domingo, 3 de janeiro de 2010

Ferrante & Teicher - All time great movie themes

  1. Theme from "The Apartment" (Jealous Lover)
  2. Exodus 
  3. Love Theme from "One Eyed Jacks"
  4. Theme from The Motion Picture "Goodbye Again"
  5. Tonight (From the motion picture "West Side Story")
  6. Smile (From the motion picture "Modern Times")
  7. Moon River (From the motion picture "Breakfast at Tiffany's")
  8. Lisa (From the 20th Century Fox release "Lisa")
  9. Theme from "Taras Bulba" (The Wishing Star)
  10. Theme from "Lawrence of Arabia"
  11. Antony and Cleopatra (From the motion picture "Cleopatra")
  12. More (From the motion picture "Mondo Cane")
  13. Khartoum
  14. A Man and A Woman (Un Homme Et Une Femme)
  15. Live For Life (Vivre Pour Vivre)
  16. Mozart Piano Concerto #21 In C Major K. 467 (Andante Movement)
  17. Love Theme from "Romeo and Juliet"
  18. Midnight Cowboy
  19. Pieces of Dreams
  20. The Music Lovers (Main Title) (Piano Concerto In B-Flat Minor - Slow Movement)
  21. Sunrise, Sunset (From the motion picture "Fiddler on the Roof")
  22. Love Theme from "The Godfaher"
All time great movie themes
During the course of their twenty year association with United Artists Records, the peerless, piano duo of Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher were affectionately dubbed "the movie theme team". This was a well-earned nickname indeed. Starting in 1960 with the international success of their recording of "Theme from The Apartment (Jealous Lover)", Ferrante & Teicher brought instrumental film music to new heights of popularity. Before the end of the decade they had sold over 20 million records, and no less than 30 of their albums charted in Billboard between 1961 and 1972 - statistics impressive enough to turn most of the rock bands that dominated this era green with envy.

Ferrante was born on September 7, 1921, in New York City. Teicher was born on August 24, 1924, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Both were child prodigies, shepherded by hopeful parents into the Prep Center of the prestigious Juilliard School Of Music in New York, where they were to conduct their entire formal musical education. The fact that Ferrante and Teicher first met while still youths of elementary school age, and proceeded to learn composition, theory, orchestration and technique from the same teachers, helped to forge an almost telepathic empathy between these two creative talents - a major contributing factor to their uniquely successful partnership. Ferrante has stated that, "The true, two piano art is the blending of two individual keyboards into one, single and unique sound". "Two piano ensemble technique is very difficult to master", Teicher later elaborated, "because it isn't a duplication of notes but four hands creating a unique sound. Both pianists must function with complete rapport to create the nuances and artistic balance so necessary for a finished product".

After graduation, both men returned to Juilliard for a brief stay as appointed, faculty members of the Theory Department, teaching while they developed their repertoire. Following a professional debut as guest artists with the Toledo Symphony, Ferrante & Teicher embarked on a full-time schedule of concert work in 1947. In their first year of touring, Ferrante & Teicher did eight concerts. Each successive appearance was approximately eight hundred miles from the last one. The two pianists not only had to drive their own instruments from site in an old delivery truck, they were also fr4equently responsible for setting them up on stage as well! Ferrante & Teicher gradually moved up from venues as diverse as cafeterias, churches, and school auditoriums to appearances with major orchestras throughout the United States and Canada.

At this point their concerts were devoted entirely to classical material, but they soon began offering, as encores, their stylized interpretations of popular standards by the likes of Gershwin and Kern. They also frequently rounded out an otherwise reserved program by rendering a raucous outing like "Tiger Rag". This impish sense of humor was further illustrated by their use of items like cardboard wedges and sandpaper amidst the piano strings to produce sound effects resembling drums, gongs, and castanets. Their inventive wackiness landed the duo a series of television appearances with comedian Ernie Kovacs, as well as guest visits to the ABC radio series 'Piano Playhouse'. Shortly, albums containing Ferrante & Teicher radio transcriptions began to surface, but their legitimate, studio recording career did not begin until they cut a few collections of Broadway show tunes for Columbia Records. From here, they went on to the Westminster label where they recorded most of the classical "music for four hands" repertoire. Next, they landed at ABC-Paramount where fate fortuitously brought them into contact with A & R man Don Costa. When Costa moved on to the United Artists label in 1959, he brought Ferrante & Teicher with him. The glory years were at hand.

