At last, it is finally on CD, in gorgeous digital stereo, and beautifully performed--and complete. Perhaps even hypercomplete.
This is the first stereo recording of Sir Arnold Bax's score for the classic David Lean 1948 film version of Charles Dickens's immortal novel, "Oliver Twist". This recording includes not only the complete score, but some pieces that were wisely deleted before the film's release. Their deletion is no loss to the film; the inclusion of these pieces would have made otherwise powerful scenes seem excessively melodramatic. An example is the second cue on the CD--a piece meant to underscore the movie's opening scene, in which Oliver's pregnant mother struggles toward the workhouse amid labor pains and a violent thunderstorm. As now seen on film, the sequence plays with virtually no music, and no dialogue, just crashing thunder and lightning, and it is a testament to David Lean's intelligence as a director that he chose to leave it that way rather than musically underscore it.
For the rest, the music is beautifully and evocatively played, and conductor Rumon Gamba wisely does not alter any of it by changing its tempo, making the score sound excessively soupy, or diminishing the somber mood of any of it. There are several new digital recordings of old film scores around in which the music simply does not sound the way it does in the film, and I don't mean pure sound quality. Some conductors simply cannot resist imposing their own "interpretation" on the music, but Rumon Gamba is thankfully not one of them.
The "Oliver Twist" music plays for exactly an hour, counting all the formerly omitted pieces as well as the two versions of the final cue (the first is the cue as played in the film; the second is the cue as Bax originally composed it). The sound is breathtaking, and allows us to finally hear Bax's orchestrations in lush stereo detail.
The filler on the disc is from the music Bax composed for the short "Malta G.C.". It is pleasant, but not nearly as impressive as the "Oliver Twist" score.
Rush to get this one. Bax's "Oliver Twist" is one of the finest scores ever written for a film version of a novel.