Even though it relies heavily on film scorer John Barry's by-now formulaic (if no less effective) methodology of fusing his distinctively luxuriant string arrangements with the music of whatever time or locale the score sets out to evoke (in this case, largely the Hollywood of the 1910s and '20s), the composer triumphed once again, garnering his second Academy Award nomination of the 1990s. Perhaps because of the years he spent dues-paying with English pop and jazz combos, Barry gets inside this period jazz and ragtime with both enthusiasm and, more importantly, taste, recalling similar effective efforts on Francis Coppola's The Cotton Club.
A superbly atmospheric John Barry score effectively conveyed the mood of swinging London for this 1965 film by Richard Lester. Usually playing around with variations of the haunting main theme, Barry used vivacious horns, melancholic strings, and above all a groovy jazz organ (played by Alan Haven). A couple of the tracks don't work well in isolation: the vaudevillian "Something's Up!," and the vocal version of the main theme (not used in the film) by mediocre singer Johnny De Little. But overall, it's got a consistently captivating groove, rating as one of Barry's best scores.
You may remember a film from the early 1970s called Henry VIII & his Six Wives, starring Keith Mitchell, Donald Pleasance, and Charlotte Rampling; it was notable for its score, which not only featured authentic music of the period (nearly unheard-of at the time), but also was, according to David Munrow, “the first historical film in which the music has been scored entirely for historical instruments.” Munrow also added a few numbers of his own to satisfy the needs of the movie, patterned after 16th-century style and form. Although these days such attention to authenticity is common, even expected, Munrow was one of the pioneers in bringing musicological research and the more immediate practicalities of really old, original instruments and stylistic practice to the level of popular culture. Of course, also in these early days was planted the impression that period instruments must necessarily be somewhat clunky and (to varying degrees) not quite ideally in tune–and in some cases, just plain annoyingly squawky and prone to obnoxious buzzing noises. While this generally fine issue from Testament offers many reminders of those times, when musicians were still finding their way in unfamiliar territory (and often using very user-unfriendly instruments), this release will prove mostly a delight for early music fans–and will be a real treat for those who own the original LPs from which these tracks were drawn.
The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), founded in 1904, is the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. It was set up by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra because of a new rule requiring players to give the orchestra their exclusive services. The LSO itself later introduced a similar rule for its members. From the outset, the LSO was organised on co-operative lines, with all players sharing the profits at the end of each season. This practice continued for the orchestra's first four decades.