Film Music Review
The Sammy awards








13 Tracks (Playing Time = 55:47)



Album produced by James Fitzpatrick. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Paul Bateman, Nic Raine and James Fitzpatrick. Mastered by Rick Clark. Release co-ordination: David Stoner and Peter Compton. Artwork and Design: Damiel Doherty.

Silva Screen Records SILCD 2011

Rating: ***1/2


1. PSYCHO - Suite for Strings (7:23)
2. CITIZEN KANE - Overture (2:45)
4. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS - Prelude (1:58)
5. THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR - Main Title/Finale (4:56)
6. 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD - Main Title (1:59)
7. VERTIGO - Scene D'Amour (5:11)
9. CAPE FEAR - Suite (5:40)
10. MARNIE (3:01)
11. TWISTED NERVE - Theme and Variations (5:34)
12. MYSTERIOUS ISLAND - Prelude/ The Balloon (4:16)
13. TAXI DRIVER - Night Piece for Saxophone and Orchestra (4:02)

This is yet another in the budget "Film Music By" series (see also John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone), all re-issues of previously available CDs from the Silva catalogue. While some are better releases than others, the Herrmann sampling is among the best yet released.

The Herrmann sampling covers his entire film music career from CITIZEN KANE in 1941 to TAXI DRIVER in 1976 (not 1964 -- as listed on the jewel case). Like the Bernstein compilation, this one has many of the "hits." You could even say that ALL these tracks are hits, since Herrmann composed very few duds in his career. One would expect to see the great Hitchcock trio of VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and PSYCHO. Also the fantasy scores are well represented with JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, 7TH VOYAGE, and MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. There is also an excellent suite for one of the greatest of all sci-fi films, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

It is good to have included the wonderful Theme and Variations from TWISTED NERVE (track 11), conducted by James Fitzpatrick. This piece deserves more recognition for it is another example of Herrmann's genius in making a memorable sequence out of a simple motif. The Night Piece from TAXI DRIVER is a brilliant piece of low down dirty jazz, much better than the violent and sleazy Scorsese film. Unfortunately, this performance by an unnamed saxophone player isn't so good and suffers in comparison to the original soundtrack.

The performances by The City of Prague Philharmonic are excellent, and are ably conducted by three conductors, who somehow manage to meld a uniform sound to these Herrmann film themes and suites.

The CD notes by Roy Clark are a bit longer (four paragraphs) than the Elmer Bernstein CD. The notes begin with a somewhat humorous quote made by Herrmann about not getting "a good comedy score." Well, what about Hitchcock's delightfully witty THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY? Herrmann must not have considered that a comedy score, but it sure sounds like one, and is one of the best too.

The biggest distraction with this release is the grotesque blood-soaked knife on the CD cover. Is that all Herrmann is to be remembered for in his film music career? True, PSYCHO is probably his best known score, but is it his best? I don't think so. It is brilliantly executed but basically has that grisly string gimmick in the shower scene and the rest of the score is mostly string arpeggio filler. PSYCHO is not as varied or emotionally as VERTIGO or CITIZEN KANE, which I believe are both better scores.

Just to add a little personal remark here...

I was one of the lucky ones to see PSYCHO on opening day and I vividly remember when the shower scene came along, there were people in the audience screaming loudly and several women ran out of the theater from the shock. At that time it was quite unusual to see one of the stars be killed off so early on. Janet Leigh even said she never took showers again after filming that scene in PSYCHO. It was truly a terrifying film moment to witness it the first time with a screaming theater audence. I think of that experience every time I see the film and hear Herrmann's famous music.

A most satisfying compilation and even better than the Bernstein compilation which was also released at the same time.


--Roger Hall, 10 April 2007

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