Author Topic: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel  (Read 10058 times)

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Offline Sydney Grew

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The son of a beadle, Benjamin Frankel who with "Curse of the Werewolf" in 1960 supplied what is believed to be the first ever twelve-note serial score for a British feature film wrote altogether eight symphonies and five string quartets.

"Melody," he said, "is the ineluctable stuff out of which music is constructed." He would cite no less a man than Mozart as example thereof. And he went on to express his rejection of the notion that serialism precluded any sense of tonality; indeed he considered "atonality" to be "a word blandly taken in place of true analysis."

"In place of true analysis!" That shows profound musical insight does it not! So when it came to ethics he incllined to the Communistical that hardly needs saying. More information about him may be found here
« Last Edit: December 07, 2008, 05:35:57 PM by Sydney Grew »
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2008, 05:13:33 PM »
I am a huge admirer of the work of Benjamin Frankel :)

I appreciate how eye-catching is the title of this thread but rather wish that you had at least put Frankel's name in brackets after the title. I say this with the utmost respect :)

The service which CPO has done in making available all of Frankel's symphonies, concertos and film music cannot be too highly praised!

Thank you for the link to the website! I was not aware of its existence.

It is late at night in Great Britain so I shall return to this thread with some further thoughts tomorrow :)
« Last Edit: December 07, 2008, 05:21:09 PM by Dundonnell »

Subotnick

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2008, 05:16:21 PM »
Ah Benjamin! I love this man and his work, the scope of which never ceases to amaze me. It's The Curse Of The Werewolf soundtrack which alerted me to his existence. I've still yet to hear all those symphonies and string quartets. The Concerto For Violin And Orchestra (In Memory Of The Six Million) is astounding, essential listening and a work I hold on a par with Messiaen's Quatuor Pour Le Fin Du Temps.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2008, 01:44:33 PM »
Count me in too as a 'Curse of the Werewolf' fan and also an admirer of this composer. As a child in the 1960s I was obsessed with Hammer horror films and classic horror films of the golden age (Karloff, Lugosi etc) and regularly dragged my poor father to the 'Gothic Film Society' in Holborn, London. I discovered so many classic horror movies in this way and, more recently, have come to appreciate the soundtracks. 'Dead of Night' was a memorable discovery at this time with its terrific score by Georges Auric. I think that my brother's school friend was Frankel's step-son..I will check.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

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Offline Sydney Grew

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2008, 03:48:53 PM »
After consultation of the pages of the admirable Mr. Lebrecht's book on twentieth-century music - something we really should have done before starting this thread - we regret to inform Members of a shadow in Mr. Frankel's background. "Before he turned earnest," writes Mr. Lebrecht, "Frankel was a jazz violinist." Why is it that the history of composition in Britain - specifically Britain and not nearly so much in other countries although there have admittedly been a few examples in Scandinavia and the Low Countries - is so positively littered with such cases? It is really very difficult to take seriously the productions of such persons. We have to be able to trust a man's taste and judgement before we commit ourselves to his music do we not?

He was also in a notorious case sued for slander by Elisabeth Lutyens husband and although exonerated suffered a heart attack as a result. Does any one any longer listen to Madame Lutyens's music? We do not recall ever having heard a broadcast of anything of hers. Mr. Lebrecht tells us she had "numerous composition pupils, including Bennett, Saxton, Bauld, and Elias," but we have not heard anything of theirs either - indeed their very names are entirely unfamiliar!

Of Frankel's eight symphonies it seems from reading what other people have to say that the second is generally reckoned to be the best. We have not heard it but may dig it out and listen to it during the course of the next twenty-four hours.
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Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2008, 04:29:29 PM »
Listening to the 3rd movement of Symphony No 5. Frankel's music is admirably clear. I like it.

http://benjaminfrankel.org/?page_id=28

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2008, 04:39:06 PM »
I thank you, sir, for adding the name of the composer to the title of this thread :) I am presuming, of course, that it was indeed your good self!

