My Favourite Scores – 1941

  • Citizen Kane
  • Bernard Herrmann
  • Varese Sarabande / 1999 / 52:45 

This is a difficult choice for this year as there’s not one that really stands out for selection. Herrmann’s score is rightly seen as a landmark score at a time where film in general was being experimented with by innovative directors such as Citizen Kane‘s director, Orson Welles.

I am not expert enough in film history or theory to understand whether Herrmann’s experience in composing for radio put him in good stead for Welles’ directing style for this film, but Herrmann’s use of the short cue that was particularly effective at bridging scenes is a technique frequently in radio.

It’s the moodiness of this score that is appealing to me; the way in which Herrmann creates a feeling with what appears to be very little effort. The slow, off-kilter tracks in particular are highlights. Alongside the highlights there are also tracks that I always skip: up-tempo tracks such as “Galop” I avoid. And I may be in the minority not liking “Salaambo’s Aria”. Although there are parts I do not like, when it’s good it is very good.

For years, Joel McNeely’s version (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) was the go-to version. Rumon Gamba’s more recent release of 49 minutes of Herrmann’s score (BBC Philharmonic, Chandos Records) is now the more sonically appealing though I do not like their choice of making 6-7 minute suites from joining together several of Herrmann’s individual cues.


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