Herrmann's classic Hitchcock collaboration is resurrected in
spectacular fashion by McNeely and the Scottish National Orchestra
with a huge, heavy sound that's the most 'Herrmannesque' I've heard
from anyone since Charles Gerhardt.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely.
Varese Sarabande VSD-5600 (CD, 1996).
McNeely reproduces the entire
fifty-two minute score here, including several cues not on the Muir
Mathieson-conducted Mercury LP, like the eerie meeting in the redwood
forest with its chill-inducing pipe organ chords and the striking
rescue of the Kim Novak character from an apparent suicide attempt
under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Mathieson conducted the
actual film score and the album and apparently did neither to
McNeely's album is an attempt to recreate
the score as Herrmann intended it, working off his original conducting
notations, so there are evident differences in some of the rhythms and
accents (particularly in the more sweeping statements of the love
theme) that some may find nettlesome.
- The rest of the score is indelible:
- the swirling kaleidoscope of repeating figures over surging brass that
played over Saul Bass' hypnotic titles and segue into the churning
strings and terrifying brass shock chords of the opening rooftop
- the disturbing, subtle Spanish rhythms underscoring the
painting of Carlotta and James Stewart's early stalking of Kim Novak;
- the rumbling, cascading strings that tumble into the wicked tarantella
dance of Stewart's nightmare,
- and the love theme that builds in
obsessiveness to the rhapsodic 'Scene d'Amour'.
McNeely was after authenticity,
however, and in this case considered Herrmann's original conducting
notations to be the most valid source for guidance in reconstructing
McNeely recalled when asked about the
difference in the score's timings.
- "We were doing the opening and it seemed awfully fast by
The obsessive nature of the Stewart character is
vividly illustrated by the music: the frightening rooftop chase music
recurs several times as Stewart is haunted by nightmares and
flashbacks of the incident, and Herrmann's indelible brass shock
chords bring a highly unnerving quality to Hitchcock's novel technique
of zooming and dolleying his camera backwards at the same time to
achieve a visual interpretation of Stewart's attacks of vertigo; even
the shrieking three-note string figure that punctuates the tarantella
'nightmare' sequence (a precursor to the infamous Psycho murder music)
recurs later in a romantic guise against the love theme to
inextricably tie together Stewart's obsessive love with his crippling
- "I considered changing it for a
while and then I said, no, this is the way he intended it and this is
how it's got to be. The opening figures are in a very specific time,
like a pulse."
While the Mathieson album and Herrmann's suite arrangements
reduced the Vertigo score to a collection of memorable set pieces,
McNeely's rendition restores the immense narrative power of the work
as it chronicles one man's undoing at the hands of his own obsessions.
The Bernard Herrmann Society.|
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