They say that good things come in small packages, and this CD would seem to be the musical proof of that statement -- certainly there are few more unassuming releases in Bernard Herrmann's output. Joy in the Morning is one of the more obscure movies ever scored by Herrmann and, as is pointed out in the notes by Christopher Husted, it was also the composer's last successfully completed major studio project, coming just ahead of the calamity that attended his work for Alfred Hitchcock on Torn Curtain. It has fallen between the cracks across the years, principally because the movie itself was a good deal less stellar than most of the Hitchcock projects (or, for that matter, the Ray Harryhausen projects) with which Herrmann distinguished himself in the early/mid-'60s. This CD is astonishingly good, however, being not only a close cousin to Herrmann's music for Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) but also containing thematic material in common with his clarinet quintet Souvenirs du Voyage, and string writing that also recalls his work for Vertigo and even Psycho, as well as writing for the reeds and winds that have echoes as far back as Beneath the 12-Mile Reef and The Day the Earth Stood Still. And there are even brief passages that distantly recall The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and the "Miser's Waltz" from The Devil and Daniel Webster. Apart from a title song written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster (and sung by co-star Richard Chamberlain), the music is all Herrmann, and first-rate Herrmann, too, even if it isn't too far removed from other, better-known scores. Herrmann conducted as well as wrote the music for Joy in the Morning (based on a novel by Betty Smith), and his involvement with the project, in late 1964, coincided with his own divorce from his wife of 15 years, in an action initiated by her amid much bitter acrimony, including restraining orders and other judicial caveats. Husted doesn't venture an overt guess as to the effect that all of this turmoil had on Herrmann, but the exposed, unmixed music on this CD seems to speak for itself, one of the most heartfelt scores in Herrmann's entire output as well as one of the most beautiful, with passages that are as gorgeous and profoundly moving as any of the most compelling works of Arnold Schoenberg (Transfigured Night) or Gustav Mahler ("Adagietto" from the Symphony No. 5). Not that there aren't light, flowing moments as well, but they're a bit less easy to find in what seems to be a sibling to the darker, more regretful sections of Vertigo and Marnie. The technical quality of the disc is superb, mastered in a crisp discreet stereo with as full a range as one could hope for, and not even the brief Chamberlain vocal interlude and conclusion interferes with the enjoyment of the main body of the score. Indeed, on this one occasion, rather than receiving the presence of a title song with reluctance, Herrmann seems to have embraced Fain's work and incorporated elements of the title ballad in his score. The Film Score Monthly CD is, as usual for their limited-edition issues, restricted to 3,000 copies pressed, which means that anyone interested should grab any copy that crosses their path, no questions asked -- this is essential listening for anyone who cares about film music, classical music, Bernard Herrmann's work, or just plain great music.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
|Joy in the Morning, film score|