Jane Eyre/Bernard Herrmann
February 9, 2012
Is it coincidence that two releases of the Bernard Herrmann soundtrack to Jane Eyre (1943) have been made available at the same time? Not really as we just celebrated Herrmann’s birth of 100 years. Parts of the original soundtrack and the Naxos recording have been previously released. The Naxos recording (8.572718) is a reissue of the Marco Polo one (8.223535) from 1994. The CD’s are exactly the same. Jane Eyre is also part of the (14) CD Herrmann/20th Century Fox box from Varese Sarabande and offers a complete version of the OST. There are additional cues from the previous releases plus a bonus track of an alternate “Prelude” cue. The previous release that contained the greatest number of cues was a Soundtrack Library 002 bootleg. The sound from the OST is from a mono source and while Varese Sarabande improved the quality, the soundtrack and film have suffered from old age and as a result you’ll hear things that couldn’t be repaired. It can’t compare to the digital Naxos release in terms of sound quality. Adriano, the conductor, is quick to point out that the re-construction should not be compared with the original material from Herrmann. He comments further that this is a newly interpreted piece and should be approached in that fashion. Neither can replace an outstanding suite, orchestrated and conducted by the composer in 1970 as part of a series of recordings done for London (CD# 448 948-2) and their Phase Four Stereo series, some of the finest analog material ever recorded. Like the RCA Gerhardt series these are outstanding recordings and deserve a place in your collection in addition to the Naxos recording.
Jane Eyre(1943) starred Orson Welles as Rochester, Joan Fontaine as Eyre, Margaret O’Brien as Adele Varens, Peggy Ann Garner as Jane Eyre as a child, Henry Daniell as Henry Brocklehurst, Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed and Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited role. Directed by Robert Stevenson, a long time veteran, who might be best known for Mary Poppins, he began directing in 1932 and didn’t stop for 50 years. If you’re familiar with Orson Welles you’ll certainly see his influence in this 20th Century Fox high budget (1.7 million) film. With the tagline of “a love story every woman would die a thousand deaths to live” the often used obnoxious slogan chick flick applies.
Jane Eyre was the fourth film for Herrmann with his first three being Citizen Kane (1941), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). It was also the beginning of a long relationship with 20th Century Fox that lasted for many years. However, this was a case where Herrmann was the second choice to do the film with the first being Igor Stravinsky who turned down the assignment. All of the mentioned films were written at a time when classical music was also part of Herrmann’s life. He had written a symphony in 1941 and had also completed his opera “Wuthering Heights” during this time period. What you’ll hear is a very classical score to this gothic romantic film. If you’re a fan of Herrmann you’ll hear many cues from other films that germinated from this soundtrack.
Highlights include the “Prelude” (audio clip included see track listing) which offers two of the major themes that you’ll hear throughout the course of this soundtrack. The ominous horns begin the serious main title. The theme is quickly picked up by the strings and it is carried in a heavy Germanic style. Then with little warning there is the theme for Jane offered by the sad oboe that instantly recognizes the Herrmann sound. “Jane’s Departure” begins with a new theme from the horns which is quite sad and mellow concentrating in the lower register. It ends with her carriage ride which is from a short section of “Swing Your Partners” from The Devil and Daniel Webster. You’ll also hear this theme briefly in “The Wedding-The Wife” which goes from happy and carefree with church bells to dark and ominous with a fugue from the organ. This 2:27 cue runs the entire gamut of emotions! “Thornfield Hall-Valse Bluette” reveals the Rochester theme in a brooding dissonant rendition. It is a far more complex theme than the Prelude or Jane themes. The “Valse Bluette” is a musical box theme created with a synthesizer for this recording. The Rochester theme is also featured on “Rochester’s Past” as first a sad variation which changes to a dissonant very difficult passage to play. It reveals both sides of an extremely complex bipolar character. The prelude theme is performed again but this time as depressing as Herrmann can muster. “Finale” is another variation of the prelude theme followed by a major key uplifting of the Jane theme and a bold happy ending crescendo.
Enjoy this new digital recording as a new take on the material and you won’t be disappointed. It is well recorded and performed by Adriano and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Total Duration: 01:07:27