Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann: Welles Raises Kane; The Devil & Daniel Webster; Obsession

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This CD offers two orchestral suites and a soundtrack, played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer. Herrmann calls Welles Raises Kane "...a musical frolic...a portrait of Orson Welles at the time of his creation of the films Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons." It is filled with ragtimes, waltzes, a can-can, and many ingenious variations. The Devil and Daniel Webster, a suite from Daniel and the Devil, opens with an impressive "hail storm" toccata, and continues with a lovely Ballad of Springfield Mountain, a maniacal Sleigh Ride, and the haunting Miser's Waltz, and concludes with the high-energy Swing Your Partners barn dance interrupted by a grotesque fugatto. The score for DePalma's Obsession (1976), a tale of double identities and hidden schemes, was Herrmann's last work. He underscores the drama with an unusual ensemble: a large cathedral organ (in St. Giles, Cripplegate, London) and timpani as primary musical signature characters, wordless and sighing female voices, horns, winds and strings. Rich impressionist harmonies unfold amidst captivating rhythmic minimalism. The brilliant scoring has clearly denoted lines and a wide spectrum of orchestral timbres, with a musical sensitivity perfectly in touch with the characters and their circumstances. Especially notable are: the grand Main Title music, which opens with thick organ and brass chords on a four-note theme built of two half-steps, echoed in the distance by gentle and spooky voices; a lovely Valse Lente which grows out of the chromatic theme, as we see the Courtland plantation circa 1959 in floating shots; and the churning paddle of The Ferry, set to dissonant string arpeggios, strident timpani, wild French horn blasts alternating with muted brass, and massive organ chords.

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