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Charlie Chaplin - The Essential Film Music Collection

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Album Review

The Essential Film Music Collection is both a retrospective of Charlie Chaplin's own scores and those written by Carl Davis for earlier Mutual Film Corporation productions that Chaplin did not score because he couldn't secure the uncontested rights to them. Sometimes Chaplin's music conflicts a little with what's onscreen, particularly in cases where he scores a film that seemed very old to him, as he was attempting to supply music for it some 50 or 60 years after it was made. He didn't regard some of his own films very highly, or simply didn't remember well, and the result is that some of his music is anachronistic or merely uncertain in its purpose. Even in such cases, on its own terms Chaplin's film music is always excellent, rich with quotations of familiar tunes, ragtime figures, and echoes of the English music hall that was an important part of his artistic heritage. Many scores have been written for the Mutual films; The Rink is one of the most frequently scored films in history, and sadly, not always with success. Although he focuses more on onscreen action than was Chaplin's own usual practice, Davis is familiar with Chaplin's own preferences and practices, and produced scores for Chaplin's 12-film Mutual cycle that are in his style but fit the films to a T. Davis leads the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, but it doesn't appear to be the full band, as little more than a theater orchestra was usually called for in most cases, and the Wihan Quartet joins in for passages that clearly only require a chamber group. The Chaplin disc is bookended by two suites collecting various cues and entitled "The Reel Chaplin"; taken together they last about 20 minutes. The rest is made up of single cues or smaller suites, and the result is a very fast-moving collection that never drags. The Davis disc consists of suites from all 12 Mutual productions, averaging about seven minutes each. Like most original recordings from Silva Screen, the sound quality is great. If your taste runs mainly to serious, challenging, and exploratory music, this might not be for you — it is sweet, sentimental, and heady with the vernacular of a time gone by. For everyone else, few recordings released in 2006 will prove as easy to listen to and enjoy as The Essential Film Music Collection.


Born: 28 October 1936 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

New York-born and England-based composer/conductor Carl Davis has delivered ear-catching symphonic music for more than four decades. His dramatic scores have been performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theater while the pieces he composed for ballet have been utilized by the London Contemporary Theater Company, the Sadler Wells Royal Ballet, the Northern Ballet Theater, and the English National Ballet Company. A master at composing scores to accompany silent films, Davis has...
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