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The Film Music Of Doreen Carwithen


Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7266   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CARWITHEN Men of Sherwood Forest: Overture. Boys in Brown: Suite. To the Public Danger: Prelude and Apotheosis. East Anglian Holiday. Mantrap: Suite. Three Cases of Murder: Suite. Travel Royal: Suite Gavin Sutherland, cond; BBC Concert O Read more DUTTON CDLX 7266 (61:31)


Doreen Carwithen (1922–2003), like many of her English contemporaries (and after studying with William Alwyn, who would much later become her husband), learned her craft as a composer by turning to film music under the sponsorship of ubiquitous—in this field—conductor Muir Mathieson, not only for the experience but also for reasons of livelihood. But, as a 1990s Chandos release of her concert music (Concerto for Piano and Strings, Bishop Rock Overture and Sussex Suite ), as well as two string quartets (also once available on disc) made clear, she had talent and aspirations far beyond the often ingratiating but fundamentally workmanlike scores on this release.


Of course, there’s no denying that editor-arranger Philip Lane has done yeoman service working probably with disordered sketches, cue sheets, and disconnected fragments and preserving this otherwise irretrievable material by transforming it into performable and listenable concert form. The program opens with a typically English cinematic flourish with the Men of Sherwood Forest Overture of 1954, but then the momentum bogs down somewhat with two early scores of 1948 ( Boys in Brown) and1949 (To the Public Danger), in which Carwithen is clearly getting her feet wet. Both the former (about a group of incarcerated juvenile delinquents) and the latter (a documentary about the dangers of drunken driving) are short on interesting ideas or developmental treatments.


But from this point on, with excerpts from various films of the early 1950s, Carwithen hits the ground running in full stride. The single-movement, quarter-hour East Anglian Holiday (another travelogue) is full of incisively rustic, spirited themes in a quasi-folk style, while the Travel Royal Suite (yet another promotional short) has a formal, ceremonial, yet unmistakably Anglican complexion. Between these two, the Mantrap Suite (about an escaped mental asylum inmate trying to clear his name) has very compelling passages executed with sustained tension and narrative continuity. Finally, the Three Cases of Murder Suite, composed of three droll cat-and-mouse vignettes, contains some of the most immediately appealing music here, including a waltz and gavotte that qualify as first-rate light music.


The prolific and indefatigable Gavin Sutherland conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra with his customary knowing and sympathetic efficiency, and Dutton’s top-grade acoustics are what we have come to expect from this source.


As a footnote: Older American collectors may well recall an ancient MGM LP titled A George K. Arthur Package . Arthur was a former music-hall entertainer who had become a noted producer and distributor of short theatrical films. Among the three then-well-known films represented on this soundtrack collection was a score for The Stranger Left No Card , starring that master of the sinister, Alan Badel, by one Doren Carwithen. Unfortunately her rather tuneful music was asked to share the spotlight with occasional references to Hugo Alfvén’s then-inescapable “Swedish Rhapsody” theme from Midsummer Vigil , which had also just been turned into an instrumental pop hit by Percy Faith. Anyhow, just an aging collector reminiscing and free-associating…


FANFARE: Paul A. Snook


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Doreen Carwithen has two fine CDs on Chandos presenting her chamber works (CHAN9596) and the concert orchestral music (CHAN9524).

This disc is more than ably annotated by Alwyn authority Andrew Knowles and his notes run to ten pages - English only. It furnishes collectors with just over an hour's slice of Carwithen's film music. She was one of the host of composers who stoked the musical boilers of the British film industry in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.

The Sherwood Forest overture is fluently regal with pastoral interludes. The music for the Boys in Brown is tense and bright-eyed yet not overly ‘psychological’. To the Public Danger is a short-angst ridden piece of surging panic. It has an athleticism that shouts Constant Lambert. East Anglian Holiday was a score written for British Transport Films. It is, as expected, a sighingly pastoral piece with many homely touches including church bells. It is, as Knowles writes, a continuous pastoral tone-poem running to approaching 16 minutes. The writing is undemandingly smooth in an idiom not far removed from Vaughan Williams In the Fen Country or Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 or Butterworth in the English Idylls.

With the Mantrap suite we return to the pressurised psychological style. It is associated with a plot that entails an allegedly insane murderer who escapes from his asylum with a view to proving his innocence. There is some countryside poesy coming as remission from all this angst. That said, jaggedly torturous emotions - usually voiced by the trumpets - are never that far distant. Three Cases of Murder was a 1953 film which tells three murder stories one after the other. The music tracks through a big ‘main titles’ violin theme seguing into rage and then tension. The last movement Reception at the Connemaras put me in mind of the stately ball room music by Bernard Herrmann for The Magnificent Ambersons except that this is specifically in the English country house aristocratic manner. The last score represented is the single-tracked Travel Royal suite. This nine minute continuous piece is masterfully broad. It was written for BOAC and radiates 1950s confidence. The sumptuous score blends in Oranges and Lemons, Greensleeves and John Peel for this travelogue.

There's some really fine music here, low on challenge but high on confidence or 1950s super-complacency.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

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Works on This Recording

1.
The Men of Sherwood Forest: Overture by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954 
2.
Boys in Brown: Suite by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949 
3.
To the Public: Prelude and Apotheosis by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948 
4.
East Anglian Holiday by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954 
5.
Mantrap: Suite by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953 
6.
Three Cases of Murder: Suite by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953 
7.
Travel Royal: Suite by Doreen Carwithen
Conductor:  Gavin Sutherland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952 

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