British Film Music, Vol. 1The Red Shoes: Music from the films of Michael Powell & Emeric PressburgerRed Shoe & Other British Film Scores
Back in the early 1990s, I wrote a letter to Brian Couzens at Chandos pleading for a recording of the complete score of The Red Shoes. This Academy Award-winner by Brian Easdale had so much wonderful music, I argued, that it deserved more respect and attention. Up to this time (so I thought), the only stereo version of just the ballet was the one conducted by Golschmann, which appeared on Columbia (later, Odyssey). It was slightly cut, there was no prelude and a theremin had been substituted for the ondes martenot. Couzens harrumphed the very idea and spoke vaguely about possibly releasing the original recording conducted by Beecham (the ballet, that is; Easdale conducted the rest of the score). In the early 2000s, someone on chandos.net claimed that they were working an Easdale project but were having trouble obtaining the scores from the estate.
Of course, the entire score was copied directly from a print and released on a Spanish label with no remastering and less than ideal sound. In 1992, Silva America released a fine recording of the same clipped ballet score (as in the Golschmann), but this time using an ondes martenot, conducted by Kenneth Alwyn with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Pearl released, in 2000, its first volume of British film music which included a 1948 recording of both the prelude and the ballet conducted by Muir Mathieson, which originally appeared on Columbia 78s. Flutes were substituted for the ondes martenot. A CD issued by the Powell-Pressburger website contains the same recordings, perhaps a tad better remastered, plus some other tidbits from P&P scores poorly transferred.
Now we have the new, lush Chandos recording. The good news: the recording is spectacular, the ballet is complete, and the ondes martenot has never sounded more seductive and mysterious. The bad news: the prelude was not included, nor is any more of The Red Shoes' remarkable score. Conductor Gamba is to be commended for pacing the ballet music close to Beecham. Details are revealed that display Easdale's flair for orchestration. We get gorgeous, important excerpts from Black Narcissus and Gone to Earth. Complaining seems futile. This CD is a must. We can only hope for a Volume 2 with the Small Back Room nightmare scene and more from The Red Shoes.