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CD Reviews: Jarre and Buttolph

Maurice Jarre: Ma Periode Francaise ****


Play Time 864 599 2 - PL 05 02 87 - PM 520

28 tracks - 74:35

This French import is a must-have for fans of Maurice Jarre. It's a collection of music from 12 of Jarre's scores for French cinema covering the years 1954 to 1964. That includes music from his first full-length feature, Le Tete contre les Murs, directed by Georges Franju. Even if you only have a cursory familiarity with Jarre, you should still find it interesting to brave these early works and listen along as Jarre discovers his melodic style that would appear full blown in some of his greatest film music for David Lean.

Jarre's score for Franju's Les Yeux sans Visage bears a slight resemblance to Alex North's intimate, jazz-influenced dramatic writing, and is among this album's many highlights. The simple piano writing of Therese Desqueyroux, with its delicate arpeggios, shows the debt that several more currently active composers like Jan A.P. Kaczmarek owe their own stylistic development. The disc also serves as an overview of some of the common scoring techniques from other French cinema composers (including Delerue), providing a window into the period. The music ranges from pure thematic writing to the experimental, comedy (with Les Drageurs owing a little something to Shostakovich), dramatic, ethnic (L'Oiseus de Paradis), rock (Les Animaux), and a variety of jazz samples from piano combos to big band (Les Drageurs) -- all with a decidedly French feel. There is a lot of excellent music to discover here, but most fascinating of all is hearing Jarre's themes first emerge in each score. They seemingly rise up out of nowhere, catching you off guard before quickly captivating you.

This is music for a new generation to discover, or for fans to rediscover. If you can track down this fine sounding album, it's well worth the effort.     -- Steven A. Kennedy

The Foxes of Harrow *** 1/2


Screen Archives Entertainment SAE-CRS-012

26 tracks - 53:44

Screen Archives' latest album is, I believe, the first ever disc devoted entirely to the work of David Buttolph, who has previously only had a track here and a suite there on a couple of past CDs. He is unfortunately one of those composers who will always remain relatively obscure compared with his contemporaries like Alfred Newman and Max Steiner. The Foxes of Harrow proves to be a fine score, ranking amongst the solid dramatic works of said contemporaries.

This is a strong score, with a couple of primary themes and few secondary themes interlaced throughout. Even though Rex Harrison's Stephen Fox is more or less a rogue and a brigand (what in today's terms we would call an abusive spouse and a racist) he is still essentially the hero of the film, and gets an appropriately adventurous main theme, almost swashbuckling in nature, for his many mishaps and adventures. The varied score includes a short but exciting scherzo, "Riding After Lily." "My Son No Slave" continues the intensity as one of Foxes' slaves runs to the river to drown herself and her newborn child, thus gaining freedom.

A ball sequence utilizes several Viennese-styled waltzes as source cues, deftly conducted by Alfred Newman. Violent percussion occasionally interrupts the idyllic proceedings, representing the Voodoo religion of the slaves living on the Harrow estate, erupting into full Voodoo ceremonial chant in "Erzilee." There are also a couple of Creole spirituals sung by the slaves, and we are even treated to a song sung by Maureen O'Hara, who has an impressive voice that would shame many of today's actress-singers.

This is a typically well-produced release from Screen Archives, recommended for fans of golden age scores. Here's hoping we see more David Buttolph releases in the future.     -- Darren MacDonald

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