Friday, November 17, 2017

Two Powerful Composers, and the Two Movies Which Best Define Them...

How many of us remember Frank Churchill? Or William Walton?
How about the tune "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"
A tune that palpably 'picked up' the spirits of a nation beset by the Great Depression.
A tune said to be the favorite pop tune of one Adolf Hitler, who chose the name 'Wolf '  to be used to address him by those in his hierarchy.
And how about "Heigh -Ho, Heigh - Ho", sung by the Seven Dwarfs in Disney's first full-length classic in animation?
Frank Churchill joined the Disney group early in its  formative  period, and became the core power of a new form of popular music for the movies. He wrote the score for "Snow White," followed by such Disney masterpieces as "Dumbo" and "Bambi."
His music became known throughout the world, and his wonderful melodies captivated such classical performers as the American pianist Earl Wild, known as one of the reigning pianists of his time.
Wild wrote a transcription of the melodies of "Snow White," titled "Reminiscences of Snow White,"  a transcription written in the typical post - Lisztian style of the late 19th century. Wild himself made a recording of it, which you will find most captivating, especially for those of you who grew up with Disney's films as a companion. What a truly singular  pianist Earl Wild was!
How tragic - into his 41st year, Churchill took his own life, a victim of alcoholism and depression. His music has outdistanced his name...
And William Walton?  In actuality, although his name is relatively obscured in our day, this man was one of the more significant English composers of the last century. Why not listen to one of his most important works, a full-fledged Oratorio titled "Belshazzar's Feast" -  out of the Book of Daniel recounting the fear of the King Belshazzar, when that handwriting on the wall (mene, mene, Tekel Upharsin) appeared, proclaiming that "You are weighed in the balance, and found wanting."
The music is very powerful in its representation of human fear at its highest level, and the writing for chorus and orchestra  rings in its brilliance, in terms of imagery.
At any rate, a film produced in 1942 in England, titled  "The First of the Few," the title of which became "Spitfire" when shown in America, dealt with the story of R. J. Mitchell, the man who designed the air fighter called Spitfire, which dealt Hitler's attempt to invade England a fatal blow.
Walton was assigned the role as  composer for this film. The item to take note of in his  score is a Prelude and Fugue, which turns out to be a vivid revival of the Elgar 'Pomp and Circumstance'  era which preceded Walton. The prelude represents, in the film, the oncoming resilience of the British against the Nazi threat, and the Fugue artfully typifies the busy  coalescing period of the British industry as it put this vaunted airplane together and aided in the killing off of Hitler's plan to invade England early in the conflict.
Listen to these two powerful composers, and enjoy!



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