This Australian CD is well worth seeking out. The two scores are classics
of Herrmann's earliest film days in the 1940s. Both are eclectic and extremely
tuneful works recalling music which he either knew from score or which would
have been in his active CBS Symphony Orchestra repertoire. He was a conductor
of questing and receptive character. This shows here both in the vivid influences
and in the many tributaries which flowed into and out of the furnace of his
While Kane is sumptuous, dark, grand, nostalgic and powerful, Ambersons has
a touch of angst but much that is urbanely rather than wildly emotional.
Kane is Gothick - rich in incident. The extremely fine performance brings
these qualities out. It is very good to hear this music at fuller length
than the brief suite by which most people know the music from the RCA Gerhardt
Classic Film Music series. The Dies Irae theme is heard or sketched in several
times. Ms Illing is in good voice though not quite a match for the young
Kiri Te Kanawa in the now elderly but still rich Gerhardt analogue recording.
Track 1 is gloomy but sweet. A cool flute parts the storm clouds.This is
acidically Gothick achieving immediacy and impact without the twelve-tone
palette. Sibelius is clearly an influence. If the Torn Curtain score is too
inhumanly chilly Kane represents a couple of degrees greater warmth.
Track 3 has marked Finzian resonances. Track 4 mixes, in raucously cocky
march mood, the voices of Kurt Weill and Shostakovich. Dies Irae puts in
another appearance and then we get a march out of the Prokofiev pocket-book.
Track 5 returns to the cheeky little march we heard in Track 4. This dissolve
into a charming miniature waltz sequence.
The next track has a prominent solo violin in what develops into an icy
slate-grey serenade. Track 7 is the famous music depicting the sweet and
then decaying relationship between Kane and his new wife. This is redolent
of Palms and Grand Hotel. The fluttering flute is every bit as good as Gerhardt's
Tension is deftly built and sculpted in the repeating harp motif inTrack
8. There is a hint of A Late Lark (Delius) and the Finzi clarinet concerto
although the Herrmann pre-dates the Finzi work by almost a decade. This is
a most impressive track.
After a mysterious Baxian opening an explosive march strides in exuding
confidence. It starts in Prokofiev style sounding for all the world like
a refugee from Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and stops along the way to
give us a reminiscence of Mahler.
Salammbo's Aria is presented by orchestra and conductor for all it is worth
(arguably more). Rosamund Illing is extremely good but without the creamy
triumph of Kiri te Kanawa's young voice. The aria may well be known to you
but the layer cake (gateau I should say) of Reyer, Delibes and Massenet is
wonderfully confected. Orchestrally this does not have quite the whip-crack
definition of Gerhardt. This is followed by a multi-tracked segment which
is a montage of Illing's voice presented in a multi-image kaleidoscopic mirror
ending in a down-the-sinkhole vocal effect at the end.
Track 11 (Xanadou) is heavily tense and clouds drift across the moon. Track
12 gives us more Prokofiev. The next sequence returns to a sour curdled Weillian
style; decadence melting into Grand Guignol. I caught myself thinking of
the atmosphere of the horror stories of de Maupassant and especially The
Glass Ball has a hollow tread deep in the foundations. Old age has caught
up with Kane. In the finale there is a sense of late fulfilment in the horns
which play quietly surging briefly to a climax. However skulls stare out
of the casements.
The Magnificent Ambersons is a very different film. It portrays domestic
tensions and oppression in a late nineteenth century style. The music is
refined and occasionally Palm Court material although psychological tensions
are always well voiced. The music has a Gallic accent. Landaus click and
canter through cobbled streets and metalled lanes. It is all quite urban
and urbane. Poulenc comes to mind and Prokofiev also and this hits you with
force at the start of track 16 with a sparkling trumpet solo.
There is a wonderfully vitreous sleigh ride at track 17 - a highlight of
the disc. Track 18 is quite modernistic - all percussion, bells, clanking
and bell noises with some reminiscences of the previous track. First Nocturne
sounds uncannily like Finzi - straight out of the British composer's Introit
for solo violin and orchestra. Track 20 is a dark tale which becomes yet
blacker in the next three tracks. Track 24 is the second letter scene and
here the wind principals dance slowly around a stately sad theme which might
have been for a Dead Infanta. The Second Nocturne treads the same twilight
path as the First with a lead solo role for principal cello. Then follow
two reveries cut from the same trunk as the Nocturnes although the second
drifts lazily down into nightmare drowned depths. The Elegy is shabbily haunting,
conjuring up drifts of skeletal leaves. End title returns to palms and civilised
evening dress and touching base with Mahler's Adagietto.
This is an extremely recommendable disc which is well worth finding. It merits
a prominent company licensing the tapes for easier distribution in Europe