Bernard Herrmann

Music from the Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers

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The film music of Bernard Herrmann is certainly as good a subject as any for the lavish "Phase 4" stereo treatment, which in the '60s was what the marketing strategy was all about for this particular release. The increased level of respect and interest in film composers amongst the listening public was still a few decades away when this album came out, while consumers of the time were still engaged in uncontrolled lust for new stereo systems and the recording technology that went with it. Eventually, it would be a simple fact that the string passage that accompanies the shower scene in Psycho, for example, would remain strong in the public minds long after "Phase 4," "Quadrophonic," and all the rest of this kind of hoopla was long forgotten. It was originally Decca that put Herrmann together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to conduct performances of excerpts from his most famous scores. The result was as masterful as can be expected. The composer chose to highlight the most famous themes from various scores to Alfred Hitchcock films, and the performances are indeed quite different than what was done for the actual soundtrack recordings. With the exception of North by Northwest, which gets short shrift, the films in question are well-served by these short suites, put together carefully and artistically by the only person who really has the right to tinker around like this, the composer himself. Fans of Herrmann's work will enjoy this collection, although some sleuthing along the lines of one of Hitchcock's detectives is going to be required to sort out the mess London made of various editions. For one thing, Hitchcock's stock must have gone up after the '60s, since later releases include his name in the album title, while earlier ones simply advertise themes from "movie thrillers." One later version of the set is slightly expanded, enough to include about four minutes of excerpts from Spellbound. In a move that will probably be of interest only to people who are studying editing, one of these later editions has slightly different playing times for each selection, indicating that the speed of the original tapes was changed or that an editor engaged in a little bit of slicing, although hardly as drastic as what Anthony Perkins did to the lady in the shower.

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