Marco Polo (8.225167)
Release Date: 2001
Conducted by William Stromberg
The Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Best of 2001: Best Re-Recording
|4.||The Great Elephants||0:48|
|7.||Minna and St. Denis||1:10|
|8.||Minna and Major Forsythe||0:26|
|9.||The Jungle Clearing||1:07|
|10.||The Elephant Heard||1:49|
|12.||The Ivory Poachers||1:06|
|13.||The Elephant Hunt||3:59|
|15.||At the Well||0:54|
|16.||The Sand Storm||1:01|
|17.||Return to Biondi||2:36|
|18.||Return to Biondi (Part 2)||1:43|
|20.||Finale and End Titles||1:44|
|22.||Return to Yarmouth||3:12|
|23.||Visit to Aunt Betsy - Davy Loves Emily||1:54|
|24.||Agnes's Arrival - Mother's Funeral||1:22|
|26.||Memories of Dora and Steerforth||1:55|
|27.||Love for Dora||2:28|
|28.||Mr. Micawber Exposes Heep||2:06|
|30.||Agnes Leaves David||1:06|
|31.||In Search of Emily||2:50|
|32.||Emigration to Austalia||1:44|
|33.||David's Resolution and Finale||3:01|
|Total Album Time:||62:11|
|by Josh Wisch
June 27, 2001
As the Marco Polo label's Classic Film Scores collection grows, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra keeps sounding better and better, the productions are more and more informative, and the selections, while not always perfectly enjoyable, are forever admirable. To hear the film music of Sir Malcolm Arnold is a too-rare opportunity, so this latest expedition by John Morgan and William Stromberg into the film music vaults to lovingly bring out Arnold's The Roots of Heaven and David Copperfield scores gives fans great sounds to take pleasure in.
The Roots of Heaven, the big-budget 1958 film, is the daring tale of Morel, a former Nazi prisoner in Africa whose disenchantment regarding mankindís compassion brings him to crusade for the lives of the African elephants, a species hunted to near extinction, with a prostitute named Minna at his side. The score to The Roots of Heaven is a symphonic safari through this tale, and the album starts with an overture written for the New York premiere that introduces the main themes for the following opus in magnificent style: a noble Theme for Elephants based on a native folk song, then a jazzy, strangely cosmopolitan motif, an enchanting love theme for Minna (contributed by pianist Henri Patterson, significantly reworked by Arnold), and Morel's theme in turn derived from the Elephant Theme. The classical melding to ethnic rhythms is simply spectacular. All are developed, varied, and occasionally twisted over the course of the restoration, clocking in at 34 minutes of orotund symphonics, sometimes recalling Arnold's unforgettable score for The Bridge on the River Kwai. Musical contrasts between the massive elephant motif and Minna's bright theme are especially remarkable. Seamlessly incorporated into the proceedings are two tracks developed from Arnold's material by Alfred Newman when last-minute changes in music placement necessitated four additional cues. The album's tracks are mostly on the short side.† However, that works fine as a whole, but if one focuses on individual selections the experience is rather choppy.
The other auriferous presentation of the disc is the composer's last film score, David Copperfield." Highly removed from The Roots of Heaven, Arnold's unambiguously English score for the 1970 televised version of Charles Dickens' story came about by a bit of luck. John Williams was originally set to compose for the production, but a scheduling conflict with Goodbye, Mr. Chips forced him to back out. Sir Malcolm stepped in with what some consider one of his finest scores, arguably his best. Following the well-known trials and tribulations of David, the music fleshes out the personalities of major and supporting characters alike, from the heartbreakingly beautiful main theme for the haunted Mr. Copperfield to the chirpy melody accompanying Mr. Micawber. And so, presented in a 28-minute block, this release touches several emotional centers. It is romantic, tragic, moody, amusing, suspenseful, and more. Tasteful brass fanfares, string waltzes, playful woodwinds, delicately situated percussion mark the score as being tenderly raised from Romanticism and a full musical education. It is quintessential Sir Malcolm Arnold. Any film score with such a distinctive and unashamedly classical persona is tremendously effective and rewarding, but David Copperfield offers bittersweet importance as Arnold's farewell to cinematic composition.
Presented as a birthday tribute to the composer, I report with a glad heart that it succeeds as a genuine honor in every aspect. The vibrant Golden Age sound is fodder for audiophile debates, but it suits the music well - as does the Moscow Symphony Orchestra! Under William Stromberg's lead, the Russian ensemble provides unexpectedly rich performances. The sound they produce here would fit right at home in the Royal Albert Hall. The far-reaching booklet (over 30 pages) boasts commentary from composers John Scott, Howard Blake, and Malcolm Arnold himself. Affectionate, almost excessively informative notes and essays by James Cox grace the bulk of the pages (particularly memorable is the "making of" The Roots of Heaven, that could easily be adapted into a Hollywood film itself - probably a horror flick), along with track-by-track analyses, photographs, illustrations, excerpts from the written scores, and words from John Morgan on the reconstruction process. This is a charming release.
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