Bernard HERRMANN (1911-1975)
Hangover Square (arr. from original mss by Stephen Hogger) (1941) [17:05]
Concerto Macabre for piano and orchestra (1941) (performing edition by Norma Shepherd) (1992) [11:01]
Citizen Kane arr. from original mss by Stephen Hogger (1940-41) [49:07]
Orla Boylan (soprano); Martin Roscoe (piano)
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
rec. 24 and 25 March and 14 July (Salammbô’s Aria only) 2009 Studio 7, BBC New Broadcasting House, Manchester. DDD
Full tracklisting at end reviews
CHANDOS CHAN 10577 [77:31]
This very generous selection from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane is most welcome. Citizen Kane is widely considered to be the greatest film of all time; a poll of more than 1,500 members of the film industry chose Kane the best for the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies, unveiled in 1998. It also topped the AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies — 10th Anniversary Edition and has held the top place in Sight and Sound’s ten year critics’ poll from 1962 onwards. Not bad for a first film – even if it did fail at the box office and was ignored for 15 years! Certainly, as a piece of film-making it is an astonishing achievement, as is Bernard Herrmann’s music for the film, also his first work in Hollywood.
RKO bought Patrick Hamilton’s novel Hangover Square at the suggestion of the star, Laird Cregar. If you know the book then forget it as there is much in the film that is new, courtesy of screenwriter Barry Lyndon. But it’s a marvellous film, which includes madness, a love story, murder, mayhem and a Piano Concerto! Eat your heart out Star Wars! Here we have 21 cues from the film, and what a wealth of material there is. The Piano Concerto is a fine piece in its own right – a dark, troubled, work, a Totentanz in its own way – but because the part it plays in the film is odd, to say the least, it has never gained the popularity of other film Concertos, such as Rozsa’s Spellbound Concerto. This is fine stuff, hard-hitting and dynamic, with a virtuoso solo part and rich orchestration. The ever-reliable Martin Roscoe makes a very persuasive case for the music.
Citizen Kane is such a magnificent score that it’s a real pleasure to welcome this new recording of a sizeable chunk of the music. Here is Herrmann trying new things, creating not only wonderfully atmospheric music, but playing with form and style. The aria from the supposed opera Salammbô is sung as it should be, not as in the film, by a dramatic soprano. Orla Boylan is a little too generous with her use of a wide vibrato and the purity of the line is lost. This is the only flaw in an otherwise excellent disk.
Whilst you wouldn’t want to be without the Herrmann disk with the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt (RCA GD80707) – which has Kiri Te Kanawa singing the Salammbô aria – nor Herrmann’s own recording of excerpts from the score this is a fine exposition of the music. Fantastic sound and good notes all go to making this a most rewarding and desirable issue.
And a further review - from Rob Barnett:-
This is a very generously timed and magnificently performed and recorded disc. It’s a red letter event for the Herrmann literature.
The last few years have been exciting ones for Herrmann fans. Sad to say this has not involved a new recording of the opera Wuthering Heights; nor even a reissue of the rather one-dimensional sounding Unicorn Souvenir set (UKCD2050-52). However the following pallet-full is not to be sniffed at. Decca Eloquence (Australia) will reissue Herrmann conducting The Planets with the LPO (1970). Tribute’s Rolls Royce revivals look likely to include a new and typically resplendent Stromberg-Moscow collaboration though no one is saying which score yet. Andrew Rose’s Pristine are resurrecting what I fervently hope will be the first of a series of radio acetate transcriptions of Herrmann’s CBS Symphony Orchestra years. From 1945 they have Handel: Water Music Suite (arr. Harty); Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto and Elgar Falstaff caught on Sunday 9 September 1945 PASC202. From the Prometheus label The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad is conducted by “Kurt Graunke and his orchestra” in 1958. It’s a 2 CD issue with the complete original score in mono mixed with the album stereo cues and the original soundtrack album. By report it’s suspected to be conducted by Herrmann with a pickup orchestra in Shepperton although Kurt Graunke certainly existed. There’s also a rare Twisted Nerve/The Bride Wore Black from Bruce Kimmel’s Kritzerland label. It includes The Twisted Nerve LP and The Bride Wore Black 45 rpm on CD – rare items both. The CD runs 28 minutes and is limited to 1200 copies. Now if only Varese-Sarabande could be persuaded to issue a boxed set of their often inspired RSNO/McNeely/Debney re-recordings of scores such as Marnie, Sinbad, Trouble With Harry, Vertigo and The Day The Earth Stood Still. Perhaps Eloquence will follow up their Planets with a reissue of the three Phase Four Film Spectaculars that Herrmann made with the National Phil in the 1970s.
