Cinema Spectacular
CD 1 [56:05]
Sir William WALTON (1902-1983) Richard III – Prelude [9:48]
Constant LAMBERT (1905-1951) Anna Karenina: Suite (Overture; Forlane; Love scene; Finale) [10:56]
Sir Arnold BAX (1883-1953) Oliver Twist: Two Lyrical Pieces: Fagin's romp; Finale [6:57]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) An Ideal Husband – Waltz; Galop [6:23]
Sir William WALTON Escape Me Never [3:15]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) 49th Parallel (from The Invaders) [3:22]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975) Things to Come: Suite: Prologue; March; Building of the New World; Attack on the Moon Gun; Epilogue [14:48]
National Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Herrmann
CD 2 [68:27]
Bernard HERRMANN (1911-1975) Psycho (A narrative for orchestra) [14:29]; Marnie [10:06]; North by Northwest [3:04]; Vertigo [10:31]; A portrait of 'Hitch' (from The Trouble with Harry) [8:16]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Herrmann
Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Hamlet (selection): Introduction; Ball at the palace; The ghost; Scene of the poisoning; The arrival and scene of the players; The duel and death of Hamlet [21:10]
National Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Herrmann
rec. Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, December 1968 (Herrmann); March 1974 (Shostakovich, Richard II); Kingsway Hall, London, November 1975 (Bax, Benjamin, Lambert, RVW, Bliss, Walton). ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3787 [56:05 + 68:27]

This is one of three Eloquence Herrmann/Rozsa film music discs issued last November 2010. It’s soon to be joined by a revival of Herrmann’s sole commercial recording of Holst’s The Planets.

The first disc launches with a marginally too expansive Walton Richard III Prelude where Herrmann italicises every grunt and angle. It’s total immersion in the regal and the tragic. On occasions it’s more of a march than a Prelude even if it is a slow cortege. Even then it has a romantic trio. Towards the end at 6:40 the measured gait pays generous dividends in lyrical release. Four pieces from Lambert’s Anna Karenina are rife with Lambert hallmarks among the tumult of Odeon hyper-romance, Russian romance and sinister tragedy. Rather like his Coronation March (1953) the two pieces from Bax’s music for the David Lean film give us Bax’s heartsick public face – his heart was not in it but it does the commissioned job. Arthur Benjamin plays the Ravel-Strauss card with the Waltz and Galop from An Ideal Husband. It parallels Herrmann’s music for The Magnificent Ambersons and the more exuberant parts of Citizen Kane. The Walton music for Escape Me Never is strangely unWaltonian – more like Benjamin. The RVW music for the prelude to The 49th Parallel is wonderfully strung out and protracted. That treasure of a broad theme – taken very broadly indeed - yearns mightily at this glacially affecting pace. I am very happy to hear it at this tempo – it can take it. In fact the music laps it up. The fifteen minute and five movement suite from Bliss’s Things to Come is lavishly done with care for each intricate detail of the scoring as well as for the grand sweep. The grittily merciless and iron-shod March is taken broadly which is good for its nobilmente but a bit disorientating if you are used to swifter approaches (Bliss, Groves, Hickox). I think this must be the most extended version in the catalogue. Attack on the Moon Gun seems to have been written after hearing Beethoven’s Fifth. The epilogue is staid, its emotions stream by at an andante and its tread is grave, wondering, thoughtful and awed.

The second disc takes us first to Herrmann conducting Herrmann. There’s his most famous score – for Psycho. The strings have something of a manic glare – well suited to the mise-en-scène - but they still reap rewards. The Narrative is a nice compression of the plot. The Marnie music is amongst my favourites – with its uber-romance setting pushed to the extremes of despair and desire laced with mayhem. The North by Northwest piece has plenty of desperately dynamic movement across the stereo stage. Unicorn (KP9000) was soon to overtake that part of the original PFS LP with Laurie Johnson’s 40 minute recording with the London Studio Orchestra. You can now experience the sound of the original 1958 musical soundtrack in full – all 64:49 - on Sony 88697638422. In the tripartite Vertigo sequence the vortex of panic finally slackens its grip for another of those melancholy and hope-filled Scènes d’Amours. A Portrait of Hitch is touching and witty using music from the film The Trouble With Harry. After this comes six movements from Shostakovich’s music from the Soviet film of Hamlet. It is, aptly enough, laced with bleakness and doom, desperate playfulness somewhat in the manner of Prokofiev (Ball), raging brass-roared horror (The Ghost) and stridently portentous fanfares (Arrival of the players). The blistering cue for the Duel and death of Hamlet ends the suite and the disc.

The useful note is by Kenneth Chalmers.

An essential complement to the Herrmann Film Classics CD on Eloquence.

Rob Barnett

An essential complement to the Herrmann Film Classics CD on Eloquence.