Three Choral Suites by Miklos Rozsa (2005)
21 Tracks (Total Time = 61:54)
Music performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Erich Kunzel, conductor, and Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Craig Jessup, director.
Producer: Robert Woods. Recording Engineer: Jack Renner. Mixed by Michael Bishop. Voice-over for QUO VADIS: Wade Collin, speaker. Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recorded at Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 15-16 May 2004; Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded in Maurice Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah, 22 October 2004.
Art Director/Designer: Anida Carrasqullio. Liner notes by Michael Murray.
Even if you already have all three monumental MGM film scores by Miklos Rozsa, this new Telarc compilation is well worth your consideration. It features the World Premiere of three suites. The title of the album is a bit misleading since there are several purely instrumental movements in each one. But the choral sections have the most majestic material in each suite.
Rozsa died in 1995 before this project could be completed. It has taken almost a decade to finish it, thanks to the efforts of several of his friends, pupils and admirers: Christopher Palmer, Julian Kershaw, Daniel Robbins, Joseph D. Price, and Erich Kunzel.
Appropriately, the CD begins with a magnificent suite from BEN-HUR (1959)--the greatest of all religious epic film scores.
There are six movements to this suite, arranged and reconstructed by Daniel Robbins: Overture (track 1, 3:52); Star of Bethlehem/ Adoration of the Magi (track 2, 3:51); Rowing of the Galley Slaves (track 3, 2:39); Alleluia (track 4, 2:08); Parade of the Charioteers (track 5, 3:25); Miracle and Finale (track 6, 5:29). While many of these themes are familiar from other compilations, especially "Rowing of the Galley Slaves" and "Parade of the Charioteers," Erich Kunzel brings out all the emotional wallop of these two highlights from the score. Likewise, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sounds wonderful throughout, but especially on the best choral sections in the score: the very moving Adoration of the Magi on track 2 and the heavenly music heard on track 6. The Miracle and Finale music of BEN-HUR has some of the most moving music in any religious epic. Even though a bit slower than the soundtrack, the Telarc suite ends with a swelling up of chorus and orchestra that is a goosebump listening experince and its incredible beauty brought tears to my eyes.
The second suite features six movements from QUO VADIS (1951): Prelude (track 7, 1:46); Ave Caesar March (track 8, 4:12); Fertility Hymn (track 9, 1:15); Assyrian Dance (track 10, 1:57); Marcus and Lygia (track 11, 4:50); Miracle and Finale (track 12, 4:04). This suite has a number of hands invloved. It was conceived by Christopher Palmer, compiled and transferred by Julian Kershaw, and edited by Erich Kunzel and Joseph D. Price. For me, this is the weakest of the three suites, which is also true of Rozsa's score. Not that it is in any way sub-par. QUO VADIS just doesn't have the incredible majesty of the other two Rozsa scores. The highlight of this suite is track 12, which is played softly with a subdued orchestra and chorus, who is first heard humming. Then the chorus begin singing Latin and English words accompanied by a brief voice-over by Wade Collin. The chorus ends with a burst into a majestic Finale.
The third suite is from KING OF KINGS (1961) and contains nine movements: Overture (track 13, 4:02); Roman Legions (1:35); Nativity (track 15, 1:58); The Feast of Passover (track 16, 2:05); Herod's Feast (track 17, 1:08); Miracle of Christ (track 18, 2:51); The Lord's Prayer (track 19, 2:26); Pieta (track 20, 3:00); Resurrection and Finale (track 21, 2:23). This is Rozsa's second greatest religious film score. Just as with BEN-HUR, the opening Overture includes both chorus and orchestra. As with the other two suites, the highlights of this one features the chorus. One highlight is track 16 which is sung in Hebrew a cappella. Other ones are track 19, with a moving rendition of The Lord's Prayer with humming chorus; and track 21, which gives an inspiring end to this suite and to the CD as well.
The sound quality on this CD, like all Telarc releases, is superb. It uses the Digital Recording System of Sony DSD (Direct Stream Digital) and the sound of chorus and orchestra is clear and distinct.
The notes by Michael Murray provide background on Rozsa's music career and short descriptions of all three films.
Erich Kunzel is one of today's best interpreters of film score themes and suites. This latest release further illustrates his enormous sensitivity to film music.
I recommend you give it a listen. You won't be sorry.
This wonderful CD serves to refute the elitist crowd who look down on film music.
With superb sound and performance, this Telarc compilation doesn't just have great film music--it's great classical music as well.
Bravo to all involved in this very worthwhile project.
It's a grand and glorious tribute to the great Miklos Rozsa.
-- Roger Hall, 19 April 2005
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