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Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes - complete film score (1970)
Lucie Svehlová (violin)
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra/Nic Raine
rec. Barrandov Studios, Prague, January 2007
premiere recording - based on Rózsa’s Violin Concerto op. 24 (1956)

The celebrated writer-director, Billy Wilder, had a distinguished track record in the cinema. Amongst his best remembered films are: Double Indemnity*, The Lost Weekend*, Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, The Seven Year Itch, The Spirit of St Louis, Some Like it Hot and The Apartment. (*scored by Rózsa). Rózsa was hardly a novice either, His scores included: Knight Without Armour, The Four Feathers, The Jungle Book, The Thief of Baghdad, Spellbound, Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, King of Kings and El Cid.

Wilder cannily encouraged Miklós Rózsa to quote from his own Violin Concerto in his The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes score. The concerto had been commissioned some fifteen years before by Jascha Heifetz. It will be recalled that Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth often turned to the violin for relaxation or to help him solve a case.

The introductory notes to this album relate that the stories for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes were written by Billy Wilder; they were not Conan Doyle originals. The film was conceived as a three hour epic: a collection of bizarre mysteries for Holmes to solve culminating in an espionage episode in which Victorian British Intelligence endeavours to protect, from the attentions of a German spy ring, the development of a submarine around Loch Ness in Scotland. Much of the film, that was originally to have starred Peter O’Toole as Holmes and Peter Sellers as Watson instead of Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely, was cut due to the insensitivity and incompetence of United Artists producers. It is to be hoped that one day The American Film Institute will restore and preserve Wilder’s original cut. The film has continued to grow in stature since a 1970 release that disappointed critics and audiences alike.

This new recording is of the complete score for the originally planned three hour epic plus some additional and alternative cues not used in the film. The album’s conductor, Nic Raine, worked on restoration and orchestration where Rózsa’s original sketches were not too clear. The result is a triumph, nearly 80 minutes of music, superbly attuned to Rózsa’s unique musical idiom. There are liberal quotes from the Violin Concerto throughout notably from the slow movement’s lovely romantic material for ‘Gabrielle’ with whom Holmes falls in love only to discover she is in fact an enemy spy. The opening theme of the first movement is used for Holmes’ cocaine addiction.

Apart from the concerto quotations there is much else to admire including the tongue-in-cheek oriental wit of ‘The Curious Case of the Upside-Down Room’ and the memorable strongly rhythmic music based on traditional Scottish folk music for the sequence in which Holmes and Gabrielle cycle from one Scottish castle to the next. Also notable are the Elgarian march associated with Queen Victoria and the British Intelligence at the Diogenes Club, and the misterioso motif for the Trappist monks.

Nic Raine, with a splendidly on-form City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, deliver an exciting, atmospheric and colourful reading of this important score. Soloist, Lucie Svehlová’s honey-toned playing brings out all the passion and yearning of the music for Gabrielle.

Miklós Rózsa, himself, recorded a memorable nine minute suite of music, in 1977, from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It was the highlight track of Polydor 2383 440 that included excerpts from many other Rózsa scores including Julius Caesar, Lady Hamilton and Lydia.* This short suite included the love music for Gabrielle, the urgent music for the cycle ride between the ‘Castles of Scotland’, with subtle changes of tempi and nuance. There was also music from the Queen Victoria episode unashamedly full of Elgarian pomp - more so than on this present CD. This was possibly due to the enthusiasm of the arranger, the late great Christopher Palmer. That memorable Polydor was one of three Rózsa film score LPs recorded by the RPO conducted by composer. It is to be hoped that some enterprising company will re-release them on CD before long.

The present disc offers a winning performance of a colourful, exciting and atmospheric score. It is one of Rózsa’s best, drawing on music from his own beautiful Violin Concerto.

Ian Lace



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