Editor's Choice -
Best Of The Month
BEH-HUR - Complete Soundtrack Collection
Music Composed and Conducted by Miklós Rózsa, Carlo Savina,
and Erich Kloss. Orchestrations by Eugene Zador.
5 CD Box Set Produced by Frank K. DeWald and Mike Matessino. Music Restored , Remixed and Assembled by Mike Matessino. Assistant Editor and Track Preparation by Neil S. Bulk. Assembly Supervision by Frank K. deWald. . Digital Mastering by Doug Schwartz. Production Assistance by Jeff Eldridge.
Key Art Illustrations by Joe Sikoryak.
CD booklet notes by Jeff Bond and Frank K. DeWald.
Recordings made between January 1959 and August 1960 at the M-G-M Scoring Stafe in Culver City, California; in Rome, Italy; and Nuremburg, Germany.
Disc One - The Film Score (Part One) - Playing Time = 72:02
M-G-M Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Miklós Rózsa
1. Overture (6:29)
2. Anno Domini (1:31)
3. Star Of Bethlehem/ Adoration Of The Magi (3:31)
4. Shofar Call (0:15)
5. Fanfare To Prelude/Prelude/Marcia Romana (3:59)
6. Spirit And Sword (0:50)
7. Salute For Messala (0:10)
8. Friendship (4:22)
9. The Hours Of Hur (1:42)
10. Conflict (1:41)
11. Esther (2:34)
12. The Unknown Future (outtake)(0:43)
13. Love Theme/ Ring For Freedom (4:47)
14. Salute For Gratus (0:33)
15. Gratus' Entry To Jerusalem (1:56)
16. Arrest (outtake) (1:18)
17. Reminiscences (1:47)
18. Condemned (outtake)(0:56)
19. Escape (outtake) (2:07)
20. Vengeance (0:47)
21. The Prison - Part One/ Part Two (partial outtake)(0:46)
Desert/ Exhaustion/ The Prince Of Peace/ Roman Gallery (7:31)
23. Salute For Arrius (0:21)
24. Quintus Arrius (0:41)
25. Roman Fleet (partial outtake)(1:05)
26. The Gallery (3:18)
27. Rest (1:19)
28. Battle Preparation/ The Pirate Fleet/ Attack/
Ramming Speed/ Battle/ Rescue (9:50)
29. Roman Sails (0:47)
30. The Rowers (0:26)
31. Victory Parade (2:24)
32. Victory Finale (0:27)
Disc Two - The Film Score (Part Two) - Playing Time = 67: 49
1.Fertility Dance (1:02)
2. Arrius' Party (1:13)
3. Nostalgia/ Farewell To Rome (2:11)
4. A Barren Coast (outtake) (0:26)
5. Judea/ Balthazar (2:25)
6. Balthazar's World (1:56)
7. Homecoming (1:21)
8. Memories/ Hatred (4:22)
9. Lepers (1:01)
10. Return/ Promise (5:21)
11. Sorrow And Intermission (1:22)
12. Entr'acte (3:47)
13. Panem Et Circensus (version I)(0:52)
Circus Fanfares Nos. 1-4 (0:42)
15. Panem Et Circensus (version II)(0:45)
16. New Fanfare For Circus Parade/ Circus Parade
(Parade Of The Charioteers)(3:15)
17. Circus Fanfare No. 6 (Fanfare For The Start Of The Race)(0:11)
18. Panem Et Circensus (version III)(0:57)
19. Circus France No. 7 (Ben-Hur Crowned)(0:16)
20. Bitter Triumph (0:46)
21. Aftermath (1:16)
22. Valley Of Lepers/ The Search (2:53)
23. The Unclean (2:29)
24. Road Of Sorrow (2:49)
25. The Mount/ The Sermon (1:18)
26. Frustration (1:15)
27. Valley Of The Dead/ Tirzah Saved (4:00)
28. The Procession To Calvary/ The Bearing Of The Cross/
29. Aftermath (Crucifixion)(2:21)
30. Golgotha (0:53)
31. Shadow Of The Storm (outtake) (1:01)
32. The Miracle/ Finale (4:53)
Disc Three - The Savina Album (tracks 1-14)
and Act One Alternates (tracks 15-32)
32 tracks - Playing Time
Symphony Orchestra Of Rome
Singers Of The Roman Basilicas
Carlo Savina, conductor
Disc Four - The First Kloss Album (track 1-14)
and Act Two Alternate (tracks 15-27)
27 tracks - Playing Time = 77:32
Frankenland State Symphony Orchestra
Erich Kloss, conductor
Disc Five - The Second Kloss Album (tracks 1-16)
Additional Alternates & Bonus Tracks (tracks 17-41)
41 tracks - Playing Time = 75:22
Frankenland State Symphony Orchestra
Erich Kloss, conductor
Film Score Monthly Vol. 15, No. 1
As with another large CD box set, SPARTACUS (1960) by Alex North, this release with all the original soundtrack recordings for BEN-HUR have remained a wish for those who treasure its sweeping magnificence and incredible depth of emotion.
Needless to say that this is the greatest epic film score from Hollywood's Golden Age by one of its greatest film composers, Miklós Rózsa. I have long been an admirer of this epic score and have listed it at No. 2 on 100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century. Rózsa received a well deserved Oscar, his third and last, for Best Film Score of 1959.
