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CD Review

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Film Music, Volume 1

  • Suite from the Music for the Film "Scott of the Antarctic"
  • Coastal Command Suite
  • The People's Land
Merryn Gamba, soprano
Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
Chandos Movies CHAN10007 79m DDD
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Already familiar with Vaughan William's fine scores for "Scott of the Antarctic" and "Coastal Command", I approached this disc with keen and deep anticipation. I was definitely not disappointed as Rumon Gamba confirms his status as one of those conductors who manages to bring a hotchpotch symphonic score to life. "Scott of the Antarctic" has various opportunities for beauty especially in the opening and closing music and the haunting parts that describe the blizzards with so much intensity. Stephen Hogger has managed to piece together a 41-minute symphonic suite that should now be the definitive version of this score as many of the resurrected pieces here are première recordings. As already stated, Gamba conducts with unfettered intensity and the choral contributions are also highly atmospheric.

My own particular favourite in the RVW sector is the score for "Coastal Command" as I used much of the music in a version for brass symphonic band in a radio programme entitled "Battle over Malta". I could not wish for a more genially conceived version here as Gamba definitely feels the pulse of this patriotic tub-thumper that describes the Sunderland and Hudson flying boats which were so avidly recreated in the war comics I used to read in my youth. The Finale is particularly moving and poignant and I would stake my claim to say that this is one of the finest scores by Vaughan Williams, especially in his contributions to the screen at least.

Gamba rounds off with "The People's Land", a folksong interjected lyrical traversal of the beauty of the English natural countryside. This is also quite winningly done and the whole enterprise is one that should definitely be top of the shopping list for any avid film music lover.

Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech