The Film Music Of Brian Easdale

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Also featuring the BBC National Chorus of Wales is several selections.

Brian Easdale was a prolific composer whose extensive output covered most genres, from orchestral pieces, concertos, and choral works, including a mass for the new Coventry Cathedral, to chamber compositions. However Easdale is today most well-known for his film scores, particularly The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus

Part of Chandos’ film music series with Rumon Gamba, the works on this release showcase Easdale’s career in film with music from, among others, The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, and The Battle of the River Plate.

In his youth, Easdale attended the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with such prominent figures as Cecil Armstrong Gibbs and Gordon Jacob, conducting with Malcolm Sargent, and organ with Arnold Goldsborough. As a jobbing musician he undertook arranging projects, working most notably on such scores by Benjamin Britten as the Soirées musicales and the Piano Concerto. He also orchestrated Britten’s On the Frontier for a production at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge in 1939, before spending much of the war in Ceylon and India working on documentaries for their governments’ film units. Returning to Britain in 1946, he was invited by the masterful film making team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, also known as The Archers, to write an exotic dance for Jean Simmons to perform in their forthcoming film, Black Narcissus, and ended up composing the whole score. The film is a veritable masterpiece of melodrama with highly dramatic music to match.

The involvement of Easdale in Black Narcissus effectively launched his career in film music and led him to other projects, most notably The Red Shoes (1948) for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score. This is one of the most iconoclastic films in the Pantheon of British Cinema. Given a highly atmospheric score, the film concerns a traveling ballet company and tells the story of a young hopeful ballerina, catapulted into stardom and wrestling with her love for a composer and the pull of her career. In the end it becomes too much of a fight and while on tour with the company in Monte Carlo, she leaps to her death.

The Battle of the River Plate (1956) is also worth a separate mention. A semi-documentary account of the trapping of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo harbour, and her subsequent scuttling, the film was commercially very successful. The two movements recorded here are the Prelude (heard over the main titles and opening scene with narration) and a March, the concert version of which was created by Easdale after the film’s release.

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHAN 10636

  • UPC: 095115163627

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: Brian Easdale

  • Conductor: Rumon Gamba

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC National Orchestra of Wales

  • Performer: Cynthia Millar