The Ghost and Mrs. Muir/Herrmann

November 17, 2006

 

In 1947, the year of the release of “The Ghost And Mrs. Muir”, Herrmann’s fine score failed to receive even a nomination as again the competition was quite fierce that year with nominations being given to “The Bishop’s Wife” (Friedhofer), “Captain From Castile” (Newman), “A Double Life” (Rosza), “Life With Father” (Steiner), and “Forever Amber” (Raksin). The eventual winner, “A Double Life” has still yet to be given a complete release, but that is another story, a long one. Herrmann was more or less still getting started in Hollywood having only done (5) credited pictures from 1941-1947, along with at least two where he was uncredited. The film scores he did do were quite well received and extremely varied ranging from “Citizen Kane” to “Devil and Daniel Webster” to “Jane Eyre” to “Hangover Square” and “Anna and the King of Siam”. Joseph Mankiewicz, the fine director, had yet to achieve his Oscars for “Letters To Three Wives” and “All About Eve” but this picture proved to be a success vaulting Joseph onward and upward. The film is a warm sentimental story about a ghost, a cottage and falling in love as a result. It stars Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney, and George Sanders.

Let’s set the record straight on something and that is this is one of if not the most romantic score from the pen of Bernard Herrmann. But don’t expect to hear something romantic sounding like Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, or Dimitri Tiomkin would have written. This isn’t the same kind of romantic theme like a “Wuthering Heights”, “Now, Voyager”, or a lush sentimental playing of “The Green Leaves of Summer”. On the otherhand, Bernard used a fairly typical orchestra (no 9 flutes or harps) and it has a traditional sound with the exception of a contrabass clarinet and two bass clarinets which are used throughout the score. The “Prelude” gives you the three main themes which are used. The sea, the haunted cottage, and Mrs. Muir’s (Gene Tierney) theme. “Bedtime” gives us a wonderful sea chanty which is associated with Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison) and is also used in “Poetry”. “Romance” and “Love” written as an adagio is likely as romantic as Herrmann ever got. This is one time where there is a little bit of swelling up inside, a lump in your throat, a tear to your eye. But you don’t have to wait too long before the romance with Miles (George Sanders) is broken and the music changes to one of more despair in “Sorrow” and then the ever relentless sea comes back in an almost dissonant disturbing form in “The Passing Years”. The final track “Forever” is a track that reunites the couple after Mrs. Muir has passed on. A nice use of her theme again. Herrmann repeats himself as he always has but not nearly as much as in other scores. And yes it sounds like Herrmann in many parts but in other parts he has pulled himself in and he is a lot more traditional than he had ever been before. It was like he caved in to the demands of the hollywood scene!

Overall this reviewer was quite impressed with the woodwind playing and performance in particular. Nice sounding clarinet and bassoon solos, along with some nice harp in a couple of sections. The 42 minute out of a possible 52 minutes is close enough to being complete. This CD is one in the set that has been released on Varese Sarabande and though it is out of print there are still copies to be found if one searches around a bit. Even so this is an entry in the Box that is a step above some of the others and comes highly recommended.

Golden Score Rating is (****)

Track listing

1. Prelude/Local Train/The Sea (03:59)

2. The Ghost/The Storm/The Apparition (04:43)

3. The Lights/Bedtime (02:51)

4. Poetry (02:20)

5. Lucia/Dictation/Boyhood’s End/Pastoral (03:53)

6. Nocturne (02:52)

7. London/The Reading/Local Train (02:34)

8. The Spring Sea (04:51)

9. Romance/Love/Farewell (05:15)

10. The Home/Sorrow (03:17)

11. The Passing Years/The Late Sea (02:53)

12. Forever (02:40)

Total Duration: 00:42:08

Engineered by Richard Lewzey

Original Release is in 1975

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