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The Film Music Of Mischa Spoliansky

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 29, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Musiques des films "Aux frontières des Indes" de J. Lee Thompson (1959), "Sanders of the River" de Z. Korda (1935), "Les Mines du Roi Solomon" de C. Bennett & A. Marton (1950)... / M. Coles, basse - R. Elms, piano - BBC Concert Orch. - R. Gamba, dir.

Review

Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985), though not a name all that familiar to most American filmgoers, was one of a large handful of émigré composers (including Francis Chagrin, the conductor Walter Goehr, the pseudonymous Allan Gray, and songwriter Nicholas Brodsky) who thrived in the British film industry during the years before and after World War II. Born of a musical family in Belorussia, Spoliansky first earned his training and experience in Vienna and Berlin, where he attached himself to the illustrious Max Reinhart, for whom he created a number of satirical musical shows, and this heavily theatrical background is evident in much of the music in this compendium.

The opening Suite, drawn from the 1959 adventure North West Frontier, an Anglo-American production known in the U.S. as Flame over India, begins with some ponderously lurid action sequences that belie the generally light-hearted tenor of this program. This is followed by three of his most memorable melodies from Sanders of the River, written for Paul Robeson and recorded by him in innumerable disc incarnations. The "Congo Lullaby" is especially affecting, though one must question the decision to re-record this music as the adequate soloist here, Mark Coles, is no Robeson. Next comes a characteristically rollicking suite from the 1936 adaptation of H. G. Wells's fantasy, The Man Who Could Work Miracles, wherein the Allegro giocoso flute scherzo provides delicious proof of Spoliansky's melodic gifts. This irresistible music also shows off the composer's sparkling wit and urbanity to full advantage.

The suite from the René Clair-Robert E. Sherwood romantic comedy with a supernatural twist, The Ghost Goes West of 1936, reinforces these virtues with an especially mouth-watering love theme. Then comes an unusually engaging Suite from the 1937 H. Rider Haggard adventure film King Solmon's Mines (not the later 1950 Hollywood version) and, instead of the expected dose of generic agitato rumblings--as in North West Frontier--we get a strongly lyrical score dominated by two bluesy songs, written, once again, for the legendary Robeson, though never recorded by him. For this listener, this is the most significant and satisfying musical discovery of the whole enterprise.

Also included here are modern re-recordings of two concert treatments (by other very obscure hands) of main themes from two late-1940s films--Wanted for Murder and Idol of Paris. These pieces will be immediately familiar to film music buffs from 78-rpm recordings--reissued in countless forms--known as "Voice in the Night" and "Dedication," respectively. These rhapsodic "Warsaw Concerto"-style warhorses hold up surprisingly well in these impressively extended versions.

The program concludes with a rambunctious Galop that again demonstrates Spoliansky's penchant for the light music genre--from the 1950 farce, The Happiest Days of Your Life, and a not very interesting Toccatina for solo organ from the ill-fated 1957 Otto Preminger St. Joan. A soundtrack LP was issued at the time on Capitol, and it is too bad the soaringly mystical main theme could not have been substituted.

The forever versatile Philip Lane is credited with arranging all the music here (except for "Dedication" and "Voice in the Night," of course), but no data is available about who might have assisted Spoliansky in the original orchestrations. Rumon Gamba and the BBC Concert Orchestra provide choice interpretations, full of their customary panache and flourish, and the Chandos sonics are up to our usual expectations. Another winner in this indispensable series. -- Fanfare, Paul A. Snook, Barry Brenesal, Jan-Feb 2010

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: BBC Concert Orchestra
  • Conductor: Gamba
  • Composer: Spoliansky
  • Audio CD (September 29, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B002IFPVOA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,891 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Mischa Spoliansky escaped to London from the Nazis in 1933. Germany's loss was again England's gain, as this overview of his film scores proves.

The BBC Concert Orchestra surveys nine of them in multiple suites. "North West Frontier" is big, grand, and dynamic; fans of John Williams' golden era of STAR WARS/ SUPERMAN/ INDIANA JONES will surely enjoy these dramatic and melodic anthems. Spoliansky was blessed to do two scores featuring the great Paul Robeson, "Sanders of the River" and King Soloman's Mines", which each get vocal suites here. As daunting as Robeson's bass was, Mark Coles does a fine job emulating his timbre, but is especially effective with supple grace on the delicate 'Congo Lullaby' from "Sanders". 'Wagon Song' from "King Soloman's" sounds like a spiritual by way of Copland, a melody that is then lifted into a subtly jazzy manifesto in 'Moderato'. The throwaway noir film "Wanted For Murder" was favored with 'Voice In the Night', a dark delirium propelled by intense piano runs into surging, almost majesterial swells. There is a spritely ecstasy to the tracks from "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" and "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", particularly the latter's 'Galop' which sounds like a happy Sousa scoring a Looney Tunes romp. Rounding it out is a solo organ piece from "St. Joan" that is as epic, beneficent, and bitterweet as its heroine; John Wright is particularly notable on this seraphic closer.
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Got this for THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES--the 9 minute suite is superb, but does not include the haunting main-title theme. Also, the sound level is very low; but the performance is AOK
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