Torn Curtain: The Unused Score (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1966 and 2015.

This is the final version of the score that Herrmann wrote for Hitchcock’s 4th last film, the score that ended their relationship because Hitchcock was looking for something more contemporary, more commercial. (Honestly, the more one learns about Hitch…) The score is fine. It’s not among Herrmann’s best but it’s hardly mediocre either. It’s been probably twenty years since I saw Torn Curtain so I don’t remember the movie or the official score, but I have a hard time seeing how this was unacceptable for a thriller, unless Hitchcock was trying to make some kind of major departure, musically. Given Read More

The Trouble With Harry (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1955, 1998, and Music.

I haven’t seen this movie in probably close to twenty years and, well, maybe I was too young for it (though I saw it at the height of my Hitchcock mania). It didn’t grab me as a classic, the way it has so many others. But even this many years later I have a bit of a similar issue with the score. I know the score is good, at least it’s certainly very much above average, but it doesn’t really grab me in the way so many other of Herrmann’s scores do. In part I think that’s due to its Read More

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (2001) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1960, 2001, and Music.

This is among the most traditional scores of Herrmann’s I’ve heard. It’s downright classical in its overture. I mean, shockingly traditional music for Herrmann. Not having seen this particular film, I don’t know how deliberate this is (I assume, because it’s Gulliver’s Travels that the music is trying to sound like 18th century music). But as a standalone score, it’s really conventional, even when it begins to resemble more of a score later on. Don’t get me wrong, the music is fine, but it’s so conventional as to not be worth your time if you’re looking for landmark scores. 6/10 Read More

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by John Debney

Categories: 1958 and 1998.

The conductor, John Debney, would have you believe that this is one of the great film scores of all time. I don’t agree with that. It’s less inventive than many of Herrmann’s best. But it’s still way more interesting than most Hollywood film scores of its era, and it’s also very much a piece of music that can be listened to without any knowledge of the film. It reminds me of some late 19th century Romantic programmic pieces which were supposed to suggest a plot to you through music. It’s certainly good, it’s just not quite among Herrmann’s greatest moments. Read More

The Egyptian (1999) by Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, performed by Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Choir conducted by William T. Stromberg

Categories: 1954, 1999, and Music.

This is a weird one. Not an actual collaboration between two film composers, this is actually, essentially, two separate scores to the same movie, and one scene is scored by one man, another by the other. Newman was much more established in the film world at the time (Herrmann had just entered the film world via radio) but both were experienced conductors and composers. You have to pay attention to distinguish who did what. Herrmann is more responsible for the final score by a count of 19-11 cues. Newman’s score is a little more romantic, a little less risky, to Read More

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2003) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1951 and 2003.

Though Herrmann definitely set the bar high for himself with Citizen Kane, this is the first time, to my knowledge, that he really stretched outside his comfort zone (he had been doing radio music for years before Kane). Though the theremin had been used on a few scores in the ’40s by other composers, I’m not sure anyone had yet used it so distinctively, and this has to qualify as one of the most “electronic” of Hollywood film scores to date. The opening is utterly fantastic, conjuring up another world in a way that a traditional orchestra never could. And Read More

Psycho (1997) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by the Royal Scottish Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1960, 1997, and Music.

The score to Psycho is one of the most iconic film scores ever and, at the film’s release, probably was the most iconic film score for a Hollywood or even English language-film. (Searching my memory, I can only think of The Third Man as an earlier English language-film that got this much attention for its score. There were, of course, plenty of non-English language-films with heralded scores prior to Psycho‘s release.) And it remains among the most famous to this day, only equaled in fame by Jaws, Halloween, Star Wars, Superman, maybe The Exorcist. That in itself is an impressive Read More

North by Northwest (1959, 1995) by Bernard Herrmann

Categories: 1959, 1995, and Music.

