Saturday, 24 November 2012

Richard Addinsell: The Black Rose

I guess that everyone knows the beautifully romantic (if over the top) score to the film Dangerous Moonlight.  This music is better known as the Warsaw Concerto. Richard Addinsell wrote this great piece ‘surrounded by the scores of Rachmaninov’s Second and Third Concertos and the ‘Paganini’ Variations.’ However I imagine fewer people will have come across the music to the film The Black Rose.  This 1950 film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Tyrone Power, Orson Welles, Cecile Aubry and Jack Hawkins and is loosely based on the book of the same title by Thomas B. Costain. The scene was set in thirteenth century Britain and the Far East.  It concerns the nobleman Walter of Gurnie (played by Power) who is involved in an unsuccessful uprising against the Normans. He is outlawed, so he decides to seek his fortune in the Far East. He travels with his friend Tristam (Jack Hawkins) and on his journey meets the Mongol warlord Bayan, played by Orson Welles. Predictably, Walter falls in love with the lovely Maryam (Cecile Aubrey) whilst both are ‘guests’ in Bayan’s prison.
I do not intend to give the remainder of the plot –save to say that love does not run smoothly. However, the film does have a satisfactory ending. This is more than can be said for the musical score. Philip Lane has noted that Addinsell should have been given the opportunity to compose an expansive, epic score. However, the music appears to be somewhat fragmented.  However, Lane has made a short suite of the score which is rewarding. 
The Chandos recording has three short sections: the main titles and opening scene, followed by; In the Empress’s Place and lastly The Black Rose Theme. After a short fanfare the music sweeps into a big, but not extravagant tune.  The second section is the more oriental sounding music from the Empress’s court and uses some interesting percussion effects. Lane points out that this music runs through much of the film’s screen time. Finally the ‘Black Rose’ theme concluded this suite. This section was issued as a very complex and decorated piano solo sheet music. However, this has been reduced to its original form. This is a very beautiful and heart-breaking melody.
Ian Lace writing in April 2003 on MusicWeb International was impressed with ‘the ... the delicate oriental figures of ‘In the Empress’s Palace’ ...the lovely sweepingly romantic Title Theme...’

Richard Addinsell’s The Black Rose was released on a retrospective of his film music on Chandos CHAN 10048 in 2003.
There are no YouTube postings for this music; however the Amazon site gives three little extract which will allow the listener to sample this music.


Paul Brownsey said...

I'd be interested to hear your take on his music for The Greengage Summer, a film that haunted me as a young man. A suite from the film was issued on an ASV CD about 15 years ago--


John France said...

Thanks Paul,

I will listen to this score over the weekend...and let you know, here.