Just arrived a few days ago, this disc from the Dutton Epoch label is a re-recording of the complete score for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic by Ralph Vaughan Williams. When I first saw the film many years ago as a kid, it really scared me- it was a pretty bleak and chilling film with a tragic ending and the score seemed a big part of that- music that was scary and brutal. Even today whenever I hear it, it gives me more than a few chills. It seems the perfect musical rendition of desolation, horror and arctic wastes and has never been bettered.
The music is of course most famous in its symphonic form, as Williams later adapted it into his Seventh Symphony, the Sinfonia Antarctica, gaining a reputation and endurance beyond the original film. The score itself was written in 1947 before the film was even made- Williams composed it based on a copy of the script and the book The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, which documented the ill-fated expedition. The score was recorded and then added to the film when it was later shot and completed. A considerable amount of music composed and recorded for the film was never actually used, but fortunately William’s original manuscripts were stored for posterity and conductor Martin Yates was granted access to them in order to transcribe the music for this, complete and definitive re-recording of the whole score.
Its no exaggeration to say that this is an important piece of film-music history. The disc runs some 79 minutes across 41 tracks, and the music sequenced chronologically tells the story of the film perfectly. Its naturally got a very traditional, English-sounding style evocative of the period, but while it is ‘of its time’ it is also very powerful and dramatic. Film-scores just haven’t been like this since the heyday of Williams, Barry and Goldsmith, as music has retreated to soundscapes and ambience of late. Fans of the film, its music or just the Sinfonia Antarctica will find much to enjoy here- if nothing else, its fascinating to compare this music with its symphonic cousin. Thanks to this great re-recording, the original score music that inspired that Seventh Symphony will have a life all its own for decades to come.