Essential Miklos Rozsa: Ben Hur

Miklós Rózsa / City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

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Essential Miklos Rozsa: Ben Hur Review

by Bruce Eder

Silva Screen's double-disc Miklos Rozsa tribute is a decent if slightly limited compilation of the late composer's scores across several idioms, from across his career, though most of the material is concentrated in his prime Hollywood years. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus do well by the material at hand, although their interpretations tend to be a little freer and less taut than the originals -- the Ben-Hur material, for example, tends to luxuriate a bit in the writing, for the reeds in the love theme and the brass in the prelude and the "Parade of the Charioteers," without really adding much to what Rozsa himself did on the original film sessions. The state-of-the-art sound is impressive, and the sheer size of the orchestra is a delight to the ear, but there's a lot to be said for the nuances of the original recordings, where the latter are viable. Such is not the case with the music from El Cid, which has always been lacking as a soundtrack album or CD release, and on those two cuts this set really comes to life -- similarly, the order in which the tracks appear, interspersing the music from Providence between a pair of epics, is a statement of Rozsa's sheer range; the makers have also salvaged the overture from Sodom and Gomorrah, one of the most unhappy projects on which Rozsa ever worked, and the latter was worth the effort. All of that said, it's a pity that the producers limited themselves to re-recording just four portions of Rozsa's music from The Thief of Baghdad, one of his finest and most influential scores, which has yet to be properly represented on CD -- additionally, they've tampered with the music in the main title sequence, so that it really isn't a fully proper representation of even the portions of the score that are here, and they've tampered with the tempos of the music that isn't altered in content.

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