Ten Tracks Today – A Bernard Herrmann Special #3 – 29th June 2011


01 – “The Car” – Psycho

Recorded in 1975, this is arguably my favourite track from this score and this version, the Unicorn-Kanchana release of the National Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of the composer himself, is my favourite. The low, repetitive strings with the dramatic cellos coming in when they do…I remember many a time just spending a few minutes with the 45 second cue on repeat. Watching a Hermann documentary on DVD recently I think the muting of the strings is what comes out particularly strongly on this version that catches my ear.

02 – “Overture” – The Snows of Kilimanjaro

The frenetic strings are what stick in the mind in this track, with the whole cue setting the scene for a rip-roaring movie. Unfortunately, from what I recall, the film doesn’t really live up to the exuberance of the track.

03 – “Duo” – Mysterious Island

The TFC re-recording. This lovely, reflective track has strings and progressions that remind me of similar, more low-key tracks from Vertigo.

04 – “Elegy” – Beneath The 12-Mile Reef

For me, one of the most heart-rending tracks that Herrmann composed. Ominous and funereal at the outset, the material for strings that enters soon after this sombre beginning is just so full of emotion. Shows that Herrmann was never “just” the composer who scored the Hitchcock films.

05 – “Madeline” – Vertigo

Along similar lines from the previous cue. Sombre and in a way a doomed piece that signposts what is to come.

06 – “Scenario Five” – The Night Digger

The harmonica is toned down in this later release of this score. Dominated by Herrmann’s wonderful writing for strings, using them in all sorts of ways, evoking all sorts of emotions. This score seems to suit the longer suite-like form.

07 – “Max” – Cape Fear (1995)

The brass fanfare heard about 35 seconds into this track is one that would stop anyone in their tracks. And then Herrmann tops that with the another fanfare at 2:35 that’s so powerful when seen along with the visuals. Maybe credit should go to Elmer Bernstein who adapted Herrmann’s music for this remake. I should really watch the original again and see what Herrmann did originally.

08 – “Bedtime” – Fahrenheit 451

The TFC re-recording. Starts off quite relaxed before setting off on that frenetic theme on strings that can get a bit much if heard too much.

09 – “Hydra’s Teeth / Skeletons / Attack” – Jason and The Argonauts

The Intrada re-recording. An excellent track to a score that I’d like to hear in its original form. Seeing this sequence on TV recently I am not sure the original score could improve on Broughton’s version.

10 – “Finale” – North By Northwest

Appropriately Herrmann’s music brings this selection of ten tracks to a close.

Happy Birthday, Bernard Herrmann!

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