This is the second major re-recording of Bernard Herrmann's music from North by Northwest to come from Varese Sarabande in a bit over a quarter of a century. The first, dating from 1980, was groundbreaking in its time as a realization of a major chunk of the Herrmann music in reasonably full-measure by a proper-size orchestra, though it was hardly complete. In the 1990s, Turner Entertainment, which had acquired the MGM library (of which North by Northwest was a part), issued a CD of the original Herrmann score recordings from the film itself, which satisfied much of the need for a fuller account of this distinctive and memorable body of music. But that release suffered from technical flaws, owing to the deterioration of the original source material and the fact that the latter had never been intended to be heard fully exposed and free-standing. And now we have at hand Joel McNeely's 2007 re-recording of the complete music -- not just from the film but for the film -- with the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, finally providing as full an account of Herrmann's music as written (rather than as edited and utilized in the final cut of the movie). And that music is presented in its optimum form. The recording comes from a full-size concert hall for the maximum breadth and sound panorama, but has been recorded and mastered with a very close and intimate sound, which provides us with the best of both worlds from an aesthetic point of view, successfully mixing and, indeed, straddling the spaciousness of a concert presentation and the intimacy of the film experience. What's more, you can hear this music dozens of times and this recording will still provide listening experiences and revelations in the detail that are new, in terms of some of the material; on the most superficial and obvious level, hearing the music in this setting makes it possible to recognize numerous places where Herrmann "stole" from his contemporary work on such pictures as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Journey to the Center of the Earth, successfully utilizing similar (or nearly identical) music cues in completely different contexts; there are also, of course, many spots where his "signature" moments come up, and places that more subtly recall his concert works, such as his Symphony. And there are also two major cues presented in their entirety for the first time. Christopher Husted has done an admirable job of restoring the written score. And the package is topped off with excellent annotation.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder