Thirty-five years after his death, American composer Bernard Herrmann (1911-75) is finally getting the recognition he deserves, along with credit for the irreplaceable role his music played in some of the greatest films of the 20th century. It’s taken time for the world to appreciate Herrmann’s unique and quirky genius, just as it took time for Janácek’s to shine through; in both cases, recordings have helped make the case for music that might otherwise have escaped notice. This new release is part of a series from Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic devoted to film music, and it’s a treat from beginning to end.
First, the suite from Herrmann’s score to the 1945 noir shocker Hangover Square, with yearning Tristan-esque passages in the strings that will reappear, simmered to perfection, in Vertigo thirteen years later. Next is the 11-minute Concerto Macabre for piano and orchestra, written into the plotline of Hangover Square in the same way Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto was written into Dangerous Moonlight. To finish, there’s a spectacular 50 minutes of music from Citizen Kane, including Herrmann’s over-the-top setting of “Salammbô’s Aria.” Performances are confident and virtuosic, and Chandos delivers big, weighty sound.