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Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers / Great Film Music

The Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers

London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Herrmann, 1968.

London 443 889-2 (CD, 1996).

Great Film Music

National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Herrmann, 1974/1975.

London 443 895-2 (CD, 1996).
As part of the major record companies' trend of re-issuing older recordings as part of a nostalgic celebration of assorted "original sound" recording techniques, London Records has as re-released two superb collections of Bernard Herrmann's film music arranged into concert suite form. The albums Music From the Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers and Bernard Herrmann Great Film Music come as part of London's Phase4Stereo series celebrating yet another process of high fidelity and stereophonic recording's early years.

The Hitchcock album is a fine collection of excerpts that was available, with an uglier cover and two extra non-Herrmann tracks, four years ago. As an introduction to Herrmann's work with Hitchcock, or as a supplement to the more complete versions of these scores (listed in the "Essential" list) this album comes most highly recommended.

Bernard Herrmann Great Film Music was originally an album titled The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann recorded with the National Philharmonic conducted by Herrmann in 1973. For the re-issue, a suite from The Three Worlds of Gulliver (from a later album titled The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann) has been included as a bonus.

The music is from four films of the science fiction and fantasy genres:

Journey to the Center of the Earth is a rumbling and often brash collection of non-melodic cues that especially highlight the lower registers of the instruments involved. One cue, "Atlantis" is a standout. It is a haunting series of chords for organ and vibraphone that contrasts with the shrill nature of some of the other cues- "Salt Slides."

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad contains a bold overture; a novel "Duel with a Skeleton" featuring a xylophone, of course; and a lush depiction of "Baghdad" by the strings.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is Herrmann's innovative brass and electronic instruments score for the landmark film . Some of the music's innovation is lacking in this performance because some of the electronic parts originally performed by such exotic instruments as the theremin, may be performed here by an ordinary Moog synthesizer. A small quibble.

One of the album's finest moments comes in the suite to Fahrenheit 451. Although a recent and more complete re-recording of this music (conducted by Joel McNeely) is better, I think, with the interior cues, no one has been able to better (or approximate) Herrmann's gorgeous rendering of the moving finale to this film. The suggestion of hope, beauty, and loss, are all equally expressed by this piece. Ray Bradbury (the author of "451") says he bursts into tears every time he hears Herrmann's finale music. It's quite understandable.

A handsome suite from The Three Worlds of Gulliver finishes up the album in an upbeat fashion. The music is alternately stately, delicate, and menacing, in keeping with the title.

The performances are first rate, following slower tempos than the original soundtrack recordings. The recorded sound and transfer is very good (but not mind blowingly exceptional as the promotional materials would have you believe.) A nice bonus is that the individual cues within the suites have been track numbered for easy programming (something that was sometimes missing on earlier CD versions of these recordings.) The liner notes (by a Mr. Kenneth Chalmers) are brief and general. If you don't already have these performances on CD, buy these albums to encourage London (PolyGram) to release some of their other Herrmann recordings in such fine form.

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