Miklós Rózsa

Ben-Hur [Soundtrack]

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This double CD of Miklos Rozsa's score for the 1959 movie Ben-Hur was the first serious attempt at an upgrade of the sound and the content of the original release. During the early '60s, Ben-Hur was the first film score to get a second LP volume of its music released, since the popularity of the first LP was so great and there was so much good music available. (Rozsa had the extraordinary luxury of nearly a year's time to write the score for the three-and-a-half hour movie.) However, both albums were re-recordings of the actual film music, and the recording quality on the second volume (More Music From Ben-Hur) was very poor. The producers went back to the original masters and did a lot of restoration and filtering of the sound, and also assembled the two sets of tracks into the order in which they appeared in the film. Additionally, copies of the original film's audio tracks were obtained, giving a better account of the "Overture," "Title Music," and "Intermission Music" than had ever been heard before. The result is a totally enveloping soundtrack, in discreet and widely separated stereo, with a theatrical-scale majesty to many of the cuts for the first time and not a trace of the thin, tinny sound that afflicted the albums for decades. The "Overture" fairly booms out like melodious thunder from the past, and the "Title Music" sounds like the orchestra is surrounding the listener. The rest is a close match, and the music holds up exceptionally well on its own terms and separate from the film, thus providing a very solid two hours of listening. The subsequent Rhino Records reissue of Ben-Hur, also in a two-CD box set, supplanted this version and utilized still more material (including outtakes from the score), although there are those who maintain that the mastering of the Sony version gives a heavier, more massive sound to some of the released sections.

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