FILM IN FOCUS No. 2:
Miklós Rózsa's film score
Miklós Rózsa produced some of his finest film scores while working at M-G-M in the 1940s and 1950s, including many from historical eras, such as: MADAME BOVARY, IVANHOE, KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN, LUST FOR LIFE, BEN-HUR and KING OF KINGS.
PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE was one of the major releases for M-G-M in 1952. It received an Academy Award for its special effects at a time when this category didn't have the same interest or competition as today's CGI films. Yet the magnificent score by
Miklós Rózsa was not even nominated for an Oscar. But because of its imprtance as a major triumph, his score is listed on the 100 essential scores of the 20th century survey. Also, he is second on the list of most listed scores by film composers on this survey.
When the complete soundtrack was finally relaesed by Film Score Monthly in 2003 [see review below] it was named as one of the best restorations of that year. This CD soundtrack is a good example of the high quality work and dedication done by FSM to bring such memorable scores from Hollywood's Golden Age to today's listening audience.
In his wonderfully candid autobiography Double Life, here is what
Miklós Rózsa wrote about PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE:
The picture was the story of the Pilgrim Fathers. I found out that these people had had with them on their boat the Ainsworth Psalter, consisting of musical settings of the Psalms. I chose a striking melody called 'Confess Jehovah Thankfully' (another form of which may be found in J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, in the final chorus of Part I), and used this to express the faith of the Fathers' great endeavor, their momentous voyage into the unknown. The picture was lacking in any real spirit of heroism or passionate aspiration; this I tried to supply with my music.
To say that
Rózsa fully succeeded in supplying "heroism" and "aspiration" to this film is an obvious statement. But he also supplied several passionate love themes, one a dark tinged theme for Captain Jones (Spencer Tracy) and his love for Mrs. Bradford (Gene Tierney). The other a tender theme for John Alden (Van Johnson) and Priscilla Mullins (Dawn Addams). These themes can be heard on the CD soundtrack [see review below].
Miklós Rózsa was fond of researching the music of a period for a historical film, he chose several pieces from the Ainsworth Psalter of 1612 which the Pilgrims brought with them to Plymouth. The main theme for PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE was Psalm 136 ("Confess Jehovah Thankfully") and he referred to it throughout the score in many guises. He also quoted from the best known tune from the Pilgrim era, Psalm 100 or "Old Hundred," also known as the "Doxology." These psalms are expertly incorporated into the film and provide the proper historical framework for the story.
Previous to the FSM CD restoration of the complete soundtrack in 2003, there were several previous recordings of selections from PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE. The first one was a 10" LP from MGM Records in 1953 with six selections from PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE plus selections from MADAME BOVARY and IVANHOE. Then in 1989, Elmer Bernstein conducted a 12 minute symphonic suite prepared by
Miklós Rózsa which he titled: "The Mayflower." This recording is including on the excellent 3 CD box set: Miklós Rózsa: A Centenary Celebration.
For many years I have had the tradition of watching PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE on Thanksgiving Day (one of the major US holidays). Yet the music from this less than accurate historical film can be listened to and enjoyed at any time.
Miklós Rózsa was a master at finding and incorporating music of a period for his film scores. And his scores for films such as QUO VADIS, BEN-HUR and EL CID, prove his immense talent and skill in composing great scores for these great historical epics.
It should also be mentioned that in a web poll I conducted earlier thie year, PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE was listed by film score fans as one of the Favorite
On this centennial year of Hungarian-born
Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995), I am pleased to offer this appreciation of one of his great film scores of the 1950s.
He was one of the true giants of film music's past and he continues to live on through his magnificent film scores.
Other FMR links to
Book Review: A Composer's Music: Remembering
Miklós Rózsa by Jeffrey Dane
Concert Report: A Tribute to
Miklós Rózsa in Washington., D.C. by Steve Vertlieb
Essay and Web Poll: 100th Birthday Tribute to
Miklós Rózsa by Roger Hall
CD Review: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
CD Review: Violin Concerto and Sinfonia Concertante
DVD and Book
Remastered DVD: PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE
Highly Recommended Book...
