Friday, 12 August 2011

Film Music Prom

Calling all Film Music Fans! Tonight's prom is dedicated to some of the most widely recognisable works in classical music. Just think of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic film Psycho, available on Signum (SIG 234) and Unicorn-Kanchana (UK 2021). Bernard Herrmann who composed this work, is responsible too for the music to Citizen Kane and North by Northwest. Also in the first half of the prom William Walton's Henry V suite will be performed. The Chandos label offers a wonderful recording of this music arranged by Christopher Palmer.

The second half of the evening kicks off with John William's music to Star Wars, Schindler's List and Harry Potter, all of which feature on the Naxos album Great Movie Themes (NX 0505). I think the piece I'll be waiting to hear is Richard Rodney Bennett's Murder on the Orient Express. However, if you can't decide on your favourite music from the film world, you will find some all-time greats on Chandos's British Film music album. I hope you enjoy the performance.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tonight's Prom - Steve Reich

The prom tonight at 10.15pm features the works of composer Steve Reich who will be celebrating his 75th birthday later this year. The performance will include several of his most noteable works such as Clapping Music, which has been recorded by several of the labels here on the Classical Shop. ARTS feature this work on their album AB 7624, signum on SIG 050 and the CORO label on CO 6031.

If you particularly enjoy the Electric Counterpoint we have two recordings of this piece, again, on the Signum label SIG 143 and the BIS label BIS 5019 - both are available for download on the Classical Shop. If you would like to explore more of his works then you will find a recent recording on the Chandos label, which the composer himself described as 'Incisive, focused and intense, this recording of the Three Movements is the best I have ever heard. The Desert Music is full, rich, yet full of detail. Kristian Järvi, the Tonkünstler-Orchester, and Sine Nomine  perform with a relaxed rhythmic precision that fits the music. Bravo and thanks to all". So with that it would seem a visit to the Classical Shop site and this particular album is a real must!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Press Officer at the Proms

Of the four Proms I have been to this year, each has been equally rewarding in different ways. The first (17th June) marked Juanjo Mena’s debut at the proms where the soon-to-be new chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic bought music from, or inspired by, his native homeland to London. We were treated to the wonderfully evocative Nights in the Garden of Spain (with Steven Osborne, the sensitive pianist), Ravel’s dazzling Rapsodie espagnole and Debussy’s inspired Images, where each movement was, curiously, separated by the other works. The next Prom (26th July) went from Spain to Hungary, with Jurowski leading the London Philharmonic. Beginning with Kodaly’s colorful Dances of Galánta, it went on to a blistering account of Bartók’s First Piano Concerto. Bartók wrote in the score that the percussion be placed surrounding the piano and it was almost disconcerting to see the piano engulfed in a battery of percussion instruments. But Jean-Efflam Bavouzet electrifying performance was more than a match for them, with conductor, orchestra and soloist filling the Albert Hall with electricity and excitement. The second half of the concert comprised Liszt’s epic Faust Symphony. Whilst the opening is magically haunting and evocative, after an hour of it – despite some wonderful moments - one can’t help thinking that Liszt could have done with a decent editor. The third prom (August 1st) brought the BBC Philharmonic again with their principle conductor, Gianandrea Noseda. Beginning with Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony – with its extended and magical introduction – Saint-Saëns Fifth Piano Concerto followed – and received a scintillating performance with Stephen Hough as the soloist. Subtitled, the ‘Egyptian’, its mixture of pseudo exotic elements combined with French charm is irresistible, and the finale bubbled with champagne-like exhilaration. The second half comprised another mammoth Liszt work, this time his Dante Symphony.  The fourth prom (August 2nd) featured Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the soloist, Tasmin Little, who was on inspirational form. Tasmin made a recording of this work with Chandos with Sir Andrew Davis last year (which won a Classic Brit Award) and her understanding of the piece was immediately apparent: the hushed intensity during the reflective passages was almost luminous in its intensity whilst the more dramatic passages were full of all the passion one could wish for in this masterpiece of a work. The second half featured a prom premiere: a work, by turns quirky and rousing music from Percy Grainger, in the form of his Suite ‘In a Nutshell’ and it was amusing to see the orchestra actually reduce in size for a riotous performance of Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel. The BBC Singers performed a superb performance of Elgar’s haunting There is sweet music.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tasmin Little who erlier this year was awarded the Critic's Choice at the Classic BRITS will perform Elgar's Violin Concerto at tonight's Prom No 24. This work is included on a Chandos album CHAN 5083  which has recieved high praise from critics and the public alike. For the first time Percy Grainger's 'In a Nutshell' will be performed at a prom. This is sure to be a memorable prom indeed!

