Soundtracks are a lot more than movie music...

...or so I'm ready to argue as a 30 year devotee of this sorely under appreciated genre.  So, in an effort to do my part, each week
I'll be making recommendations of soundtracks current and vintage, make a fuss over long awaited soundtrack scores finally getting
a well deserved release, and in general, make some noise about this often overlooked category.  Beyond my long experience as a
listener and as a pianist and songwriter, both of which I've put to use in writing a quarterly soundtrack column for the
Tribune, I can only offer my recommendations.  You'll discern my taste soon enough and upfront I'd like to make it clear that I'll
focus most heavily on SCORE soundtracks.  In the end, all criticism is subjective but if I can point a listener toward a little heard
soundtrack or strongly advise you to either ORDER IMMEDIATELY or SKIP ALTOGETHER, all the better.
In looking back over several years of soundtrack recommendations it's ironic
that I have never touted something by Bernard Herrmann.  Ironic because
among lovers of the soundtrack genre Herrmann stands high atop the film
composing firmament, over 30 years after his death.  The wealth of
gorgeous musical compositions that the prickly Herrmann left music lovers is
staggering and to consider that most of his complex compositions were done
quickly and as works for hire is even more surprising.  But that just speaks
to the genius that was Herrmann.  I think perhaps the main reason I've not
touted his work here before is because for me his music long ago entered
the realm of the unforgettable - the "of course he's a genius-there's no
reason to even bring him up" category.  Everyone who loves film music, I
assume, knows and venerates Herrmann.  If you've been reading these
recommendations you certainly do.  But okay, okay, for those who haven't
followed Herrmann (although what film lover doesn't know his iconic scores,
done in
collaboration with Hitchcock?), here is a great starting point, a
recommendation for some wonderful NON-Hitchcock film scores by Herrmann.

Citizen Kane: The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann was
actually my first recorded introduction to the master's work.  Now this disc,
which contains highlights from several lesser known Herrmann film scores
doesn't have original recordings.  Rather, the material was newly recorded
specifically for this releases (which came out in the mid-70s on RCA).  During
that period record producer and conductor
Charles Gerhardt was overseeing a
series of recordings dedicated to the masters of film composing.  When it
came time to produce a disc dedicated to Herrmann, Gerhardt involved the
composer in the selection and the recording sessions.  The result is one of
the most satisfying, emotionally enthralling discs of film music EVER.

Though Herrmann's first film score for
Citizen Kane was well known, the duo's
selection of lesser known works - especially the "Concerto Macabre" from
Hangover Square - were a revelation.  I date my unending love for film scores
to this recording and the masterful version of the "Concerto" with its dark
beauty and gorgeous piano chords (essayed her by Joaquin Achucarro) as its
starting point.  The disc also includes suites from
Beneath the 12 Mile Reef,
White Witch Doctor and the horn prelude from On Dangerous Ground.  An
interesting side note is that the Herrmann penned aria included in
Kane for
the luckless Susan Alexander character is finally performed on this recording
by a soprano who can match its vocal demands - the then little known Kiri Te


Don't forget to check out previous soundtrack recommendations by visiting

Next Recommendation:  TBA
The CD cover (issued in 1991) and
conductor Gerhardt (on the left) conferring
with composer
Bernard Herrmann during
the recording sessions.