ALBUM TITLE: Charlie Chaplin: Modern Times
WORKS: Modern Times
PERFORMER: NDR Radiophilarmonie/Timothy Brock
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 777 286-2
It’s fascinating to listen to Chaplin’s score for his 1936 film satire Modern Times without the aid of pictures. The quirks of its idiosyncratic, unschooled composer are easily audible: little sustained development of themes, much repetition of short motifs, a fondness for what you might call musical doggerel, along with a bittersweet tang. Yet the music’s kaleidoscopic jumble, each fragment timed to match a specific image and mood, carries its own overwhelming personality, while the tunes themselves are obstinately memorable, especially the heart-tugging melody later turned into the popular song ‘Smile’.
Conductor and scholar Timothy Brock’s restoration of the complete score, in its original orchestration by Edward Powell and David Raksin, is most skilfully done. And the NDR Radiophilharmonie displays plenty of comic and sentimental panache of its own as Charlie’s tramp, in our mind’s eye, gets caught in the factory machine’s cogs or enjoys a tender moment with Paulette Goddard’s gamine. Geoff Brown