Brian Easdale’s soundtrack for the 1948 film, The Red Shoes, has been called “evocative” and “modernist”. It almost didn’t happen. Brian was not the first choice to score the film, but after another composer submitted a score and it was rejected outright, he was enlisted to quickly write one, which he did in record-breaking fashion.
His only stipulation was that Sir Thomas Beecham approve of the score before one second of it was recorded. Thomas approved, and volunteered to conduct the orchestra in its recordation. The only problem was, he had no patience when it came to conducting music for film, because it was a painstaking process that involved timing the music to the frames on the screen. Thomas’s solution: Record the soundtrack first, and let the directors and editors make the film fit it. It worked. Brian won Oscars for Best Music and Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
Just two years after the film’s release, Brian transcribed the music for piano only and then, in 1963, he put together an orchestral suite, ideal for concerts and records. The soundtrack appears on several labels, including El, Silva Screen, and The Sound Track Factory. The latter label offers up Sir Thomas’s version with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
If some of the music has a distinctively Indian feel, it is because Brian listened to and studied the music of India while he was in Calcutta. The rhythms of the region turned out to be ideal for choreography and dancing. Another unique feature of the soundtrack is the use of an Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic instruments, which has a sci-fi, vibraphone-like sound. The centerpiece of Brian’s score is a 17-minute ballet segment that went on to inspire a host of imitators.
The Philharmonia Orchestra recordings
The Red Shoes Ballet (Brian Easdale)
Conductor – Kenneth Alwyn