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Penguin Guide, January 2009

William Perry wrote his Mark Twain film scores between 1980 and 1986, still golden years for Hollywood film music. The brilliant orchestrations were by Richard Hayman (who also plays the harmonica in the sessions) and three other musician-arrangers, besides the composer himself. Perry was not only a natural tunesmith, he has a feeling for the folksy American atmosphere essential for this repertoire. He could create a memorable Hollywoodian sweep too, as in the opening music for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where the ten vignettes are like a miniature suite, full of ear-tickling invention and flowing orchestral colour. But the other scores here are hardly less inventive. In Life on the Mississippi the hero’s girl-friend Emmeline is given a charming waltz for her courtship, and Innocents Abroad brings orchestral vignettes of Paris, Venice and Genoa. The title music of The Private History is equally ear-catching and, to round things off, Perry employs the Vienna Boys’ Choir for The Mysterious Stranger. The performances here, by three different orchestras, conducted by the composer, could not be more persuasive, and Hayman’s harmonica interludes add to the rustic feeling. Excellently sumptuous and vivid recording increases the pleasures of this entertaining disc.

Colin Clarke
Fanfare, September 2008

A pupil of Piston, Hindemith, and Randall Thompson, Perry writes and orchestrates with the ease of a latter-day Telemann. He scores for full orchestra, including parts for oboe d’amore, heckelphone, and flugelhorn. Although this Naxos disc is entitled, “The Innocents Abroad and other Mark Twain films, 1980–1985,” it is the music from Huckleberry Finn that is heard first and, indeed, takes up the most disc space for a single film. Here, Perry has to evoke the riverboat world of the Mississippi. The opening theme (which also closes the Suite) was reused by Perry as the music for the song “When out on the river” in the stage adaptation of the film. There is high slapstick in “Arrival of Royalty,” pretenders to a throne if ever there were any. (One member of said royalty is memorably played by Jim Dale.) Much of the music leaves one in no doubt as to the film’s geographical placement, and Perry can summon up nostalgia for carefree childhood like no one else (“Good times by the river”).

The brief excerpt (2:16) from Pudd ’nhead Wilson uses wordless chorus and oboe d’amore to portray the departure of a woman whose actions have wreaked havoc and pain to all concerned. It is a tender and touching leave-taking. Life on the Mississippi returns us to the world of Huckleberry Finn. Essentially a biography of Sam Clemens (an apprentice on a Mississippi riverboat), the music is expertly realized. Take the way the opening theme, bright and open, is completely transformed in character for “Romance on the river,” or the way in which Perry captures the misty dance of the “Courtship of Emmeline.”

What adds to the interest of The Innocents Abroad is the way in which a common theme is transformed according to the geographic venue in operation on-screen at the time. The film tracks a first pleasure cruise from North America to Europe. The music is frequently hilarious, from the uproarious Parisian Can-Can through languorous, swooning Venetian gondolas to carefree Genoan bathtub rage (as if this latter is not strange enough, why is there a recurring figure in that movement that repeatedly asks, “Have a banana?”). “The Greek Chase” sounds more gypsy than Hellenic, but there is no doubting the location of the “Egyptian Caravan.”

The Private History of a Campaign that Failed speaks of the futility of war, a story of the microcosm of a single innocent death reflecting macrocosmic goings on. There is some delicious scoring (and playing) in the movement entitled, “The Games of War/Lorena.” “Lorena” refers to the 19th-century ballad heard on flugelhorn. The final title music, too, is shot through with tenderness.

Finally, The Mysterious Stranger, a film that apparently shows a dream within a dream within a dream. A tale of fantasy and magic, it sounds like wonderful escapism. The setting is the medieval period, so Perry opts for a double-reed quartet of oboe, cor anglais, heckelphone, and bassoon to approximate the sounds of shawms, bombards, etc. A boys’ choir is used to add to the sense of fantasy. The Vienna Boys’ Choir is, as one might expect, excellent (the boys have to be remarkably agile in the movement, “44 in Fancy Dress”).

The English-only documentation by Jane lredale is extremely fine. After a brief introduction to the composer, there are extended sections on the music and the films. Fascinating listening.

Adrian Edwards
Gramophone, June 2008

William Perry’s music for films under the collective title The Innocents Abroad relates to tales by Mark Twain that were shown on American television between 1980 and 1985 by Public Service Broadcasting. Perry’s music is charming, full of character with good tunes of the kind you would expect from Leroy Anderson. I am full of admiration for each of them and recommend this release to you with much enthusiasm. © 2008 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Thomas L. Kiefner
Golden Scores, May 2008

The majority of this music is written in a rather conservative style with nothing groundbreaking about it at all. Still, it is quite a pleasant listen which has grown on the reviewer with repeated plays…this is a nice CD to add to your collection given the exceptional value that Naxos is in the marketplace. Highly recommended.

