Lost Horizon the Classic Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979)

April 7, 2011

Like many Russians Tiomkin left his country in 1917, the year of the revolution and fled to France. He learned his music well having studied under Glazunov in St. Petersburg. His Hollywood connection began when he like so many people became fascinated with the Gershwin classic Rhapsody in Blue which led to writing jazz material and selling it to MGM. The depression found him making his way to the west coast from New York where he was finding it difficult to make a living as a concert/jazz pianist. He spent 30+ years making a good living writing for the silver screen, was in great demand having twenty four Oscar nominations along with four statues. Lost Horizon was his “breakthrough” film for Frank Capra and his first unofficial Oscar nod, the nomination being given to the head of the Columbia film department Morris Stoloff something that was done in those days. Starring Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, and Sam Jaffe the film never quite lived up to the expectations of the studio or by people who read the novel by James Hilton and went on to compare the two. I was quite taken by the film and have seen it several times and would encourage you to have a watch if you’ve never seen it.

The new Sony release #88697 77933 2 is the latest recording of the material. It was first introduced as a RCA RED SEAL LP ARL1-1669 in 1976 and a Dolby CD followed in 1989. While the Dolby Surround CD sounds great if you have that kind of setup it doesn’t on a traditional stereo but this new release is taken from the original recordingand solves that problem. What Sony did do was combine several tracks into a twenty three minute suite that comes across like a classical tone poem. I prefer the single movement but others want the original with six tracks. You can live with the Dolby encoded disk or create your own track separation. The material shows the classical training from Glazunov as it is an endless string of wonderful melodies and beautiful choral passages. The arrangement is great and you can hear and feel the 150+ ensemble of orchestra and chorus. Both composers were good at melody and orchestration and Tiomkin shows how well he learned his craft. If you’re interested in listening to more material Screen Archives Entertainment has an archival recording FMA/DT 103 which offers sixty nine minutes of the original soundtrack conducted by Max Steiner. Although much shorter in length at 8 minutes the same suite concept is used for The Big Sky (1952) and the result is nothing short of spectacular with his use of folk melodies and a full treatment of Americana. “Love Scene in the Barn,” from Friendly Persuasion (1956) was a romantic build up situation where Tiomkin went all around the theme. He would tease with a few notes and finally when the inevitable kiss/romantic embrace came so did the lovely main theme. Search for Paradise (1958), a Cinerama spectacle, has a proud majestic air about it complete with chorus. All too short are the happy Fourposter (1952) overture and the main theme from the war film Guns of Navarone (1961). If you’re interested there are more complete recordings available of this soundtrack.

The remastering is a large improvement over a somewhat worn LP, a cassette recording, and the Dolby version on CD. No it is not perfect and a stronger effort from Sony could have yielded better results but I would take this CD if I had a choice. The mastering is crisp with excellent treble and bass. Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic had such a feel for the performing of this golden age material. Tiomkin and Glazunov would have approved had they been given the opportunity to critique and I have to give it along with the others in the series my highest recommendation.

Track listing

1. Lost Horizon (1937): Symphonic Suite (23:05)

(with the John Alldis Choir)

2. The Guns of Navarone: Prelude (02:25)

3. The Big Sky: Suite (08:11)

4. The Fourposter: Overture (02:38)

5. Friendly Persuasion: Love Scene in the Barn (05:58)

6. Search for Paradise: Choral Finale (03:34)

Total Duration: 00:45:51

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