Merchant Seamen – Suite
Anna Karenina – Suite [arr. Philip Lane]
Champagne Charlie – Come on Algernon; Polka [both orchestrated Philip Lane]
Nicholas Nickleby – Suite [arr. and orchestrated Ernest Irving]
The Halfway House – Suite [arr. Lane]
Mary Carewe (soprano)
Joyful Company of Singers (female voices)
BBC Concert Orchestra
Recorded 25 & 26 September 2007 in Watford Colosseum, Watford, London
Reviewed by: Michael Darvell
Reviewed: August 2008
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10459
Duration: 80 minutes
The delightful ‘Polka’ comes from the music Berners wrote for “Cinderella”, a pantomime produced at the Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, near Berners’s home in Faringdon. In fact the film of “Champagne Charlie” also includes music and lyrics by Una Bart, Noël Gay, Frank Eyton, Billy Mayerl, Alfred Lee and George Leybourne and the film’s Musical Director Ernest Irving.
Cavalcanti also directed “Nicholas Nickleby” (1947) which, appearing soon after the release of David Lean’s version of “Great Expectations”, suffered by comparison. The Suite of music from the film includes only about ten minutes of Berners’s score arranged at the time by Ernest Irving and it delineates various characters from the book in thumbnail sketches of Nicholas, Madeline, Kate, Ralph, Mr Squeers and Crummles.
“The Halfway House“ (1944) is a ghost story about a group of travellers who arrive at an inn in Wales with various problems. The inn is run by a landlord and his daughter (played by Mervyn Johns and his daughter Glynis) but in fact the inn had been bombed a year earlier and the two in residence are the ghosts. Little of Berners’s score was actually used in the finished film so Philip Lane has assembled and arranged it for this recording. It is full of contrasts and heaven alone knows why it wasn’t used on the soundtrack. The ‘Finale’ is a beautiful choral piece that evokes the otherworldly quality of the film every bit as much as ‘Neptune’ closes Holst’s The Planets.
Rumon Gamba and the BBC Concert Orchestra play this and all the other music on this recording with great gusto, relishing the musicality and musicianship of some fine but unnecessarily neglected British compositions.