Dimitri TIOMKIN (1894-1979)
The Greatest Film Scores
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) [2:42]
The Alamo (1960) [12:58]
The Old Man and the Sea (1958) [6:05]
The Four Poster (1952) [2:32]
Giant (1956) [8:23]
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) [3:37]
High Noon (1952) [3:00]
Rawhide (1959-62) [2:16]
The High and the Mighty (1954) [6:37]
Hitchcock Suite: Dial ‘M’ for Murder (1954) and Strangers on a Train (1951) [5:25]
Wild is the Wind (1957) [6:38]
The Sundowners (1960) [2:16]
Land of the Pharaohs (1955) [5:06]
Friendly Persuasion (1956) [7:12]
Whitney Claire Kaufman (vocals); Andrew Playfoot (vocals); London Voices
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Kaufman
rec. live, Barbican Concert Hall, London, October 2011
LSO LSO0720 SACD [77:05]
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 to conductors.
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, are striking.
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 norm.
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 performances.
This is good in parts but devoted Tiomkin aficionados might well be disappointed.
Good in parts but devoted Tiomkin aficionados might well be disappointed.