1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1966, 1976, 1996, Movies

Bernard Hermann: The Film Scores (1996) by Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen

This is a hilariously named compilation – it implies some level of completeness – but it’s actually an interesting survey, focused almost exclusively on Hitchcock scores.

It starts off with the Prelude to The Man Who Knew Too Much (the second version, I think), I movie I haven’t seen in a good 15 years. The Prelude is super bombastic in a way that was relatively uncommon, I think, for back then.

This is followed by the Psycho suite. I know Psycho really, really well and, I gotta say, I detect some idiosyncrasies in the performance – most notably in the famous “The Knife”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as putting your own stamp on a performance is something I like. But why not go all out? Why only make minor adjustments to the way they play the score? Anyway, it’s not that it’s a bad performance necessarily, it just sounds a little weird. But its presence here indicates that this is much more of a “Best of” compilation than the other Hermann comps I have been listening to, as this is Hermann’s most famous score bar none.

This is followed by two excerpts from Marnie, another Hitchcock film I haven’t seen in 15 years or so. Marnie is pretty traditional for its time. It’s not really something I would go out of my way to listen to.

The overture from North by Northwest – another Hitchcock movie I haven’t seen in ages, but at least one I’ve seen multiple times – is way zanier than I remember, and likely one reason why Hermann and Hitchcock or so associated with each other. Would like to hear the full score.

There are three excerpts from Vertigo, perhaps Hermann’s second most famous score. This is another classic and one that is perhaps better listened to in its entirety (just like Psycho and Fahrenheit 451), but the excerpts give you a good idea of why it’s considered a classic, if it’s less immediately identifiable.

The inclusion of Torn Curtain, like the inclusion of Marnie, is a little curious, as it’s lesser Hitchcock. But unlike the Marnie score, Torn Curtain is significantly more memorable and distinct – which just goes to show, just because a movie isn’t great, doesn’t mean the score can’t be at least somewhat good.

I have written before about how awesome the score for Fahrenheit 451 is. It remains so. The recording I’m listening toright now claims to be the original version, which is very odd given that every other piece in this collection was re-recorded by the LA Philharmonic. Haven’t seen the film in so many years, I can’t tell, but if it is, that’s a very, very odd choice, especially given the liberties taken with Psycho. Regardless, this is one of Hermann’s best. And the full “suite” (i.e. the highlights) is included here.

Taxi Driver was Hermann’s last score. Frankly I don’t remember it at all, though it has been ages since I saw the movie. It’s shows off his versatility as it’s utterly unlike the Hitchcock scores or his earlier, more romantic film music. I want to listen to the whole thing.

With a slightly different selection, this would be better named The Hitchcock Scores. Regardless, it’s an incomplete survey, but one that is a lot closer to a “Best of” than the other Hermann compilations/tributes I’ve heard to date. My preference is always for the full scores, but this is at least a good place to start for one of the three most important American film composers of the mid twentieth century (the other two being Bernstein and Mancini).


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