Best of the Month
for November 2009
TARAS BULBA (1962)
Music composed and conducted by Franz Waxman.
13 tracks (Total Playing Time = 48:41)
Produced for CD Release by Bruce Kimmel. Mastered by James Nelson.
Art Direction & Package Design by Doug Haverty.
This CD is limited to 1,000 copies.
Kritzerland continues to re-release earlier worthwhile albums primarily from the 1960s. This time it's a cult favorite for film score collectors, TARAS BULBA, with a music score by one of the great film music masters, Franz Waxman.
While much of this soundtrack is exciting to listen to, the sound quality isn't up to today's digital standards. But as the album producer, Bruce Kimmel explains in the CD booklet: "And what was in this other box was the original three-track album master - the original chosen takes from the session master - in other words, the first generation tape...Yes, still shrill and dry, but pristine and clean as a whistle, and in period condition."Frankly, I would rather have it in its original condition rather than adding "a little subtle and very clean room ambiance on the whole thing" as Kimmel has requested be done for this CD. Sure the sound just isn't so great but let's have it in the original form and then perhaps have a few tracks with added ambiance for comparison sake, as is done on DVDs of classic films with the old and restored footage in the bonus features section.
This a score which is loved by many fans of this film.The best known one is the incredibly energetic cue, "The Ride To Dubno," which has been played in concert halls everywhere. Though the original soundtrack recording cue is fine, a much cleaner and more dynamic recording was made by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Gerhardt on the RCA CD, SUNSET BOULEVARD: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman. But that is the only TARAS BULBA cue included on the RCA CD. Besides that famous cue, there is another major theme on this soundtrack and that is the love theme, first heard as part of the "Overture" (track 1, 2:21). The vocal version for this lovely song, with lyrics by Mack David, is heard on "The Wishing Star (Pastorale)" on track 8 (3:45). I wish the lyrics could have been printed in the booklet because the diction of the singers is not very good. Also included are several bonus tracks: "Pastorale (The Wishing Star)" an instrumental version on track 12, and a female chorus version of Pastorale on track 13. Both are very nice additions to have included on the CD.
The CD booklet notes by Kimmel are chatty and personal and definitely worth reading because he is obviously a big fan of this TARAS BULBA soundtrack.Now everyone can now enjoy one of the great soundtracks of 1962.
I say that with tongue in cheek because there was several other popular soundtracks that year.
The one that received the most attention was the Oscar winner, Maurice Jarre's score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. And the other Oscar nominess weren't bad either: FREUD (Jerry Goldsmith), MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (Bronislau Kaper), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Elmer Bernstein), and finally TARAS BULBA -- Waxman's 13th Oscar nomination. That's quite a list of classic scores in one year! While I don't think TARAS BULBA is a great classic film, it is colorful and moves along nicely with fine performances by Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis, and also the cute Christine Kaufmann is nice to look at.
But it's the film score that's the biggest star. Kimmel even quotes Bernard Herrmann, not one to give overblown praise, as saying that TARAS BULBA was "the score of a lifetime." I'm not sure what Herrmann meant by that effusive statement but he was obviously very pleased with Waxman's wonderful score.
If you love this film score you'll definitely want this release. But I'd recommend it to alll fans of classic soundtracks as well. This is the best version of TARAS BULBA available. There was a previous CD on Rykodisc in 1998 which was based on the original LP album. It's a good release but far from ideal, yet it is now selling for high collector's prices.
Bravo to those who found the original soundtrack tapes in the MGM vaults and to Kimmel for getting this great score released!
-- Roger Hall, 27 November 2009
Here is the DVD of the film...
Film Music Review (Home Page)