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Review
Citizen Kane: The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann



Citizen Kane: The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann

National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Gerhardt, 1974.

RCA Victor ARL1-0707 (LP, 1974); RCA/BMG 0707-2-RG (CD, 1989).
This is an excellent recording. I'm very fond of the Aria Herrmann composed for the make-believe opera "Salammbo," from the Citizen Kane suite. Too bad there isn't more of the Kane music on this CD.

"Beneath the 12-Mile Reef" is also outstanding; tracks (7) "Descending," and (8) "The Octupus; Descending," offer some very notcurnal, spine-tingling music - I believe that Jerry Goldsmith likely consulted this work for his Star Trek: TMP score; I can hear some of "Descending," in Goldsmith's "The Cloud," from ST: TMP.

The "Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra," from Hangover Square is a stirring, confidently written and most atypical piece of film music; Herrmann, throughout his career, consistently sought to back away from the prevailing Hollywood style. There was never anything "generic" about Benny's work; written with a sound knowledge of Romantic compositional practices - a richer orchestral sonority, the manipulation of conventional harmony (including an expanded harmonic vocabulary, free use of cadences and altered chords) as well as changes in the treatment of melody and rhythm; composers, aware of a need to extend the range of mood and pitch seasoned their compositions with a less predictable (assymetrical) phrase structure, variations in pace and motion, and advanced the boundries of form and tonal structure - Bernard Herrmann's film music became almost undistinguishable from concert music. He and Alfred Newman (whose stuff I've been hearing a lot of lately - thanks Elizabeth) wrote in a style completely at odds with the expectations of film producers; they wrote "film music" in the shadows of the proprieters of the romantic era. They didn't just write (superficially) in the romantic style, but paid homage to it by embracing it whole-heartedly,and following its every pitch, its every nuance precisely.

Herrmann's romantic sensibilites are fully entact in the above listed CD. It's a real pleasure to listen to, and frankly, puts a lot of today's film music to shame.


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International Society for the Appreciation of the Music of Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975)