Bernard Herrmann / Alfred Newman

The Egyptian [Original Score]

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The 1954 20th Century Fox feature film The Egyptian is unique in cinema history for its combination of music composition talents: both Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman composed the score, which was the most successful component of the film. Not that some Hollywood scores didn't incorporate the work of two or more composers, but Herrmann was notoriously reticent to mix his work with that of anyone else, and the idea of two men of Herrmann's and Newman's stature collaborating was unusual. An attempt at a serious historical drama, and more character-driven than a lot of other costume movies of the era, The Egyptian was a box-office bomb on which a tremendous effort had been expended, not least on the music. Newman wrote a little less than half of the actual score and devised thematic material that Herrmann used as the basis for part of his contribution. The two composers' work is, on one level, rather truncated, as each knew that he would be sharing the broader canvas with the other. Individually, the tracks are fascinating, and each displays some of the best attributes of the two men's work, including Herrmann's extensive use of instrumental timbres, especially in the winds and reeds, to make individual sections of the score memorable; his best part of The Egyptian is the seven-minute Nefer-Nefer-Nefer, a finely developed piece for chamber orchestra. One can also hear thematic material that he later reshaped, in subsequent scores, into new pieces -- The Deed contains the roots of material that later underscored the climactic section of Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, while Violence has components that later found voice, in other forms, in Herrmann's score for Obsession, as well as in some of his work for Ray Harryhausen's fantasy films. Newman's portion of this score has never seemed as distinguished as Herrmann's -- both composers were very much under the gun, but particularly Newman -- and in the end his melodic gifts failed him somewhat; the fact that he relinquished orchestration duties (one of Newman's most distinctive strengths) muted his contribution even further. This new recording by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra (led by William T. Stromberg) does give the music greater dignity, elegance, and power than the older original soundtrack LP, which contained only about 40 minutes of music, much of it re-recorded after the fact. One still gets the impression, though, that the producers are making slightly more out of the music than its actual merits suggest is appropriate.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
The Egyptian, film score
1 1:39
2 0:53
3 3:03
4 1:24
5 1:20
6 1:22
7 0:35
8 1:20
9 1:14
10 1:57
11 7:03
12 3:15
13 2:19
14 1:29
15 1:20
16 2:14
17 7:50
18 1:15
19 4:52
20 0:48
Airport, film score
21 1:42
The Egyptian, film score
22 3:31
23 1:27
24 2:43
25 0:36
26 1:35
27 4:11
28 5:24
29 1:05
30 1:46
blue highlight denotes track pick