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Rich, colourful period music from Fielding combines light and dark in ingenious ways
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Studio Canal Image; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
The resurgence of interest in the late, great Jerry Fielding - as welcome as it is improbable - continued earlier in 2008 with Intrada's release of The Nightcomers, the second of his collaborations with British director Michael Winner - and while Fielding will forever be associated with Sam Peckinpah, I would contend that his scores for Winner represent not just his finest work, but indeed are of such quality that the collaboration must rank as one of the most important between a composer and director in the century or so that films have been made. This film - a prequel of sorts to Henry James's The Turn of the Screw - featured Marlon Brando, just before his Corleone-inspired career resurgence; and was Winner's attempt to show he could do an "art film", though in the event it didn't find much of an audience.
Fielding's score is particularly florid and colourful. The sensational main title cue, with its piano scherzo main part and brassy accompaniment, is a wonderful portrait of English country life, busy and exciting but absolutely lovely. Thereafter, Fielding cleverly creates a dual personality for the music - with this beautiful pastoral feeling continuing, but there is almost always an undercurrent of emotional strain. The second piece introduces the slightly ominous second theme of the score, which is heard often; and "Bedtime at Blye House" develops this, throws in some almost-regal material and presents the first appearance of a short, dark motif which binds the score together. As producer Douglass Fake says in his insightful liner notes, Fielding "gives equal weight to melody and harmony as if one were in struggle with the other... violins and violas move about in one direction, cellos and basses in the opposite... neither dissonant nor consonant" and it is this clever duality which makes the music so impressive.
At times the music is more overtly dark (there is a ferocity to "Myles in the Air") but even then the composer manages to keep a slightly airy feeling, so the claustrophobia is extremely subtle. This really is first-rate film music, and it is boosted no end by Intrada'a package, which presents it in pristine sound (engineer Dick Lewzey did a sensational job on these Fielding/Winner scores in the 1970s), and the notes - by Fake, and Fielding expert Nick Redman - round it off nicely. Musically, it probably stands alone in Fielding's career - at least, amongst his work with which I'm familiar - with him managing to combine his uncompromisingly intellectual approach with outstandingly beautiful pastoral melodies. If Michael Winner reviewed this for his Sunday newspaper column he'd describe it as "triple historic" and have a photograph taken of it with Geraldine Lynton-Edwards - and you can't say fairer than that.