Dimitri Tiomkin

More Music from The Fall of the Roman Empire

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Dimitri Tiomkin entered that final major phase of his career when he went to work for Samuel Bronston, on the scores for the epics 55 Days At Peking and Fall of the Roman Empire, Bronston's previous composer, Miklos Rozsa, having left in despair after scoring the movie King of Kings. Tiomkin was, by this time, a bottom-feeder, taking on projects that none of the major Hollywood composers (Rozsa, Newman, Steiner, North) would touch. As is evident in Fall of the Roman Empire's overture, he knew how to write long, sonorous melodic lines, in the manner of Tchaikovsky or Glazunov-the music that follows all seems monumental and profound-one loves the peeling bells over the martial music in the appropriately named "Profundo," which even finds room for the growling brass effect that Tiomkin pioneered as a signature in movies like Champion and The Thing (From Another World). "Pax Romana" has some engaging moments, passing for light nineteenth century absolute music-it could be a light piece of Glazunov incidental music from some lost ballet or forgotten theatrical work, though one suspects that Glazunov would have edited it more judiciously. "Pax Romana" also quotes liberally from thematic material that Tiomkin had previously used in Howard Hawks' Land of the Pharoahs, just as "Persian Battle" seems to quote, for a fraction of a second, from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. The music has the scope and the sense of importance that the movie required, but as music, it is a mess, with none of the unity of Rozsa's or Newman's work-it's more like generic (and exciting, and beautiful) Romantic orchestral music put into a blender and mixed together. In short, this is a fun, old-style rip-snorting epic movie score that plays freely with one's expectations about "classical" music. There are no notes at all, the packaging recreating the jacket design of the original LP. The sound is a significant improvement over the original LP, or at least the pressings that this reviewer has heard.

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