Golden Age of Hollywood 3/Compilation of Film Composers

May 14, 2012


Continuing the series of golden age music the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra offers the listener material unique to many of the film compilation CD’s available on the market today. Coupled with the first two volumes (links of the reviews above) the listener is given over three hours of material from many of the icons of film music. The orchestra is well rehearsed, conducted, and recorded. I especially noticed the clarity when a single instrument performed on a track. Producer Andrew Walton chose material well and your ears are certainly in for a treat as you go through volume three.

On the Waterfront (1954), the only time Leonard Bernstein wrote for the movies, is a twenty minute suite he created for performance by a classical orchestra. The opening French horn solo offers the sad main theme one that has a similar melody to the Jerry Goldsmith theme from “Chinatown.” A flute repeats the melody with harmony provided by a muted trombone. The percussion is a signal for a dramatic change as a dissonant sax is a prelude to the full orchestra giving us a distorted jazz melody similar in style to his music from “West Side Story.” The complex orchestration offers swirling strings, staccato motifs, and wild sounding brass with well placed percussion. A solo sax leads the strings to a third melodramatic theme that oozes tragedy. The flute offers a ray of hope with a pretty love melody. As you listen to the suite you’ll be exposed to jazz, classical, romance, and tension. In a word it’s outstanding.

While Leonard did but the single score the opposite is true of Elmer, the other Bernstein who was one of the busiest composers in the last half of the 20th Century. While Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) isn’t in the same league as his “Magnificent Seven” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” all composed around the same time it is still a wonderful theme telling the story of Robert Stroud. It begins with flighty flute and quickly changes to a fugue as the oboe and bassoon talk to one another. The suite changes to one of proud and majestic with proud horns ending the track in a crescendo. Jazz is the order of the day in The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) dominated by a gritty brass section featuring a trumpet solo that screams backed by dominant brass. Elmer Bernstein, the composer made his mark on the jazz scene with this powerful track. While this reviewer will always remember David Rose for his instrumental song Holiday for Strings the public will remember him for the often used Burlesque (Stripper) in films. Featuring the raucous drum beat and the bright and vivid brass could be ranked number one as source music for a variety of situations. While not as well known, George Auric wrote a wonderful score for the Oscar winning film Roman Holiday (1953). The theme is a tribute to Italy its country and music in a scant three minutes. Writing the prelude was one of the tunesmith’s of Hollywood Victor Young whose music is featured in the next two tracks Shane and Around the World in 80 Days. The mini suite for Shane features the opening title Call of the Faraway Hills, a study in how to compose music for an expansive scene and a romantic love theme as beautiful as Hollywood has ever heard. The glitter of the silver screen was never more evident in the extravaganza Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and Victor Young wrote the perfect waltz for the famous balloon race filmed in Todd-AO 70mm, a forgotten process that was nothing short of spectacular if you ever had the opportunity to see it in the original format. Murder on the Orient Express (1974); composed by the extremely versatile Richard Rodney Bennett is a classic waltz that certainly would have put a smile on Agatha Christie’s face. The track has a somewhat creepy prelude as the orchestra builds up to playing the waltz. The sound effect of the train, although brief in duration, was annoying. On my first listen I thought there was going to be singing! Moving past that the waltz is superb as strings and brass participate in it. Is Paris Burning (1966), composed by Maurice Jarre is a fine example of his sound. Somewhat period sounding with the tuba and accordion this carousel sound works quite well in the film. If I weren’t familiar with the work of Franz Waxman I would have said Philadelphia Story (1940) was a George Gershwin composition without hesitation. It has that jazzy swaying aura to it and you feel time warped back into another era listening to the wonderful melody. Laura (1944), a classic noir from Otto Preminger composed by underappreciated David Raksin was an example of writing a monothematic score and having it work quite successfully in a film. The suite offers sentimental, sweet band, and waltz as you listen to just some of the different ways the song can be arranged. The final selection is the Billy Wilder noir film Double Indemnity (1944) with classic music by Miklos Rozsa. This suite is filled with yearning violins, dissonant crescendos, and dark brass that will put a shiver up your spine.


Richard Bernas and the Royal Philharmonic do a fine job performing this unusual selection of soundtrack material. Yes I could do without the lion roar and train whistle but this certainly doesn’t prevent me from enjoying this new offering from the Royal Philharmonic. I look forward to more!

Track Listing:

1… On the Waterfront (20:24)

2… Birdman of Alcatraz (2:47)

3… The Man with the Golden Arm (3:27)

4… Burlesque (1:43)

5… Roman Holiday (3:01)

6… Shane (2:47)

7… Around the World in 80 Days (3:17)

8… Murder on the Orient Express (3:48)

9… Is Paris Burning (3:38)

10… The Philadelphia Story (3:55)

11… Laura (6:23)

12… Double Indemnity (8:39)

Total Time is 63:49

CD# is RPO 023 CD


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