Unlike so much of what I’ve been listening to of Herrman’s music, this is actually the original performance of the score. This recording is rather short – 37 minutes – and it’s hard to know what happened to the rest of it, since I haven’t seen the movie in a really long time. Anyway, this is the “official” score. Though hardly as iconic as Psycho or Vertigo, this is still pretty strong stuff by Herrmann. Distinctive and memorable themes that take maybe a little more time to get in your head but, once there, produce a few more thoughts than Read More

Marnie (2000) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1964, 2000, and Music.

Marnie is considerably more traditional than Herrmann’s most famous works from the ’60s, but that doesn’t make it bad. The score is highly memorable (i.e. catchy) and features not just a compelling main theme but some other pieces that really get in your head. There’s nothing innovative here. It’s just a pretty good score by one of the great American film score composers. Worth checking out if you’re into Herrmann, or Hitchcock, but certainly not among his very best. 7/10 Read More

Jane Eyre (1994) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Adriano

Categories: 1943, 1994, and Music.

I have never seen the Orson Welles version of Jane Eyre (come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen any version of Jane Eyre) but after listening to this, I really kind of want to. This score is awesome – at times it sounds like a horror movie and, frankly, everything about it makes me want to watch the film. But it works outside of the film, as well, as it shows a composer using virtually every known trick in the book (though not really from other books, but that’s okay) to set all sorts of different moods. Read More

Hangover Square; Citizen Kane (2010) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by BBC Philharmonic conducted by Rumon Gamba, featuring Martin Roscoe and Orla Boylan

Categories: 1941, 1945, 2010, and Music.

This disc collects a suite of pieces of from the 1945 film noir Hangover Square, arranged for orchestra, with a piano concerto Herrmann wrote for the film, with what seems to be the complete (or nearly complete) score to Citizen Kane. The music for Hangover Square is pretty classic Hollywood noir, even if the first three pieces have been re-arranged. It would be interesting to hear the originals, but I guess I’ll just have to watch the movie. It’s pretty obvious from this early stage that Herrmann had a hand for the medium.  There’s nothing as radical or iconic as Read More

Garden of Evil / Prince of Players (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by William T. Stromberg

Categories: 1954, 1955, 1998, and Music.

This disc collects the complete score of the 1954 western Garden of Evil with the suite (i.e. the highlights) of Hermann’s score to the 1955 biopic Prince of Players, both movies which have been somewhat forgotten. The Prince of Players suite is a very classic Hollywood score. It’s exactly what you would think of and so it’s pretty underwhelming. I guess it’s well done, but hardly stands out from the scores (yuk yuk yuk) of other film music of the era. Garden of Evil is a far more ominous, interesting piece of music. It’s still somewhat conventional – it lacks Read More

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

Categories: 1946, 1947, 1956, 1962, 1966, 1995, and Movies.

This is another 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 Read More

The Snows of Kilimanjaro / 5 Fingers by Bernard Herrmann, performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Stromberg

Categories: 1952, 2001, and Music.

This is a compilation of two of Hermann’s 1950s scores, one for a famous Gregory Peck drama (based on a Hemingway story), and one for a long-forgotten spy TV series. Because both works have been arranged for symphony orchestra for this release, it’s a little hard to assess them. Snows is a pretty conventional score, at least as presented here. There are lots of obvious emotional cues and big themes. As these things go, it’s pretty and memorable at times, but it’s not the kind of thing that makes you think. I was hoping the TV show score would be Read More

Citizen Kane – the Classic Film Scores of Bernard Hermann (2011) by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Gerhardt

Categories: 2011 and Music.

I am always skeptical of compilations and this one is no different. This takes music from five of Hermann’s scores – only one of which is for a truly notable film – and combines them into what is essentially the most cursory survey of his work. There is a lot of music from Citizen Kane, Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef and White Witch Doctor, and snippets from On Dangerous Ground and Hanover Square. The advantage of something like this is that film scores are often repetitive, and if you are not interested in hearing that, I guess compilations are useful. Read More