Dimitri TIOMKIN High Noon.
Cyrano de Bergerac. The Alamo. 55 Days at
Peking Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra, Berlin, Rundfunk Choir Berlin conducted
Foster RCA Red
The most interesting score here is Cyrano de Bergerac.
This was the 1950 United Artists production starring José Ferrer as
the big-nosed poet-duelist hero. The four movement suite opens with a splendid
Overture that not only has heroic sweep and grandeur and a lively spirit
but also 17th century grace. `Roxane' (wittily subtitled
17th century blues) combines romance for the heroine, and hilarious
figures (oboe and bassoon mostly) for the cavorting of Cyrano and the handsome
but shy and bumbling Christian de Neuvilette. He is desperately in love with
Roxane but needs the help of the far more articulate Cyrano to help him romance
her. More sinister music comes in `Street Fight' at first of quiet malignant
stealth then of open combat, the latter anticipating the main theme of guns
of Navarone. `Requiem' is deeply affecting with its sweet violin solo beneath
quiet women's voices. Later the music grows to a glorious climax commemorating
Cyrano's glorious exploits.
High Noon in Christopher Palmer's arrangement
here is a grittier, starker statement than that of Laurie Johnson on the
rival Unicorn Kanchana recording. The pace, the rhythms are urgent and
compelling. The sound stage is thrillingly exploited but for my taste this
version is a tad too bleak.
The most substantial work in this compilation is the 27-minute
The Alamo Suite. This gutsy performance has plenty going for
it and is a strong rival to the original soundtrack recording reviewed on
this site last month. Davy Crockett's music is jaunty and ripely ribald;
the battle music across wide and deep perspectives has plenty of attack and
is very thrilling with the De Guella lusty and defiant. `The Green Leaves
of Summer' and `Tennessee Babe' presented as two intermezzos are both warmly
sentimental and in the case of the former beautifully romantic and in the
latter elegiac - almost hymn-like. In both cases the Rundfunk Choir sing
most sympathetically and their English diction is excellent.
The 1963 Samuel Bronston spectacular, 55 Days at
Peking was a rather stodgy epic weighed down by too many romantic
interludes. This, for me, was not one of Tiomkin's Best scores. Despite some
nice oriental touches, he seems to be treading water using far too many of
his trademark phrases as almost make-weight. It is interesting to note that
one of the most satisfying cues is the charming `Intermezzo:Children's Corner'
that segues into an evocative oriental decoration that is the main love theme.
The Overture has no memorable theme it is a mish-mash of urgent running figures
and fragments of material one recalls from earlier scores such as Strangers
on a Train, all spiced with quasi-oriental percussive figures. The romantic
theme introduced in the overture is OK but again not one of Tiomkin's best
and it certainly overstays its welcome becoming almost mawkish as when it
overlays the source martial music of `Welcome Marines'.
`Attack and explosion' has its moments -- stealth and bombast;
I particularly liked Tiomkin's use of bell, and piano in forward percussive
mode. The best tracks in this uneven score are those that are most Chinese
in inflection, especially the jubilant `Chinese Victory Celebration' and
the trudging but jubilant `Hauling the Gun' with exotic percussion and ringing
voices that often contrastingly highly pitched.
For Tiomkin fans another confident recommendation.