If you are going to own just one Bernard Herrmann CD, it should be this one. The Fantasy Film World Of Bernard Herrmann, out now via Cherry Red Records, collects, as the title states, some samples of some of the more famous "fantasy" film scores from the legend's vast body of work.
Now, I am the sort of guy to argue for buying any score Herrmann composed since even the crap (It's Alive even?) has musical bits that elevate the soundtrack far above what any other composer's work was capable of being. But the reality is that it's not possible to be a Herrmann completist, I guess, so a compilation like this is a godsend.
Collecting selections from The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947), Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1959), Beneath The 12-Mile Reef (1953), and The Portrait Of Jennie (1948), The Fantasy Film World Of Bernard Herrmann serves, at pretty much 80 minutes, as the perfect one-disc collection of Herrmann's scores minus the Hitchcock ones.
From the exotic motifs of the cuts from The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) and on to the solidly robust bits from Beneath The 12-Mile Reef (1953), this set showcases both Herrmann's creativity at matching music to action as well as his skill at composing pure music that works so well even if one hasn't seen the film in question (as was the case for me with 1953's Beneath The 12-Mile Reef).
The famous bits from the Theremin-infused The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) score still resonate as perhaps the prime example of what music can add to a sci-fi film, while the inventive instrumentation on the cuts from the Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1959) score highlight Herrmann's ability to bring his very best to projects that perhaps didn't deserve it. That film of Verne's novel is not that great, though it does have its defenders, and it's not a big stretch to say that the Herrmann music from the film is admittedly much more memorable than the back-projected lizards the characters face in the actual movie itself.
But it is, of course, the music from The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947) that pulls at the heartstrings so successfully every time I play it. The Herrmann score here elevates what is a quite good film into one that is borderline great and one can only wonder if the film would have ever been half so successful with, say, a Lionel Newman score or something? Lush, romantic, and wildly sentimental, the selections from The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947) are perhaps my favorite pieces of music in the whole Herrmann catalog and that's saying something when one remembers the work Herrmann did with Hitchcock and Scorsese.
The Fantasy Film World Of Bernard Herrmann, out now from Cherry Red Records, is a splendid crash-course into the back-catalog of Bernard Herrmann. If you're new to this guy, start here. If you're a fan of this guy, get this as a sort of one-disc option to carry around.
Absolutely essential folks.