MIKLOS ROZSA: Spellbound – The Classic Film Score Of Miklós Rózsa – The National Philharmonic Orch. / Charles Gerhardt – HDTT

MIKLOS ROZSA:  Spellbound –  The Classic Film Score Of Miklós Rózsa – The National Philharmonic Orch. / Charles Gerhardt – HDTT [various formats incl. hi-res PCM & DSD from www.highdeftapetransfers.com], 54:27 **** :

Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995), like Walton, Vaughan Williams, Herrmann and Shostakovich, was as successful writing for the cinema as he was writing for the concert hall.   Rózsa and Herrmann may be better known for their film music, but all of the composers wrote music of the highest quality for all mediums.

This Rózsa collection is one of many in the Classic Film Scores series produced for RCA by George Korngold with recording engineer Kenneth Wilkinson and the National Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Charles Gerhardt.  The National Philharmonic was a fairly long-lived pick-up band founded by Gerhardt and Sidney Sax in 1964, specifically for recording. It consisted of the finest and most experienced players from the major London orchestras, to begin with under the leadership of Sax. Sax was a very fine player, and highly efficient orchestral fixer who also recorded under the pseudonym Josef Sakonov.

This release comprises music from nine of the hundred or so films for which Rózsa wrote the scores.  The earliest music comes from an Alexander Korda film, The Four Feathers, released in 1939, a big budget action movie, with big, bold music to match.  The next year, Rózsa and Korda went to the US to complete The Thief of Baghdad, and two years later they collaborated again, on The Jungle BookIvanhoe, another blockbuster with a stellar cast dates from 1952.  In addition to confident action movies, Rózsa wrote for a number of psychological dramas and film noirs.  Of these, Spellbound is made all the more gripping with Rózsa’s uses of the theremin.

Performances under Gerhardt and his crack orchestra are still as gripping and surprising as they were when I came across this series, as a very young person, on LPs 40 years ago.  Gerhardt’s work for various Reader’s Digest series is of excellent quality, too; some are still available.  Rózsa’s concert music has become better-known in the last few years due largely to a fine series from Chandos.  However, at least one recording lies languishing in the vaults of RCA and once available on LP,  Rózsa himself conducting the RCA Italiana Orchestra in among other works, Overture to a Symphony Concert and Theme, Variations and Finale, well overdue to reissue.

The Classic Film Scores series was acclaimed at the time not only for its musical content, but for its very fine sound quality.  I compared 24/96 FLACs from HDTT’s mastering from a commercial 4-track reel with 16-bit FLACs from my RCA CD, both streamed through the same equipment for consistency.  Bearing in mind HDTT have higher resolution PCM, and DSD files available, the sound from the lower end 24/96 FLACs is very impressive, having more body to it than the original CD. [Although the original Gerhardt series on RCA Victor CDs {though some don’t indicate it} are all Dolby Surround-encoded. Though 24/96 two-channel thru a good pseudo-surround processor would probably sound even better…Ed.]

Tracklist:

1. The Red House (Suite)

2. The Thief of Baghdad

3. The Lost Weekend

4. The Four Feathers

5. Double Indemnity

6. Knights of the Round Table

7. The Jungle Book

8. Spellbound

9. Ivanhoe

—Peter Joelson

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