The great rolling theme of The 49th Parallel is a fine vantage point from which to survey VW's music for the movies. Just the shape of the melody is somehow inseparable from that long panning shot over the Canadian Rockies. Equally, it stands alone, it stands tall. As does much of this music. "The parting of the lovers" from Story of a Flemish Farm is a classic VW pastorale, replete with soaring solo strings; "Dawn Patrol" from Coastal Command is another self-contained miniature, more in the proudly reassuring, morale-boosting, Brits-are-best mode.
Clearly, none of this material was conceived piecemeal like so much made- to-measure mood music (no musical non-sequiturs here), but rather fashioned, in the spirit of each movie, to intensify whole scenes and sequences, just as whole stretches of VW's concert works open up magic casements on the imagination. That's the way, the only way, VW could work. Directors cut their films around his scores. Imagine that, John Williams. Excellent performance values.
Vorisek: Piano Sonata
The Bohemian-born composer Jan Vaclav Vorisek was born in the year Mozart died and lived just 34 years. He was well up on the new music of his day - Beethoven is a strong presence in the Sonata. There are also things that sound like Schubert, especially the six Impromptus, but here the influence seems to have been the other way round - Schubert knew Vorisek, liked the Impromputs and pinched the idea.
No one is seriously suggesting that Vorisek is on a par with any of these other imposing names, but at its best the music here rises well above early 19th-century Viennese norms. The Sonata gets better as it goes along: the finale owes plenty to Beethoven, but it's still exciting, characterful stuff, while the Impromptus have a flavour of their own.The 1990 Leeds Piano Competition-winner Artur Pizarro plays them with elegance and devotion - the tone seems to be judged just right, as do the recordings.