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Rózsa: Quo Vadis, Ben Hur / Rózsa, Royal Philharmonic

Rozsa,Miklos / Rpo / Npo
Release Date: 07/10/2007 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 4332  
Composer:  Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Miklós Rózsa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic OrchestraNational Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RÓZSA Quo Vadis. 1 Ben Hur 2 Miklós Rózsa, cond; Royal PO & Ch; 1 Natl PO & Ch 2 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 Read more 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 Ben Hur are painfully aware of the fact that the complete original soundtrack album has terrible sound. There is no complete recording of Quo Vadis in modern sound. There are numerous recordings of various excerpts from Ben Hur 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 , and King of Kings , ably conducted by Erich Kunzel, with sensational sound ( Fanfare 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 Quo Vadis and 46 minutes from Ben Hur 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 Ben Hur 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. Ben Hur sounds marginally brighter and better than Quo Vadis , 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 Ben Hur 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 Ben Hur , 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
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Works on This Recording

Quo Vadis?: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Miklós Rózsa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Ben Hur: Suite by Miklós Rózsa
Conductor:  Miklós Rózsa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959 

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