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ScoreKeeper Reviews The Super Fantabulous ELMER BERNSTEIN'S FILM MUSIC COLLECTION!!

Date: Sunday, October 15 2006 10:42am Topic: Soundtrack Review-Elmer Bernstein's Film Music Collection
It was called “Elmer Bernstein’s Film Music Collection,” and it stands as one of the most significant recording initiatives in the history of American film music. Substantial excerpts from 19 scores written by nine different composers, spanning more than three decades, were released from 1974 and 1979.

- From “What Ever Happened to the Film Music Collection?” by John Burlingame

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here in the wake of a hushed awe and an overwhelming sense of reverence for what I believe to be a truly monumental moment in the history of film music. Last month the good folks over at Film Score Monthly spearheaded by founding editor and soundtrack producer, Lukas Kendall, released upon the world a twelve CD box set entitled “Elmer Bernstein’s Film Music Collection” [AVAILABLE HERE]. Those who have been consummate collectors of film music for more than a decade are probably well aware of the existence of the collection as Elmer Bernstein recorded each individual album in the mid 1970’s. Immediately the LPs were staples in the film music fan’s library, but over time they became far too rare for new collectors to attain. According to Mr. Kendall, Elmer Bernstein was approached many times to release the collection on CD but rights issues prevented such a release from materializing. Until now. Looking back through the years I can’t recall a more salient or more substantial release of film music ever. I remember the first time the music for the original STAR WARS trilogy was released in a four CD box set during the early nineties. That was indeed a monumental moment for film music fans. (Incidentally, Lukas Kendall wrote the liner notes for that set.) However, there is nothing in my research nor recollection that quite compares to the significance of this release. When Elmer Bernstein had the idea to record a series of albums containing film music he was most passionate about, it was approached and executed purely as a labor of love. This was not a scheme to make more money or give his name more prominence. What is so supremely awesome about this current release is that Film Score Monthly recognized the collection for what it was and thusly released it as such. There is just as much, if not more, affinity, attention to detail, passion, and devotion to the music in this new CD box set as contained in the earlier LP releases by Elmer Bernstein. Only two-thousand sets were produced and at $199.95 a set, I very much doubt this will be a ripe cash cow for the parties involved in releasing it, however a boondoggle it is not. There are twelve CDs featuring music from nineteen scores by eight different composers. Included in this set is a magnificent 136 page hardback book containing insightful editorials, information-packed bios, archival photographs, articles, histories, and synopses. Each track of each CD is carefully broken down complete with nuanced descriptions. The extensive liner notes trace thematic and narrative elements of the film which even include a substantial amount of music notation revealing the important themes and motives heard in the music. It comes housed in a pristine burgundy case with the collection title stamped in gold letters. Before a single CD is ever placed into the player, it is striking how venerable the presentation of this music is. So what about the music? Tiomkin, Rózsa, Waxman, Steiner, Herrmann, Newman, North, and Bernstein. Such legendary names, familiar to even the most casual film music enthusiast, set a precedence for excellence not easily matched. These eight names express all that needs to be said. The rest is spoken through their own distinct musical language which collectively epitomizes the highest standards of craft in their field. In short, every track is simply sublime. Here are the scores contained within this glorious box set: Disc 1 • FMC-1 Helen of Troy (1956) • A Summer Place (1959) - by Max Steiner Disc 2 • FMC-2 The Miracle (1959) • Toccata for Toy Trains (1957) - by Elmer Bernstein Disc 2• FMC-7 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - by Elmer Bernstein Disc 3 • FMC-3 The Silver Chalice (1954) - by Franz Waxman Disc 4 • FMC-4 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) - by Bernard Herrmann Disc 5 • FMC-5 Young Bess (1953) - by Miklós Rózsa Disc 6 • FMC-6 Wuthering Heights (1939) - by Alfred Newman Disc 7 • FMC-8 The Thief of Bagdad (1940) - by Miklós Rózsa Disc 8 • FMC-9 Viva Zapata! (1952) • Death of a Salesman (1951) - by Alex North Disc 9 • FMC-10 Torn Curtain (1966) - by Bernard Herrmann (unused score) Disc 10 • FMC-12 Madame Bovary (1949) - by Miklós Rózsa Disc 11 • FMC-13 Land of the Pharaohs (1955) • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) - by Dimitri Tiomkin Disc 11 • FMC-14 The High and the Mighty (1954) • Search for Paradise (1957) - by Dimitri Tiomkin Disc 12 Kings of the Sun (1963) - by Elmer Bernstein The thirteen original albums are presented on eleven CDs (a fourteenth album, SCORPIO by Jerry Fielding, could not be included due to contractual reasons). Although some titles such as THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and TORN CURTAIN have over the last few decades, become available on other labels, many of these scores are to this day unattainable by most collectors. Elmer Bernstein, always the endearing auteur, conducted all of the recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in England. Remaining true to the individual composer’s aural idiosyncrasies, he breathed a resuscitating breath with each interpretation. As an added bonus to the collection, FSM decided to include Elmer Bernstein’s score for KINGS OF THE SUN (1963). Not originally a part of the earlier collection, he re-recorded this score in Prague in 2003 intending for a future release. Sadly, Bernstein himself did not live to see the release of this score nor his precious collection manifested with such divine presentation. Whether the music was digitally re-mastered by Doug Schwartz or taken from the original vinyl by John Davis, the overall sound quality will not disappoint even seasoned audiophiles. It sounds fantastic without artificially compromising the character of the mid-70’s recordings: an important quality I was hoping was preserved. Film Score Monthly continues to elevate the standards of great film music with their devotion to releasing scores most of which have never seen a prior release. With this set they entrench themselves in the pantheon of great labels committed to bringing exceptional film music to the masses who adore it. This release is so important that it doesn’t just merit a glowing review. It deserves a heartfelt thank you. Thank you Film Score Monthly for releasing “Elmer Bernstein’s Film Music Collection!”


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