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Rozsa: Film Music / Gamba, BBC PO

Rozsa / Bbc Philharmonic / Gamba
Release Date: 03/25/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10806   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RÓZSA The Thief of Baghdad: Suite. Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book: Suite. Sahara: Suite. Ben-Hur: Suite Rumon Gamba, cond; BBC PO CHANDOS 10806 (80:07)

Rumon Gamba is Chandos’s resident expert on film music, specializing in composers who wrote music for films and the concert hall. In the Read more case of Miklós Rózsa, he has already conducted three Chandos CDs devoted to Rózsa’s concert music (including among others the violin concerto; cello concerto; Theme, Variations, and Finale ; and The Vintner’s Daughter ). Now, Gamba turns his attention to Rózsa’s film music, with a well-filled CD that easily ranks with the best available Rózsa collections.

There are several different ways to format film music recordings: complete scores, collections of themes or brief highlights, and extended suites compiled by the composer or conductor or some other arranger. They all have their plusses and minuses. Complete scores are preferable if the music is uniformly good and through-composed in a way that gives an element of continuity (Korngold was particularly adept at doing that). Theme collections have a lot of bang for the buck and frequently offer instant recognition, but the continuous assault of one climax after another can be aurally fatiguing and ultimately detracts from the value of the individual selections. Well compiled suites have the potential to offer the best of both worlds in that they give you a better idea of the style of the whole score and still cover the highlights that everyone wants to hear. That is generally (but not always) the approach that Charles Gerhardt used in the RCA Classic Film Score Series, and that is what these four more extended suites aim to accomplish.

The Thief of Baghdad and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book , happily without the narrator included at the time Rózsa compiled the suite designed to capitalize on the popularity of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf , are both quite long (around 20 and 30 minutes respectively), but deserve to be because of the extensive amount of top-drawer Rózsa music. The overture to The Thief of Baghdad bears a surprising resemblance to Ben-Hur’s theme composed 20 years later. Rózsa must have been familiar with Max Steiner’s quirky march from The Charge of the Light Brigade when he composed the “Cortege” from The Thief of Baghdad. Jungle Book has numerous leitmotifs for the animals and human characters, but the highlight is Rózsa’s soaring theme for the jungle.

Sahara is the least known of these four scores, but it works well because of the continuity of super arranger Christopher Palmer’s concise suite. The suite from Ben-Hur is far superior musically, but is less effective in this arrangement because the six excerpts play more like a collection of greatest hits with no effective transitional material, development, or ending. It would have been helpful to include Rózsa’s massive and climactic conclusion to the score, but that would have required a large chorus and the CD is already 80 minutes long.

Gamba’s performances are generally excellent. The expansive lyrical portions of The Thief of Baghdad (“The Love of the Princess”) and Jungle Book (Rozsa’s musical portrait of the jungle) are ravishingly beautiful but not quite as decadently lush as Gerhardt’s interpretations in the RCA Classic Film Score Series. When compared to the extremely dynamic, to the point of being abrasive, Ben-Hur original soundtrack, and Rózsa’s spectacularly recorded extended suite on Decca Phase 4, Gamba sounds almost self-consciously laid back, except for a dynamic “Rowing of the Galley Slaves” that nearly matches Rózsa’s Phase 4 version.

The highly detailed and well balanced sound is excellent in every conceivable way, and is actually better than many Chandos SACDs.

Clearly, this is one of the best available collections of Rózsa’s film music. I can give this CD no higher praise than to say that it approaches Gerhardt’s RCA Classic Film Score Series in many ways, including the sound, performances, and longer suites that work even better with these superior scores. Don’t miss it if you are a fan of Rózsa and the Golden Age of Film Music. You will not hear new symphonic film music of this quality today.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

The Thief of Baghdad: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Venue:  MediaCity UK, Salford 
Length: 10 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Sahara: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  MediaCity UK, Salford 
Length: 7 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Ben Hur: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959 
Venue:  MediaCity UK, Salford 
Length: 10 Minutes 19 Secs. 
The Jungle Book: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1942 

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