I came to Benjamin Frankel's film music differently than most. Apparently he has been well-known for more than fifty years for his film music and although I'm sure I've heard some of his film scores in the process of seeing some of the films for which they were written (A Kid for Two Farthings, The Man in the White Suit, The Night of the Iguana) he was first known to me from the marvelous series of recordings on the cpo label -- his symphonies and string quartets. Thus, I was glad to get this CD and hear what he had done in the film realm. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the music here is every bit as good, although clearly cinematic, as the abstract works. Further, the principal work here -- the complete score for 'Curse of the Werewolf' -- is reportedly the first serial-method film score ever written. It is interesting, isn't it, that avant garde music is so much easier to assilimate when accompanying films than in the concert hall. It certainly helps when there are visual images and plot development to guide us into the music. I've never seen 'Curse of the Werewolf' but I'm told that it is a classic horror movie that has attained cult status. Certainly there is much here that would appropriately accompany eerie scenes, but there is also a good deal of music that is downright charming -- and I find myself wondering whether indeed those bits are serial; they don't sound it to me, but then I've not seen scores so what do I know? I was particularly struck by the bits called 'The Beggar' and 'Pastoral', and my flesh crawled at 'Leon Confronts the Horror.' A cracking good score played marvelously by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Carl Davis, himself a noted film music composer (The French Lieutenant's Woman, Topsy-Turvy).
Rounding out the CD is the love theme from The Net, a suite from So Long at the Fair (with its charming section called 'Carriage and Pair') and eleven bits from the Alec Guinness film, The Prisoner.
If I close my eyes and simply listen, without knowing the names of the various sections, I hear the same first-class composer that I've become familiar with through his symphonies and string quartets. Why he isn't better known is a mystery to me. Like Korngold and Rosza and others, he would possibly be better known as a concert music composer if he had never written for films, but then we wouldn't have had these wonderful scores, would we?