At just under an hour, this is the longest CD GDI Records have given us in
their Hammer series. "The Mummy" is a wise choice for the company's first
disc devoted to just one work and composer. It is a fine score (as endorsed
by the sepulchral tones of Christopher Lee in a welcome brief introduction).
It is a pity that Franz Reizenstein himself does not get bigger billing.
His name does not appear anywhere on the cover of the CD or on the spine!
Even on the back of the disc cover, his name is in far smaller print than
the name of "Hammer" which is presumably what the distributors think will
sell their product. Nonetheless GDI are to be congratulated for presenting
all the music Reizenstein wrote for this 1959 quintessential Hammer production
for there are many enjoyably atmospheric tracks on this CD. The "Opening
Credits", "The Burial Procession", "John Banning and Mehemet Bey" and the
"Finale and End Credits" could all stand on their own as individual mini-tone
poems such is the depth to their powerful ideas. The film music itself forms
a kind of extended orchestral suite with strongly characterised recurring
themes, the most striking of which describes Kharis's love for Ananka and
doubles as the Mummy's theme. The use of a wordless chorus here is decidedly
(and gratifyingly) un-Hollywood such is the sincerity and indeed beauty of
the writing. The primordial strength of the Egyptian-style music is not quite
matched by the more dissonant parts of the score depicting the murderous
events in England in where the Mummy is running amok. However, the imagination
of the orchestration as exemplified by the skilful use of percussion to crank
up the excitement impresses the listener and presages the composer's more
lurid score to the Anton Diffring film "Circus of Horrors" of 1960. The sound
on the "Mummy" disc is variable but never less than acceptable: indeed, it
is remarkably good considering its late-1950s provenance.
Recommended to Hammer addicts (who will cherish the many splendid colour
photographs in the handsomely produced booklet) and those interested in yet
another émigré whose works have been unfairly neglected in
recent years. I sincerely hope this will not turn out to be the only CD of
the music of Franz Reizenstein to appear before the public - there are, amongst
other works, two piano concertos, two piano sonatas, a cello concerto, a
violin concerto, a concert overture "Cyrano de Bergerac", a radio opera "Anna
Kraus" and an oratorio "Genesis" yet to receive commercial recordings.