Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Ernesto Halffter, one of Manuel de Falla's most admired disciples and a student of Stravinsky and Ravel, was a close associate of iconic figures such as Dali, Garcia Lorca, and Bunuel on the 20th century Iberian cultural scene. His magnificent score for Jacques Feyder's 1926 silent film, Carmen, is one of the great impressionistic Spanish masterpieces of its era. More somber and tragic than the music for Bizet's opera, Halftter's vivid panorama depicts the range and depth of the emotions encompassed within the Carmen story, a tale of thwarted love, passion, jealousy and violence set in the heart of Andalusia. This is not only the work's world premiere recording but also the first performance to realize the composer's musical intentions in full.
The oldest of these is Gottfried Huppertz fascinating score for Lang's Metropolis (1927) in a fully-restored and lovingly performed release on Capriccio... The music is filled with a fascinating blend of modernism, Romanticism, and is a great window on the styles of music popular at the time of the film's release. The release of a 1926 score for Carmen by Ernesto Halffter on Naxos is also a great example of early original film scoring. It was quite a surprise to get two such treasures in a single year.
Composed in 1926 by a young Ernesto Halffter 21 years, student de Falla, the score was played only once until François Porcile, musical director and council of François Truffaut, exhumes the score for a restored version of movie in 2011. Mark FitzGerald, praised in these columns for his restorations of Shostakovich's film music (including odna, Key ResMusica) continued the work of Porcile and done the hard work of putting the own partition. It had been hastily established by copyists from the perspective of the first at the Theatre Marivaux in Paris. Exhibitors, themselves, were interested not only in this partition too ambitious, and substituted what seemed to them good.
Comparisons aside, this is a lush, melodic, and enjoyable discovery. Like most complete film scores it occasionally hangs fire, but not often, and Halffter's orchestral mastery is the equal of the contemporaries he so admired. Among many memorable moments are a "Paso Doble Brilliante" and a relatively lengthy section titled "Real Fábrica de Tabacos." The recording supplies exhaustive notes on both the score and the making and subsequent history of the movie, plus an indexed synopsis of the plot. Feyder went back to Prosper Mérimée's original novella for inspiration, so the storyline differs markedly from that of Bizet's opera. For instance, Carmen is already married throughout the entire escapade (a substantial portion of the film concerns her one-eyed Gypsy husband, García), Don José deserts the army and joins the brigands, and the toreador is named Lucas, not Escamillo. Micaela makes no appearance.
American Record Guide
The Frankfurt players give a solid performance under Marc Fitz-Gerald, who also worked on the reconstruction of the score. The recording is an amalgam of studio sessions and a public showing of the film with Fitz-Gerald conducting. The transitions are nearly seamless, and the audio is natural and ungimmicked if a bit distant.
The Mérmimée story of the gypsy femme fatale engendered a remarkable number of Carmen films - mostly made during the silent era, when it was a big thing to do silent features based on various operas, strange as it seems. This score now takes its place as one of the great impressionistic Spanish masterpieces of the era, created and performed by an orchestra to accompany a 1926 production of Carmen by Jacques Feyder.
Ernesto Halffter, favorite disciple of Manuel de Falla composed the music for the film Carmen Jacques Feyder in 1926, rich Andalusian themes and presented here in full version for full orchestra. The epic style, decorated with impressionist colors, is beautifully rendered by conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald at the head of the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Frankfurt.
Liner Note Authors: Graham Wade; Ernesto Halffter; Mark Fitz-Gerald; Peter Bromley; Raoul Ploquin; Phil Powrie.
Recording information: Sendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt, Germany (11/24/2008-11/28/2008).
Editors: Mark Fitz-Gerald; Peter Bromley; Hans Bernhard Bätzing.
Photographers: Tim Wegner; Anna Meuer.
Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989) was only 21 when he was asked to write the score for Belgian-French director Jacques Feyder's silent film, Carmen. Apparently the music was heard only once, at the film's 1926 Paris premiere, and the composer considered it an ephemeral effort, but it emerges as an exceptionally attractive piece in this premiere recording with Mark Fitz-Gerald leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. What's most striking about it is the brash assurance and mastery of the young composer; the music sounds more like the work of a seasoned professional than that of a novice. The orchestration is brilliant and frequently innovative, and the musical logic is entirely convincing even at its most unpredictable. Although its emotional tone is often fraught with the darkness and brutality characteristic of Merimée's novella, there's an almost breezy exhilaration in the inventive profligacy of the score. It's very Spanish-sounding, in the tradition of de Falla, Halffter's teacher, but Stravinsky was also a strong influence, and the piece is rife with Hispanic-flavored Rite of Spring-isms. Shamelessly direct quotations from Debussy, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, and de Falla pepper the score, often in contexts dramatically foreign to the originals, to astonishing and entertaining effect. Fitz-Gerald and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony turn in a rambunctious and technically polished account of the score, and the sound is clean and vivid. Halffter's Carmen doesn't sound quite like anything else, but it should interest fans of post-Romantic and Stravinskian modernist orchestral music. ~ Stephen Eddins
Submitted on 04/15/11 by Allen Cohen
Submitted on 04/16/11 by howsweetthesound
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