I do not think that we should be unduly harsh on the young Mr. Frankel's early employment in the world of popular music. Benjamin was born in London to fairly poor parents of Polish-Jewish origin. He left school at 14 to be apprenticed to a watchmaker but then took up private music lessons from an American pianist called Victor Benham. Frankel followed his teacher to Germany for 6 months of further study during which he subsisted on an allowance of £1 per month! On returning to London he had to find some sort of gainful employment and earned a living as a jazz pianist, violinist and arranger, working in cafes, hotels and ocean liners. I think we ought to be indulgent towards a teenage boy seeking to make his way in the world before turning to serious music composition :)

I shall pass by your remarks about Elizabeth Lutyens. I have little personal sympathy for her either as a composer or a person. She was however the teacher of Malcolm Williamson, the Master of the Queen's Music, and mentor of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, the well-known British composer; she does therefore merit some respect ;D

Frankel's first symphony dates from 1958 when the composer was 52 years old. Between 1962 and 1972 he wrote a further seven symphonies in a burst of symphonic creativity overshadowed by the heart attacks which ultimately killed him(No.6 was composed entirely in hospital). In 1969 the distingished British music critic, William Mann, called Frankel "doubtless our most eloquent symphonist".

Frankel's Second Symphony is my own personal favourite among the eight symphonies but each is a very considerable piece demonstrating that symphonies constructed on serial principles do not have to be thorny and intractable! I would very strongly recommend the 1st. 4th, 5th and 7th symphonies as well. The Violin Concerto composed in memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is, in my opinion, one of the finest British violin concertos-a lyrical outpouring of deep feeling and great sensitivity. The influences on Frankel are clearly those of Mahler, Sibelius and Schoenberg-although I sometimes like to think of him as a serial Rubbra ;D

The CPO series of 4 cds of the symphonies played by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Werner Andreas Albert is one of the jewels in that distinguished company's crown. Frankel was always better recognised in Germany than in Britain and it is therefore not inappropriate that a German conductor should have rescued such very fine works from undeserved obscurity.

« Last Edit: December 08, 2008, 05:04:36 PM by Dundonnell »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2008, 04:50:24 PM »
Listening to the 3rd movement of Symphony No 5. Frankel's music is admirably clear. I like it.

http://benjaminfrankel.org/?page_id=28



Armstrong Gibbs, Wellesz, Kallsteinius, Frankel.........so much good music to discover, isn't there, Johan? ;D

If only there was enough time!

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2008, 05:04:03 PM »
Armstrong Gibbs, Wellesz, Kallsteinius, Frankel.........so much good music to discover, isn't there, Johan? ;D

If only there was enough time!

I know who is mainly responsible - you, with your terrifying collection!  ;D

And now I'm turning in. (Frankel is good, though...)
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2008, 05:07:05 PM »
I know who is mainly responsible - you, with your terrifying collection!  ;D

And now I'm turning in. (Frankel is good, though...)

"terrifying"?? ;D ;D

Oh, come on....... :) :) You have decades ahead of you to enjoy all this stuff!

Subotnick

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2008, 05:10:36 PM »
Frankel wasn't just a jazz violinist, he was an arranger too. He worked with some of the biggest band leaders of the time including Roy Fox and a favourite of mine, Carroll Gibbons. His stint as a player with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra was successful enough for him to become Henry's musical assistant. This led to work in London's West End, including a position as musical director for Noel Coward's shows. Then there's the film and television scores. Over 100 including diverse movies such as Will Hay and Ealing comedies, Hammer Horror and The Battle Of The Bulge. Quite a legacy I must say!

I find it a tad dismissive to describe this impressive body of work as being from a time "before he turned earnest". This is no "shadow" nor is it "litter" or something to "regret". It's just another branch of a great talent. One that can easily enrich the other and vice versa. I'm sure there are composers who were average in just one genre. Frankel excelled in more than one and I think that is something to be proud of and applauded.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2008, 05:13:50 PM »
Frankel wasn't just a jazz violinist, he was an arranger too. He worked with some of the biggest band leaders of the time including Roy Fox and a favourite of mine, Carroll Gibbons. His stint as a player with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra was successful enough for him to become Henry's musical assistant. This led to work in London's West End, including a position as musical director for Noel Coward's shows. Then there's the film and television scores. Over 100 including diverse movies such as Will Hay and Ealing comedies, Hammer Horror and The Battle Of The Bulge. Quite a legacy I must say!

