Here is a prize Herrmann disc for all lovers of the best film music.
Neretva is a great sonorous score used for the English language version
of this Yugoslavian production. The music, scored for a massive orchestra
(Herrmann's biggest), is apocalyptic. Militaristic black-hearted brass shout
and call in cantankerous uproar. The score is infused with Slavic temperament
(echoes of Shostakovich 7 and 8) in collision with Soviet poster art heroism.
The giant brass complement register powerfully in the Chetniks' March
and in the gigantism of The Partisan March (a momentary tribute to
Sousa?). Less tempestuous voices also invade and these gentler inspirations
include Strauss's Rosenkavalier and Mahler (Farewell). This
is moody music full of temperamental outbursts and Shostakovichian fist-waving.
The Sisters excerpts are very welcome too with barking brass and tubular
bells conjuring up yet another death-hunt. There is a plangent urgency in
this music complete with hallooing horns, a weird synthesiser sounding like
the distressed neighing of a horse and even (unless I am mistaken) a touch
of the dreaded Hammond organ. The Night Digger score largely belies
the ghoulish title in a long sequence of lambent grey aquarelles for a grand
string ensemble. There are character-saturated solo parts for harmonica (Tommy
Reilly - who else?) and Viola d'Amore and a steady diet of neurotic decelerated
waltzes, the harmonica calling like a wounded cat, a weirdly foggy glow and
morgue-focused serenading. This contrasts with a diving, plunging, wild
athleticism (track 16) and the turbid cycling of the strings (a la Sibelius's
En Saga) like maggots squirming in a suppurating corpse. Track 17
holds a surprise in sounding rather like the shark theme from John Williams'
Jaws. The sorrowing serenade of the viola tails off into a fine warm
confidence and back to a querulous fearful beauty suggested by the harp's
notes stepping up and down the scale. This is a true connoisseurs' score
and a must-buy for all Herrmann adulants.
The insert notes are good, though brief, and economically complement a most
generous collection of reissued recordings in fine sound.