It proved to be an ideal coupling of artists and label. United Artists was a motion picture conglomerate with interests in publishing that had started its own record label in 1957. from the inception, the label was looked upon as a cross-promotional tool, quite serviceable for publicizing UA film releases and getting titles mentioned on the radio. This policy was inaugurated in 1958 with the release of the soundtrack album of a Bob Hope UA comedy, 'Paris Holiday'. By 1964, after the spectacular successes of Ferrante & Teicher, the James Bond soundtracks, and the Beatles' 'A Hard Day's Night', United Artists records was able to accurately describe itself as "the foremost record company in the film music field". Obviously, United Artists was anxious to feed its most promising material to its own artists, and a quick glance at this collection's track listing reveals that over half of the titles included some from UA productions.

Don costa, as gifted a composer and arranger as he was a producer, knew the power of film music. His United Artists recording of the theme from 'Never On sunday' sold ten million copies internationally. When he decide to escort Ferrante & Teicher down the celluloid path with the theme from the 1960 Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine vehicle 'The Apartment (a Charles Williams instrumental originally entitled "Jealous Lover")', it was also agreed that Ferrante & Teicher should be presented in an entirely new way. For the first time, their piano stylings were supplemented by the lush backing of a full studio orchestra (46 pieces by some accounts). The resulting crescendo of sound produced a single release that went gold in a matter of weeks.

The follow-up was even more successful. Ferrante & Teicher's recording of the theme from Otto Preminger's UA production of 'Exodus' rose to number 2 in the Billboard charts (it reached number 1 in the Cash Box listings), easily outpacing a rival recordings by Mantovani and making it the highest placing single of Ferrante & Teicher's career (yet another instrumental rendition provided jazz tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris with his only Top 40 record. Also, Pat Boone added lyrics to this Grammy and Oscar-winning composition from the pen of Ernest Gold and recorded a largely unnoticed, vocal rendition for Dot). Back to back smashes of this magnitude clearly pointed Ferrante & Teicher in a new career direction, and United Artists was caught short-handed by their sudden and overwhelming popularity. "Theme from 'The Apartment (Jealous Lover)'" and its B-side, another theme from the same film entitled "The Lonely Room", were hastily added to the line-up of 'Dream Concerto', the team's debut United Artists album (which had been recorded four months before "Theme from The Apartment (Jealous Lover)", and it was promptly re-released to wide success as "The World's Greatest Themes". Similarly, don Costa coupled "Theme from The Apartment (Jealous Lover)" and "Exodus" with his own 'Never On Sunday" and several soundtracks by other artists and came up with a melange of an album entitled "Great Motion Picture Themes" that roosted in the Billboard album charts for over a year.

"Theme from The Apartment (Jealous Lover)" and "Exodus" established a "formula" that Ferrante & Teicher applied time and again in their approach to recording film music. It usually mey with great commercial success, and also provided an aural compliment to the visual grandeur of the movie the music was taken from. A forceful composition was found and given a dramatic, at times nearly overwhelming, orchestral reading that served to showcase a keyboard treatment of the melody that was, at times, both subtle and replete with baroque classical flourishes (occasionally background voices were added to the misture, though their presence often seems superflous to the arrangement). United Artists admittedly preferred to see Ferrante & Teicher record material related to its own film and publishing interests, but the caliber of music was also an important consideration. "Exodus", "Tonight", "Theme from Lawrence of Arabia", and "Sunrise, Sunset" were all part of Academy Award-winning scores, and "Moon River" won the Oscar for the Best Song in 1961. "Antony and Cleopatra Theme" is from the pen of distinguished film composer Alex North, who was awarded an Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1986, and "Pieces of Dreams" was written by French soundtrack music superstar Michel Legrand. In two interesting instances, also included here, "Mozart Piano Concerto #21 in C Major K. 467 (Andante Movement)" from 'Elvira Madigan' and 'The Music Lovers' main title adaptation of Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto in B-Flat Minor (Slow Movement)", Ferrante & Teicher returned to their classical roots and provided arrangements that helped transform these pieces into popular favorites.

