Hollywood Soundstage - Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5294
Works by Korngold, Raksin, Stothart, Loewe, Steiner, Waxman, Newman
Sinfonia of London
John Wilson (conductor)
Sinfonia of London and John Wilson present an album that celebrates the golden age of Hollywood.
Sinfonia of London rose to fame in the 1950s as the leading recording orchestra of the day, appearing in the musical credits of more than 300 films, including the 1958 soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann for Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It was reformed by John Wilson in 2018, initially as a recording orchestra, and is made up of some of Europe’s finest orchestral musicians. Their recording of Korngold’s Symphony in F sharp won the orchestral award of the magazine BBC Music and drew critical acclaim worldwide.
The Overture from The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, which opens this latest programme, is an excellent demonstration of Korngold’s rich, chromatic soundworld, one that set the blueprint for the Hollywood sound for countless composers who followed.
Although the songs were written by Harold Arlen, it was Herbert Stothart’s score for The Wizard of Oz that won the Oscar, and it is his suite from the movie that features here. There are also Suites from Max Steiner’s Now, Voyager and Franz Waxman’s Rebecca (here receiving its première recording). Shorter pieces by David Raksin, Frederick Loewe, Johnny Mandel, and Alfred Newman complete this rewarding programme.
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Review by Graham Williams - October 28, 2022
The phenomenal success of the burgeoning number of releases from John Wilson and the Sinfonia of London continues unabated with this spectacular and sumptuously recorded SACD featuring some of the finest music written for the silver screen. Wilson re-established the Sinfonia of London, a body comprising some of the finest musicians from the UK and Europe, in 2018 and their recordings for Chandos in hi-rez sound have garnered considerable praise in the musical press.
The first Sinfonia of London’s release was of Korngold’s rarely performed Symphony in F Sharp so it is fitting that ‘Hollywood Soundstage ‘ begins with the overture from one of the finest of the composer’s film scores ‘The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex’ (1939). Nothing on this disc better illustrates the outstanding quality of the orchestral playing – a combination of discipline, spontaneity and technical security. Needless to say the opulent sound quality achieved by the Chandos recording team in what now seems to be their acoustically favourite venue – the Church of S. Augustine in Kilburn, London – is all one could wish for.
Korngold’s fellow emigree composers, Max Steiner and Franz Waxman, are represented respectively by Suites from ‘Now, Voyager’ (1942) and ‘Rebecca’ (1940). The latter is listed as a premiere recording as Wilson has returned to the original orchestration of the film rather than use the one featured on the Charles Gerhardt Classic Film Scores SACD Waxman: Classic Film Scores - Gerhardt.
A particularly entertaining item is Herbert Stothart’s scintillating Suite from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) that makes use of the less familiar music in the film. Interestingly Stothart would go on to win the Academy Award for his work on the soundtrack, beating Max Steiner, who was nominated for his epic score to ‘Gone with the Wind’ in the same year. Wilson and his players really go to town in this fast paced potpourri with playing that is both seductively sensuous and crisply ebullient.
The shorter items on the disc from notable scores by David Raksin, Frederick Loewe, Johnny Mandel and Alfred Newman are equally enjoyable and feature idiomatic solos from two of the Sinfonia’s principals (Andy Wood – trombone in the Theme from ‘Laura’ and Michael Lovatt – trumpet in the Main Title from ‘The Sandpiper’).The splendidly informative liner note from David Benedict definitely add to the enjoyment of this SACD.
This is release that is certain to be relished by both aficionados of Hollywood film scores and admirers of John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London’s exceptional musicianship.
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