Milan Music raid the classics once again with this 2 disc compilation of music from Alfred Hitchcock's films. The first disc focusses on the classic scores Bernard Herrmann composed for the director's late 50's output and the second is filled with earlier soundtrack cues by Dimitri Tiomkin, Lyn Murray, David Buttolph, Franz Waxman and Miklós Rózsa from 1941's Suspicion up to Rope in 1958.
I won't say too much about the first disc, as I reviewed Milan Music's Vertigo et la Musique des Films d’Alfred Hitchcock not so long ago and the tracks here are pretty much exactly the same, you just get a few less Vertigo tracks and a 5 minute interview with Bernard Herrmann on film music. This is an interesting addition, but you probably won't want to listen to it more than once. Luckily it's the last track, so you can always stop the album once it gets to that.
As mentioned in my previous review, I'm a huge fan of the work Bernard Herrmann did with Alfred Hitchcock and this album contains some of the finest examples of their collaborations, from the unique and infectious 'dance' of North by Northwest to the vicious stabbing strings of Psycho. Herrmann understood the ways Hitchcock's techniques really played with your mind and did the same with his music. My only complaint with this disc would be that a couple of the films they worked on together are missing. Herrmann's work on The Trouble With Harry is wonderful, paving the way for what was to come and his later scores for Marnie and the unused but subsequently recorded soundtrack to Torn Curtain are both dark, disturbing opuses that don't get enough recognition.
I imagine anyone interested in film music will be aware of the quality of the work on the first disc though. More interesting for me is the second disc, featuring earlier, more classic scores from some other greats of the era; Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman and Miklós Rózsa. Personally I'm not a huge fan of pre-50's classical scoring as it has a tendency to be a little too big and glossy with little nuance or thought to the films they're accompanying beyond forcing you to laugh, cry or fall in love at the right moments. These are strong examples of Hollywood soundtracks though as Hitchcock was always aware of the power of music and I'd be surprised if he didn't have quite a lot of say in the final cut of the scores. He certainly had a good ear for picking the right composers.
The tracks included in this album do include a couple of 'fluffier' more dated numbers, especially around the mid-section with two tracks by the less well-known composers Lyn Murray and David Buttolph from their work on To Catch a Thief and Rope. You can tell by the fact that Hitchcock didn't work with them again (other than Murray on his TV series, which Hitchcock only presented) that he wasn't all that enthused himself.
In general the disc doesn't grab the listener like the other does either, but there is still some great music here. The last six tracks, all from Spellbound, stood out for me in particular, with the classic romanticism well executed here, but mixed with darker moments and the occasional use of a theremin to highlight the unusual dreamscape of the film. An epic 12 minute suite from The Paradine Case is rather beautiful too with a real air of polished classical composition from the under-appreciated Franz Waxman. He also provides a fun, jazzier moment with a cue from the great Rear Window.
Available in digital format and on CD, the album is handsomely packaged (for those who go for the physical media route) with stylish design and artwork from Paul Rogers. The booklet insert has a nice bit of blurb on all of the films featured too, although it's in Italian (the album is an Italian import) so I can only guess at the quality of what is written. As for the technical quality of the music inside, the Herrmann tracks sound great, but most of disc 2 sounds much weaker. These are older, rarer tracks though, a few from the war years, so it's understandable that they wouldn't be quite as polished. They're not crackly or unlistenable though, just a little tinny and feeble compared with the tracks on the other disc. Don't let minor niggles like that stop you from getting your hands on this collection though, it's got most of the best of the Herrmann years (if you don't own these already) and nearly an hour's worth of less widely distributed classic tracks.
Alfred Hitchcock and His Music is out now on CD and digital download.