About this Recording
8.223732 - ADDINSELL: Goodbye Mr. Chips / A Tale of Two Cities
English 

Richard Addinsell (1904- 1977)

Richard Addinsell (1904 - 1977)

 

In 1941, war-weary cinema-goers, attending the latest "British film" at the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch, in London's West End, were struck, not necessarily by the acting, dialogue or sets, but by a piece of music that pervaded the whole film, climaxing in a virtually complete performance of it in a concert setting within the scenario. The film company had no idea that it would have such an affect on audiences, and had not prepared a commercial recording for sale. The film was Dangerous Moonlight, and the piece everyone was talking about, and humming as they left the cinema was the Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell. After fifty years, more than a hundred separate recordings, and sales in excess of three million, its appeal remains undimmed. So undimmed that it still outshines, in the public's mind, everything else the composer wrote. But he wrote a great deal, and this disc attempts to show the breadth of his achievement beyond the Warsaw Concerto.

 

Richard Stewart Addinsell was born on 13th January 1904 in London, the younger of two sons of a successful businessman father and adoring mother, who became very protective of him, to the extent that he was educated at home. Some might say this made him rather wary of institutions of all kinds thereafter. For example, he went to Hertford College, Oxford in 1922 ostensibly to read Law, but stayed for little more than eighteen months without, naturally, taking a degree. His interests were already turning to music. So he enrolled at the Royal College of Music for the autumn term of 1925, but he remained there only until the following Easter. Lessons in theory must have seemed positively prosaic compared with the prospect of writing songs for that year's Andre Chariot revue, some with the legendary Noel Gay, of Me and My Girl fame. He was later to pursue his own line in education, and in 1929, he travelled Europe visiting major theatres and musical centres, spending most time in Berlin and Vienna.

 

One of the most enduring and productive artistic collaborations of his career began, when he met the writer Clemence Dane (1882-1965). His first work for her was incidental music for the play, Adam's Opera in 1928, but they continued to work together from time to time right up to her death, most notably with the combined version of Alice in Wonder/and and Through the Looking- Glass. An earlier play, Moonlight is Silver introduced him to Gertrude Lawrence, who recorded the title song with dialogue from one of the scenes, with her co-star, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, and during the war, Dane's cycle of religious plays for radio, The Saviours, benefited from his deft touch.

 

It was Fairbanks who, with Clemence Dane, was responsible for introducing Addinsell to films in Britain in 1936, with The Amateur Gentleman, which starred the American actor, and was partly scripted by Dane. (He had nearly started his cinematic career in Hollywood where he had gone some years earlier to work at RKO studios on what turned out to be an abortive project involving the Czech-born actor Francis Lederer, following the American opening of Alice.)

 

After this debut film, came South Riding, Dark Journey, Farewell Again and Fire Over England in 1937, Vessel of Wrath in 1938, and the following year, the first propaganda feature film of the War, The Lion Has Wings. The same year saw his first really international success with Goodbye Mr Chips. 1940 saw the year of Dangerous Moonlight and Gaslight, the first version that MGM sought to suppress in favour of their later American production. Love on the Dole, This England and The Big Blockade followed in 1941, and The Day will Dawn a year later. However, the war was largely spent scoring some twenty documentaries for the Ministry of Information, and similar organisations, culminating in the classic Diary for Timothy.

 

In 1942, on the steps of the National Gallery, after one of its famous lunchtime concerts, Addinsell met Joyce Grenfell, whose friendship he valued for most of his life thereafter. Together they wrote numerous songs, for revues, or Joyce's one-woman shows, one of the earliest being, I'm going to see you today, which they recorded together in 1942. They continued collaborating up to the mid-sixties, when Addinsell's failing health prevented his playing the piano and writing the memorable tunes for Joyce's witty and touching lyrics.

 

After a few less memorable films, Addinsell renewed his working relationship in 1950 with the Irish producer/director, Brian Desmond Hurst, who had directed Dangerous Moonlight, some ten years earlier, and two films emerged that produced some of his best music -Tom Brown's Schooldays, and Scrooge, starring the man who was born to play him, the wonderful Alistair Sim.

