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Editor's Choice
Best of the Month
for January 2007

 

 

 

Elmer Bernstein's Film Music Collection (2006)

 

 

 

12 CD Box Set:

CD 1: HELEN OF TROY (1956, 7 tracks = 20:48)/ A SUMMER PLACE (1959, 6 tracks =19:53)
-- music by Max Steiner [Total Disc Time = 40:41]

CD 2: THE MIRACLE (1959, 8 tracks = 26:48)/ TOCCATA FOR TOY TRAINS (1957, 1 track = 15:42)/ TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962, 12 tracks = 36:16) -- music by Elmer Bernstein
[Total Disc Time = 79:00]

CD 3: THE SILVER CHALICE (1954, 12 tracks = 37:06) -- music by Franz Waxman

CD 4: THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947, 12 tracks = 41:50) -- music by Bernard Herrmann

CD 5: YOUNG BESS (1953, 12 tracks = 47:38) -- music by Miklos Rozsa

CD 6: WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939, 11 tracks = 40:49) -- music by Alfred Newman

CD 7: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940, 12 tracks = 44:04) -- music by Miklos Rozsa

CD 8: VIVA ZAPATA! (1952, 7 tracks = 26:17)/ DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1951, 6 tracks = 23:36)
[Total Disc Time = 52:00] -- music by Alex North

CD 9: TORN CURTAIN (1966, 14 tracks = 42:30)[The Unused Score]-- music by Bernard Herrmann

CD 10: MADAME BOVARY (1949, 12 tracks = 39:59) -- music by Miklos Rozsa

CD 11: LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (1955, 9 tracks = 22:52)/ GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957, 4 tracks = 16:11)/ SEARCH FOR PARADISE (1957, 6 tracks = 31:54)
[Total Disc Time = 78:35] -- music by Dimitri Tiomkin

CD 12: KINGS OF THE SUN (1963, 15 tracks = 48:10) -- music by Elmer Bernstein

135 page book with detailed notes for all 12 discs and...

Foreword -- "What Ever Happened to the Film Music Collection?" by Jon Burlingame
Introduction -- "The Archeology of Film Music" by Jay Alan Quantrill
Reissue Producer's Note -- "Thank You, Mr. Bernstein" by Lukas Kendall
Afterword -- "One Last Time at the Podium" by James Fitzpatrick

Film Score Monthly FSM Box 01

Rating: ****

What a treasure box this is!

For fans of vintage film scores, this massive 12 CD release is like finding a box filled with rare jewels. Not only is this music from some of the most respected film composers from the past, the FSM production team has restored the music to the best sound possible.

I was fortunate enough to purchase a few of the LPs in the Film Music Collection back in the 1970s, especially two favorite scores: Herrmann's THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, and Rozsa's YOUNG BESS. The sound on these LPs was good for that time, except for the few LPs released by Warner Bros. such as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The CDs in this box set provide much superior sound.

The value of this box set, released in August 2006, is hard to overstate. To quote from Jon Burlingame's perceptive Foreword:

"Bernstein created a label dedicated to the resurrection and re-recording of some of the most important scores ever written -- nearly all of them never before available on records. And, for that matter, ever since...and it stands as one of the most significant recording initiatives in the history of American film music. Susbstantial excerpts from 19 scores written by nine different composers, spanning more than three decades, were released between 1974 and 1979."

It needs to be mentioned that one of the releases in this original series, SCORPIO (1973) by Jerry Fielding, is not included in the box set due to contractual difficulties. So the box set contains 18 film scores from 8 film composers, all of them worthy of being represented.

Not only are there generous amounts from each film score, they are also extremely well performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, under the skillful direction of Elmer Bernstein.

If these scores are actually among the favorites of Bernstein or film music fans, then it appears that some of the composers stand out more than others. The ones with the most scores represented are: Bernstein (4 scores), Rozsa (3 scores), Tiomkin (3 scores). Others have 2 scores apiece: Herrmann, North, Steiner. Finally there are Newman and Waxman with one score each. While this doesn't mean one film composer is better than another, it does indicate which composer film scores Bernstein felt were in need of restoring at the time these recordings were made.

As far as familiarity and popular themes, I would guess that the earlier scores would be at the top of many film fans list. That would begin with Newman's WUTHERING HEIGHTS from 1939 including the exquisite "Cathy's Theme." The next year there's Rozsa's terrific score for THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, with a few delightful songs thrown in for good measure. During the 1950s, there are the scores of Max Steiner (CD 1), Waxman (CD 3), North (CD 8), and Tiomkin (CD 11)--one of the best discs in the collection and also one of the longest playing times as well. Tiomkin is well served here!

But probably the biggest treasures in this box set are Bernstein's own film scores, especially his favorite one, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (CD 2), in what is still the best performance on disc. The last CD has the first CD release of KINGS OF THE SUN from 1963. In a Turner Classics Movie interview with Robert Osborne, Bernstein said he didn't know why this score was so popular with the fans but he went along with their request and finally recorded it. Unfortunately this was his last recording before he died in 2004. James Fitzpatrick offers a helpful description of this recording session in the Afterword of the book.

The 1930s, '40s and 50's have been called the Golden Age of film music, while the 1960s and '70s the Silver Age. Excuse the plug but I refer the reader to my essay on this subject: "Film Music for the Ages." Elmer Bernstein's Film Music Collection provides a handy evaluation of those decades.

Providing you can afford the high cost (and it's well worth it!), this box set is the best restoration of vintage film scores that you're likely to hear anywhere.

The entire productions is handsomely done with a beautifully illustrated and designed hardcover book and attractive 4 CD color-coded disc boxes. All the notes from the previous LP releases are included by such film music experts as: Christopher Palmer, Fred Steiner, and Win Sharples Jr.

All in all, this is a magnificent achivement in film music restoration.

Needless to say it's absolutely essential to any serious film music lovers collection. This is a limited edition so get your copy while they are still available.

I give it my highest recommendation.

-- Roger Hall, 31 January 2007

You can order this 12 CD box set at: Screen Archives Entertainment

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: Film Music Review

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