CD: David Raksin Conducts His Great Film Scores (1976)

April 4, 2011 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: RCA Red Seal/ Released: March 1, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: 10 tracks / (45:45)


Special Notes: n/a.


Composer: David Raksin




Produced by George Korngold and Charles Gerhardt (who also conducted each album in the series), the David Raksin entry offers the same polished, flawless orchestrations that dominate each album in RCA’s Classic Film Score series, and this 1976 LP marked the first time that, as with many of the represented composers, a somewhat forgotten musical artisan was elevated back into the limelight.

Raksin’s all-time classic theme was and remains Laura (1944), so it’s unsurprising it headlines the album, although more attention is given to The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Forever Amber (1947).

Laura’s been recorded a lot (it became an instant jazz standard because of its steeped sense of longing), but the bulk of Raksin’s score – which is brief at around 27 mins. – tends to repeat the theme quite heavily, whereas the other scores offer additional material, in terms of secondary themes and more diverse variations.

Raksin’s writing is identifiable by its smoothness, melodic beauty, and sharp orchestrations. His style functioned well in historical epics and contemporary drama, and while this sampling focuses on more sweeping and lush theme arrangements, he was more than capable of writing gloomy, minimalist material for noir dramas and thrillers (such as 1948’s Force of Evil).

Forever Amber has Raksin switching to regal classic mode (such as “The King’s Mistress”), even though one catches small bits of Americana in the “Main Title.” “The Great Fire” offers a darker shading of the film’s main theme, staring with dark bass clouds, and the melody is broken down into its main anchor notes as played by low brass. A midsection offers a slight respite with warmer colours, but the full orchestra eventually steps back for a grim denouement. Although a relatively compact suite, it illustrates Raksin’s knack for layering and intertwining lovely brass and plaintive strings.

The album then moves from the brooding tragedy of Amber’s finale to The Bad and the Beautiful which is all melodrama and gushing romance, but also hints at the inherent tragic characters that dwell in the film story, and the real-life dramas that sometimes affect the filmmaking process. The film’s sweeping melody doesn’t develop, but unfurls into segments that reflect the characters’ troubled marriages, ego conflicts, and the sense of losing power and dominion of a work, a career, and a lover, as creative personalities waft between high arty excitement, ego, and financially crushing debacles.

Running just over 45 mins., it’s a perfectly conceived album that undeniably pricks further interest in Raksin’s music. Each of the represented scores have subsequently appeared in near-complete form as originals score albums, but for neophytes this remains the most accessible and dynamic intro to Raksin’s work (far exceeding the two commercially oriented suite & theme compilations the composer produced in the late sixties for Mercury Records, featuring re-recorded material from Sylvia, Will Penny, and Too Late Blues).



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

DVD / Film:  Bad and the Beautiful, The (1952) — Laura (1944)


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography — RCA Classic Film Score Series Links: 123


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