James Bernard has proven time and again that he has an amazing grasp of the requirements of writing music for horror films; his extensive work for the Hammer operation in the 1950s and 1960s is often more serious and interesting than the films it accompanied, and there is a direct refusal to use the music to mock either the genre or individual films. This Silva America release delves mainly into the horror and science fiction end of Bernard's work for Hammer, with a quick side trip into the fantasy-adventure of She. Though the album is made up of selected cues, it is remarkably even and quite compelling; the opening "Vampire Rhapsody," with Paul Bateman on piano, tilts expectations away from the simpleminded. The level is maintained thereafter, with some splendid orchestral performances from both the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir. Bernard himself provided the arrangements for the suites, which doubtless contributes to the quality of the performances. The recording is excellent, with a full-bodied orchestral stage and a clean bass. Highs seem deliberately muted in some pieces, which would be in keeping with the material; Bateman's piano on "Vampire Rhapsody," on the other hand, is given room to cut through across its entire range, and is well separated from the body of the orchestra. In sum, this is one of the best treatments of James Bernard's work available to date. It is hoped that many more will eventually follow.
AllMusic Review by Steven McDonald