Dimitri Tiomkin / Charles Gerhardt

Lost Horizon: The Classic Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin

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Dimitri Tiomkin was among the best-known soundtrack composers of his era, though his talent as a composer (as opposed to an orchestrator) was always doubted by some; and his work crossed over successfully into several different film genres (including science fiction, which is not represented on this collection), which this album made an effort to represent, not wholly successfully, back in 1976. Most of all, and beyond any question, he was a master of orchestral color, enough to rival figures such as Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, and he was fortunate enough to come along just as Hollywood was discovering the importance of music in talking pictures. It took a few years for Tiomkin to make his mark as a composer, but when he did, he made it indelibly. The bulk of this CD, like the original LP from which it was derived, is filled with the music from Tiomkin's first major score, for Frank Capra's 1937 film Lost Horizon. A full-blown extension of late 19th century Russian romanticism, this score is represented here by an imposing 23-minute suite that is still glorious to hear, 70-plus years later. (Indeed, if classes in music appreciation were still taught in 21st century high schools, one could do worse in illustrating the instruments of the orchestra and their various timbres and voices than this recording). The only difficulty is that once one gets past that suite, which filled the first side of the original LP, what follows doesn't really stand in the same league. Conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philarmonic Orchestra give it everything they have, and push the rousing strains of the overture from The Guns of Navarone and The Big Sky as hard as they can, but this material is still something of a letdown after what you've already heard. Additionally, The Big Sky formed such a small corner of Tiomkin's output as a composer of westerns, that its presence inevitably leaves the listener who is already a fan wanting more (a project that eventually fell into several other hands, besides Gerhardt's). Only the choral finale to Search for Paradise comes close to the Lost Horizon music, which is so imposing that it deserved a still more expansive treatment and a separate release, on its own.

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