1946, 1947, 1956, 1962, 1966, 1995, Movies

Fahrenheit 451 [et al.] (1995) by Bernard Hermann, performed by Seattle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

This is another Bernard Hermann compilation, a kind of scattershot one.

The main feature of this compilation is ten pieces from Hermann’s score to Fahrenheit 451. I cannot say enough about the prelude. I am not sure where it stands in the history of film music, but it has become so unbelievably cliche as a custom to have a somber, eerie opening like that, it’s kind of incredible. And, to my knowledge, this is the first time ever.

The rest of the score included is pretty good, too. Very Hermannesque, for lack of a better word. I haven’t seen the film in nearly twenty years, and so I don’t remember being wowed by the score at all, but listening to it here – admittedly, in pieces – I think it has to rank among his greatest.

The rest of the music comes from a completely different era of Hermann’s life. So that’s odd.

We get literally one track from The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, and that’s just the main theme – this being a re-recorded version, there is no vocal to accompany it. It’s pretty standard, Romantic (and romantic) stuff. Hard to see why it was picked out of his numerous title themes to be included here. Maybe I’m being a little hard. It’s fine, just fine.

At least with the last film, though, the main title was pulled out of the score. With Tender is the Night, it’s one track called “The Embrace,” presumably accompanying a passionate hug, like they used to do before kissing on screen was kosher. It’s really hard to understand why someone would pick this out of his entire oeuvre.

The excerpt from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is at least suitably eerie – though I looked it up and apparently it’s a romance, so uh… anyway… I like it better than the last two excerpts, but it’s still just an arbitrary excerpt.

The first thing we can say about Anna and the King of Siam is that there are actually four tracks! So that’s something. The score is “oriental” in the way that late Romantic music was “oriental” – a very western approximation of “eastern” music, still managing to sound like classical music, despite the presence of various non-traditional instruments augmenting the orchestra. But the score is more lively and interesting than any of the brief excerpts before it. I would be very interested in hearing a full version of the score, even if it’s kind of hilarious in its faux orientalism – it’s like Debussy flipped on his head, almost – i.e. it’s got his obsession with his idea of “eastern” musical ideas, but at a tempo utterly foreign to him.

On the whole this is pretty arbitrary. But the inclusion of much of the 451 score – an absolute classic film score – makes it sort of worthwhile.

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