Miklós Rózsa

Ivanhoe [Original]

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This CD, released through Rhino Records' online outlet Rhino Handmade in 2002, is one of the reasons why the original soundtrack recordings of Miklos Rozsa's music are usually to be preferred to most re-recordings. The composer's most sophisticated film score to date, it drew from medieval and Jewish themes for its inspiration -- in keeping with the story's subject matter -- and engendered some of the richest and most subtle orchestrations of Rozsa's career to date; there were also some familiar moments, such as the Medley: Sir Cedric/Squire Wamba, in which listeners will hear the kind of percussion-laden suspense themes in which Rozsa had traded since his 1940 score for The Thief of Bagdad; and the dark, enveloping passages of Bois Gilbert's Passion, which are reminiscent of the music that Rozsa had earlier written, in other contexts, for Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, and their respective looks into the dark side of the human psyche. And all of it is conducted by the composer with a spirit and boldness that most other efforts to recapture the music's majesty fall short of -- it's as though other conductors are afraid the music with "break" if it's played too hard, where Rozsa knows how hard it should be pushed and played in the tempo and the nuances of the performance. The producers of this disc have done well by the music, mastering it cleanly and at a high volume. The fact that Ivanhoe had one of the first scores ever recorded magnetically at MGM (as opposed to optically), and that the session tapes have all survived, has allowed producers to assemble a 59-minute CD that sounds like it's at least ten years newer than its 1951 recording date would lead one to expect. When the horn comes in at the end of Bows and Arrows, or the mournful violin-led rendition of the main theme on Rebecca's Love rises up, it's like you're sitting on the edge of the recording studio stage. As a bonus, the producers have included both the original version of the Prelude and the Prelude and Forward as finally settled on to support a narrator's voice. Precisely why this disc has appeared through Rhino Handmade as a limited edition and at a premium price (20 dollars plus), as opposed to an actual Rhino release distributed by WEA, is anyone's guess. Ivanhoe, along with Quo Vadis and Moonfleet, is one of the jewels of the Rozsa/MGM output, and these tracks are done with such majesty and vigor that they are almost irresistable listening; Ivanhoe is worth the money and then some. The annotation is about as good as it gets, interweaving detailed histories of both the movie and the score, and the depth of the composer's work in devising this Oscar-nominated body of music.

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