Naxos Film Music release is another migrant from Marco Polo,
in this case 8.225217, released as recently as 2003 where
it featured a spicy John Wayne cover. Here we have a rather
less overtly cinematic, rather more artistic image on the
booklet cover, a painting by W.R. Leigh of a cattle stampede.
again in this series John Morgan has undertaken the considerable
job of restoration. The score lasts sixty-four minutes and
the thirty-seven cues, here separately tracked, offer the
Tiomkin devotee plenty of interest and excitement. That said
I have to admit I’m not a huge admirer of the score. The
claims advanced for it over the years are at best tendentious
and its existence as an independent entity rather works against
it. This is primarily in respect of the compression necessary
which gives it a breathless and rather hectoring tone, one
that in the film is relieved by dialogue and by the natural
punctuation of the filmic medium.
said there are still plenty of moments of interest. I advise
you to put up with the chorus whose approximations of English
are less than convincing and listen instead to what has always
seemed to me a characteristically Russian infusion of Prokofiev-like
violence in the fourth track, The Red Menace Strikes. Here
the low brass and percussion really tell, as does the cello-rich
string patina and the dark orchestral palette. This is in
any case a distinctive feature of Tiomkin’s orchestration,
here pushed to its optimal limit in theatrical characterisation.
And splendid it is too, and equally well presented by the
Moscow forces under William Stromberg, himself a fine orchestrator
of film scores, as many will doubtless appreciate.
Russianness of this quintessentially American film is underlined
by such things as the Chaliapinesque chorus in The Birth
of Red River. And one should always remember that much
of the cowpokery in which Tiomkin indulges was self-invention.
Talking of influence I detect a Tiomkin influence on Malcolm
Arnold, especially in the drunken scenes, where brass and
rhythmic control distinctly foreshadow Arnold’s own adventures
in such things – not just confined to his own film scores
I do find the constant reprises of material – the highfalutin’ might
prefer leitmotifs – somewhat exhausting and much of the material,
whilst rhythmically exciting, is not always thematically
convincing. Moments of calm amongst the torrent are few.
One such is The Missing Cowboy (track 15) and the
expressive advantages for the listener are palpable. The
general tenor of the score however is toward the galvanic
and that can be enervating, taken in one sitting.
praise to the Moscow forces however – their vocal brethren
perhaps excluded - for their powerful commitment to this
score and its ebullient realisation in this performance.
Whatever my reservations here one can’t deny the powerful
impression made in this recording. Marco Polo’s extensive
booklet notes have been compressed into the standard Naxos
booklet but no essential information has been lost.
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Seen & Heard
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