Album Remarks & Appraisals:
John Huston’s 1956 film of the epic novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a genuine grand movie adventure. Sharing Huston’s passion for the sea, Sainton produced one of the most vibrant “sea scores” ever written, from the shimmering, rhapsodic depictions of the becalmed ocean to the thrilling and earth-shaking motif of the whale. Including music which was omitted from the soundtrack, this recording was widely acclaimed on its original release. Gramophone considered the score to be “music of richly stocked imagination and uncommonly fertile resource”, and there was also praise from ClassicsToday.com: “Sainton’s music belongs squarely in the tradition of contemporaries such as Finzi, Howells, and Grace Williams, and anyone who enjoys these composers will find his music equally appealing ”
American Record Guide, March/April 2016
Having seen the movie many times, I never paid attention to the music; it was usually hidden behind dialog or other sounds, the sound level was reduced to emphasize other elements of the film. This complete recording brings the music to the forefront in excellent sound and is beautifully played by the Moscow Symphony. The addition of the cut music brings cohesiveness to the score, allowing for a better assessment of the music.
Liner Note Authors: Philip Sainton; Barbara Clark; Ann Whitaker; Bill Whitaker ; John Morgan .
Recording information: Mosfilm Studio, Moscow (04/1997).
Photographer: Grant Stromberg.
The music for John Huston's 1956 movie Moby Dick, by Philip Sainton (1891-1967), is one of history's great lost film scores, and one needn't be a fan of Huston's movie to enjoy Sainton's music. Previously only available on a long out-of-print LP, in a crude monaural release from RCA marred by lots of artificial reverb, the score never got the treatment it was due as music until now. Sainton's score is one of the finest pieces of music ever written about and inspired by the sea -- his language is melodic and highly appealing, and his use of the orchestra to describe the moods and actions of his characters, the men, the ship, the whale, and the sea, is rich with well-developed, attractive, and exciting passages. In spirit, he's closer to, say, Ralph Vaughan Williams (Sinfonia Antartica) and Sir Arnold Bax than to Claude Debussy, and there's not a trace of Hollywood convention here, which seems to be what Huston had in mind -- this music could stand free, like Frank Bridge's suite The Sea. The playing is precise and spirited, and it would be difficult to imagine a finer performance; rather wisely, the producers have avoided the use of some of the more literal sound effects that marred the original recording. ~ Bruce Eder
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