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New Naxos Release Marks 40-Year Anniversary of The Silent Years

August 5, 2011

Forty years ago, in July of 1971, America’s public television service, PBS, premièred a now-legendary film series called The Silent Years. Over two seasons, twenty-four of the greatest silent film classics were presented in newly-restored and newly-scored editions, thus introducing these remarkable films to generations of film-goers who were discovering them for the first time. The hosts for the series were two icons of the film world, Orson Welles and Lillian Gish, and the series received an Emmy Award.

William Perry

The co-producer and primary composer for The Silent Years was William Perry, the music director of the Museum of Modern Art Film Department in New York, who composed and performed as pianist more than one hundred silent film scores, including those for such classics as The Gold Rush, The General, Orphans of the Storm, Blood and Sand, The Mark of Zorro, Seventh Heaven, What Price Glory? and many more.

Now, in recognition of this 40th anniversary, Naxos is releasing a CD of Perry’s silent film music in a full orchestral treatment with Paul Phillips conducting the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland). Soloists on the recording include the brilliant Albek Duo from Switzerland, prominent keyboard virtuoso Michael Chertock, and the popular young Irish soprano, Helen Kearns. The release, which includes three large-scale pieces, is entitled Music for Great Films of the Silent Era (8.572567).

Albek Duo

The first and most extensive of the three world première recordings is the Gemini Concerto: An Entertainment for Violin, Piano and Orchestra featuring Ambra and Fiona Albek, identical twin sisters from Lugano, Switzerland, to whom the concerto is dedicated and who gave the first performance in 2010. The challenging piece calls on Ambra Albek to play both violin and viola, sometimes in quick succession, while her sister, Fiona, is the piano soloist who is ultimately required to play standing as well as sitting. Double concertos for the combination of violin and piano are very rare, with no more than three or four in active circulation.

Following a pattern set by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who based his famous violin concerto on themes from four of his film scores, Perry has drawn on music from seven of his best-known silent scores in writing the Gemini Concerto:

Little Annie Rooney (starring Mary Pickford)
The Last Laugh (Emil Jannings)
Tempest (John Barrymore)
A Kiss for Cinderella (Betty Bronson)
Show People (Marion Davies)
Fine Manners (Gloria Swanson)
The Crowd (directed by King Vidor)

The second piece on the CD is The Silent Years: Three Rhapsodies for Piano and Orchestra. It offers music from three of Perry’s best-known film scores in piano concerto form and features the distinguished American pianist, Michael Chertock, as soloist. The first rhapsody is based on the score for The Beloved Rogue starring John Barrymore as the 15th century scoundrel and poet, François Villon; the middle rhapsody presents music from Blood and Sand, a colorful story of bullfighting, love and death with Rudolph Valentino; the exuberant and romantic final rhapsody derives from Perry’s music for Charlie Chaplin’s finest comedy, The Gold Rush.

Also on the CD is Perry’s delightfully whimsical orchestral suite, Six Title Themes in Search of a Movie, in which the composer suggests title music for six imaginary films he wished he had been asked to score:

DANCE OVERTURE from the film “Wild Nights in Toronto”
WALTZ from the film “The Raincoats of Dijon”
SERENADE from the film “Angelus for an Angel”
MARCH from the film “The Bridge on the River Platte”
NOCTURNE from the film “The Black Marigold”
SIRIUS FINALE from the film “Voyage to the Dog Star” (soloist: Helen Kearns)

Naxos has previously released three recordings of William Perry’s music: The Innocents Abroad and other Mark Twain films (8.570200); Jamestown Concerto, American Music for Cello and Orchestra (8.559344); and The Romance of the Silver Screen (8.578005–06).

William Perry Biography & Discography
Albek Duo:
Ambra Albek Biography & Discography; Fiona Albek Biography & Discography

Michael Chertock Biography & Discography
Helen Kearns Biography & Discography
Paul Phillips Biography & Discography
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland) Biography & Discography


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