Philippe Quint

Chaplin's Smile: Song Arrangements for Violin & Piano

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Is there another major movie star who composed scores for his or her own films? This aspect of Charlie Chaplin's work is often underestimated, with Smile first appearing in instrumental form in the 1936 film Modern Times and later recorded with lyrics by Nat King Cole and many other artists, being the example of his work that invariably comes to mind when Chaplin's work as a composer is mentioned. Yet a few hours' acquaintance with Chaplin's films will demonstrate the degree to which music is woven into their flow, intensifying the romantic scenes against which the slapstick plays out. Chaplin was not a trained musician; he improvised these pieces at the piano, having them notated by others. An advantage of hearing them in a group is that you get an insight into his creative process: sample Mandolin Serenade to hear how the improvisatory process shows up in the music. That piece, from 1957, was from Chaplin's A King in New York, and some of the pieces are even later (from the 1967 comedy A Countess from Hong Kong); his style evolves somewhat but does not fundamentally shift, and this is also interesting. Russian-American violinist Philippe Quint and pianist Marta Aznavoorian, assisted in a couple of cases by none other than Joshua Bell, catch the classic sentimental tone perfectly, and the whole album can be enjoyed on several different levels, from silent movie nostalgia to unique insight into Chaplin as a creative figure.

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