Herrmann The Film Scores

September 26, 2006

Great Performances

Bernard Herrmann

Los Angeles Philharmonic

conducted by

Esa-Pekka Salonen


One of the more celebrated film composers Bernard Herrmann, has had his share of compilation albums including some from the composer himself. It has been said that some of scores are difficult at best to listen to as an experience away from the film. And yet when we listen to these selected cues and suites in this CD one cannot help but appreciate the beauty, horror, and despair Bernard has created for the films. What sets this compilation apart from the others? These and other questions will be answered in this review. Read on!!!

Somewhere in his musical studies at the Sibelius Academy Salonen must have studied Herrmann because the performances contained in this CD are the right tempo which is normally not the case in many compilation CD’s. You get a concert orchestra which has the appropriate arrangements and they go through the motions of playing. Salonen with the LA Philharmonic act like they are on the Newman Sound Stage performing the material for the film itself! Case in point is Psycho: A Suite for Strings. For those of you who are not familiar the Psycho music was written for strings only and in this 16+ minute suite everything is arranged, performed, and orchestrated to perfection. This is the kind of music that not only do you remember the thematic material but the scene in the film itself and I am not just talking about the famous violin shrieking

but also the Prelude and the scene where Janet Leigh is driving in the rainstorm. While the more complete versions give you of course a lot more of the music they are a difficult listen. Some of Bernard’s material is not necessarily good to listen to away from the film and Herrmann used a lot of tracks so you end up with quite a fragmented listen. Five other Hitchcock films are included in this compilation: Marnie, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Torn Curtain. Torn Curtain was the last of (9) films that Herrmann worked on with Hitchcock and we are given 6 minutes of a completely rejected score that would have worked much better in the film than the feel good pop Addison score that ended up replacing it. Talk about weird and yet wonderful in the same breath and this is what you have with this flute, horn, trombone, tuba, cello, basses, and percussion the orchestra he chose for Torn Curtain. After his parting of the ways with Hitchcock and having to outdo himself, he wrote another wonderful but strange score to the Francois Truffaut film Fahrenheit 451. This time it was for Strings, Harps, and Percussion and the odd combination worked well. We can thank Charles Ives for his friendship and teaching of a very young Herrmann. Because of this relationship and learning Bernard was taught to create out of the ordinary and he never failed to disappoint us. Herrmann’s final work was for Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and it is represented as the suite A Night-Piece for Orchestra. The lovely Alto Saxophone, muted Trumpet, romantic strings in the Blues track really seem out of place for Herrmann, sounding more like a Dave Grusin composition with Kenny G. picking up the alto sax. Not to fear because in the Bloodbath track he is right back on track with dissonant brass and some interesting percussion work.

The Sony direct stream system is really quite good. The volume goes up a bit on the stereo system but the overall sound quality is a lot smoother with cleaner highs. This recording is from previously released material as the original recording was done in 1996. But the plus for you is a much lower price and the recording material is exactly the same. With a retail price of $9.95 and discounts available from that figure this is a recording that is an absolute must if you are wanting to listen to material of Herrmann for the very first time. If you are more of “seasoned veteran” you will still want this recording because of the lower price and the excellent program Salonen chose. Highly recommended.

Golden Scores Rating (****)

Produced by David Mottley

Engineer Richard King

Sony # is SK92767

Total Time is 76:45

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the LA Philharmonic

Track Listing

1. Prelude (02:40)

The Man Who Knew Too Much

2. Prelude (02:04)

Track 2-12: Psycho: A Suite For Strings

3. The City (01:44)

4. The Rainstorm (01:25)

5. The Madhouse (02:36)

6. The Murder (01:01)

7. The Water (01:11)

8. The Swamp (02:28)

9. The Stairs (01:32)

10. The Knife (00:28)

11. The Cellar (01:16)

12. Finale (01:57)

13. I. Prelude (05:13)

Track 13-14: Marnie: Suite

14. II. The Hunt (05:45)

15. Overture (02:46)

North By Northwest

16. I. Prelude (02:58)

Track 16-18: Vertigo: Suite

17. II. The Nightmare (02:08)

18. III. Scène D’Amour (06:49)

19. I. Prelude (02:17)

Track 19-21: Torn Curtain

20. II. Gromek (01:54)

21. III. The Killing (02:16)

22. Prelude (01:32)

Track 22-32: Fahrenheit 451: Suite For Strings, Harps, And Percussion

23. Fire Engine (01:01)

24. The Bedroom (01:39)

25. The Reading (02:03)

26. The Garden (01:26)

27. The Nightmare (01:51)

28. Flowers of Fire (01:43)

29. Flamethrower (00:37)

30. The Captain’s Death (01:00)

31. The Road (02:14)

32. Finale (02:25)

33. Prelude (00:54)

Track 33-37: Taxi Driver: A Night-Piece For Orchestra With Obbligato Alto Saxophone

34. Blues (03:10)

35. Night Prowl (00:29)

36. Bloodbath (01:27)

37. Finale (00:45)

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