Film Music

  • Violins of Hope

     

    Violins of Hope
    Niv Ashkenazi, violin. Matthew Graybill, piano.
    Sharon Farber, piano. Tony Campisi, narrator.
    Albany Records TROY 1810
    Total Time: 58:37
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    In the midst of a pandemic, an album with the title Violins of Hope is certainly a welcome experience.  This beautiful collection of 10 varied works for solo violin is a picture of musical approaches across the 20th Century gathered around the very instrument that is used to perform them.  Soloist Niv Ashkenazi perform here on a restored violin that comes from the Violins of Hope project.  The collection of instruments are restored violins that were owned by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust.  These are then loaned out for use to give these instruments a voice that cannot be silenced by the horrors of this moment in history.  Ashkenazi’s connection to the project has allowed him to have one of these instruments on a more long-term loan which has allowed him to capture a sense of the instrument’s unique voice and qualities.  His choice of bow is also worth noting as it comes from the same workshop of Ammon and Avshalom Weinstein and was constructed by Daniel Schmidt at the Israeli luthier’s business in the 1990s.

    The music for this release encapsulates works written during the lifetime of this particular instrument which is believed to have been constructed in Eastern Europe, or Germany, between 1900-29.  The repertoire is carefully chosen to explore the richness of this particular instrument featuring some familiar works, but some wonderful discoveries as well.

    Robert Dauber’s Serenade (1942) is a wonderful opener for the album that demonstrates Ashkenazi’s impeccable range of interpretation and tone.  There are some simply stunning moments in the upper register of the instrument coupled with a moving, engaging performance.  In fact, as the album continues, there is a real emotional core that Ashkenazi finds for these pieces.  There is that somber quality which is explored in “Nigun” from Bloch’s Baal Shem suite (1923) followed by a beautiful performance of John William’s theme from Schindler’s List (1993).  Julius Chajes’ melancholy The Chassid (1939) is an interesting work as well exploring Jewish musical gestures.  Some other brief excerpts here include the delightful “Dance of the Rebbitzen” from George Perlman’s Suite hebraique (1929), Paul Ben-Haim’s beautiful “Berceuse sfaradite”, and a “Kaddish” from Ravel’s Deux melodies hebraiques (1914, arranged by Lucien Garban in 1924).  Each of these explores Jewish melodic ideas within their unique modernist/impressionist styles.  Sharon Farber’s Bestimming: Triumph (2014, arr. 2019) is taken from her cello concerto.  It is a truly moving work that utilizes a narrated text about a Holocaust survivor who managed to save more than 150 children as part of the Dutch Resistance.  It is a powerful work with a grand, triumphant conclusion.

    Two multi-movement works are provided as a mid-point and conclusion to the album.  First is Szymon Laks’ Troi pieces de concert (1935) includes a modernist set of variations, a romance, and virtuosic moto perpetual motion finale.  Laks managed to survive Auschwitz though much of his earlier work was destroyed or lost.  This particular work existed only in a cello version but was reconstructed for violin in 2010.  Finally, the album concludes with Ben-Haim’s Three Songs Without Words (1945).  Here is a bit of a nutshell summary of the exploration of most of these composers in period modernism and somewhat expanded harmony and open intervals that grace music from this period.

    The notes accompanying this album help navigate these unfamiliar works well.  But it is the playing itself which will invite further listening.  This is a very well-chosen program of accessible (mostly) early 20th Century music that is filled with references to Hebraic melodies, but also plumbs the depths of the soul as one reflects upon the century.  Ashkenazi’s performances invite the listener into these works and captures the lyrical beauty of these pieces.  He allows the instrument to sing with moments that can sense the deep sadness and those which lift the spirits and move from melancholy to hope and triumph.  The program itself helps the listener move through these emotions as well as we can both enjoy what each piece has done, followed often by a more reflective musical work that offers us to consider what was lost.  He is served very well by his accompanist Matthew Graybil who provides excellent support to these interpretations.  Albany’s sound, captured in the wonderful Great Hall at California State University, Northridge, also is an asset with excellent sound imaging.

