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Editor's Choice

Best Of The Month

July 2010  

 

THE ALAMO (1960)

World Premiere of the
Complete Film Score

Music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Crouch End Festival Chorus (David Temple, Choir Master), Conducted by Nic Raine. Violin Solos: Lucie Svehlova. Lead Trumpet and Trumpet Solo: Jiri Houdek. Accordion: Petr Dresser. Guitars: Juraslav Novak. Piano, Harpsichord, Celesta: Jaromir Klepac.

Album Produced by James Fitzpatrick. Executive Producer: Luc Van de Ven.

Original Orchestrations by Herb Taylor, G.A. Emanuel, George Parrish, Maurice DePackh, Michael Heindorff. Solo guitar music arranged by Laurinda Almeida.

New Score Reconstruction by Patrick Russ, Paul Henning, Warren Sherk. New Score Preparation by Steve Biagini. New Orchestral Parts Prepartion by Jiri Simunek. Booklet Notes by Frank K. DeWald. Cover Artwork: Paul DeBleck. "Alamo Flags" Design by James Fitzpatrick and Damien Doherty. Score Recorded at Smecky Music Studios in Prague by Jan Holzner.

A Tadlow Production.

3 CD Box Set:

Disc One (22 tracks = 58:48 playing time)

Disc Two (19 tracks = 58:18 playing time)

Disc Three (16 tracks = 47:16 playing time)

Prometheus XPCD 168

Rating: ****

 

Dimitri Tiomkin was the best known composer working in Hollywood from the late 1940s to early 1960s. In my article in SOUNDTRACK magazine (available online), I mentioned Tiomkin's "Golden Decade" from 1948 to 1958 because it was then that he received the most attention and awards, including his three Oscars. But that could easily be expanded five or six more years until THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964).

Tiomkin's first great score for a western was DUEL IN THE SUN (1946), which has yet to see a full commercial release and is certainly overdue. The bizarre story of the film makes it seem less worthy than Tiomkin's magnificent score which deserves to be heard in its entirety.

During the 1950s, Tiomkin composed great scores for these western films: HIGH NOON (1952), GIANT (1956),GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957), NIGHT PASSAGE (1957), and RIO BRAVO (1959). There was also a memorable score (and theme) he composed for another western released in 1960: THE UNFORGIVEN.

And there remains that perplexing dilemna which Frank K. DeWald mentions in his booklet notes:

Why this Ukrainian-born, St. Petersburg Conservatory-trained concert pianist proved an ideal composer for western films may forever intrigue film music scholars, but the fact remains that Tiomkin's openhearted, bigger-than-life musical persona evoked the big open skies of the fabled America West as well as any natrive-born composer.

DeWald further quotes Tiomkin saying in defense of his American western film scores and also recognizing his Russian music training:

A steppe is a steppe is a steppe.

Some astute musicians have commented that Tiomkin's western music does sound at times very Russian.

Whatever the influence, THE ALAMO is surely one of the most ambitious film scores for a Hollywood western. It is also, I believe, one of Tiomkin's greatest film scores, filled with a bountiful mixture of Mexican-flavored music, full blown orchestral splendor, and several memorable songs, all accompanying the not always accurate retelling of the historical events that eventually led to the formation of the State of Texas. Unfortunately, John Wayne's direction does not help this sometimes overly talky film. But it remains one of the greatest epic westerns of its era thanks largely to Tiomkin's wonderful score, and is on my list (No. 43) of 100 Essential Film Scores.

 

Up until this new Tadlow production, THE ALAMO was available only in truncated form, such as the very good CD released by Legacy/ Columbia (23 tracks = 66:38), which in addition to some of the best parts from the film score, also includes the hit songs: "The Green Leaves of Summer" sung by The Brothers Four and "Battle of The Alamo" by Marty Robbins. But most importantly, the film score excerpts are conducted by Tiomkin himself and he imparts an excitement and epic sweep to his score. The biggest drawback is that the score is incomplete and the Stereo sound is not up to today's digital standards, though still quite listenable. This remains a worthwhile release, even with the added sound effects from the film and John Wayne's speeches (tracks 5 and 20) which you may or may not want to listen to.