Rózsa's wonderfully candid autobiography,
Retro CD Review
This review was written for the Film Score Monthly CD release in 2003.
It is reprinted here.
| CD Release of Special Merit
PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952)
27 Tracks (Total Time = 79:35)
Main score - 18 tracks: 47:00/ 9 Bonus Tracks: 32:35)
Album produced by Lukas Kendall. Production Executive for Turner Entertainment Co.: George Feltenstein. Digitasl Mixing and Mastering: Doug Schwartz. Orchestrations by Eugene Zador and Robert Franklyn. Recorded at M-G-M Studios Scoring Stage, Culver City, California on July 2, 7, 10, 22, 28 and August 4 and 13, 1952. CD Art Direction by Joe Sikoryak. CD notes by Jeff Bond and Jeff Eldridge.
Film Score Monthly Vol. 6, no. 1 (limited pressing of 3,000 copies)
1. Prelude (Psalm 136)/ Southampton [2:26]
2. Embarkation [1:42]
3. John Sees Priscilla [1:57]
4. The Mayflower [3:14]
5. The First Night / Mr. Brewster [2:24]
6. Somber Thoughts [1:40]
7. Prelude to Love/ John and Priscilla [2:32]
8. The Muskey [0:29]
9. Nocturne [0:59]
10. After the Storm/ Hunger [4:54]
11. Misery [ 1:02]
12. Despair/ Hope/ The Landbird [5:53]
13. Land Ho/ Old Hundred [2:11]
14. The Mayflower Compact [2:15]
15. Farewell/ Landing/ Decision [5:38]
16. Tragedy [1:44]
17. The Settlers [2:19]
18. Plymouth Rock [3:02]
19. Prelude (Psalm 136 - original version)[2:05]
20. Tavern Music (Greensleeves)[1:15]
21. The Mayflower (original version) [3:14]
22. After the Storm/ Hunger (original version) [5:05]
23. Despair/ Hope/ The Landbird (original version) [6:45]
24. Old Hundred (alternate) [0:50]
25. The Mayflower Compact (original version) [2:09]
26. Farewell/ Landing/ Decision (original version) [5:53]
27. Captain Jones's Pilgrimage/ Finale (Psalm 100/ Confess Jehovah (original ending) [5:06]
Film Score Monthly has been hard at work expanding the
Miklós Rózsa discography with a seeming vengeance. Yet this latest album continues to remind those film score fans of a younger generation why
Rózsa’s music is held in such high esteem.
At first glance, this 1952 historical adventure may not seem like much to behold. For those of us only familiar with the more epic films that
Rózsa is remembered for, films like this one would rarely cross our radar.
Thank goodness that those willing to take the risk here may continue to explore the depths of
Rózsa’s music. PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE is a different musical soundscape. Here he makes use of a psalm-tune as his basic musical material.
There is a somewhat high-seas tone to some of the music used for the Mayflower. In other places,
Rózsa ups the melodramatic ante with wonderfully moving harmonies that recalled some of Alfred Newman’s work from this decade.
Rózsa’s sound is still unique from other Hollywood fare and there is an amazing depth to the orchestral ideas that he employs. It is a bit fun to here a harpsichord in a
Rózsa score after all the brassy music one tends to remember.
PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE has some of
Rózsa’s most beautiful thematic ideas and one of his best love themes.
The production continues to be of the highest quality throughout. The booklet is filled with what one comes to expect from FSM, detailed track-by-track information preceded by an overview of the film and its music.
Finally, you get more than your monies worth where time is concerned, even without the bonus cues! There are a variety of stills which are well-placed and help round out a release that is worth exploring for fans of period films and for any Rozsa music lover.
--Steven A. Kennedy, 9 March 2003
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PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE is listed on the
100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century
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