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The Magnificent Ambersons (Original 1942 Motion Picture Score)

Bernard Herrmann

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Album Review

Bernard Herrmann's music for Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) was a landmark in the composer's career, but it never received the attention or respect of critics or fans that his slightly earlier scores for Citizen Kane and The Devil and Daniel Webster (both 1941) did — the latter two were nominated for Academy Awards in the same year, with Webster winning, while his music for Ambersons, like the movie itself, only reached the public in heavily edited form. What you have on this delightful CD is not the "soundtrack" to The Magnificent Ambersons as it was released in 1942 and as it exists today, but, rather, is a realization of the score that Herrmann wrote and recorded for the uncut, lost 135-minute version of the movie. There is, understandably, a lot of music here that will be new — especially in the form in which it is used here — even to fans of the movie. The material lives up to its reputation, exalted as that is owing to the lost status of Welles' version of the movie, with perfectly delightful and many surprising passages, quite unlike anything in the other scores that Herrmann delivered during this period. Conductor Tony Bremner and the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra have done their best with the music at hand, and if their playing sometimes lacks the full measure of smoothness or energy that Herrmann brought to this material at the time, they make up for it with a haunting lyricism in their playing — oddly enough, there are many moments in this score that anticipate the composer's work on Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, over a decade later and a very different kind of film subject. The sound quality is excellent and the music is, in a word, priceless, both on its own terms and as a lingering manifestation of the lost director's cut of the movie.

Biography

Born: 29 June 1911 in New York, NY

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Bernard Herrmann was arguably the most innovative film composer of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, even though he actually rejected the term "film composer," preferring to call himself a composer who sometimes wrote film scores. That was an apt description for a musician who, in addition to his film work, also composed works in a variety of other forms including opera, symphony, musical comedy, and concert music, as well as writing extensively for radio and television, while maintaining a concurrent conducting...
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