Best of the Month
Sammy Film Music Award: Best Album Producers
For the first time on FILM MUSIC REVIEW, two CDs from the same record label are listed
as Best of the Month.
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)
Music composed by Bernard Herrmann
The Moscow Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg
62 Tracks (Playing Time = 71:59)
Executive Producer for Tribute Film Classics: Anna Bonn. Album Produced by John Morgan, Anna Bonn, William Stromberg. Score Restoration and Music Preparation: Anna Bonn, John Morgan, William Stromberg. Recording Engineer and Editor: Alexander Volkov. Recorded at Mosfilm Studio , Moscow, Russia, April 2007. Cover Art: Robert Stromberg. Design: Charles Johnston. Tribute Film Classics Logo Design: Jim Titus. Track Notes by Kevin Scott.
The Orchestra includes:
3 flute/piccolos; 3 oboes/English horns; 3 B-flat clarinets; 3 bassoons; 2 contrabassons; 8 horns in F; 3 B-flat trumpets; 3 trombones; 4 tubas; 4 susupended symbals (various sizes); 2 piatti (large and medium); 2 large bass drums; 2 large tam-tams; chimes; 2 snare drums, 2 tenor drums; 2 triangles (large and small); 2 glockenspiels; 2 vibraphones; 2 xylophones; tambourine; wood block, whip, 4 harps, full strings.
Tribute Film Classics TFC-1001
Anyone who has followed the distinguished soundtrack recordings of classic film scores on Marco Polo and Naxos produced by John Morgan and William Stromberg, who are both also fine composers, will surely be thrilled with this new release.
In fact anyone who enjoys great film music of the past should be thrilled with this restoration of the complete score to one of Bernard Herrmann's greatest fantasy film scores.
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is a film filled with stunning visual effects by the grand master himself, Ray Harryhausen. And one can safely say it also filled with some of the most stunning musical "effects" in any fantsy film. Herrmann was a master of mixing high and low orchestral colors (such as high strings and harps with low woodwinds), dynamic changes between soft and loud, and fast and slow tempi. In short, Herrmann was probably film music's greatest film music master. His scores are unique in their ability to enhance a film, often they are of equal importance with the dialogue itself.
Both THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959) should be considered as models for the impressive flourishes found in MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, since many of the same orchestral colors are employed, including brass and low woodwind combinations, and in this case the use of 8 horns. The orchestra itself is huge (see above listing).
John Morgan mentions that MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is his favorite Ray Harryhausen film and favorite fantasy Bernard Herrmann score. That may be the case with many fantasy film fans as well. I know I would place this hugely enjoyable film score near the top of my list., even though the film is not the most logical or best treatment of a Jules Verne story.
Need proof of the power of this score? Just listen to any of the numerous tracks on this CD.
The opening "Prelude" (1:34) still gives me chills of joy when I hear it, and this CD is even more forceful than the one conducted by Herrmann himself on the 1975 Decca LP (later reissued on a London CD: "Music From Great Film Classics").
This incredible theme is also featured on later tracks, such as "The Smoke" (track 47, 1:39). The same applies to the driving dynamic cue titled "The Balloon" (track 7, 1:18), also heard on track 14 (2:09) and other tracks. In fact just about all the other cues are thrilling too, especially the delightful ones for the Harryhausen creatures: "The Giant Crab" (track 18, 3:02), "The Bird" (track 29, 2:43), and "The Giant Bee" (track 32, 1:39 and track 34, 0:51).
The last track (No. 62, 2:02) is a bonus with the Prelude from another Bernard Herrmann film score which I won't spoil the surprise by naming it.
The CD comes with a attractively designed 32 page booklet, with beautiful cover art by Robert Stromberg. Inside the booklet is filled with many fine photos and comments, including from the CD producers (Anna Bonn, John Morgan, William Stromberg); an appreciation by Bruce Crawford (who contacted me many years ago about Herrmann's music after learning about my Herrmann tribute on WGBH radio in Boston); Ray Harryhausen on film score restoration; recording notes by John Morgan; comments on Herrmann and the LSO by Gunther Kogebehn of The Bernard Herrmann Society; a fascinating detailed appreciation by Craig Reardon; and extensive very good track notes by Kevin Scott.
The assests of this CD are many. Besides the excellent CD booklet, art design and packagaing, there is the complete Herrmann score presented for the first time. Also, there is the incredible clarity of the instrumental parts and the superb upfront sound quality of the entire recording.
William Stromberg writes that MYSTERIOUS ISLAND was one of the film scores that helped inspire him to become a film composer and conductor. I had a similar experience with Herrmann's film scores but my compositions and conducting have (unfortunately) not been much of the film kind.
This is an appropriate way to begin a new record label -- with a powerful score full restored to its original splendor. Their second release is also first class [see review of FAHRENHEIT 451]. And even the Film Tribute Classics logo by Jim Titus is highly attractive
The Tribute Film Classics CD of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is brilliantly restored, performed, conducted and recorded.
It is an essential addition for any film music collector's library.
--Roger Hall, 6 December 2007
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is listed on the 100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century.
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