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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I have just learned of the sad passing of composer Leonard Rosenman, at the age of 83, following a heart attack. Rosenman wrote for both film and the concert hall, but it is for the former that he will probably be most remembered, and in particular for his attachment to the films of the legendary James Dean, scoring both East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. Indeed, it was a very impressive start to his film scoring career, as he also wrote the great serial score for Cobweb in that same year (1955). In the following decades, he wrote music for around 50 films, plus TV films and shows, and documentaries. Notable movie titles include Fantastic Voyage (1966), A Man Called Horse (1970), two Planet of the Apes sequels, the animated Lord of the Rings (1979), Cross Creek (1983) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. TV titles include a series I remember with fondness, Marcus Welby, M.D., Murder in Texas and Sybil. I think it's fair to say that Rosenman had a style all of his own and one could always tell it was his music. His distinctive sound will be sorely missed.

Land of the Pharaohs
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Film Score Monthly Vol.10 No.17 (US)
Disc 1 - 8 Tracks 74:02 mins Disc 2 - 10 Tracks 44:08 mins

Fans of the late, great Dimitri Tiomkin have been well served recently, what with Screen Archives Entertainment's splendid premiere release of the composer's Oscar-winning score for High Noon, and now Film Score Monthly's two-disc presentation of his great music for 1955's Land of the Pharaohs.
Not a great film, by any standards, but entertaining enough, Howard Hawks' film sees Jack Hawkins as the most unlikely pharaoh you're ever likely to see, though he gives his usual dignified performance nonetheless; and a 21 year-old Joan Collins as his young queen, who plots his demise, so that she may get her hands on his horde of treasure, which he intends buried with him in the great pyramid James Robertson-Justice is building.
Tiomkin's mighty score features a huge orchestral-choral combination and is one of the old-fashioned wall-to-wall kind, starting off with an exotic vocal performance of his main theme, which is immediately followed by the first great set-piece, "Pharaoh's Procession." If you are a fan of this kind of epic movie, you will be familiar with the kind of thing presented here. Think "Pax Romana" from Tiomkin's later Fall of the Roman Empire or the similar procession, scored by Miklos Rozsa for Quo Vadis. Great, brassy, powerful stuff, which takes a sudden gentle turn with "Pharaoh Walks," voiced by a choir of sopranos. The track runs for over 10 minutes, and FSM sensibly chose not to try to split the music up too much, hence the small number of tracks.
The next big set-piece is more than 16 minutes long and starts with the surprising choral "Funeral Song of Joy," which is just that, and ends with the commencement of the pyramid building, accompanied by the muscular male choral "Song of the Builders," heard a capella on film, but here with the orchestra restored, as the composer originally intended. Another version of the song, sung by untrained voices, commences the following 13-minute track, which accompanies much pyramid building, to more muscular Tiomkin music.
Much more good music, not all of it full-on, though there are distinctive Tiomkin action moments, but some more subtle and conspiratorial, follows, before the final pay-off on disc two when Collins' queen, having disposed of the pharaoh, not knowing Egyptian law, finds herself sealed in the tomb with her dead husband, to another great, dramatic Tiomkin mix of orchestra and choir, with the main theme returning to play out the "End Titles."
The score, only preserved in mono, has been reconstructed for stereo in places, with a subtle stereo effect added to the remainder of the tracks, resulting in very good sound quality. It totals some 108 minutes, with a further 9 minutes of bonus material added on to disc two, including surprising pop arrangements of the main theme.
As always, a splendid booklet accompanies the discs, with producer Lukas Kendall's extensive notes on the film and its score, with the customary cue-by-cue guide, and a fascinating glimpse of Tiomkin-speak provided by an excerpt (written in the man's broken English) from a publicity spot of the time. Go to for more details, sound samples, and to order your copy of this unmissable item.


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