On the other hand, the Prometheus CD set is superior in sound and completeness. There is over two and half hours of music and over half of it has previously unreleased music from Tiomkin's score.

The orchestral playing of the City of Prague Philharmonic is extremely good, though not always quite as precise as the Tiomkin-conducted Columbia release. For example, the distinctive opening Main Title is a bit more dynamic in the Tiomkin-conducted release than in the Prometheus version, though Jiri Houdek plays his trumpet solos impressively.

And where the Prometheus CD set especially excels is in the cues that feature the brass section of the orchestra. Also exceptional are the ensemble pieces for such cues as the Cantina Music (Disc One, tracks 7 and 8), which have a lovely chamber music quality. The first cue (track 7) is actually one of the film's charming songs, "Here's To The Ladies" (lyrics by Paul Francis Webster).

It is a shame that the texts to the songs could not be included because they are excellent ones by the underrated film lyricist, Paul Francis Webster. The Entr'acte music has the title song, "The Ballad Of The Alamo," and is well performed by the Crouch End Festival Chorus.

Because this is the first recording of the complete film score, there are many previously unreleased cues on all three discs, for example the softly subdued instrumental of "The Green Leaves Of Summer" song, titled: "I Believe" (Disc Two, track 19); and "Finale - The Ballad Of The Alamo" (Disc Three, track 4).

On Disc Three there are eleven Bonus Tracks, including different versions of the songs in instrumental and vocal versions. Included are:"Here's To The Ladies" (track 9) sung by David Shannon, and a guitar version of "The Green Leaves Of Summer" (track 10), which was featuted in vocal versions on Disc Two (track 1) and Disc Three (track 5), sensitively sung by the Crouch End Festival Chorus. The final song on Disc Three (track 16) contains an excellent rendition of "The Ballad of the Alamo" by David Shannon (channeling Marty Robbins) accompanied by The Steve Lockwood Band.

The booklet notes by Frank DeWald are very detailed and worth reading, with track-by-track descriptions. Album producer, James Fitpatrick, provides a good summary of how the CD set was made, including the budget concerns and the elaborate recording process including the difficulty with Tiomkin's film score.

The sound is a bit harsh at times, particularly for the battle scenes on Disc Three, but that is appropriate for Tiomkin's incredibly rhythmic score. This is some of the most challenging music that Tiomkin ever composed and fully deserves such harsh intensity. Bravo to the brass section!






Due to licensing restrictions it was not possible to include photographed scenes from the film which was not necessary anyway. Instead there are shots of the musicians at the recording sessions, plus a nice opening picture in the booklet with Tiomkin's widow, Olivia Tiomkin Douglas, conductor Nic Raine, and album producer, James Fitzpatrick. There are also attractive art designs on the cover and the "Alamo Flags" on the back cover of the booklet [shown at right].

 

Both Luc Van de Ven of Prometheus Records and Tadlow Music's James Fitzpatrick are to be commended for their dedication in seeing this important release to completion. Praise also needs to be given to the Crouch End Festival Chorus and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under Nic Raine's skillful direction, and also the instrumental soloists.

Especially being released on the 50th anniversary year of this epic film, the Prometheus 3 CD box set is a triumph and belongs in any serious film music collector's library.

This release fully illustrates the old saying: "Remember THE ALAMO!"

It is my pleasure to name this outstanding release as Best of the Month.

Highly recommended!

Roger Hall, Editor, Film Music Review
27 July 2010

 

 

For full information, a well produced video from the recording sessions,
and how to order this 3 CD box set, go to

Tadlow Music

Read the interview with Album Producer James Fitzpatrick here

Also recommended is this CD box set of Tiomkin's film music
from Silva Screen Records:

 

THE ALAMO:
THE ESSENTIAL DIMITRI TIOMKIN
FILM MUSIC COLLECTION (4 CD Set)

 

 


 

The Alamo

DVD: THE ALAMO

 

 

 


 

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