This CD contains scores by Elmer Bernstein and Bernard Herrmann, from 1955 and 1959, respectively. The Bernstein score for The View from Pompey's Head marked the composer's first venture into the writing of a romantic soundtrack with a big string sound -- listening to it 50 years on, it seems to anticipate Bernstein's late-career work on Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven in mood and texture (and, to a degree, subject matter). This was also Bernstein's first opportunity to venture into the writing of a score evoking traditional Americana -- beginning with track five, "Homecoming," and even more so with track six, "On the Road to Tamburlaine," he takes the first tentative steps toward the authorship of The Magnificent Seven score, crossing into Aaron Copland territory for the first time, although in this instance it isn't the Copland of "Rodeo" or "Billy the Kid" so much as the Copland of Our Town. The music is amazingly fresh and bold, and holds up wonderfully as a free-standing composition; listening to this CD makes one wonder why there never was a soundtrack LP at the time of the movie's release. The second-half of the CD is made up of one of Bernard Herrmann's more obscure scores, for the then-controversial movie Blue Denim (1959), which dealt with teenage pregnancy at a time when the latter word couldn't even be mentioned onscreen in American movies. Herrmann started work on this score the same day that he finished recording the soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, and it displays the same boldness in the writing -- especially for the strings -- that his work of this period typically demonstrated. There are several unused (and, thus, previously unheard) cues in the assembly of this material, which range from Herrmann-lite depicting the antics of the three teenaged friends at the center of the story, to some of his more romantic writing of the period. Rather than underscoring the action, at time Herrmann overscores it, as with the optimistic final section, but in the main this is one of his better, more alluring romantic scores depicting young love -- at moments, as in track 20, "The Letter," his work does recall the scoring of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), which was arguably the high point of Herrmann's Hollywood career. The CD sound is excellent, the source tapes apparently in fine condition and well transferred here (in stereo), and the annotation is superb -- in any collection, this is a bargain just in the having.
The View from Pompey's Head [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] Review
by Bruce Eder