EDITORs CHOICE Classical Score June
More Music from The Fall of the Roman Empire
CLOUD NINE/SILVA SCREEN CAN
[As this title is now officially deleted finding a copy might prove difficult.
Best "first port of call" would be SOUNDTRACKS DIRECT. Their new web-site
is:www.silvascreen.co.uk and they
can be e-mailed on:
I very much regret that my choice this month is of a recording that has been
deleted but assiduous searching may well reward keen Tiomkin fans (I saw
one copy in HMVs London Oxford Street flagship store). But quite frankly
this score stands head and shoulders above practically all the material that
has come into this office this month.
(With the exception of Rozsas Ben-Hur music but that was only
a short suite in the Rózsa album reviewed this month)
Last month John Huether reviewed the Sony-PEG original soundtrack recording
of Tiomkins The Fall of the Roman Empire music and in his concluding
paragraph, John said that it would be nice to have another 20 or 30 minutes
of the score in an expanded release. The Sony-PEG disc lasts for some 39
minutes. This expanded original soundtrack edition, boasting some 14 new
selections, when it was released in 1991, clocks in at 44:35 minutes (an
additional five minutes or so of music).
I agree with everything John Huether said last month about this score --
it is absolutely magnificent. That huge organ chord at the beginning of the
Prelude lifts you from your seat and the magnificence and majesty of the
treatment of the love theme through the Prelude with those powerful brass
flourishes is hair-raising.
Pax Romana never fails to impress either no matter how many times one hears
it, what a wonderful processional and as John Heuther aptly observed how
it heightened the effectiveness of that long scene where the rulers of
Romes far flung Empire paid tribute to the ailing Marcus Aurelius.
And the Forum Romanum music, too, is full of splendour.
I will now pass on to a description of those 14 new selections that are included
in this album.
The Fanfares and Flourishes are heard as the cinema/theater lights
dim and are a tingling anticipation. The misty delicate music of Dawn
on the Northern Frontier heralds a new day as Marcus Aurelius prepares
to preside over the gathering of tribunes, consuls and kings that
is the Pax Romana. A busy orchestral flourish heralds Liviuss
Arrival speeding his chariot along treacherous Alpine byways. Old
Aquaintances underscores the early scenes where Livius (Stephen Boyd)
warmly embraces Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guiness) and greets Timonides (James
Mason) before the lovers reunion with the beautiful Lucilla (Sophia Loren);
at this point the love theme is serene, unsullied by the dark portents of
the Prelude. Decoy Patrol, Battle in the Forest and
Reinforcements are all brilliant combat evocations steel clashing
on steel, braying brass, fiery cross-rhythms and most impressive of all,
wild and brutal timpani cross-rolls and hammer-like blows -- all tremendously
muscular and immensely thrilling. Brutish, angular, oddly-accented rhythms
for the barbarians are pitched against the remorseless formality of the Roman
The Intermezzo: Livius & Lucilla is a vocal arrangement of the love theme.
Conflict in the Caverns is another wild confrontation with material
very akin to Battle in the Forest and Decoy Patrol.
Aftermath and the Journey to Rome has dissonances for the evil
excesses perpetrated by Commodus. There is also more noble material as the
rebellion (led by Lucilla with brief reference to the love theme) gains momentum.
The Army Enters Rome is music of celebration pomp mixed
with festive mandolins suggesting more intimate celebrations as the legions
enter Rome but they have been won over by Commodus's gold. The cue finishes
on a sour note reflecting Commoduss increasingly unstable mental condition
and continues in a twisted manner as the personal duel between Commodus and
Livius becomes startlingly public and the two men engage in mortal combat.
Summing up, for those who already have a version of this score in their
collection including the Sony-PEG edition which John Heuther reviewed last
month (that seemed to contain yet other selections not included on this album),
I am listing below what were claimed to be, when this album was released
in 1991, the new selections so that you can see if there is some gap you
might want to fill:-
Fanfares and Flourishes (0:51 set before the Prelude)
Dawn on the Northern Frontier (2:17)
Livius Arrival (1:02)
Old Aquaintances (4:31)
Decoy Patrol (0:57)
The Battle in the Forest/Reinforcements (3:49)
Intermission Title (?)
Intermezzo: Livius & Lucilla 92:17)
Conflict in the Caverns (1:45)
Aftermath & the Journey to Rome (2:27)
The Army Enters Rome/The New God/The Challenge (4:03)
Restoring this masterpiece
This recording comes in part mono-part stereo format for when the record
producers approached the owners of the films rights they discovered
that the original music masters were no longer available. A world-wide search
was instigated and it was three years before an excellent tape of certain
cues was discovered albeit in mono sound.
To quote from the booklet: "Although this find in no way constituted all
or the best of the full score, it still contained some prime material and
it was possible to draw additional selections from the Music and Effects
track including the original mix of the PRELUDE music, the opening
fanfares and choral INTERMEZZO (these in stereo). All the available cues
were transferred to digital tape and subsequently edited, sequenced and equalised
utilising solely digital technology. However the recordings have not been
"limited" in any way effectively preserving the broad acoustic gained
during the original sessions at Shepperton Studios and the Central-Hall at
Westminster where the massive pipe organ had to be warmed by an array of
electric fires for two days to bring it up to concert pitch. Much of the
music on this album is being heard on disc for the first time with
other more familiar pieces being presented in the relatively fresh guise
of their original soundtrack performances".
The 16 page booklet contains David Wisharts full and articulate track
analysis, two essays, "Profile of an Epic" (about the background and the
making of the film) and "Dimitri Tiomkins score for The Fall of the
Roman Empire" plus many colour and black and white stills from the film.
A magnificent score and an invaluable album. Although it is now deleted,
perhaps Silva Screen will one day decide to reissue it for Tiomkins
many fans, old and new?