Joel McNeely here follows his modern re-recordings of Bernard Herrmann's The
Trouble With Harry, Psycho, Vertigo and Torn Curtain and with the complete music
from the last Alfred Hitchcock film actually released with a Herrmann score;
Marnie (1964). The film is a psychological romantic crime drama starring Sean
Connery and Tippi Hedron and it is hard to see it as anything other than a less
successful attempt to replay the same tortured obsessions which drove Vertigo.
Consequently, and regardless of Christopher Husted's assertion to the contrary
in his otherwise excellent booklet notes, Herrmann wrote his score very much in
the style of Vertigo. Certainly the orchestration was on a smaller scale, but
otherwise this is music in the same genre, for a film from the very same
idiosyncratic creative mind.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely, 1999-2000.
Varese Sarabande VSD-6094 (CD, 2000, 50:41).
Neither Herrmann nor Hitchcock may have felt happy in adapting to the changing
commercial climate of the time, but Hitchcock but attempted to adapt,
compromised and declined creatively, whilst Herrmann continued exactly as he
always had done, finding himself out of favour artistically until rediscovered
in Europe and adopted by a new generation of American filmmakers. However, in
all this difficult period he never sacrificed his personal artistic style. In
this context Marnie really marks a transitional point; Hitchcock less than
successfully retreating to the world of Vertigo, then attempting to join the
Bond bandwagon with Torn Curtain, sacrificing Herrmann along the way. In such a
fraught, tense situation it is a testament to Herrmann's creative integrity that
Marnie is as strong a work as it is. However, I would not argue that this is an
essential Herrmann score, simply because much of the material really is very
familiar from previous work - perhaps the composer was not feeling sufficiently
inspired to create something entirely new for Hitchcock by this point - yet for
all that Marnie is still crafted with all Herrmann's impeccable taste and skill.
As history would prove, Hitchcock needed Herrmann much more than Herrmann needed
There are 41 tracks on this 50 minute album. The maths would suggest a rather
fragmented listening experience, but happily many of the cues have been
sequenced to flow on into the next, providing a very cohesive programme. The
sometimes criticised Varèse Sarabande sound is here very good indeed, and the
playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra first class. McNeely has
Herrmann's measure well, and while inevitably he does some things differently to
Herrmann - his tempos are a little quicker for one - that is entirely the point;
this is a new recording, not a slavish clone of the soundtrack.
Propulsively driven by the romantic main theme, Herrmann keeps returning to the
scene of the crime, unresolved figures repeated over and again establishing the
neurotic, compulsive world of Marnie, an almost hallucinatory nightmare for
Hitchcock's characters, a luxurious dream for the listener. 'The Hunt' is the
undoubted highlight as far as major set-pieces are concerned, Herrmann being
able to indulge his Anglophile nature with the opening horn calls, rapidly
taking the cue in the direction of a vertiginous maelstrom. That said, the
repetitive nature of the score makes this an album for the serious Herrmann
aficionado; less serious fans may be satisfied with an extended suite, such as
the one Herrmann himself recorded with the London Philharmonic and which is
currently available in the UK on Music from Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers.
Finally I should note that Varèse Sarabande's presentation is excellent, with an
evocative cover painting by regular artist Matthew Joseph Peak. Eloquent and
elegant, dark romance has rarely been so gorgeous.
- AUDIO EXCERPTS
- Prelude (mp3, 387K) :30
- The Hunt (mp3, 382K) :30
Copyright © 2000 by Gary S. Dalkin / The Bernard Herrmann Society.|
All rights reserved.