Wednesday 12 June 2024

An undeniable gift for melody: Charles Mauleverer's Overture

Charles Mauleverer: Overture; Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Lee Reynolds, Prague Symphonic Ensemble, Jérôme Kuhn, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Johannes Vogel; Wotuno

Charles Mauleverer: Overture; Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Lee Reynolds, Prague Symphonic Ensemble, Jérôme Kuhn, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Johannes Vogel; Wotuno
Reviewed 11 June 2024

Ten short orchestral pieces by film composer Charles Mauleverer, spanning some twenty years, and revealing a real gift for melody and for creating atmosphere

Composer Charles Mauleverer describes his disc Overture, released on Wotuno records, as the first complete album of his compositions under his own name. The material on the disc spans over 20 years, from Overture, written in 2003 just after leaving school to Cornish Idyll from 2022. The disc features ten short orchestral works played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Lee Reynolds, the Prague Symphonic Ensemble, conducted by Jérôme Kuhn and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Vogel.

Jersey-born Charles Mauleverer is a composer whose work you might have heard even though you are unfamiliar with his name, his music features on films, TV and adverts, whilst he has also assisted on a number of film and TV works. He studied at Oxford and the Royal College of Music where teachers included Robert Saxton, Ryan Wigglesworth, Joseph Horovitz and Ken Hesketh. He clearly has interests beyond film and TV, he wrote his first symphony, One Home: An Environmental Symphony in 2015-2016, his second, Two Brothers (about the Great War) in 2017-2018 and his third, Five Curiosities (described as orchestral postcards of Jersey) in 2021-22.

The disc begins with three pieces performed by Lee Reynolds and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Nonet from 2011 originally had the title Let Children Have Their Childhood but listening cold, it has a distinct feel of English pastoral. A very effective piece indeed, with some lovely lush harmonies. Overture dates from 2003, just after he left school and was orchestrated in 2005 by Andrew Cottee for a recording by John Wilson. Atmospheric, it gets positively filmic when Lynda Cochrane's piano solo comes in, and there is a big tune. The most recent work in the disc, Cornish Idyll (from 2022) resulted from the COVID lockdown and includes a section inspired by the idea of pirates drinking in a cove. It moves from the picturesque Walton-esque to something positively gypsy-ish. These pirates are definitely rakish.

The next three pieces are all performed by Jérôme Kuhn, [a conductor whose name featured in my interview with composer Richard Harvey] and the Prague Symphonic Ensemble. Theme from Stay (from 2015) is from a short film, Stay by Ben Hyland. Atmospheric at first, with some lovely textures, it then develops into a big tune that has an unashamed appreciation to it. Mauleverer clear has melodic gifts and enjoys them. This continues with the next piece, A Vow (from 2011/2015) which features a lovely violin solo by Antonin Burda. Originally a song, for his brother's wedding, Mauleverer arranged it for violin and string orchestra in 2015. Again, an unashamed love of melody and an ability to spin one that you want to hear. Upon Saint Catherine's Hill (from 2015) is inspired by Winchester, but was written for Jérôme Kuhn and the Prague Symphonic Ensemble who commissioned and recorded four of Mauleverer's works including his first symphony. Upon Saint Catherine's Hill has a lovely atmosphere with effective writing for flute and strings, along with surprising depth.

The final group of pieces were all recorded by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Vogel. The Snow Leopard was written for the studio orchestra at Babelsberg in Berlin, the second oldest working professional film studio in the world. It was written whilst Mauleverer was studying at the film university attached to the studio. Inspired by the animal, the work is a lovely piece of symphonic writing that leads to a really good tune.

Auf Stillem Waldespfad is an orchestration of a Richard Strauss piano piece, done in 2006 for his undergraduate studies in Oxford. The result is charming, very much in the style of characteristic pieces, though with some naughty touches in the sardonic brass writing. And there are moments that do indeed sound like Richard Strauss! The Smiling Spring is another student work this time from the Royal College of Music, an expansion and orchestration of one of Mauleverer's own songs, setting Robert Burns, and yes the tune does rather remind you of other Burns songs, but here in its own effective arrangement.  The final work on the disc is The Immortal Game from 2012, dedicated to Joseph Horovitz, Mauleverer's main teacher at the Royal College of Music. The music was written for a film about a chess player and the title refers to a famous chess game played in 1851. The music takes you on a real emotional journey, featuring another of Mauleverer's knock-out tunes.

Clearly Charles Mauleverer loves a good tune and is unashamed about it. The music on this disc combines melody with lovely atmosphere and enormously effective writing. All are occasional pieces, none outstay their welcome, and most would fit into the right sort of programme. The disc is nicely put together, and makes a most enjoyable and effective programme, a recital you enjoy listening to. The performances are excellent, and are all definitely a cut above.

Charles Mauleverer - Nonet
Charles Mauleverer - Overture
Charles Mauleverer - Cornish Idyll
Charles Mauleverer - Theme from 'Stay'
Charles Mauleverer - A Vow
Charles Mauleverer - Upon Saint Catherine's Hill
Charles Mauleverer - The Snow Leopard
Charles Mauleverer - Auf Stillem Waldespfad
Charles Mauleverer - The Smiling Spring
Charles Mauleverer - The Immortal Gift
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Lee Reynolds, recorded RSNO Centre, Glasgow, 18 August 2022
Prague Symphonic Ensemble, conducted by Jérôme Kuhn, recorded a Smecky Studios, Prague, June-September 2015
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Vogel, recorded in Studio 1 of the Slovak Radio, Bratislava, Slovakia, 25 June 2022

The disc is available from Mauleverer's website.

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