I find it a tad dismissive to describe this impressive body of work as being from a time "before he turned earnest". This is no "shadow" nor is it "litter" or something to "regret". It's just another branch of a great talent. One that can easily enrich the other and vice versa. I'm sure there are composers who were average in just one genre. Frankel excelled in more than one and I think that is something to be proud of and applauded.

Hear, hear!!! Well said :)

(And thanks for considerably amplifying that aspect of Frankel's career!)

Subotnick

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2008, 05:19:17 PM »
His music is great as is his diversity. That's why I hold him in such high esteem.

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2008, 05:15:22 AM »
I find it a tad dismissive to describe this impressive body of work as being from a time "before he turned earnest".

The musical world is the richer for those who pursue (and have pursued) jazz in earnest.

Offline Sydney Grew

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2008, 04:50:22 PM »
The musical world is the richer for those who pursue (and have pursued) jazz in earnest.

We appreciate that the Member is attempting a witticism; but he should take care lest the younger generation take him seriously!

Here spoken by Frankel himself is a short introduction to his second symphony. He recites most interestingly the three short snatches of Wordsworth which introduce its three movements; and he explains his purpose in producing the work. It took him only three months so presumably having like Mozart "music in his blood" he was a much faster worker than many.

We do accept the proposition - indicated by one or two Members - that Frankel cannot be blamed for things he may have done in extreme youth to relieve exigencies. This enjoyable second symphony (which we have now heard once) certainly and thankfully contains no hint of the "jazz" - indeed it is very much our kind of music, full of robust manly brass and altogether free of the degenerate wood-blocks mandolins solo oboes prepared pianofortes and violoncellos-with-two-simultaneous-bows that offend the ear in so many productions of the present day.

We were relieved also to find a complete absence of stereo-typed cadences but much awareness nevertheless of stimulating harmonic combination of the most advanced kind. It was difficult to follow the form on a first hearing but we will for that reason return to the symphony with all the more pleasure. The only adverse criticism we have is that at times a redolence of "film music" does linger therein.
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Offline donaldopato

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2008, 05:40:55 PM »
I came across Frankel's music a few years ago when CPO began releasing the symphonies. I find his 1951 Violin Concerto "In Memory of the 'Six Million'" quite wonderful. A sound world not unlike Berg's Concerto, you can hear Frankel grapple with serialism yet still maintain a tonal center. It was to be in his later works that he devised his unique vision of serialism, but to me it begins with the Concerto.

Wonderfully recorded on CPO with Ulf Hoelscher and Werner Andreas Albert/Queensland SO.

Thanks for bringing Frankel up in discussion, I now have to do some listening.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2008, 08:27:42 AM »
The musical world is the richer for those who pursue (and have pursued) jazz in earnest.

Agree absolutely.  And we thank the Member for stating it so clearly.  ;D  ;D  ;D

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2008, 07:48:47 PM »
"Melody," he said, "is the ineluctable stuff out of which music is constructed."
A serialist who would say such a thing must certainly be worth investigating! Thank you for bringing him to my attention.

Regarding the dreaded "jass" music, I believe there is only good music and bad music, regardless of genre.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2008, 04:08:06 AM »
Frankel also wrote a fine score for "The Battle of the Bulge".
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: The Curse of the Werewolf and 8 serial symphonies - Benjamin Frankel
« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2008, 04:28:54 AM »
altogether free of the degenerate wood-blocks mandolins solo oboes prepared pianofortes and violoncellos-with-two-simultaneous-bows that offend the ear in so many productions of the present day.


True. But we regret to inform the Member that the specified composition also requires, in the scherzo, the "dropping of chains onto a wooden box" (or so the liner notes to CPO's admirable recording of this work tell us).

In view of this fact, does the Member maintain his high regard for this piece?
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