The brightest jewels in this treasure box are found on Discs One and Two, which contain the complete soundtrack plus a few short outtakes (mainly for completists), with over two hours of glorious music, conducted by Rózsa in glorious sound too -- special kudos to the stellar work by the amazing Mike Matessino and digital mastering by the always reliable Doug Schwartz.
Disc One opens with the six minute Overture, which introduces many of the major themes and is filled with a steady flow of majestic music heard throughout this epic score.
I have always found it somehow
appropriate the the first three notes evoke the same three note pattern heard in Beethoven's famous 5th Symphony, though the tempo and note values are different. It is that magic element used by composers for many centuries and it can be summarized in just one word: REPETITION. This is a device still used today by film composers, especially by John Williams, who had learned it from film music masters like Herrmann and Rózsa.
The opening five tracks of Disc One are all expertly presented by this film composer, with the magnificent Prelude (track 5) a special highlight, with those three chords heard again as in the Overture. There it is once more --REPETITION.
According to Frank K. deWald's excellent CD booklet notes on the score:
"two contrasting but structurally similar musical ideas sit at the the heart of the score. Each consists of a sequence of chords answered by a melodic figure."
These themes are the mighty "Anno Domini" (in Aeolian mode) and the more restrained "Christ Theme" (in Lydian mode with organ, strings, harp and vibraphone giving an appropriate ethereal quality).
There are also themes for the two central characters in the story, Judah Ben-Hur (represented by a rising fifth in a major key) and his former friend, Messala ( in a minor key that rises upward but then recedes in defeat).
But putting the musical analysis aside, it is several set pieces that are the best known to any listener who appreciates this expansive score.
On Disc One they include: the magnificent Overture and opening scenes (tracks 1-5), the beautiful Love Theme (track 13), the deliberate increasing pace for the rowing of slaves in The Gallery (track 26) and the lengthy and ferocious Sea Battle (track 28), plus the ceremonial Victory Parade (track 31). On Disc Two is the most famous scene in the film, the Chariot Race with the cue known as Circus Parade (Parade Of The Charioteers)(track 16). These and other major cues are all prime examples of the composer's great skill in underscoring the scenes of this film, known as an "intimate epic" --make sure to read Jeff Bond's very informative notes on the making of the film and score in the CD booklet.
Some may well ask - why does there need to be five different albums released together of the same score? Well, a film music fan answered that question years ago on the FILMUS-L message board, unfortunately no longer online:
"Up to that time BEN-HUR was the most successful soundtrack album of all time - why not another recording to capitalize on its success? Record companies still do that today."
Yes, they do. Though the music is basically the same on these five albums, the interpretations are not. The Savina Album (Disc Three) and The Erich Kloss Albums (Discs Four and Five), are each different in sound quality and orchestral forces. Some have claimed that Kloss was actually the composer himself using a pseudonym. I'll not get into that dispute but only comment that the Kloss albums sound less majestic with a a smaller orchestra, though the German musicians do play a great "Roman March" (Disc Four, track 3) which reportedly Rózsa preferred to the Italian recording by Carlo Savina. But this is one score which deserves to be heard with a large orchestra as heard on Discs One and Two. There has been criticism of the Carlo Savina album but I believe it is quite effectively performed and recorded. Many years ago, I purchased the Deluxe LP Album (MGM 1E1) and have enjoyed listening to it over the years. But it doesn't hold up as well or is as complete as the definitive recording by the composer himself with the M-G-M Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. I really don't think there is a need for a re-recording but I suppose that would the next step and may come along in some future year. I believe whatever comes along, the composer's conducted versions will remain the best.
One slight criticism I have for this CD set is the flimsy plastic jewel case which doesn't hold each CD securely and is very hard to close without the CDs falling loose. Wouldn't it have been better to package each CD in a separate cardboard sleeve and put them in a slipcase? I suppose that would have cost more money but those who shell out the current list price would probably not mind paying a few extra dollars for a better packaging of these five CDs.
So, after all this discussion, is this 5 CD box set of BEN-HUR worth the money? If you are a Rózsa fan there is no reason not to purchase this excellent collection, if your finances will allow it.
As for other film music lovers, there are still less expensive CDs available, such as the almost complete 2 CD set first released in 1996 by Rhino Movie Music and now available as an import.
But if you don't purchase the 5 CD set you'll be missing a great opportunity to hear what the score sounds like in these different interpretations, just like comparing versions of a great symphony by Beethoven, Mahler or any other classical composer. Rózsa was, after all, also a gifted and highly accomplished classical composer.
With so many re-issues of classic film scores being released these days, for which I and many others are extremely grateful, this is one of the best of them all.
BEN-HUR was the last great epic score of Hollywood's Golden Age. This milestone release is a great reminder of that superb achievement and also a tribute to the great film music composer and conductor,
I give it my Highest Recommendation.
-- Roger Hall, 30 March 2012
This 5 CD box set may be ordered from
Screen Archives Entertainment
BEN-HUR - 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray)
For information about his life and music and the lively Forum,
see The Miklós Rózsa Society website:
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Film Music Review (Winter-Spring 2012)