Hollywood's 1955 filming of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is a sterling film, its obvious quality and powerhouse casting - which includes Yul Brynner, Claire Bloom, Lee J Cobb, Richard Basehart and a young William Shatner – illuminating every dramatic nuance of this period Russian tale of family ructions which explode between a patriarch and his four disparate sons. At the helm is screenwriter and director Richard Brooks, who was particularly adept at transferring literary properties to the big screen - from Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and Elmer Gantry to Sweet Bird Of Youth and Lord Jim - and you have to wonder if the memorable collaboration between Brooks and composer Bronislau Kaper on 1965's Lord Jim was prompted by their extraordinary work together on The Brothers Karamazov.
Bronislau Kaper was an MGM staff composer in the mid-Fifties and may well have been allotted the task of scoring the studio's The Brothers Karamazov as a matter of course, but the very informative booklet notes for this premiere CD of Kaper's score tell us that when working in Berlin in the early Thirties the composer had hoped to score the 1931 German version of the film, and so it was probably the case that Kaper openly campaigned to gain this project, for which he obviously possessed an affinity. Moreover, the composer hailed from Poland, a mere Cossack's gallop from Russia and all its heady cultural influences. Bronislau Kaper was obviously the perfect composer for this subject – as borne out by this dynamically potent score.
The music for the film runs an evocative parallel course, with Kaper's dramatic score journeying alongside an abundance of source cues – featuring select ensembles, guitars, cimbalom, and sundry vocalists – including Yul Brynner himself - highlighting folk elements. The album's producer has astutely separated out the symphonic scoring from these ethnic cues - providing fifty minutes of Kaper's dramatic music (the composer's complete score) followed by twenty-eight minutes of bonus source cues – the two elements only overlapping during the film's arresting main title sequence, Kaper's powerful scoring deferring briefly to a burst of Romany-like enthusiasm before the mood is restored to one of weighty symphonic potency. A mantle of awesome power envelopes Kaper's muse, and given an occasional oasis of jollity, the invention descends inexorably to a steely dramatic core that is vehemently vital and violent. Few composers could harness the musically bellicose as effectively as Bronislau Kaper – and often here his bruising, brutal chords are exposed at their most austere.
For The Brothers Karamazov one of Hollywood's finest composers delivers one of his most forbidding scores – infused with symphonic angst and turmoil, yet effectively tinged with period and ethnic traces. The compact disc is immaculately produced and features stills, poster art and copious notes, inclusive of a detailed breakdown of the music for each track. The original mono sound is exceptionally good. A genuine collector's disc.