Essential Hollywood/Various Composers

July 20, 2006

 

Sony/BMG has certainly done some of us a tremendous favor by releasing this (2) CD set of past film scores which include several of the classic Charles Gerhardt/National Philharmonic tracks. What better way to introduce listeners to these fine recordings which were done in the 70’s. Short of the OST, the Gerhardt versions are the next best thing with the added bonus of far superior fidelity. There was just something very special about the hand picked orchestra that Charles assembled. They knew how to play the music because they could feel it and were excited about it! That eerie feeling of “The Forgotten Island” from King Kong, the utter despair of “Norma Desmond” in Sunset Boulevard, and the “Rosebud” theme from Citizen Kane are all performed so well. The romance from “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca will bring a tear to your eye. “Street Scene” from the start of How To Marry A Millionaire would have brought a smile to the face of Alfred Newman. This Gershwin style overture has never sounded better! Korngold’s majestic main title to Kings Row is performed in its splendor as if it were for a king. Do I have to even say anything about Tara’s theme? One of the all time great themes that never won the Oscar, the award being given to The Wizard of Oz in 1939. And this is just the material that Gerhardt and his handpicked orchestra recorded. There are (4) very interesting tracks from Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra playing Herrmann. Both Vertigo’s “Scene d’Amour” and the three track selections from Psycho are played extremely well, putting them into the Gerhardt quality class. The same can also be said of the Laura track from David Raksin. This was recorded about the same time as some of the Gerhardt recordings and has to be put into the same quality caliber. Raksin knows and likely orchestrated and arranged this 6+ minute suite which stands high up on the ladder as one of the greatest themes written for the silver screen. The example that is used of a monothematic theme that works, David’s suite is presented as a main theme, a romantic love theme, and a wonderful waltz. Oh the romance that fills the room from the muted trombone! John Williams performs his own work on Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, and Close Encounters. Impressive, to say the least, is the least is the arrangement of Close Encounters which features some very serious work from the tuba. Williams also performs Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood in a good rousing version of the Oscar winning score. Henry Mancini is featured with his wonderful “Moon River” and likely the best composition he ever wrote that didn’t the Oscar, “The Pink Panther Theme.” Maurice Jarre conducts his Lawrence of Arabia, and Dr. Zhivago scores and Ennio Morricone contributes The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. To round out the (2) CD set we have Dr. No (James Bond theme) conducted by John Barry, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops performing music from Rozsa’s Ben Hur, and Dimitri Tiomkin conducting the Hollywood Bowl Symphony in a good rendition of High Noon. All in all quite a lineup of 50 years of movie music.

With any compilation comes the drawbacks of what to include and exclude. While the RCA/Sony catalog of past recordings is good many cannot be included because they don’t own the rights to everything, nor do they have the space. At 112 minutes there is more than enough to please most. The sequencing of the tracks leaves something to be desired! Going from Dr. No to the Pink Panther is what I would consider a smooth transition. Don’t go from The Pink Panther to Ben-Hur to “Moon River.” Put The Magnificent Seven, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, and High Noon together as a little western section.

The artwork on the front cover would have looked nicer if a little older equipment was used such as a Rollei, Leica, Graflex and perhaps some flashbulbs. The equipment was way too modern for the type of shot! Some basic information about the original recording that the track was taken from, along with a little bit of information about the film/score would be useful to the casual listener. Where did the fine rendition of High Noon come from? While “Street Scene” was used in the How To Marry A Millionare beginning it was actually written for a completely different film called Street Scene in 1931. These are minor points but still distracting to some soundtrack enthusiasts. The remastering however is excellent. Each generation of equipment just seems to get better and better and this is no exception.

The serious hardcore collector likely has most if not all of the tracks available on this release and will have little or no interest. The collector who has little experience with Charles Gerhardt recordings if any should get this (2) CD set in a heartbeat! Your in for quite a surprise. The casual listener who is the target market is really going to enjoy themselves with the selections and versatility Essential Hollywood has to offer.

Golden Scores Rating (****)

1 Star Wars/Main Title (5:47)

2 Gone with the Wind/Selznick International Fanfare (Newman)/Main Title: (3:11)

3 Doctor Zhivago/Prelude & Lara’s Theme (5:18)

4 Laura/Main Theme (5:55)

5 Psycho/Prelude (2:03)

6 Psycho/The Murder (1:00)

7 Psycho/Finale (1:54)

8 Lawrence of Arabia/Overture (Part 2) (4:31)

9 Magnificent Seven/Main Title & Calvera’s Visit (3:59)

10 E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial/Flying Theme (3:44)

11 Adventures of Robin Hood/Robin Hood & His Merry Men (4:31)

12 Jaws/Theme (2:54)

13 Vertigo/Scene d’Amour (6:45)

14 Godfather Part 2/End Title (4:10)

15 (CD 2) 20th Century Fox Fanfare (With Cinemascope Extension)/Street Scene (As (4:31)

16 (CD 2) Casablanca/Main Title/The Immigrants/Morocco/”Sam, I Thought I Told You (8:44)

17 (CD 2) Dr. No/The James Bond Theme (2:58)

18 (CD 2) Good, The Bad and the Ugly/Titles (3:06)

19 (CD 2) Close Encounters of the Third Kind/The Dialogue (3:29)

20 (CD 2) King Kong/The Forgotten Island/Natives/Sacrificial Dance/The Gate of Ko (7:24)

21 (CD 2) High Noon/Theme (5:29)

22 (CD 2) Sunset Boulevard/Main Title/Norma Desmond/The Studio Stroll/The Comebac (7:48)

23 (CD 2) Pink Panther/Theme (2:41)

24 (CD 2) Ben-Hur/Parade of the Charioteers (3:43)

25 (CD 2) Breakfast at Tiffany’s/Moon River (2:44)

26 (CD 2) Citizen Kane/Rosebud/Finale (2:42)

27 (CD 2) Kings Row/Main Title (1:40)

the essential hollywood (sony) – album credits

Ennio Morricone Conductor

David Foil Liner Notes, Project Director, Compilation, Research

Warren Wernick Project Director

Michelle Errante Product Manager

National Philharmonic Orchestra Orchestra

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Orchestra

Riccardo Muti Conductor

Charles Gerhardt Conductor

Maurice Jarre Conductor

Dimitri Tiomkin Conductor

Arthur Fiedler Conductor

Henry Mancini Conductor

Elmer Bernstein Conductor

The London Symphony Orchestra Orchestra

CD# is 82876-77086-2

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