Although officially titled Garden of Evil, the first 11 minutes of this CD are given over to another Bernard Herrmann score, for the 1954 movie Prince of Players. The latter is an unexpected treat, showing Herrmann in an uncharacteristically light-textured, lighthearted mood in his underscoring of the various episodes in the film's depiction of actor Edwin Booth and his career; starting with the blazing, extroverted fanfare, there are moments here that don't sound like much of anything else that Herrmann ever wrote for the screen, mostly -- in the estimation of scholar Steven C. Smith -- because he was essentially writing for the theater here, responding to the theatrical sequences and stimulus provided by the biography. Much of it is very low-key and quietly elegant, in a manner closer to Herrmann's concert work than to most of his movie work, and if there is a drawback to this opening, it's only that some of the movements in the suite last less than a minute. The music from Garden of Evil is some of the finest adventure scoring ever done by Herrmann, and in some ways it anticipates the music that he wrote for Journey to the Center of the Earth five years later at the same studio -- the shape and texture of the music is eerie, with masses of dissonant horn and brass parts, and ominous percussion stings depicting the menace of the movie's journey into a remote part of Mexico. The new recording by William T. Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra captures the timbres of the original music perfectly, though one suspects that the original tracks conducted by Herrmann at Fox -- which, theoretically, could turn up at any time on the Film Score Monthly label -- are even tighter and brighter. If there is a drawback to any of the material on this CD, it's that it is sometimes played a little bit too elegantly, losing some tension even as it brings out the music materials more clearly. Some of the cues here -- especially one referred to as "The Quarrel" -- will also be familiar from their reuse, as part of the Fox library, in television shows such as Time Tunnel and other fantasy/adventure series (especially those produced by Irwin Allen) during the 1960s. The annotation is more than thorough, and the production is clean and sharp, although one also suspects that the original music tracks from 1954, if they've survived, might also be brighter and louder.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
|Prince of Players, film score|
|Garden of Evil, film score|