invaluable contribution is now being recognised through the efforts of admirers like English conductor John Wilson, who is painstakingly reconstructing many of Salinger’s scores for concert performances.

Still with MGM, we recall the young Leslie Caron’s great success in "Lili" (1953) through a rarely heard piece of pure light music lifted from the soundtrack – Adoration by Bronislau Kaper (1902-1983) who had around 100 scores to his credit between 1930 and 1968.

Victor Young (1900-1956) enjoyed a glittering career as a major Hollywood film composer and songwriter, with his standards such as Sweet Sue, Can’t We Talk It Over and My Foolish Heart receiving the attention of all the top singers and bands. He went to Hollywood in 1935, where he remained for the rest of his life. Among a string of top films, he scored "Shane" starring Alan Ladd in 1953, and the theme became popular worldwide as Call Of The Faraway Hills.

The British cinema has always been able to call upon a large pool of talented composers, not all of whom are widely known to the general public. Francis Chagrin (real name Alexander Paucker 1905-1972) was such a writer, and his gentle score (particularly The Beggar’s Theme) for "Last Holiday" (1950) – could hardly have been bettered. The film starred Alec Guinness, but this unpretentious, yet moving, comedy seems to have been largely forgotten among his other great successes around this time.

"Western Approaches" was a documentary notable for being filmed in colour during the war (1944). Produced by the Crown Film Unit (ie. the British Government), it cost a total of £100,000 out of which the composer Clifton Parker (1905-1989) received £100 for his highly-praised score. Seascape has become recognised as a fine piece of film music; it was conducted by Muir Mathieson on the original soundtrack, and he also fronted the London Symphony on the commercial 78 rpm recording at the Kingsway Hall, London for Decca as part of the label’s sadly short-lived ‘Incidental Music from British Films’ series.

The producers of "The Man Between" (1953) may have modelled this spy saga on "The Third Man", but even with James Mason in the starring role it failed to make much impression. The same cannot be said of John Addison’s (1920-1998) music. This was just one of around 90 scores he eventually supplied for a wide variety of films, and he won an Oscar for "Tom Jones" in 1963. From his later career he is probably remembered best for his catchy theme to the television series "Murder She Wrote".

Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985) was one of several Russian-born composers who left the German film industry during the 1930s to work in Britain, and later the USA. The British film "Idol Of Paris" (1948) was panned by the critics, but the long-forgotten score is not to be dismissed lightly, and the commercial recording conducted by Sidney Torch has the added bonus of featuring the composer on the piano.

The Spanish composer José Padilla (1889-1959) was responsible for two of the most popular numbers in the Latin-American repertoire – Valencia and El Relicario. Although released in 1931, "City Lights" – generally regarded as one of the finest films made by Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) - was essentially a silent movie with a music soundtrack. Padilla’s La Violetera perfectly suits the sad story of the blind flower girl, although she is certainly wearing a bright new dress in Philip Green’s charming arrangement. Three further tracks feature Philip Green (1910-1982) as a composer – Romance (from "The Magic Bow"), Hour of Meditation ("Twenty-four Hours in a Woman’s Life") and Gaelic Fantasia ("Saints and Sinners").

Allan Gray (1902-1973) established his film scoring credentials in the German cinema before moving to England in 1936. His handful of notable scores included "I Know Where I’m Going", "A Matter of Life and Death" and "The African Queen". The 1946 film "This Man is Mine" is now largely forgotten, but the music still stands up well.

The ill-conceived campaign to capture the bridge at Arnhem towards the end of World War II has prompted several films, but possibly the first - "Theirs Is The Glory" - seems to have escaped most reference books. Filmed in 1945, it used Arnhem veterans to tell the story, and the score was written by Guy Warrack (1900-1986) who also composed the title music for the official film of the 1953 Coronation "A Queen Is Crowned". In an article for the British Music Society, Philip Scowcroft informed us that Guy Warrack, father of the writer and critic, John Warrack, was educated at Oxford University and the RCM (under Vaughan Williams for composition and Adrian Boult for conducting) and was on the College’s teaching staff from 1925 to 1935, during which time he had conducting experience at home and abroad. Between 1936 and 1945 he was Conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra, founded in 1936 and later of Sadlers Wells Theatre Ballet. His compositions include a Symphony in C minor (1932), the Variations for orchestra (1924), Fugal Blues, a Lullaby, a ballet on Don Quixote, the Divertimento Pasticciato in three movements entitled Prelude, Fugue and Furiant, some film music (including one for the XIV Olympiad in London in 1948). Warrack wrote a history of the Royal College of Music and a slim but fascinating volume on Sherlock Holmes and Music (1947).

Canadian pianist Andre Mathieu (1929-1968) was a child prodigy known as the ‘Quebec Mozart’, and his music in "Whispering City" comes from a longer Concerto de Quebec, composed before he was 14. Sadly his genius caused him to ‘burn out’ and when he died in poverty in Montreal he was aged only 39. His early career was brilliant, including a well received debut at Town Hall in New York in 1940. But Mathieu's development as an artist seemed to end by about 1947, although he continued to compose. Both the welcoming song and official theme music of the

1976 Montreal Olympics were arranged from excerpts of Mathieu's works. 

French composer Maurice Jaubert (1900-1940) composed Valse Grise for "Le Carnet de Bal" in 1937 (it was revived in the 1950s which prompted the Sidney Torch recording). Jaubert was a prolific composer, highly regarded in France during the 1930s. He would probably have had a distinguished career, but he died fighting in World War II.

Charles Williams (1893-1978) and George Melachrino (1909-1965) both made a large number of commercial recordings, and became familiar names to music-lovers worldwide. They also contributed numerous scores to British films which rose above the often trite plots. Anthony Collins (1893-1963) wrote a light music classic – Vanity Fair – but he was also a respected film music composer, with three Academy Award nominations to his credit. Kenneth Leslie-Smith (d. 1993) seems to have specialised in composing for radio musicals and stage revues. One of his best-known songs was Always and he contributed several works to publishers’ background music libraries.

There was a time when films would enjoy national release for maybe a week or two, then they would be replaced by something new. If particularly successful they might return for a special run a few years later, but the opportunities to see old favourites were strictly limited over half a century ago. Thanks to television, videos and – more recently – DVDs, films can now be seen virtually ‘on demand’ whenever we wish. Even run-of-the-mill ‘pot boilers’, once considered of little merit, can acquire a new lease of life and reach a fresh audience. Music plays an important role in the nostalgia that surrounds old films, and the contemporary recordings made when the films first appeared can have a special attraction that far exceeds the limitations imposed by the action on-screen which usually forces the score into a secondary role. Thus recordings can assume a separate identity that transcends the circumstances that dictated the music’s original creation. Film scores can often emerge as a completely separate art form, and it is to be hoped that all of the tracks on this CD will contain an appeal that touches the psyche of everyone who can appreciate the experience on offer.

David Ades

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