    Violins of Hope is an important release for those exploring both the repertoire explored here as well as being introduced to a great, thoughtful performer with an instrument that will not be silenced.  Highly recommended!

  • INTERNATIONAL FILM MUSIC CRITICS ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF 2019 IFMCA AWARDS; JOHN WILLIAMS REIGNS SUPREME WITH MULTIPLE AWARDS HONORING HIS FINAL STAR WARS SCORE, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

     

     

    FEBRUARY 20, 2020 — The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) announces its list of winners for excellence in musical scoring in 2019, in the 2019 IFMCA Awards.

     

    The award for Score of the Year goes to legendary veteran John Williams for his score for the ninth and final Star Wars film, “The Rise of Skywalker,” which concluded the sequel trilogy of adventures about the scavenger Rey, heroic former Stormtrooper Finn, and Kylo Ren, the leader of the Imperial First Order. The film is directed by J.J Abrams, and stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver. In describing the score, IFMCA member James Southall described “The Rise of Skywalker” as ‘one last brilliant piece of musical adventure to call time on his signature work … a triumphant conclusion to an extraordinary musical saga,’ and also said that ‘it’s simply impossible to overstate Williams’s contribution to the series’ success’. The score is also named Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film, while the main theme “The Rise of Skywalker” is named Film Music Composition of the Year.

     

    The IFMCA has also chosen to bestow a Special Award on Williams, primarily in recognition of his near-unparalleled achievement in scoring the 9-movie saga that began with the original Star Wars film in 1977. IFMCA member Jon Broxton opined that ‘no-one has achieved the holy triumvirate of musical excellence, peer respect, and pop culture recognition the way that John Williams has,’ and described the entire Star Wars saga as ‘works of staggering genius and beauty … his Ring Cycle, the work that will define his life and his legacy, a nine-movement 25-hour masterpiece of enduring musical brilliance that has taken a full 42 years to come to fruition’. Williams is, of course, the composer of other such landmark works as "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "Schindler's List," among many other classics.

     

    The IFMCA Roberto Aschieri Special Award, which is named in memory of the IFMCA member from Argentina who died in 2017, is not awarded every year, and is only given to projects or individuals that the membership deems worthy of significant recognition outside of the ‘regular’ IFMCA categories. These are the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th IFMCA Award wins of Williams’s career; he previously won Score of the Year awards for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, “War Horse” in 2011, and “Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005.

     

    Bear McCreary is named Composer of the Year, having written music for an astonishing six films and four television series in 2019. The most lauded of these were “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “The Professor and the Madman”, both of which were nominated in their respective genre categories. Regarding Godzilla, IFMCA member Florent Groult noted that McCreary ‘takes up [existing themes] with great passion and turns them into a score that is massive and fantastic,’ while IFMCA member Randall Larson called it the score a ‘supremely impressive musical conception rich in agitato gestures and textured in dark, flaring colors; a magnificent work that will stay in memory for a long time’. McCreary’s other work in 2020 included the horror sequel “Happy Death Day 2U,” the children’s adventure “Rim of the World,” the reboot of “Child’s Play,” and the horror film “Eli,” as well as the TV shows “The Walking Dead,” “See,” and “Proven Innocent”. This is McCreary’s first Composer of the Year win, having previously won IFMCA awards in the TV category for “Battlestar Galactica” and “Human Target,” and in the Video Game category for “God of War”.

     

    British composer Nainita Desai is named Breakthrough Composer of the Year, having enjoyed the most high-profile year of her career to date by far in 2019. Desai especially impressed members with her spectacular, colorful score for the nature film “Untamed Romania,” which was nominated in the Documentary category. IFMCA member Charlie Brigden called Untamed Romania ‘an impressive score that instantly grabs you in its talons and takes you on a swift journey,’ while IFMCA member Steven Kennedy called Desai herself ‘a rising voice in the film music scene’. Her other scores in 2019 included the Oscar-nominated Syrian civil war documentary “For Sama,” the Anglo-Indian thriller “Darkness Visible”, the WWII-set action drama “Enemy Within”, and the video game “Telling Lies”.

