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Monday, May 08, 2006

CD REVIEW - Bernard Herrmann: The Essential Film Music Collection

Bernard Herrmann: The Essential Film Music Collection
Various Conductors, The City of Prague Philharmonic
Silva Screen SILCD1208
Disc 1 - 69:28 mins Disc 2 - 70:31 mins

Pretty essential, but not definitive repackaging of Bernard Herrmann's film music mostly previously released on various Silva Screen collections, with important scores like All That Money Can Buy, The Magnificent Ambersons, Hangover Square and Jane Eyre missing but, having said that, this is a pretty impressive overview of his film career and would make for a great introduction for the layman.
The disc starts out with the "Overture" to Citizen Kane, which is swiftly followed by 8 minutes of music from the wonderful The Ghost and Mrs Muir, then a generous suite from On Dangerous Ground. Another, much shorter, suite follows from The Day The Earth Stood Still, where Herrmann's groundbreaking sound is pretty faithfully reproduced. "Romance" and the popular "Memory Waltz" from The Snows of Kilimanjaro follow, and then the composer's darkly comic music "A Portrait of Hitch," derived from his score to The Trouble With Harry. The "Preludes" from another Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much and the war film The Naked and The Dead follow before two generous tracks from one of Herrmann's best Hitchcock scores Vertigo. Disc one closes with the boisterous "Main Title from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and it's a pity the music for the duel with the skeleton couldn't also have been included.
Disc two starts with the wonderfully propulsive "Prelude" from North By Northwest, followed by the romantic "Conversation Piece" from the same film. Again, we're a little short-changed with just the "Overture" from The Three Worlds of Gulliver included. The "Main Themes" from The Twilight Zone are a strange inclusion. Herrmann's theme for the first series was dropped in favour of the familiar Marius Constant theme and I can't quite understand either theme's inclusion here when so much fine Herrmann music has been left off. A suite from Herrmann's other great Hitchcock score Psycho follows and then two decent selections from Mysterious Island. Next up is a suite from Cape Fear and then just the "Prelude" from Jason and the Argonauts, again leaving one feeling short-changed. The "Prelude & Farewell" from Marnie follows and then a suite from the composer's sadly rejected score for the last Hitchcock collaboration Torn Curtain. Herrmann's music for one of his Truffaut collaborations Fahrenheit 451 is represented by "The Road/The Search" and then, owing to Tarantino's revival of Herrmann's whistled theme from Twisted Nerve in his Kill Bill saga, a new recording of this piece features with the multi-talented Gareth Williams providing the whistle. Again, I felt a little short-changed with only just under two minutes of music from the composer's wonderful score for Obsession, with the "Night Piece for Saxophone and Orchestra" from Herrmann's final score for Taxi Driver concluding the disc.
The music is largely faithfully reproduced by the label's regular forces and is accompanied by a 12-page booklet, in which David Wishart guides us through the various selections.


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