Varese-Sarabande is the Rolls Royce of film score record companies. Their
documentation and design is excellent. Technical qualities are high and
performances sympathetic. The RSNO are seasoned adepts when it comes to
re-recording and the City Halls, Glasgow now often resound to musico-cinematic
glories of times gone by. The City fathers must be pleased, as must the RSNO
The orchestra goes from strength to strength although its concert glory days
coincided with the tenure of Neeme Järvi. His departure hit the orchestra
hard. I recall Michael Tumeltys Glasgow Herald reviews of concerts during
the J4rvi days. The orchestras management should have pleaded with J4rvi
to stay in much the same way as the BBCSO should have when Rozhdestvensky
packed his bags during the 1980s. I digress - nothing new there.
V-Ss usual strengths are on display but the whole, while alive to the subtle
shift and glow of the texture, does not captivate me. For comparison I went
back to the very generous Australian LABEL X coupling of 37.30 of music from
Kane and 39.10 from The Magnificent Ambersons. The LABEL X account has a
greater sense of fluency and musical give and take. Listen to track 4s
Snow Picture which ought to be the very peak of ecstatic release.
In practice it seems rather stilted like an actor reading his lines rather
than emoting. This is by no means the only example.
The Aussie disc has terrific emotional concentration and must be my first
recommendation. The V-S is never less than good and technically it is notches
above the Aussie. In the Aria it has a better voice in Janice Watson than
Rosamund Illing on Label X. Watson seems secure and never outfaced by the
Sibelian accents of this most grandiloquent aria. Whenever I hear this I
wish Herrmann had actually written the rest of the opera.
As the most exhaustive document of the Kane score you will find no competition.
This must surely be the fullest record of the score: 37 individual tracks
plus three bonus tracks. Set against this the 15 tracks (and sixteen minutes
less music) on Label X. I suppose that it is rather unfair to compare the
two since they are not an exact match and Label X includes a very major slice
of the Ambersons music. However from a purely musical point of view Label
X carries the day delivering a more satisfyingly rounded experience than
the Varese-Sarabande. I did not feel unduly deprived by the lack of the just
over quarter of an hour of music on Label X. Of course the Label X also comes
with most of the Ambersons music - two scores for the price of one.
Quick summary: Varese-Sarabande - good, brilliant technically, first class
document of the score; Label X - great performances, so-so technically but
never less than good ... and comes with the Amberson music. BMG-RCA Gerhardt
suite - the best musically, even less music than Label X, but sheer magic.
Overall recommendation: get the Label X if you can find it.