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Ben Hur (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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Album Review

Nicholas Ray's King of Kings has had a very long and circuitous saga as a soundtrack. The music, written by Miklos Rozsa, first appeared on a soundtrack LP in 1961, in a re-recorded version conducted by Rozsa in Italy, but that album represented only a fraction of the music from the movie. That record had disappeared from the catalog by the end of the 1960s, and the music from King of Kings fell by the wayside. In 1990, Sony Music Special Products released a soundtrack CD that was more than double the length of the original LP that incorporated large sections of the music from the actual film tracks themselves, all conducted by Rozsa. Then, in 2002, came the Rhino Records double-CD set that encompasses every note of music written and recorded for the movie, including material that was recorded but never used in the final edit of the film. Just as Rozsa recalled fearing in his autobiography A Double Life, the music from King of Kings stands very much in the shadow of William Wyler's Ben-Hur, which Rozsa also composed and which preceded Ray's movie by a year, and dealt with overlapping events and the very same setting. Apart from the music accompanying the Nativity scene, the material devoted to John the Baptist, and the accompaniment to Satan's temptation of Jesus (Rozsa's only effort at writing serial music), the score is generally less inventive than that of Ben-Hur (which was, in turn, in debt in a small way to Rozsa's much earlier score for Quo Vadis), but it still has merit, including rich lyricism and striking timbres throughout, vigorous tempos and bold, strong performances — the restored sections of the score also impart a majesty and scope to the music that is missing from even the final cut of the movie. The remastering makes up for a multitude of sins inherent in the original LP, while the expansion of the contents fulfills the promise of the earlier Sony edition of this score.

Customer Reviews

Fantastic score. And, buy this album --not the phonies

Miklós Rózsa was one of the greatest Hollywood composers in its golden years. From the moment he showed up in Hollywood, he was recognized as an extraordinarily creative with a unique brilliance. He had a contract with MGM that gave him privileges no other composer had.

This musical score helps you understand why he was so unique. It is an extraordinarily complex, intricate, nuanced, and overwhelmingly beautiful score that contributes to the drama in a way that almost no other score has done. There is a story that Rózsa showed up on the set one day and watched William Wyler film a scene. Wyler then asked, "could you express in USC what the character is thinking?" When Rózsa said yes, Wyler refilled the scene. The next day, Rózsa got a letter from MGM that basically said, "Your presence on the set cost us a lot of money. Don't ever go back."

By the way, there are at least four other "Ben-Hur" scores being offered here. Don't buy them. They have all tampered with the music by changing the volumes or the timings between the tracks. This album is the Rhino recording which was carefully researched.

In my opinion, the sheer brilliance of the music ranks with the greatest operas ever written.


Born: April 18, 1907 in Budapest, Hungary

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

A Hungarian-born composer, most famous for his Hollywood and British film scores, but also responsible for a significant body of chamber pieces, concertos, and orchestral music for the concert hall. Rozsa's music is steeped in post-romanticism, with stylistic roots in the folk music of his native Hungary and some slight influences from those two giants of 20th-century Hungarian music, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly. Born in Budapest to a wealthy industrialist and landowner, Miklos Rozsa spent his...
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