A sequel to the 1953 Biblical blockbuster The Robe, this
score is a skilful marrying of that film’s original themes composed by Alfred
Newman and new material by Franz Waxman.
Opening with ‘Prelude/Night in the Palace’, this fascinating
confection expertly incorporates Newman’s splendid motifs, giving them a new
spin to create something fresh and dynamic and Waxman complements the other
composer’s work with clever variations where the story links back to the characters
and incidents from the first film. But the majority of the score is devoted
to Waxman’s original compositions and as you might expect there are several
brass marches (‘Claudius and Messalina’, ‘Gladiator March’) along with moments
of religious grandeur (‘Return to Faith’ in particular, featuring a wonderful
burst of fervour adapted from The Robe.) The best of the Waxman
cues would have to be ‘Temple of Isis’ where otherworldly voices gradually
become more and more forceful and intense.
Everything with this FSM release is of the high quality you
would expect from them (although the track summaries seem to have been jumbled
up out of numerical order) and there are several unused bonus cues to give added
value for money. Also, Alfred Newman’s ‘Hymn to Aton’ from The Egyptian is
included as a final extra track. Due to a mixing oversight there was a synchronisation
error on this cue on FSM’s release of The Egyptian (FSMCD vol.4 No.5),
so they have remixed it and made it available here, hoping that fans who own
The Egyptian will also want this score. Whatever the case, it’s a terrific
piece of music.
There was a time when Hollywood produced these spectacular
epics on a regular basis and perhaps with the advent of Gladiator and
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring we will see a new era
of these kinds of films. But one thing that will not be recreated is the distinctive
musical style that so enhanced the grandiose productions of the past. Whether
it be Bernstein’s The Ten Commandments, Rosza’s Ben Hur or Newman’s
The Greatest Story Ever Told , there was a unifying quality, a sense
of period, a wonderful evocation of Biblical times. The 1950’s and 60s gave
us something individual and valuable and there is an enormous amount of enjoyment
to be derived from the work of the great composers who have graced this genre.
If I conclude by saying that Waxman’s work here does not rate anywhere near
as highly as Newman’s The Robe, that is not to suggest that it does not
deserve to be appreciated in its own right.