Thursday, 25 December 2014

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, December 2014)

Royal Stockholm Philharmonic 
Alexander Shelley, Conductor
Deutsche Grammophon 479 2954 

It has been said that the Second World War and rise of Nazism during the 1930s helped fuel the Hollywood film music industry. Persecution of European Jewry meant that many talented composers from Austria, Germany and Central Europe fled to the free world of America where they settled to compose and teach. This album by British violinist Daniel Hope celebrates the exodus and legacy of composers like Erich Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, Franz Waxman and others who helped define the romantic Hollywood sound we know and love.

The central work is Korngold’s well-loved Violin Concerto, which recycles music from four movies including The Prince And The Pauper. Hope’s sweet tone and broad sweep is a winner from start to finish. The Hungarian Rozsa is represented by themes from Ben Hur, El Cid and Spellbound, while the Italian Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco makes an entry with his popular Sea Murmurs. The latter was the teacher of John Williams, whose Theme from Schindler’s List has become ubiquitous in film-themed anthologies.

The raspy-voiced Sting makes a cameo in The Secret Marriage, which is an adaptation Hanns Eisler’s An Den Kleine Radioapparat (To A Portable Radio), a number from his Hollywood Songbook. The collection closes with an unaccompanied violin meditation on Herman Hupfeld’s Everybody’s Welcome, now better known as As Time Goes By from Casablanca. This album in a word: delicious.

Vienna Philharmonic 
Sony Classical 88883792272 (2CDs) 

Every conductor who leads the Vienna Philharmonic’s legendary New Year Concerts tries to leave his mark on the proceedings by means of astute programming of works that best reflects his preferences and personal “credo”. In Daniel Barenboim’s second run on the podium, his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (which he co-founded with the late Edward Said in Palestine) was referenced. A number of works were broad hints on peace and reconciliation like Joseph Strauss’s Friedenspalmen (Palms Of Peace) and Johann Strauss the Younger’s Seid Umschlungen, Millionen (Receive My Embrace, Ye Millions), the latter being a quote from Schiller’s Ode To Joy. Also included was Johann’s Stormy In Love And Dance, a fast polka and the pseudo-Middle Eastern chanting in his Egyptian March

There is also a not-so-veiled tribute to his wife Elena in Eduard Strauss’s Helenen-Quadrille which recycles melodies from Offenbach’s operetta La Belle Helene. Biases aside, there is much to enjoy in favourites like Tales From The Vienna Woods and first performances of the Moonlight Interlude from Richard Strauss’s opera Capriccio and the Pizzicato from Delibes’s Sylvia. As usual, the Blue Danube Waltz and Johann Strauss’s the Elder’s Radetzky March closes the proceedings, which no good Neujahrskonzert at the Goldener Saal of the Wiener Singverein can do without. Wallow and enjoy!

The Philharmonic Orchestra 
conducted by Lim Yau
School of the Arts Concert Hall
10 pm, Wednesday 31 December 2014
Tickets available at SISTIC   

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