Sir William Walton's Film Music, Vol. 4

Neville Marriner

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Sir William Walton's Film Music, Vol. 4 Review

by Stephen Eddins

This volume of Chandos' series of Walton's Music from the Olivier films includes Richard III: A Shakespearean Scenario and Major Barbara: a Shavian Sequence, concert arrangements by Christopher Palmer, as well an excerpt of incidental music from John Gielgud's 1941 stage production of Macbeth. These particular excerpts don't reveal Walton at his most consistent or his most profound, but they do illustrate his skill at writing colorful, evocative music with a strong sense of drama. Richard III is such a dark play and, heard out of context, Walton's music doesn't seem to have the gravitas to match its malignant tone. Particularly, his underscoring of Richard's famous monologue, "Now is the winter of our discontent," seems entirely too benevolent. Other sections of the score, which are not directly connected to narration, taken on their own terms are full of musical inventiveness and vivid orchestration. He makes particularly effective use of the harpsichord and organ in his conjuring of earlier times. Walton's faux-ancient allusions are more Baroque than Renaissance, but while they may not bear close inspection for period accuracy, they are dramatically apt and ingeniously integrated into the post-Romantic fabric of the score. His grasp of creating vast sweeping musical gestures of cinematic scope is ideally suited to the filmmaking aesthetics of the period and successfully generates the pulse-quickening energy the directors strove for. Walton's music for Major Barbara, while more modest in scope, is entirely effective -- charming and warmly expressive. Roger Norrington conducts the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in performances of great energy and complete conviction, and Chandos' sound is warm and spacious.

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