April 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Founder Len Mullenger

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EDITOR’s CHOICE April 2001


Bernard HERRMANN Beneath the 12-Mile Reef OST - Score conducted by Bernard Herrmann. FILM SCORE MONTHLY Silver Age Classics FSM Vol. 3 No. 10 [55:02]
(www.filmscoremonthly.com) Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, California, CA 90232. E-mail:info@filmscoremonthly.com)

This is, for me, one of Bernard Herrmann's most beautiful scores (even one of the most beautiful of all film scores). After having a spectacularly performed eleven-minute suite from the score on the 1974 Charles Gerhardt album Citizen Kane - The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann (RCA VICTOR GD80707), the whole score, as featured on this new release, is most welcome. Film Score Monthly are to be congratulated on adding yet another treasure from Hollywood's Golden Age to Herrmann enthusiasts.

Of course the high points of the score have to be the musical cues for the undersea scenes using nine harps positioned across the sound stage (this was Herrmann's first true stereo film recording) each of the harps playing individual musical lines against an orchestra of low woodwinds, electric bass, and organ. This striking and richly evocative music is heard in several substantial cues. 'The Undersea Forest' underscores the scene where Mike (Gilbert Roland) explores the floor of the reef. The music is, at first idyllic and tranquil with fluid textures that becoming darker and more intense as Mike meets trouble and has to rise to the surface too quickly so that he gets a fatal attack of the bends. In 'The Lagoon' the harps play a watery valse d'amour as hero Tony (Robert Wagner) and Gwynneth (Terry Moore) indulge in a balletic underwater swim but again the mood is ruffled when they spot a dangerous stingray. 'The Sea Garden and The Octopus' is a reprise of The Undersea Forest after overlapping harp arpeggios underscore tony's descent onto the reef. An ominous sustained organ pedal and low brass signals the approach of the octopus. The docile harps now turn sinister as Herrmann employs low pedal glissandi and directs the musicians to play with picks creating an unsettling percussive effect. Hissing, muted trombones add to the suspense until the music explodes in agitated overlapping chromatic half-step descents - a classic Herrmann technique - as Tony slays the animal in a murk of ink and blood. As Jason Foster who has written the brilliant score analysis from which I have quoted here, says, 'This cue is a masterpiece of color which stays true to the underwater setting by altering volume and density while maintaining a relatively static tempo."

Of course in a 55 minute score there is much more to enjoy. There is the joyful, youthful high-spiritedness of 'The Homecoming'music, the sinister material for cues that underscore the Conchs' frequent acts of violence and treachery that anticipates the disturbing music employed in future Hitchcock thrillers like Vertigo and Psycho. There is also the sort of charming music that one associates with The Magnificent Ambersons and the ghost and Mrs Muir - the happy sort of romantic question and answering murmurings that parallel the beginnings of the Tony and Gwynneth romance.

As usual the documentation that comes with the album is first class with an essay on the film and its early CinemaScope era, by Jeff Bond as well as Foster's analysis and technical notes about the actual stereo recording of the score, by Lukas Kendall. As he says the recording has not survived unscathed and so there is (very) minor distortion but as Lukas points out, "the source of this CD is none other than the original 35mm magnetic film stems onto which the music was recorded - there is no better-sounding tape of the score in the world -or any tape for that matter."

A great film scores. Don't hesitate, snap it up.

Ian Lace

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