Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann at Fox, Vol. 1

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The first volume in a survey of the 18 scores that Bernard Herrmann composed for films made at 20th Century Fox, this CD presents sides of Herrmann's output that even many fans of his may well have missed, as they were never issued as soundtracks at the time, nor were they adapted into concert-style suites by the composer. The music that Herrmann wrote for films of accepted critical importance (i.e., Citizen Kane, The Devil & Daniel Webster, Psycho, etc.) is well known, but this series of CDs has unearthed the original soundtrack recordings to films scored by Herrmann that haven't been embraced (at times for good reason) by critics or modern audiences -- Tender Is the Night, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, and A Hatful of Rain. Tender Is the Night was a financially and critically disastrous adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel about Americans living in Paris in the 1920s; the best thing about it was Herrmann's music, presented free-standing for the first time. His score is as concise and focused in mood and purpose as the movie is aimless and dithering in its approach to its subject. Sharp-eared listeners will hear elements common to the composer's music for Vertigo, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and even Citizen Kane -- Herrmann always stole from himself -- but the entire score does come off as an organic whole rather than a pastiche, and some elements, such as "The Lake," contain some of the prettiest music that Herrmann ever wrote (in this example from gorgeous and understated writing for the winds, reeds, and harp). The score for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, apart from the main title theme (another dramatic tour de force for the composer), is somewhat more sketchy as accompaniment to the film, principally underscoring the flashback scenes; what is here is often very moving and affecting material filled with subtle, nostalgia-laden shadings. The score for A Hatful of Rain, presented as an 18-minute suite, is as harrowing as its subject, a tale of middle-class drug addiction perfectly representing pain and anguish on a musical level in one of the composer's most unsettling works. The remixing job done on the 40-year-old recordings is brilliant, and film music enthusiasts can regard this disc as pretty much essential in every respect, its musical value enhanced by Jon Burlingame's excellent annotation.

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