Notes and Editorial Reviews
Miklós Rózsa, cond; Royal PO & Ch;
Natl PO & Ch
VOCALION 4332 (2 CDs: 87:34)
This is an extremely important release for film music-lovers and Miklós Rózsa fans. These are reissues of two Decca/London Phase Four recordings made in 1977 and 1978 following the
unexpected success of the RCA Classic Film Score Series and the Phase Four Bernard Herrmann recordings. Both of them were briefly released on single CDs, but have been unavailable for years. Most serious admirers of the music for
are painfully aware of the fact that the complete original soundtrack album has terrible sound. There is no complete recording of
in modern sound. There are numerous recordings of various excerpts from
that are essentially useless because of their brevity, mediocre performances, or bad sound. The one exception is the excellent recent Telarc hybrid multichannel SACD containing 15- to 18-minute suites from
Ben Hur, Quo Vadis
King of Kings
, ably conducted by Erich Kunzel, with sensational sound (
28:5). Good as that recording is, it pales in comparison to these versions conducted by Rózsa himself, for various reasons
First of all, these suites containing over 40 minutes of music from
and 46 minutes from
are quite ideal in length. They both present a relatively seamless and well-chosen selection of the best music from both scores without the redundancy present in the complete
soundtrack album. Rózsa’s interpretations are more animated and dramatic than Kunzel’s, whose take tends to be rather square and stodgy but is rescued by Telarc’s sound. The only real advantage of the Telarc-Kunzel recording is the power of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In comparison, the chorus in these versions sounds relatively small and distant. This will appeal to some listeners who view them as primarily orchestral scores, but the effect of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in surround sound is undeniable. This most definitely should not obscure the unavoidable fact that there is much more essential music from both scores on these recordings.
Finally, there is the issue of the sound. Michael J. Dutton’s digital re-masterings of the Decca/London originals are sensational. These were typical multi-miked Phase Four recordings with a hot high end, analytical clarity, and an extreme amount of inner detail at the cost of a realistic concert hall perspective. However, the overtly flamboyant sound serves the music for these film spectacles well in every way.
sounds marginally brighter and better than
, except for the egregious spotlighting of the organ in the Prelude. The preservation of the width and depth of the orchestral soundstage with the massive performing forces at the end of
is breathtaking. The album contains interesting program notes on the composer and both scores by Alan Hamer, who is the European representative of the Miklós Rózsa Society.
Although many film music and Rózsa zealots will probably want these dynamic performances as well as the Telarc SACD and the complete original soundtrack for
, these are the single best recorded versions of both scores. This album is Want List material for anyone who seriously values the Golden Age of Film Music.
FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
Works on This Recording
Quo Vadis?: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1951; USA
Ben Hur: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
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