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CD Review

Richard Addinsell

Film Music

  • Suite "Fire over England"
  • Prelude "South Riding"
  • Suite "Scrooge"
  • Prelude & Waltz Theme "Blithe Spirit"
  • Prelude "Gaslight"
  • Miniature Overture "Encore"
  • March "WRNS"
  • Rhapsody "Southern"
  • Suite "The Passionate Friends":
  • Parisienne 1885
  • March & Waltz "The Waltz of the Toreadors"
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Kenneth Alwyn
Academy Sound & Vision CDWHL2115 DDD 67:56
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Everybody knows Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, or if they don't, they should. It was written for a film called Suicide Squadron (a.k.a. Dangerous Moonlight), and its Rachmaninoff-like romanticism has endeared it to pops concert-goers for almost 60 years.

Perhaps disappointingly, the Warsaw Concerto is not on this new AS&V disc. However, that music is not really typical of Addinsell, and the CD reviewed here is an excellent opportunity to get to know some of Addinsell's other work for the screen and stage. It will not be entirely new to many listeners; Addinsell scored the 1951 film version of a Christmas Carol - the one with Alastair Sim as Scrooge - and millions of people must see (and hear) that each December.

Addinsell was born in Oxford in 1904, and over his long career he scored about 50 films, starting with The Amateur Gentleman in 1936 and ending with Life At The Top in 1965. (He died in 1977.) He also wrote songs and incidental music for theatre works, and a few examples of his music in this genre are included here.

The very best of English light classical music can be heard in Addinsell's music. He was part of the same tradition that Eric Coates and Ivor Novello so gracefully inhabited. In fact, much of the music on this CD sounds more like ballet music than film music. Moods shift mercurially between light flirtation and tender romance, and between scandalous doings and serious matters - nevertheless, the music holds together. Part of the credit must go to the arrangers (Philip Lane prominent among them) who have made sure that each selection, be it a snapshot or a suite, works well without the moving images it was originally meant to accompany. To my mind, this is the best way to present film music, although I know of many who will not agree.

Blithe Spirit is a good example of Addinsell's considerable skills; here it is represented by a Prélude and a Waltz. The former, a little raucous but never rude, depicts the bicycle-riding medium who catalyzes the film's action. The latter, elegant and more than a little wistful, accompanies the paranormal visitations of a dead wife. Addinsell's more serious side is demonstrated by the Prélude to Gaslight - a depiction of murder and psychological vulnerability. (This is not the Charles Boyer version from 1944 but a British-made version from 1939.)

Alwyn is a veteran conductor with a true feel for this music, and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia plays it with dedication. If you like this (and I bet you will), Alwyn recorded another Addinsell collection (with the BBC Concert Orchestra) for the Marco Polo label (8.223732).

Copyright © 1999, Raymond Tuttle