Dedicated to reviews and news of music for film, TV and games

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The Film Music of Bernard Herrmann
Rumon Gamba & the BBC Philharmonic
Chandos Movies CHAN 10577
11 Tracks 77:31 mins

The latest in the excellent Chandos Movies series takes us to Hollywood and music from a couple of early scores by the late, great Bernard Herrmann, who was undeniably one of the greatest film composers of his and any other time.
Both 1945's Hangover Square and 1941's Citizen Kane have been well represented on LP and CD and chances are that Herrmann fans will certainly have most or all of the music from the latter included on this disc. The former however has mostly been represented by performances of the "Concerto Macabre" which sprang from the film, although Tsunami did release some 33 minutes of the original soundtrack some years back.
Of course the '40s saw the concerto derived from a film attain huge popularity, with the likes of The Warsaw Concerto, but Herrmann's concerto is very different from its more melodic counterparts, being a much darker affair. This of course it needed to be, both for the film's subject matter, and for the fact that the Concerto is itself performed on screen by the film's star Laird Cregar, as a by now completely insane concert pianist, with the concert hall burning down around him. The Concerto is derived from themes and motifs introduced in the score, a skill sadly all but lost these days, where so many contemporary composers probably lack the training to construct something like this.
Tracks 1-3 feature 17 minutes of the film's underscore, which perhaps isn't remembered as one of Herrmann's classics (but doesn't fall far short), though echoes of the composer's "Scene d'Amour" from Vertigo can be heard in his love music, which at times reaches similar dizzying proportions. The Concerto itself is given a separate track of its own (track 4) and features soloist Martin Roscoe.
There's not a lot really left to say about Citizen Kane, as it is of course one of the greatest films of all time (technically at least) and similar praise can be heaped upon what was Herrmann's first Hollywood film. This generous 49-minute suite takes up the final six tracks on the album and includes all the principal elements of the score, including of course "Salammbo's Aria," written to accompany the scene where Kane and his second wife, Susan Alexander, are both embarrassed and humiliated by her inadequacy when trying to perform said Aria. I've yet to find a re-recording that features the performance as originally intended, and of course Oria Boylan does a more than capable job here.
It only remains for me to say that, if you haven't already got one of the many recordings of Bernard Herrmann's Oscar-nominated score for Citizen Kane, this is well worth adding to your collection (with the bonus of the Hangover Square music). One thing is for sure, you're always promised most excellent performances by conductor Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic.
The accompanying booklet, in three languages, features Gunther Kogebehn's notes on the films, their music and composer, as well as bios of conductor Gamba, the Orchestra and featured soloists, and includes stills and artwork, plus behind the scenes shots.
Go to to order your copy on CD or as an MP3 download


Post a Comment

<< Home