Awards season steps into high gear this week, with the Academy Award nominations due out on Thursday and the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night. While we leave it to Movies on the Radio to handicap this year's music nominees, the season nonetheless is a reminder of the great composers who have written for film over the decades.
As Eckart Runge, the cellist of the Artemis String Quartet, sees it, the cello is the cinematic instrument par excellence. Its versatility provides the basis for "Cello Cinema," an enjoyable collection of classic film themes, by composers such as Shostakovich, Piazzolla, Rota, Herrmann and Morricone, all arranged for cello and piano.
The sophisticated and occasionally cheeky arrangements, mainly by Runge and his pianist Jacques Ammon, include selections by Piazzolla (from "Henry IV" and "Sur") and Gardel's "Tanti Anni Prima," famous from the tango scene in "Scent of a Woman." Shostakovich's music also comes off well, including two deeply lyrical selections from "The Gadfly."
There are also the tragicomic sounds of Nino Rota's score to "8 1/2," the whimsical "Smile" by Chaplin (who himself played the cello), the off-kilter charms of Tom Waits's "Helsinki Mood" from Jim Jarmush's "Night on Earth," and a cover of the surf-rock chestnut, "Misirlou," from "Pulp Fiction."
As Runge further points out in the liner notes, the cello has occasionally been a protagonist in films, as seen in the clips below. The first is from "The Living Daylights," where it was the rudder of a daring James Bond sled ride; and the second comes from "The Ladykillers" (1955), where it provided an alibi for music-playing bank robbers.
Eckart Runge, cello; Jacques Ammon, piano
Available at Arkivmusic.com