 

All through the 40s and 50s, he wrote for BBC radio plays and features, in between film and stage work. In all this endeavour, his method of working was the same. He would play what he had composed at the piano, making small notes of the outline of the material, but leaving the detailed work of arranging and orchestrating to other hands. This was nothing new. It had happened throughout musical history in some way or another. Even the 'greats', working against the clock, would pass such work to pupils, or in Bach's case, his 'family' to 'expand', and in the film world to this day, it is the norm. Addinsell's first collaborator was Roy Douglas, who had begun by 'doubling' for Vivien Leigh (on the virginals) in Fire Over England, and worked through to the middle of the war taking in most films (virtually all twenty documentaries) including Dangerous Moonlight, although not Mr Chips. (Douglas went on to write his own film scores and concert music, as well as becoming Vaughan Williams' amanuensis.) Leonard Isaacs also worked with him on the stage shows Alice, and The Happy Hypocrite and several films including Fire Over England, and Blithe Spirit, directed by David Lean in 194~. The period from 1947 to 1957 is shrouded in some mystery, but it is a fair guess that Leighton Lucas was involved at some time, probably on Hitchcock's Under Capricorn, since he had worked extensively for Louis Levy since the thirties, and Levy conducted the score. From 1957 to 1965, his regular musical associate was Douglas Gamley.

 

The 50s produced films like Beau Brummel (1954), The Prince and the Showgirl, A Tale of Two Cities, and the 60s, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961) starring Vivien Leigh, Greengage Summer- one of the composer's own favourite scores -Waltz of the Toreadors based on the Jean Anouilh play, and The War Lover, all in 1962. With the completion of Life at the Top three years later, he decided to retire from the professional world of music. Clemence Dane died at this time, and in the years that followed Addinsell helped his great friend, Victor Steibal, the couturier, through the debilitating illness of muscular sclerosis, and when he died in 1976, Addinsell felt his time had come too. On 14th November the following year he quietly turned his face to the wall and died.

 

As a man, he was a quiet introvert who only really came alive making music. In many ways, a lonely man, particularly at the end, but one who could be very generous to his close-knit group of friends, most of all at Christmas which he celebrated heartily. He had a lively invention, which, linked to a sense of panache, produced compositions with a singular spark that turned notes into music, and music into a fond memory.

 

[1] Goodbye Mr Chips (Theme)

One of the recurring figures in Addinsell's film career was the producer/ director Victor Savile, with whom he worked, from time to time, for over thirty years. They had already collaborated on South Riding and Dark Journey before, in 1939, Savile brought to the screen, this time as producer only, the James Hilton novel, Goodbye Mr Chips, the story of a schoolmaster finding love for the first time in middle life, and suffering its loss thereafter, with only a school and its pupils for comfort. The eponymous leading character was played by Robert Donat, who won that year's Oscar, and his one true love by Greer Garson, in her screen debut.

 

The MGM film, directed by Sam Wood, was made in England, and Addinsell provided a score to match its high production values. All the musical material (apart from a piano score of the school song, with words by Eric Maschwitz) has been lost, and so I have reconstructed, for concert use, the opening theme from the sound track. In so doing, I have taken certain liberties, like omitting the fanfare, covering Leo's appearance, not repeating a certain 8-bar phrase (obviously done at the last minute, and after the initial recording, given the poor edit, to cover a screen credit to Irving Thalberg) and including a liberal use of a tubular bell, which would have clashed in the film with the tolling bell in the opening scene. The school song is heard several times in the film (but only once in the opening titles) so I have included it twice in this version, at first gently on woodwind and harp, and secondly triumphant by the full orchestra. Furthermore, whereas in the film, the music fades into the first scene, I have ended more decisively as befits its general character.

 

This is one of very few Addinsell films (another was Under Capricorn) not conducted by Muir Mathieson, who remained a keen advocate of his music until the end. On this occasion, Louis Levy conducted, as musical director of Michael Balcon's short-lived MGM-British Studios, and the original orchestrations were probably done by one of Levy's circle, which at the time included Hubert Bath, Hans May and Leighton Lucas, among others.

