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Bernard HERRMANN (1911-1975)
Score reconstructions by John MORGAN
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) [36:59]
Five Fingers (1952) [29:24]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William Stromberg
rec. September 2000, Mosfilm Studio, Moscow. DDD
Re-issue of Marco Polo 8.225168
NAXOS 8.570186 [66:27] 
Experience Classicsonline

Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for his music for thrillers. Psycho, without doubt his best known music for film, can never be forgotten, even after one hearing - how much music in all genres can boast that feat I wonder? It can easily be forgotten that he wrote for music for all manner of film – drama, Citizen Kane (1941), period piece, Anna and the King of Siam (1946), supernatural drama, The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) (Herrmann’s, and my, favourite, score), quirky comedy, The Trouble with Harry (1955), kitchen sink, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) and psychological, urban, drama, Taxi Driver (1976) to name but a very few. Therefore, these two examples of his music for film, and very different films they are, should come as no surprise, and should be warmly welcomed.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is based on a story by Ernest Hemingway. Harry Street - as far as I am concerned played by a badly miscast Gregory Peck - lies dying in his tent at the foot of the mountain and spends his time reminiscing, in flashback, on his life and telling everything to his wife (Susan Hayward). Whether the film is to your liking or not, Herrmann’s music will be: it’s rich and romantic, this is music of love, lost love, and yearning for love. A swirling prologue is followed by a Nocturne of great beauty, then a very nostalgic Memory Waltz. The music for the women in Harry’s life is sumptuously scored, full of melody. Some said that Herrmann could not write melody, let them hear this score and eat their words. The cues for The Witch Doctor and The Death-Watch are as eerie as anything Herrmann ever wrote. 

Five Fingers is based on a true story. During World War 2, in neutral Turkey, Ulysses Diello - Code Name: Cicero – (a wonderful James Mason) is the ambitious and highly resourceful valet to the British Ambassador. He forms a plan to make himself a rich gentleman of leisure. As his employer has many secret documents, he photographs them, and, with the help of a refugee Countess, sells them to the Nazis. When he has made a certain amount of cash, he will retire to South America with the Countess as his wife. However, when he arrives in Rio he discovers that the Nazis have paid him in counterfeit currency. Herrmann’s score is, in general, dark and brooding, full of atmosphere for time and place, containing those strange sonorities he so loved, and is tinged with eastern sounds. 

This is another fine addition to Naxos’s growing catalogue of Film Music Classics. Stromberg brings strong and intelligent performances from the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and the sound is bright and clear in the label’s best manner. The notes, by both Joseph Caporiccio and Christopher Husted (Manager, Bernard Herrmann Music), are outstanding but there is no information on what work John Morgan had to do to bring these scores to recording. This latter is really important and in previous issues has been a source of fascinating material. But it’s the music we want and this is an outstanding exposition of two fine examples of music for film, by a master of the genre.

Bob Briggs


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