Chandos' outstanding Chandos Movies series, helmed by conductor Rumon Gamba with the BBC Philharmonic, has not heretofore visited the cinematic output of Bernard Herrmann, reckoned by some as the greatest film music composer ever. For this initial Herrmann foray, Gamba and Chandos have decided on two early and definitive scores, for John Brahm's horror film Hangover Square (1945) and Orson Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941), which was Herrmann's first film assignment. Parts of both of these scores have been recorded numerous times, particularly Citizen Kane, though Hangover Square is especially notable in that it contains a short piano concerto of the kind common to movies in the 1940s; this is represented by Laura Shepherd's 1992 performing edition, entitled Concerto Macabre, which was based on Herrmann's own sketches toward a concert version of the concerto that he never completed. Both scores in their entirety are included, along with some fantastic photographs of Welles and Herrmann taken during the production of Citizen Kane. While the recording might not attempt to reproduce actress Dorothy Comingore's deliberately bad performance of Rossini's "Una voce poco fa," it does include soprano Orla Boylan singing -- far more credibly than did Comingore's character -- Herrmann's fake opera "Salammbò."
The performances are, as is usual with Chandos' series, exceptionally well done. Sometimes the digital recording gets a bit quieter than would be ideal, but for those used to collecting these soundtracks only the short sets or suites of cues that have been generally available the very completeness of these Gamba/BBC Philharmonic recordings will be a boon.