• Nice RPO Compilation of Modern Film Music



    Hollywood Blockbusters 2, the latest compilation of film music from the Royal Philharmonic, explores scores from the last five years.  The recordings here were captured in two studio sessions; one in December of 2012 and one in January of 2015.  Nic Raine returns to the podium for this interesting collection of arrangements, some his own, some by Paul Bateman, and a host of others.

    Most of the tracks come from more serious dramatic films, but a few unique animation scores show up as well.  The disc opens with “Dragon Racing” from John Powell’s equally delightful sequel score How to Train Your Dragon 2.  Later an interesting little suite from Nick Urata’s Paddington score provides a bit of unusual syncopation and comedy scoring that the orchestra seems to take to quite well, and there is an instrumental of “Let it Go” from Frozen as a penultimate track lending a more pop feel.  That precedes the title Skyfall Bond song from Adele as a fitting close.

    John Williams is featured in three selections from his dramatic scores for Lincoln, The Book Thief—with a beautiful piano opening by Andy Vinter, and War Horse.  These are actually well done with their sweeping themes providing a nice contrast to the tracks they are lodged between.  Johannsson’s beautiful score from The Theory of Everything is represented by the touching “Domestic Pressures” which is contrasted by “Time” from Zimmer’s Inception score.  A brief flirtation with Broadway then occurs from selections to Into the Woods providing a lighter musical diversion.  Music from The King’s Speech offers a glimpse at Desplat’s light and restrained style for a track which takes its name from the film’s title.  Marianelli’s beautiful score for Anna Karenina is represented with the Russian-tinged waltz “Dance With Me.”  Fantasy fans get a brief nod as well with the inclusion of Shore’s moving “Ironfoot” from The Battle for Five Armies which adds chorus.

    What makes this release work is its well-conceived sequencing of musical styles from these contemporary films.  A good sense of individual composer voices is quite discernible throughout.  The choices are engaging and of course excellently performed with gorgeous sound and vibrant interpretations.  It really is yet another of many highlights from the RPO one that will make you want to go back and listen to many of the scores represented here.

  • New Film Compilation from RPO

     Hollywood Blockbusters

    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Nick Ingman, Nic Raine
    RPO SP 034
    Disc One: Total Time:  60:56
    Disc Two: Total Time:  70:51
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    The Royal Philharmonic feature annual concerts celebrating film music and some of their Here Come the Classics series have included some film music along the way.  Many of their concert recordings are available solely through their website which makes them a bit harder to come by outside the UK.  The present release features selections from some of these earlier compilations recorded with Nick Ingman back in 2002, and with Nic Raine in 2009 and 2010.  Many of Raine’s own arrangements are featured here and parallel selections available on the Silva label which has been associated with over the past 20 years.

    The music is not really presented with any sort of program in mind, not even chronology.  One might be hard pressed to think of something like Chocolat as a “blockbuster” and a few other films sort of seem odd in that respect as well, but regardless, there is an interesting collection of film music all the same featuring mostly music from more recent films, though it runs back to some early Mancini (1958’s Peter Gunn theme) to Horner’s Avatar (2009).

    Disc One opens with Schifrin’s Mission Impossible TV theme in a more extended version, which seems a bit odd (disc two also opens with a TV theme).  But then we are off through a host of familiar melodies from Avatar, Gladiator, Forrest Gump, Out of Africa, The Pink Panther, The Thomas Crown Affair, Titanic, and License to Kill.  Some of the nice surprises in the programming are suites from Chocolate and Ratatouille.  Equally interesting is music from Desplat’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zimmer’s The Da Vinci Code (oddly the least interesting piece here), and Horner’s A Beautiful Mind.

    An interesting mix of popular melodies (like Lai’s Love Story theme, Hamlisch’s “The Way We Were” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”) are dispersed among more serious fare like the beautiful “Elegy for Dunkirk” (Atonement) and the theme from Schindler’s List.  A bit of music from the first Lord of the Ring’s films allows for some fantasy music that returns at the end with two familiar selections from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Interesting items also include a suite from Warbeck’s Shakespeare in Love and interesting music from Zimmer’s King Arthur.  Action music comes from the main theme for Elfman’s Batman and Arnold’s Quantum of Solace (though this is a more lyrical “A Night at the Opera”).  Morricone’s beautiful theme from Cinema Paradiso is also paired here with Leonard Rosenman’s arrangement of a Handel “Sarabande” as used in Barry Lyndon (1975).

    Overall, then this is a rather unusual mix of mostly contemporary film music.  There is plenty of familiar territory here for new or casual listeners, but also some good choices of less familiar composers and films.  They may not quite be “blockbusters” in the way we might think, but the music making is engaging enough to make it a disc that might make a great gift to a new film music enthusiast.  The second disc actually feels like it features the stronger program.  Something also to note is that there seem to be three distinct musical “approaches” here that come across in these studio recordings.  Some of the pop-like themes have a more easy listening feel to them while the jazz selections tend to be a bit hotter in the audio picture.  The more larger-scale orchestral arrangements fall closer to traditional film music recordings.  All of these feel multi-miked which takes away some ambience one might hear in a hall.  However, the performances are excellent throughout.  The booklet itself is pretty barebones with no real information about any of the films or pieces used here.