Later on in the evening Prom 25 is dedicated solely to the works of Grainger and his exploration of folk music.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Tonight's Prom

If you will be listening to, or are lucky enough to attend the proms in person tonight you should be in for a fantastic experience. In Prom 23 Gianandrea Noseda will be leading the BBC Philharmonic in several works, but the concert culminates with the exciting Dante Symphony by Liszt. This work forms part of a series of Liszt recordings undertaken by the Chandos label. So if you love what you hear tonight you can download your own copy from the Classical Shop.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Hallé Orchestra - Tonights Prom

The 2011 PROMS have been going for nearly a week now, and tonight we are in for a real treat with the Hallé orchestra performing under the baton of Sir Mark Elder. This month,  we are offering 25% off the entire Hallé back catalogue on the Classical Shop. Since the orchestra launched its own CD label in 2003, it has gone from strength to strength. Among the label's many triumphs is Elgar's Violin Concerto with Thomas Zehetmair as soloist, which won a  Gramophone award in 2010. Another of Hallé's many award-winning recordings is Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner. The Daily Telegraph wrote of a performance of this work by the Hallé orchestra: "The orchestra, re-inforced for the occasion to more than 100 and with enough harps on-and-off stage to restock Paradise, responded with world-class playing."  A must have for your collection!

Press Officer's thoughts on film music

This month, amongst hundreds of new downloads available on, you will find some wonderful film music by Michael J. Lewis. Its quality makes one wonder why film music is still regarded, in certain quarters, as the Cinderella relation of classical music.

Yet who would be without the score by William Walton to Henry V, or the magnificent tune he wrote for Went the Day Well? If Walton was one of the greatest composers of film music – if not the greatest of them – there are all those giants in Hollywood. Korngold, for example, was a child prodigy, comparable to Mozart and Mendelssohn. At the age of twenty-three he was at the height of his fame as a composer of operas and orchestral music, yet his film music eclipsed all his stage and concert works. Conversely, the orchestral music of Miklós Rózsa is now beginning to eclipse his film music. And one has to mention Bernard Herrmann, whose musical voice is every bit as distinctive and easily recognisable as that of Tchaikovsky, Debussy, or Beethoven (Chandos will release his striking cantata Moby Dick later this year).

Later, more populist composers, such as the inimitable Henry Mancini (his Pink Panther theme must be one of the most recognised tunes the world over), and the even funkier Lalo Schifrin (his Bullet score makes one feel as cool as Steve McQueen), offer a wealth of fun and frolics at the lighter end of the scale. Today’s blockbuster scores by John Williams and Patrick Doyle and the like are hardly negligible and also have the advantage of exposing younger audiences to the sound of a symphony orchestra.

Perhaps film music is more susceptible to the changes of fashion and thus tends to date more quickly than ‘serious’, classical music (though the passage of time helps to diminish this effect). To ignore film music and be snobbish about it is to close your ears to some of the most imaginative and rewarding music written over the last century.

In the 1973 film Theatre of Blood (music by the aforementioned Michael J. Lewis), a hammy Shakespearian actor (wonderfully played by Vincent Price) takes revenge on all his unappreciative critics by dispatching them to their ghoulish deaths. Whilst we are unlikely to suffer such a fate for not fully appreciating film scores, we will undoubtedly be the poorer for not giving this rich genre our full attention.

Paul Westcott
Press Officer
Chandos Records