 

[2] Invitation Waltz (from Ring Round the Moon)

One of Addinsell's most haunting waltzes was written for the 1950 production of Christopher Fry's play, after Jean Anouilh, Ring Round the Moon, starring Paul Scofield as the twin heroes and directed by Peter Brook. It was recorded soon afterwards by Sidney Torch and Robert Farnon, both of whom made their own orchestrations of the piece for modest studio forces. In the absence of any surviving material (most probably lost in the Chappell's fire of the 1960s) I have arranged the music afresh using an orchestra rather larger than that at the disposal of my illustrious predecessors.

The Smokey Mountains Concerto

[3] First movement

[4] Valley Song

[5] Old Joe Clark

 

A rare work, not linked to the cinema or theatre, this "concerto" in three movements for piano and orchestra was probably written at the invitation of the American pianist, Leo Litwin, who had championed Warsaw Concerto in the USA, making a popular recording of it with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Litwin recorded his own truncated solo piano version of the piece on the Boston Records label soon after its composition in 1950 but it seems to have made little progress in any version since, despite its appealing language, here and there derived from American folksong idioms.

 

The first movement (no title) is the most substantial and symphonic of the three, suggesting that it could have been intended as the first movement of a true concerto. The opening orchestral figures mimick the start of Beethoven's 9th Symphony- for no apparent reason, and so, one might resort to cinema language and say that it is 'purely coincidental'. It displays Addinsell's distinctive piano style with fast moving left-hand arpeggios beneath a chordal melodic line. (His own left hand could stretch an octave and a half, which explains why pianists, even today, find some of his writing for the instrument less than easy.)

 

The slow movement, subtitled Valley Song, opens with a faintly bluesy melody scored for lower woodwind, that ape a sax section, before the main theme is announced on a clarinet against a gently rocking accompaniment in the piano. The blues element returns at the climax of the third movement, Old Joe Clark, this time with a cheeky horn glissando. It starts, however, with a duet for violin and banjo and proceeds to treat the hillbilly tune, at times, in an almost Ivesian manner with sudden wild modulations and distortions, producing a montage of alternately clear and obscure images.

 

[6] The Isle of Apples

The title could have referred to Tasmania, but more likely alludes to Avalon, legendary burial place of King Arthur. A reflective idyll very much in the English pastoral tradition, the music is generally restrained in character, although it reaches a sudden climax, using brass for just half a dozen bars, before fading into the silence from which it came.

 

The work is something of an enigma. It was never registered by the composer or his first musical executor, and the piece was discovered wrapped up within another work altogether. There are a few conductor's markings on the rough score suggesting a performance or intended performance but there is no evidence of such an event to date.

 

The subject matter and the fact that it is very much a concert work might lead one to surmise that it dates from 1965 after Addinsell's last professional job - the score for the film Life at the Top -and the death of his friend and collaborator, Clemence Dane. At this distance in time, it can be only conjecture, but it is a very welcome miniature all the same, and in style unlike almost anything else he produced.

 

 

[7] The Prince and the Showgirl (Selection)

Originally entitled The Sleeping Prince, this Terence Rattigan story was produced by Marilyn Monroe's own company as a vehicle for herself, in 1957. Her co-star, producer and director was Laurence Olivier. Their working relationship was far from easy, as certain scenes in the film still show. However, production values were high and the opportunity for theatrical as well as cinematic music must have made Addinsell a clear choice for the film. Monroe plays a member of the chorus in a London theatre show, mischievously entitled The Coconut Girl, who is 'picked up' by a visiting mid- European royal (in London for the coronation of George V) and 'entertained' at his London embassy with associated machinations. Lyrics for the song I found a dream (sung at the embassy privately by Monroe to Olivier) were by Christopher Hassall.

 

This pot-pourri was put together at the time for the publishers by Felton Rapley from Douglas Gamley's original orchestrations.

 

(The same year Addinsell was to have written the score for The Admirable Crichton -he did write the dance music in it -but was sidetracked elsewhere, allowing Gamley to take over. When it was suggested they share a screen billing, Addinsell would have none of it, preferring his contribution to be heard anonymously, and Gamley to take full credit.)

