As a devoted fan of the film scores of Dimitri Tiomkin, I had been eagerly
looking forward to the London Symphony Orchestra’s concert
at London’s Barbican Concert Hall in October last year
(2011). Sadly, I was prevented from attending because of other
commitments. Listening to this recording I am glad that I didn’t
go. Not that the LSO are not experienced in the genre - far
from it, the orchestra has been used on countless occasions
to record film music including the early Star Wars film
scores and John Williams’s music for Superman and
so many others.
The first quarrel I have with this CD is its title which, in
my annoyance, I omitted from my header above. The title is The
greatest film scores of Dimitri Tiomkin. Greatest? Oh yes?
Well, what about the composer’s music for Duel in the
Sun (available with Red River and a number of other
classic western scores on the 1980 Unicorn-Kanchana recording,
UKCD2011), The Guns of Navarone and Lost Horizon
to mention but three.Both the latter are to be heard
on a 1976 RCA Victor recording. It’s one of the pioneering
1970s Classic Film Scores series of recordings made by
Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra. The
latter is an ensemble gathered from the cream of London orchestras.
It doubtless included members of the LSO. All of that said,
I do realise that to construct an evening of music of this type,
a certain variety is necessary and not every score can be included.
A major grouse of mine is with the treatment afforded to Land
of the Pharaohs. The opening credits of this film were underscored,
most unusually, with a wordless choir intoning an almost primordial
chant over cimbalom and strings. It quite brilliantly evokes
an ancient Egyptian atmosphere. In this new recording the choral
music is replaced by a frivolous vocal which to the best of
my knowledge was never associated with Tiomkin’s score.
This inane vocal is just fit to be linked with the ridiculous
Joan Collins character whose appearance made the veracity of
the film plummet irrevocably after a most impressive start.
Thankfully, after this aberration, Kaufman includes the magnificent,
majestic Pharaoh’s Procession but his reading does
not have that vital spark heard on the complete original soundtrack
recording now available on Film Score Monthly FSM Vol. 10 No.
17. Tiomkin’s dynamic rhythms and cross-rhythms, create
considerable dramatic tension and represent a considerable challenge
It is a shame that The Fall of the Roman Empire could
not have been represented by the majestic Pax Romana
music that underscored the scene where the Roman Emperor Marcus
Aurelius (Alec Guinness) accepts the homage of assembled dignitaries
from all corners of the Empire. However the haunting love theme
from the film comes over well on this CD. Music from The
Fall of the Roman Empire was released by Cloud Nine Records.
It is also a pity that the High Noon selection is restricted
to the famous theme song originally sung by Frankie Laine: Do
not forsake me O my darlin’. How much more interesting
it would have been to hear The Clock and Showdown sequence
as heard on the Unicorn-Kanchana disc referred to above. The
relentless pulse and tense variations on that song, especially
at the phrase O to be torn ‘twixt love and duty,
The Strangers on a Train notes may tantalise readers
about Tiomkin’s intriguing train music heard immediately
after the film’s Main Titles. Sadly, it is not heard here.
Once again I would refer readers to another CD (Music from
Alfred Hitchcock Films on a 1985 Varese-Sarabande recording
VCD 47225). This included a gripping 16-minute suite from Strangers
on a Train another major effort from Tiomkin.
What about the remaining tracks. I was delighted that the LSO
had elected to include the delightful Overture to Cyrano
de Bergerac. It’s so apposite to the 17th
century French style. Of the westerns, there is the theme song
from the highly successful TV series, Rawhide, rousingly
sung by Andrew Playfoot. Kaufman presents a well observed reading
of The Alamo music. That’s especially true of the
lovely lyrical Green Leaves of Summer sung by the London
Voices. Unfortunately the De Guella music is too laboured.
Whitney Claire Kaufman sings, not seductively enough, the song
from another western, the lusty, tempestuous Wild is the
Wind. Giant had an expansive, bracing, out-of-doors score.
It’s as big as its Texan landscapes and Kaufman rises
to its romance and excitement in a more substantial suite than
The tangy glitter of a calm sea is nicely evoked, together with
catchy Latin-American references in the relaxed music from Tiomkin’s
Academy Award-winning The Old Man and the Sea. It’s
based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 novella.
Finally I must mention Tiomkin’s high-spirited and delectable
overture for the wistful comedy of marital harmony and chaos,
The Four Poster. Nor should we forget the strongly dramatic
material that lifted the uninspired and clichéd air-disaster
movie, The High and the Mighty, plus the enervating
Circus World score. All these receive very satisfactory
This is good in parts but devoted Tiomkin aficionados might
well be disappointed.