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Elmer Bernstein's Film Music Collection (2006)
Bernstein's Film Music Collection Finally on CD!
by a soundtrack collector
(September 1, 2006)
After a 20+ year wait one of the most important recording projects of the 1970’s finally makes it to CD. After years of neglect by the major record labels composer Elmer Bernstein took it upon himself to record and therefore preserve for posterity extensive concert suites from some of the greatest film compositions of the 20th Century, many of which had never been available before to the music-buying public. These wonderful albums featured film scores composed by Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, Miklós Rózsa, Alfred Newman, Alex North, Dimitri Tiomkin and Bernstein himself, a total of 18 motion pictures. It is so great to have this music on compact disc as the original LP pressings were more often than not, noisy and distorted, even by 1970’s standards. Although 5 of the titles, Wuthering Heights, Viva Zapata!/Death of a Salesman, Madame Bovary, and both Dimitri Tiomkin albums were mastered from sealed copies of these LPs (the original masters were destroyed without Bernstein’s knowledge) the sound is still a great improvement over the original LPs. However, these titles do have inferior sound in comparison to the albums for which tape masters were used. The masterwork in this series is still Bernard Herrmann’s “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, one of the greatest symphonic works ever composed for films. Bernstein’s performance is simply magnificent and the sound quality is remarkable, even by today’s standards. Bernstein’s performance of Herrmann’s “Torn Curtain”, the premiere recording of the work, is gigantically superior to the more recent Varese Sarabande digital re-recording and the Royal Philharmonic plays Bernstein’s own masterpiece, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, with a lot more enthusiasm and panache than his remake with the inferior Royal Scottish Orchestra. The four Dimitri Tiomkin scores are wonderful but a bit congested sounding which is not surprising since the LPs from which they were mastered had the same problem. Bernstein offered the first recordings ever of extensive excerpts from three Miklos Rozsa scores, with the superb recording of “Thief of Bagdad” remaining to this day the most complete ever with excellent sonics as well. Rozsa’s “Young Bess” is also represented in a beautiful performance with warm full bodied sound. The biggest disappointments in the series remain Rozsa’s excellent score for “Madame Bovary” which Bernstein inexplicably plays at a snail pace which robs the music of all its drama and intensity and Alfred Newman’s “Wuthering Heights, where even a great composer-conductor like Bernstein finds himself unable to conjure the kind of sound from an orchestra this beautiful score demands and which Newman, one of the greatest conductors ever, achieves fabulously on the film’s soundtrack. The Max Steiner “Helen of Troy” and “A Summer Place” excerpts, Bernstein’s concert suite from “The Miracle”, Alex North’s unavailable elsewhere score for “Death of A Salesman and the only extensive recording of Franz Waxman’s “The Silver Chalice” are treasurable highlights of this fabulous 12 CD collection, in addition to the inclusion of Bernstein’s 2004 recording session of his never before released score for the 1963 epic, “Kings of the Sun”. No serious film music collection should be considered complete without the Elmer Bernstein Film Music Collection on CD, a set worth its weight in cinematic gold.
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