 

[8] Tune in G

As dull a title as one could imagine for such a charming piece, this miniature dates from 1943, and seems to have been simply a 'tune' he had to set down. (This orchestral version, with piano obligato, appeared in 1952, following a commercial recording by Mantovani.) It has no discernable connection with any commercial projects at the time -and they were considerable -but is simply a beautiful melody, perhaps reflecting the countryside around his parents' home, Appleshaw, where it was written (as was the music for Blithe Spirit several years later) interspersed with dramatic touches that might have suggested the title, Ballade -  but didn't!

 

[9] Overture: Tom Brown's Schooldays

Thomas Hughes' novel of life at Rugby School under the legendary, reforming headmaster, Dr Arnold, had been filmed in America in 1939, but this version, made in England, in 1951, seems to have superceded it. The cast included John Howard Davies as the eponymous boy hero, and Robert Newton as Dr Arnold.

 

Stylistically, the music is very English, in the vein of Eric Coates and Haydn

Wood, and almost mono-thematic, with Tom's tune permeating the whole film. By assembling the music to form a viable concert piece, I have followed the storyline, albeit in a rather truncated form, basically following this pattern -Tom goes to school, suffers under bully Flashman's tyranny, and survives to live a happier existence, not only at the school but in his life thereafter. Unlike Mr Chips, this film did not need a specially composed school song since Rugby has its own but in the triumphant final theme, there are echoes of the song he would have written if called upon to do so.

 

[10] Festival

In 1940 the actor/playwright, Emlyn Williams, asked Addinsell to contribute a song and some incidental music for his play The Light of Heart. Seven years later, he repeated the request, this time for Trespass, a tale of a little Cardiff draper with dubious spiritualistic powers. Two numbers were extracted from the score and published as separate items. One, entitled Harmony for false lovers, is a bitter-sweet piece that would not be out of place as the theme for a 60s French love film. The other, Festival, is an infectious beguine which became popular, long after the play passed out of favour, largely through a recording by George Melachrino in 1948. Six years later, Percy Grainger heard it and made a version for two pianos, as he had for Warsaw Concerto, with equal skill. The work is dedicated to Addinsell's parents.

 

[11] Journey to Romance

Although the slow melody in Warsaw Concerto was based on a rumba he had written in his undergraduate days, Addinsell rarely reworked material, but with this short piece from 1955, he provided one of London's recorded music libraries with something adapted from a work written some ten years earlier under the title Invocation, for a BBC radio feature called Journey to Romance. Some of the original publication's slight complexities of rhythm were ironed out for this version, but the nostalgic air is as 'fragrant' as ever.

 

[12] Fire Over England (Suite)

With the success of Errol Flynn's swashbuckling in Hollywood, it was only a matter of time before British film-makers realised the appeal of the genre. Taking a book by A. E. W. Mason (author of The Four Feathers), Alexander Korda set up this production in 1937, with a script by, among others, Clemence Dane, photography by James Wong Howe, and music by Addinsell. The cast, in this tale of the Armada, included Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, with Flora Robson as Elizabeth I and Raymond Massey as Philip of Spain. Addinsell's score cannot match the Korngold classics but there is ample invention in the fanfares, marches and tango assembled in this suite, compiled soon after the film appeared.

 

 

[13] A Tale of Two Cities (Theme)

On the original sound track of this Rank production of 1958, directed by Ralph Thomas, the fourth feature-Iength version of the Dickens classic, there is no piano to be heard. However, Addinsell thought the theme so strong that he hoped it would 'take off' in the wake of the Warsaw Concel1o, as a piano feature; he asked Douglas Gamley to create such a piece. It has been recorded a number of times before (not always in Gamley's actual arrangement) by artists, such as Semprini, but it never achieved the status its composer envisaged.

 

Orchestrations I Arrangements (where known):

Tracks 1, 2, 6 & 9 - Philip Lane

Track 7 - Douglas Gamley I Felton Rapley

Track 11 - Leonard Isaacs

Track 12 - Leonard Isaacs I George Zalba

Track 13 - Douglas Gamley


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