The present Chandos issue is a compelling purchase for Herrmann fans and even for neophytes. It’s recorded with aching clarity and the music-making has a vibrant feel for the idiom. That’s typical of Gamba who taps direct into the fleshy, decaying, sinister, nocturnal, romantic milieu that bridges these two scores.
In much the same way as Chandos and Gamba have made their two Korngold discs compulsory acquisitions so the Herrmann constituency will have to have this one. It’s the first revival of the Hangover Square music as arranged by Stephen Hogger. You may know his name already as he has done so much work for the RVW film score revivals on Chandos. I know about the 1972 revival of Concerto Macabre by Joaquin Achucarro on that iconic Herrmann RCA Classic Film Scores collection (now available from Archiv Music). Others, apart from Achucarro, also recorded the Concerto as part of various film music piano concerto medleys. The Concerto appears here in a new edition which we are told incorporates the composer’s revisions for concert performance. It’s a Lisztian effusion from the same left-field as Totentanz but blended with the lichen and fog so gloriously typical of Herrmann. The marriage of Herrmann’s music-melodrama with the Laird Cregar/Linda Darnell film is made in heaven – or possibly somewhere hotter. In any event it’s a totally apt alliance and the music rewards attention. If the Concerto and the Hogger sequence overlap the listener will not feel cheated. It’s all classic Herrmann and you are hearing music not heard before or at least not in this form. Even in the film music sequence the piano plays a prominent part rather as it does in Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.
Citizen Kane was Herrmann’s first cinema partnership with Orson Welles. It’s a revered film with many starkly imaginative images which are intensified by Herrmann’s music. The extended score here is way beyond the compact suite featured on the RCA Classic series as master-minded by Charles Gerhardt/George Korngold. It has been recorded before, though not with such Manchester immediacy and allure, by Label X/Prometheus and by Varese-Sarabande (RSNO/McNeely).
The score is very varied. Wild frilly frivolous galops - not a stone’s throw from Offenbach - jostle with romps glaring with Prokofiev-like psychological subtext. Music of piercing regret is heard alongside Romeo and Juliet-inflected (could Herrmann have known the ballet at that time?) poignancy. As illustration take the irresistibly gentle Kane Meets Susan (tr. 8). There’s even some Weill-style sleaze (tr. 11). There’s also that grand operatic aria (complete with full words and translation in the booklet) in which Orla Boylan delivers the goods in a way that Kane’s poor Susan never could. That aria transcends the cod-Grand Siècle idiom and has one wishing that Herrmann had had the luxury of time to write a full opera in this unblushing uber-Lakmé toxic-exotic idiom. It’s clearly the sort of flamboyance that might have featured in Act I of Phantom of the Opera. Boylan puts up a completely credible and ripely enjoyable challenge to the young and unspoilt Kiri Te Kanawa in the aria as recorded by Gerhardt back in 1972.
Chandos once again notch up a lavish production in every single aspect.
Full track listing:
1 Opening Titles; The Dealer; Murder and Fire; Confession [6:21]
2 Netta; The Spell; The Murder; Fame [4:29]
3 The Cat; Netta's Death; The Bonfire; Recovery [6:05]
4 Concerto macabre for Piano and Orchestra [11:01] (arr. Herrmann)
5 Prelude; Rain (Susan in Nightclub); Thatcher Library; Manuscript Reading and Snow Picture; Mother's Sacrifice; Charles Meets Thatcher [8:10]
6 Galop; Dissolve to Thatcher Reading Document; Second Manuscript; Thanks; Bernstein's Narration; Kane's New Office; New Hornpipe Polka; Carter's Exit; Chronicle Scherzo; Bernstein's Presto [7:15]
7 Kane's Return; Collecting Statues; Valse Presentation; Sunset Narrative; Theme and Variations [7:38]
8 Kane Meets Susan; Susan's Room; Mother Memory; The Trip; Geddes's Departure; Kane Marries [5:40]
9 Salammbo's Aria [4:12]
10 Leland's Dismissal; New Dawn Music; Xanadu; Jigsaws; Second Xanadu [7:10]
11 Kane's Picnic; Susan Leaves; El Rancho; The Glass Ballo; Finale [8:28]