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December 31, 2012
Classic Film Scores: The Best of 2012
Releases include lavish restorations of Star Trek scores from series, film by Jon Burlingame
It seems as if there were dozens of fine recordings and re-recordings of classic film music released during the past 12 months. Here are some favorites (listed alphabetically):
Alexander the Great and Other Rare Rosenman (The Film Music Society)
One of the year's most important and surprising stories of score "survival," this collection of Leonard Rosenman music includes his Emmy-winning Sybil, the only surviving music from TV's Combat! and his powerful score for the infamous Alexander pilot from 1964 (that starred William Shatner).
Blade Runner (BSX)
Vangelis' indelible electronic score for the 1982 sci-fi classic, newly realized in its entirety by German composer Edgar Rothermich. Previous recordings have offered excerpts, but this marks the first time the full score has been legitimately available in full, authentic-sounding form, vintage synths and all.
Body Heat and King Kong (Film Score Monthly)
Two John Barry classics issued in full for the first time. The former, a sultry, steamy, jazz-inflected score for Lawrence Kasdan's 1982 directorial debut; the latter, Barry's powerful music for Dino De Laurentiis' 1976 remake of the fantasy classic and probably the best thing about that film. Nearly two years after his death, Barry's shadow looms larger than ever.
Conan the Barbarian (Intrada)
Basil Poledouris' masterpiece for John Milius' 1982 sword-and-sorcery film, finally discovered and released in its entirety with tons of extras and a remastered version of the original soundtrack LP. This 3-CD set is what fans have been waiting 30 years to hear. Fine essay on the composer by his friend Nick Redman.
David and Bathsheba (Kritzerland)
Not just a re-release, a complete overhaul: Alfred Newman's 1951 score for the Biblical epic starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. It's the complete score for the first time, in stereo; Newman composed many scores for religious subjects but this is without doubt one of his greatest.
Destination Moon and Rocketship X-M (Monstrous Movie Music)
Two albums of classic 1950 science-fiction films: Leith Stevens' complete score for Destination Moon, released for the first time in its original form; and Ferde Grofe's rare excursion into film work with Rocketship X-M. Both albums sport brilliant new cover paintings by top SF artist Vincent Di Fate.
Francis Lai: Cinema (FGL Playtime)
Released to commemorate the 80th birthday of the French composer, this 3-CD set includes the favorites (A Man and a Woman, Live for Life, Love Story) as well as many wonderful themes largely unknown in the U.S. (several from Claude Lelouch films like Les Uns et les Autres and Hasards ou Coincidences).
The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin (LSO Live)
This collection is more than just a greatest-hits compilation; it boasts meaty suites from The Alamo, The Old Man and the Sea, Giant and The High and the Mighty, and a new, Grammy-nominated arrangement (by Nan Schwartz) of Tiomkin's classic theme for Wild Is the Wind. Richard Kaufman conducted the London Symphony Orchestra.
Hour of the Gun (Prometheus)
First in a planned series of re-recordings of otherwise unavailable Jerry Goldsmith scores, this 1967 Western (with James Garner as Wyatt Earp and Jason Robards as Doc Holliday) is among Goldsmith's most colorful, nicely reconstructed by conductor Nic Raine and played by the Prague Philharmonic.
Lalo Schifrin: My Life in Music (Aleph)
An 80th-birthday salute on Schifrin's own label, this 4-CD set is a fascinating collection of tracks from the composer's wide-ranging output, including music from films, TV, his jazz and classical works. A special treat is first-ever releases of themes from Coogan's Bluff, The Beguiled, Joe Kidd and Charley Varrick, all great Schifrin scores from his late 1960s-early 1970s period.
Music from The Edge and Los Angeles, 1937 (Perseverance)
The enterprising label rescued and released two "rejected" scores this year: John Corigliano's brilliant dramatic work for the 2010 Mel Gibson film Edge of Darkness, and Philip Lambro's original score for the 1974 classic Chinatown (famously replaced by Jerry Goldsmith). The Corigliano score, in particular, is a spectacular listen.
Quo Vadis (Prometheus)
A landmark release: A complete reconstruction and re-recording of Miklos Rozsa's 1951 classic, first (and some say most inspired) of the composer's great historical/religious epic scores. Raine again conducted the Prague Philharmonic and Chorus in a definitive 2-CD presentation that includes considerable material dropped from, or barely heard in, the MGM film.
The Rat Race (Kritzerland)
One of the year's most delightful surprises, the first-ever release of Elmer Bernstein's jazzy score for this 1960 drama starring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. Composed right in the middle of Bernstein's most exciting, jazz-fueled period (that of Sweet Smell of Success, Staccato and Walk on the Wild Side), it's a welcome addition to our Bernstein shelf.
The Red House (Intrada)
Another Miklos Rozsa classic, this one reconstructed by Kevin Kaska and conducted by Allan Wilson (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Winchester Cathedral Chamber Choir). A wonderful "lost" Rozsa score (featuring the theremin) for a 1947 melodrama starring Edward G. Robinson.
The Red Pony (Varese Sarabande)
A forgotten Jerry Goldsmith classic, this Emmy-winning 1973 television score was recently located in the Universal vaults and released for the first time. A warm, gentle Americana score from the maestro and one long deserving of wide attention.
Santa Claus: The Movie (Quartet)
Just in time for the holidays, another lost classic rediscovered: Henry Mancini's lavish symphonic score for the 1985 film that starred David Huddleston and Dudley Moore, nearly three hours spread over 3 CDs (including the original soundtrack album). Songs with Leslie Bricusse lyrics are a wonderful bonus; would have been Oscar-nominated if only the movie had been successful.
Another forgotten gem, Alex North's 1974 score was nominated for an Academy Award despite the fact that almost no one saw the film -- a strange William Castle horror-fantasy about a mute puppeteer (played by the great mime Marcel Marceau). There is so little dialogue that North's score carries most of the emotional and dramatic weight.
Since You Went Away (BYU Film Music Archive)
Max Steiner's third Oscar winner, for David O. Selznick's 1944 fllm about family tragedies during World War II, gets a thorough treatment based on the composer's own acetate discs. The colorful booklet explains, finally, about the lost Alexandre Tansman score and Steiner's coming to the rescue despite a mountain of personal problems.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (La-La Land)
One of the greatest sci-fi movie scores ever written finally gets the lavish 3-CD treatment it's always deserved. Jerry Goldsmith's complete 1979 epic, including all of the early unused score, the soundtrack album, and tons of alternates and extras no one even knew existed -- all sounding simply spectacular.
Star Trek: The Original Series (La-La Land)
Another of the year's phenomenal "rescue" stories. This 15-CD box set includes every note recorded (including a good deal of never-before-heard music) for the original 1966-69 incarnation of Star Trek, believed to be the first-ever release of all the music from a single prime-time series. Special kudos to the notes by Trek expert Jeff Bond and the fun, colorful packaging and booklet design by Joe Sikoryak.
©2013 Jon Burlingame