Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






  Special Merit 

QUO VADIS (1950) and BEN HUR (1959)

Music composed and conducted by Miklos Rozsa.

2 CDs (Disc One = 12 tracks, 40:47/Disc Two = 12 tracks, 46:47)

QUO VADIS with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, 1977.

BEN HUR with The National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall.

Digitally remastered by Michael J. Dutton. Liner notes by Alan Hammer, European Represeentative of The Miklos Rozsa Society.

Vocalion CDLK 4332

Rating: ****

With the centennial of Miklos Rozsa's birth in 2007, this is a most appropriate tribute to his epic film scoring.

QUO VADIS and BEN HUR are two of Rozsa greatest religious scores and are presented in all their glorious magnificence. They serve as excellent examples of Rozsa's grandiose style for these 1950s epics. Both have heavy use of brass and chorus. Rozsa was the one who set the mold for this type of epic score. These two scores are forerunners of today's scores in films about antiquity, which are often much inferior.

Listening to QUO VADIS first, which is recommended, you might noitce similar thematic ideas later used in BEN HUR. For example, the opening of track 4 ("Petronicus' Banquet" - "Meditation and Death", 4:31), reappears in BEN HUR. Even so, I don't think this score holds up as well to repeated listening as say BEN HUR or KING OF KINGS. Sure QUO VADIS is scored for a large orchestra and chorus. Yet the melodic ideas are not quite as memorable as his later religious scores. But this remains a popular score and it is good to have these excerpts available again with such outstanding sound.

Of these two scores, BEN HUR is obviously the more impressive of the two and remains one of the reatest of all film scores.

It is No. 2 on my list of Top 100 film scores in A Guide to Film Music. While this is a newer recording conducted by Rozsa, it doesn't have quite the energy and intensity of the original soundtrack from 1959,as issued in a deluxe 2 CD set by Rhino. Yet it is still a very fine recording with excellent sound.

The 5 pages of notes by Alan Hamer in the booklet provide good general background about Rozsa and these two scores. The art design could have been better, with rather bland and faded cover art. The booklet also contains no illustrations from either film.

Yet it is the music that matters most. The 2 disc set should please those who value the supreme mastery of film music scoring which Rozsa was among the greatest at achieving.

All in all, this is an outstanding epic listening experience in glorious sound.


--Roger Hall, 30 March 2007

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