November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/monthly listings/November/



Warriors of the Silver Screen
 Paul Bateman, Nic Raine, Kenneth Alwyn conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic / Crouch End Festival Chorus conducted by David Temple
 Silva SSD 1081 [2 CDs - 63:11/73:56]
(note: released 1997)
  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

What a great album! This two-CD, Silva Screen release has been around for three years, but I wasn't aware of it until Ford Thaxton featured it recently on his Cinema Soundtrack radio program. It breaks very little new ground in terms of what it offers, but each of the 17 scores represented here is superbly realized by Nic Raine, Paul Bateman and Kenneth Alwyn conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic. Most of the films are from the 1950s and '60s -- including Taras Bulba, Prince Valiant, The Vikings, El Cid and Ben Hur -- and it's hard to resist the wondrously symphonic scores with which Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa and Mario Nascimbene outfitted these sword-and-sandal spectaculars.

The excerpts are more than just main themes -- many include generous suites: almost 18 minutes from The Vikings, 13 minutes from Patrick Doyle's Henry V, and nearly 12 from Taras Bulba. Several are represented by single cues, but they include the heretofore unavailable (to my knowledge) 300 Spartans by Manos Hadjidakis, sounding nothing like his well known Never on Sunday, as David Wishart notes in his excellent liner notes that, for the most part, eschew orchestral detail for the broader historical context of both the films and composers.

Among the CDs' highlights are the 'Ride to Dubno' cue from Taras Bulba, which Bateman captures perfectly, with all its demanding rhythmic development. Also well done is 'The Birth of Andrei,' which remains one of the loveliest themes Waxman ever penned. Bateman's version of Jerome Moross' prelude and main title for The Warlord surpasses Decca's original soundtrack LP (which was conducted by Universal's Joseph Gershenson), and Alwyn deserves praise for his handling of Rozsa's El Cid overture -- a piece often overlooked in that masterwork, possibly because it lacks the thematic reiterations of a traditional overture. Speaking of Rozsa: Three of his scores are included, the others being Ben-Hur and the Thief of Bagdad. The former adds nothing to what's already available, but Raine's 11-minute-plus suite from Thief catches perfectly its lyricism, sweep and overall feeling of fantasy.

Also noteworthy is the choral work of the Crouch End Festival Chorus, which is so right on in the 'No Surrender' cue of First Knight that I found myself double-checking the original soundtrack CD to see if Jerry Goldsmith had used them in his original score (no, he didn't). Many of these cues appear on Silva's earlier releases of choral film music, but Warriors of the Silver Screen marries them up with orchestral cues from the same films, making for a far more complete sampling of each score.

My quibbles are few and far between in the course of the more than two hours of music offered here. The otherwise perfect reading of John Scott's Antony and Cleopatra includes an inexplicably hurried rendering of the principal theme at one point, sounding for all the world -- to use a vinyl simile -- like a 33 rpm recording played back at 78! (This occurs in the cue 'Give Me to Drink Mandragora,' though the cue on the original soundtrack is 'The Barge She Sat In.') And the Spartacus love theme -- which, as Wishart notes, was Alex North's sole concession to traditional Hollywood music -- is perhaps a touch too lush. Of far greater interest, however, is Bateman's use of North's original score manuscript for the main title, which here includes brass and percussion that were removed in the actual scoring session.

It all concludes with a 7-cue suite from Nascmibene's The Vikings, a rather under-appreciated film today which benefited greatly from its at once harsh and brutal - sounding, yet still melodic, music.

Bottom line: a most enjoyable compilation of epic scores, and well worth having.

John Huether


Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index