The Nash Ensemble
Hyperion 68094 / ****1/2
This anthology by crack British chamber group The Nash Ensemble features Jewish American composers who also happened to write for the silver screen. Although no film music is showcased, their accessible styles – highly tonal and assimilating popular and folk idioms – were ideal for the quintessentially 20th century medium.
The longest work is Souvenirs de Voyage (1967) for clarinet and string quartet by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975), who also wrote the music for Hitchcock thrillers Psycho, Vertigo and North By Northwest. The music is lyrical and lush in the best English pastoral tradition, with clarinettist Richard Hosford doing the honours.
George Gershwin (1898-1937) is represented by the 18 prelude-like numbers from The Gershwin Songbook (1932), with pianist Ian Brown putting the polish on I Got Rhythm, The Man I Love, Swanee and Strike Up The Band. Violinist Marianne Thorsen is the sensitive soul in Four Scenes from Childhood (1948) by Franz Waxman (1906-1967), Oscar-winning composer for Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun. The music is surprisingly laid-back for a work dedicated to violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz.
Finally, the transcriptions for cello and piano by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) of the Waltz and Celebration from his ballet Billy the Kid, with cellist Rebecca Gilliver, complete 76 minutes of enjoyable listening. This is 20th century music without tears.