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Comments on the upcoming recording of Psycho

There has been some criticism of having another re-recording of Herrmann's Psycho score. The main thrust of this negativity seems to be that we already have a complete recording conducted by Herrmann himself, and an additional one would be pointless. considering how many great scores that have not even had an initial recording.

Well, normally I agree. I don't relish having the same limited repertoire bouncing around from recording to recording in successively shorter Suites. Certainly we may all agree that the Psycho suite has been practically played to death on various recordings, but I feel a new and complete recording of this music, as heard in the original film, will be both enlightening and necessary. Fine music, whether film or concert, can never delineate all its wonders in a single recording. Different perspectives, both in recording and interpretive conducting, can shed new light on any good music.

It is no great secret that Bernard Herrmann was in very poor health when that 1975 recording was made. I talked at length with Christopher Palmer about this. It seems Herrmann was so tired after trying to do just the main-title, he gave the baton to his friend Laurie Johnson to "ghost" conduct the sessions. Herrmann was there with his cane barking orders about this and that being too fast, that the music was too fast in the film, etc., etc.

Although poor health certainly played a part in the slow performances he often gave in the final years of his life, I believe he also was in a more "reflective mood" and strove to hear details that would be almost lost in faster performances. This is certainly not uncommon with conductors in their twilight years. He often stated he overwrote (in terms of length) many cues and had to conduct the music very fast in order to fit them to the scenes.

Although I think his Seventh Voyage of Sinbad London rerecording is too slow and hurts the music, I also believe there is a wide margin of "correct" interpretations of music, just is there are wide margins of "incorrect" interp retations.

So I look forward to hearing Joel McNeely's new recording. And who know, MCA may find a way of including the music tracks on their upcoming laser disc special edition.

Copyright © 1997 by John Morgan.
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International Society for the Appreciation of the Music of Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975)