To say that Ferrante & Teicher sometimes worked from a formula ("Love Theme from One-Eyed Jacks", "Theme from the Motion Picture 'Goodbye Again'", "Lisa", and "Khartoum" all fit the mold nicely) does not mean that they were not adventurous. Their treatment of "Smile", a wistful tune composed by Charlie chaplin for his 1936 film 'Modern Times', is a good case in point. Usually performed as a melancholy ballad, Ferrante & Teicher's bouncy, uptempo approach provides an entirely different perspective on the song. Also worth a special mention is "Theme from Taras Bulba (The Wishing Star)", the theme from the 1962 Yul Brynner action picture, 'Taras Bulba'. Though it only rose to #116 on the pop charts, it is a finely shaded reading that remains one of the few special favorites of Ferrante & Teicher aficionados that was never collected onto an album. It makes its first appearance here since its initial release as a single in 1962.

One final word on formulaic approaches. Even the casual listener is likely to note that "A Man and A Woman (Un Homme Et Une Femme)" and "Live For Life (Vivre Pour Vivre)" are strikingly similar pieces of work. That is because they are both the product of the same man, Francis Lai, composing theme music for nearly identical films. In 1966, 'A Man and A Woman' achieved great commercial success as one of the first examples of French New Wave Cinema. Director Claude Lelouch followed this film in 1967 with 'Live For Life', a virtual remake which proved a box office disappointment.

"More" must be the prettiest piece of film music ever to emerge from an otherwise unpleasant movie (the exploitational "documentary" Mondo Cane). Ferrante & Teicher's recording was made in 1963, five months after Martin Denny took the first try at it for Liberty Records. Actually, Ferrante & Teicher were originally offered the song, but they passed after being informed that it came out of a "horrible film". As much as "Exodus" had proved kind to Eddie Harris, this instrumental also provided another noted jazz man, trombonist Kai Winding, with his only Top 40 record. A set of lyrics was added and popularized by Johnny Mathis and other male vocalists, and "More" has gone on to be recorded by over 200 different artists. Mathis also popularized a ballad version of the "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet", entitled "A Time For Us". Henry Mancini had a number one hit with his arrangement of this tune in 1969. It appears here in its original instrumental form, a track taken from the 1969 album "Listen to the Movies with Ferrante and Teicher".

"Midnight cowboy", Ferrante & Teicher's last Top 10 single, also dates from 1969. It was given a particularly interesting sound by veteran studio musician vincent Bell. Bell, former leader of an instrumental, rock quartet called the Ramrods, was experimenting at a session when he came up with the unusual sound he termed his "water guitar" effect. Ferrante & Teicher gave it a listen and decided that it would mesh perfectly with the mood they were trying to create with this recording. One year later, Bell scored an instrumental hit in his own right with "Airport Love Theme (Gwen and Vern)" from the film'Airport'.

The final recording in the chronological span of this collection is Ferrante & Teicher's rendition of "Love Theme from The Godfather", which reached #28 on the easy listening charts in 1972. With the obligatory mandolins serenading in the background, Ferrante & Teicher provide a very atmospheric interpretation of a strong piece of material. In fact, the score for 'The Godfather' was originally announced to be one of the five Oscar nominees in 1972, only to be declared ineligible when it was discovered that composer Nino Rota had previously used portions of the music in his score for a 1958 Italian film, 'Fortunella'. The love theme was later turned into a romantic ballad entitled "Speak Softly Love", popularized by Andy williams and Al Martino.

In 1979, Ferrante & Teicher and United Artists came to a parting of the ways. Twenty years on one label's roster is equal to several eternities in the record business. A certain complacency, detrimental to artistic fulfillment, had settled around Ferrante & Teicher and those involved with their projects. They have since recharged their creative batteries, and currently record for their own label, Avant-Garde. Always prolific performers, their phenomenal backlog of recordings has been packaged and repackaged into 194 albums (that they know of!) worldwide. As they enter the 1990's and their fourth decade of international celebrity, Ferrante & Teicher remain what they have been from the very beginning - the two best friends that 176 piano keys could ever hope to have.

(Joseph F. Laredo)

2 comentários:

  1. It will be great to watch Fiddler On The Roof, i have bought tickets from
    http://ticketfront.com/event/Fiddler_On_The_Roof-tickets looking forward to it.

    ResponderExcluir
  2. Will you please post the link? Thanks in advance.

    Thanks.

    ResponderExcluir

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