November 24, 2012
Did you know that the novel written by Lew Wallace in 1880 sold nearly as many copies as the Bible and was blessed by the Pope? This is just one of the many facts that are revealed in the liner notes about the book and production of the film. When the name Ben-Hur comes up in a conversation this reviewer immediately thinks of Miklos Rozsa and Charlton Heston and the 1959 multi Oscar winning film, but I’m confident that Carl Davis had other ideas when he composed a superb score for the original version of the 1925 MGM film and brought it into the spotlight. Among his many projects which are too numerous to mention Davis has concentrated some of his time to silent films and has sparked an interest in this reviewer to the point that I have all of his releases on his label.
“Opening Titles” introduces us to the score with a sound of Strauss and Wagner. The low rumblings from the lower register followed by proud and majestic strains make one think of “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” It quickly changes to a Wagner style, also majestic but mixed with sounds that will remind you of his operatic overtures. For those of you who enjoy putting together compilations this would be an ideal one. “Star of Bethlehem” repeats the strains and continues the development of the material. “The Adoration of the Magi” adds organ and harp to the mixture making it deeply spiritual. “Esther and the Young Prince” is a beautiful mixture of a love theme and a flute that depicts the dove escaping and then being caught again. The growling lower brass (tuba and trombone) and trumpet fanfare perfectly depict “Gratus’ Entry into Jerusalem” If you’re into action tracks you’ll love “The Race” with a nonstop pounding pulsating timpani mixed with brass fanfares and strings which convey a strong sense of urgency. It is a track that does have a feeling of a silent film. This would be another track you could add to your compilation CD! Beginning with a fanfare followed by a lingering cymbal the majestic chord with harp as a harmony brings to a conclusion “The Resurrection,” another spiritual track.
The seventy plus minutes passed by too quickly as the score makes your emotions rise and fall with romance, tension, urgency, and a feeling of spirituality. It certainly made me want to see the film which I’m confident would enhance the listening experience. The playing from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is top notch, as well as the recording. It offers a solid bass, necessary for the percussion, organ, and lower brass and a high end that is crisp without a hint of shrill so often heard on some recordings. I feel that this is a welcome addition to your collection. Recommended.
1…. Opening Titles (3:30)
2….The Cave of David (1:05)
3…. Star of Bethlehem (1:54)
4…. The Adoration of the Magi (2:22)
5…. Esther and the Young Prince (3:56)
6…. Gratus Entry into Jerusalem (2:21)
7…. Storming the Palace and Arrest (3:40)
8…. Galley Slave (4:56)
9…. Pirate Battle (5:58)
10…Iras the Egyptian (7:41)
11…The Gathering of the Chariots (4:15)
12…The Race (9:43)
13…The Palace of Hur (1:58)
15…The Way of the Cross (2:43)
17…Collapse of the Senate (1:18)
18…The Resurrection (2:27)
Carl Davis conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Total Time is 71:45