Film Music: The Neglected Art, April 2008

Golden Scores Rating:

Hollywood loves to make films about the stories of Mark Twain and for good reason. At least growing up for me and millions of others, Huckleberry Finn adventures were as well read as Superman comic books! Composers such as Bill Conti, Max Steiner and Jerome Moross have written wonderful scores all with their unique interpretation of Tom, Huck, and life on the Mississippi and now please add to the list William Perry, who in addition to Huckleberry Finn, has written works for (5) other Mark Twain stories.

While it was new to me, all of this material was previously released in the 1980’s on the Premier Recording Label (PRCD1015) entitled “Life on the Mississippi: The Film Music of William Perry”. Naxos, with a much wider distribution, has reintroduced this material and hopefully many more will have the opportunity to enjoy this material.

All of this material was done for television, released through PBS and other major outlets in the world, from 1980 to 1985 and starring the likes of Geraldine Page, Ken Howard, Lillian Gish, Robert Lansing, David Ogden Stiers, and many many others. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn features as you might expect an expansive main theme in “Opening Music, St. Petersburg”, bringing visions of America in its early days. The main theme, which is now known as When Out On The River, is also featured in the “End Credit Music” in a similiar arrangement. “The Raftsmen” features the fine harmonica work of Richard Hayman as well as an abundance of percussion and rhythm in a rollicking foot stomping melody. Don’t look too much for strings on this track as there is very little to be found. Pudd’nhead Wilson has only one selection but it is certainly a good one. Featuring the oboe d’amore and a wordless choir it is a lasting melody that easily puts one in a mood of tranquility. Life On The Mississippi, is a biographical sketch of a young Samuel Clemens and his learning how to pilot a Mississippi riverboat. Perry weaves a good story through his music depicting the splendor of this huge body of water. The (5) tracks range from a tranquil scene to a turn of the century waltz to a little disaster music albiet quite conservative in comparision to what is written today. The Innocents Abroad is a virtual travelog of musical styles that one could liken to Young’s Around The World In 80 Days. Italy, France, America, Greece, and Egypt are all represented in this 9 track suite. The Private History of a Campaign That Failed tells the story of the Civil War in a 4 track suite with a poignant flugelhorn solo in “Lorena”. The Mysterious Stranger, the final film on this CD features a bit of ancient mystic music along with the Vienna Boys Choir.

The majority of this music is written in a rather conservative style with nothing groundbreaking about it at all. Still, it is quite a pleasant listen which has grown on the reviewer with repeated plays. “The Raftsmen” is an exceptional piece and one that should be included in your playlist on your MP3 player. This is a nice CD to add to your collection given the exceptional value that Naxos is in the marketplace. Highly recommended.

Bellows Falls Town Crier, April 2008

…Perry succeeds to a degree. I leave it to the listener to judge, but I did enjoy this disc somewhat more than I did the Herrmann CD.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2008

Of all the outstanding composers working in Hollywood in the second half of the 20th century, the name of William Perry has sadly received little international acclaim despite a catalogue that stretches for more than a hundred feature films. Born in Elmira, New York in 1930, his later education was at Harvard University where his tutors included Paul Hindemith, Walter Piston and Randall Thompson. He was to produce a number of orchestral works performed by leading American orchestra, but gravitated towards music for films and television. Among his major achievements was the epic film of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and five other filmed stories from Twain’s books, The Innocents Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, The Private History of a Campaign That Failed, The Mysterious Stranger and Pudd’nhead Wilson. Maybe they are not the high impact scores that have attracted public attention, but musically they rank among the very best light music classics. Sample the Can-Can from The Innocents Abroad (track 18), to have a taste of Perry’s gift for catchy tunes, and throughout the disc you pass from one pleasing number to the next. So I am sorry if I ruffle a few feathers by saying that this is the most attractive disc of music I have heard in Naxos’s ‘Film Music Classics’ series. It is conducted by the composer and made with various orchestras, the Rome Philharmonic leaning into the fabulous tunes from The Innocents Abroad to the manner born. I would comment that the harmonica solos from Richard Haymann—who a few years back conducted a series of discs for Naxos—are superb. Made over the period 1980–86 the sound is a bit variable, but never less than good.

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