     

    The various other genre awards are won by: Alexandre Desplat for his sumptuous score for the period literary drama “Little Women”; Michael Giacchino for his music for director Taika Waititi’s satirical Nazi-era comedy “Jojo Rabbit”; Thomas Newman for his spectacular musical contribution to the World War I action drama “1917”; John Powell for his music for the third and final entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series, “The Hidden World”; and Steven Price for his expansive orchestral score for the nature documentary “Our Planet”.

     

    In the non-film categories, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won for her innovative score for the critically acclaimed TV series “Chernobyl,” while composer Neal Acree wins the award for Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media for his dynamic, imposing score for the action adventure survival game “Rend”.

     

    Burbank, California-based La-La Land Records is named Film Music Record Label of the Year, recognition their ongoing excellence in restoring and releasing the most beloved film scores of the past. Producers Roger Feigelson and Douglas Fake of Intrada Records receive the Archival Award for their new recording of Dimitri Tiomkin’s classic score for the 1954 noir thriller “Dial M for Murder,” conducted by William Stromberg with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In the Compilation category, the award goes to producer Bernhard Güttler of the Deutsche Grammophon label for “Across the Stars,” a new compilation of classic John Williams film music pieces re-arranged for virtuoso violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by Williams himself with the Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles.

     

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    The winners are:

     

    FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR

    • STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams

     

    FILM COMPOSER OF THE YEAR

    • BEAR McCREARY

     

    BREAKTHROUGH COMPOSER OF THE YEAR

    • NAINITA DESAI

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DRAMA FILM

    • LITTLE WOMEN, music by Alexandre Desplat

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A COMEDY FILM

    • JOJO RABBIT, music by Michael Giacchino

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER FILM

    • 1917, music by Thomas Newman

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION/HORROR FILM

    • STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED FEATURE

    • HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, music by John Powell

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DOCUMENTARY

    • OUR PLANET, music by Steven Price

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR TELEVISION

    • CHERNOBYL, music by Hildur Guðnadóttir

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A VIDEO GAME OR INTERACTIVE MEDIA

    • REND, music by Neal Acree

     

    BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE - RE-RELEASE OR RE-RECORDING

    • DIAL M FOR MURDER, music by Dimitri Tiomkin; The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg; album produced by Douglass Fake; liner notes by Roger Feigelson and Douglas Fake; art direction by Kay Marshall (Intrada)

     

    BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE – COMPILATION

    • ACROSS THE STARS, music by John Williams; The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles and Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by John Williams; album produced by Bernhard Güttler; liner notes by Jon Burlingame; art direction by Büro Dirk Rudolph (Deutsche Grammophon)

     

    FILM MUSIC RECORD LABEL OF THE YEAR

    • LA LA LAND RECORDS, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys

     

    FILM MUSIC COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR

    • “The Rise of Skywalker” from STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams

     

    THE ROBERTO ASCHERI SPECIAL AWARD

    • JOHN WILLIAMS, for career achievement

     

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    The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) is an association of online, print and radio journalists who specialize in writing and broadcasting about original film, television and game music.

     

    Since its inception the IFMCA has grown to comprise over 65 members from countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

     

    Previous IFMCA Score of the Year Awards have been awarded to John Powell’s “Solo” in 2018, Jonny Greenwood’s “Phantom Thread” in 2017, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “Arrival” in 2016, John Williams’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, Hans Zimmer’s “Interstellar” in 2014, Abel Korzeniowski’s “Romeo & Juliet” in 2013, Mychael Danna’s “Life of Pi” in 2012, John Williams’s “War Horse” in 2011, John Powell’s “How to Train Your Dragon” in 2010, Michael Giacchino’s “Up” in 2009, Alexandre Desplat’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2008, Dario Marianelli’s “Atonement” in 2007, James Newton Howard’s “Lady in the Water” in 2006, John Williams’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005, and Michael Giacchino’s “The Incredibles” in 2004.

     

    For more information about the International Film Music Critics Association go to www.filmmusiccritics.org, visit our Facebook page, find us on YouTube, follow us on Twitter @ifmca, or contact us at press@filmmusiccritics.org.