As far as I know, unlike other issues in the current spate of Naxos film score releases, this one of Dimitri Tiomkin's score for 'Red River' had not previously been issued on the Marco Polo label, or if it was I missed it. This recording was made in 2002 by what has become the staple team for these releases: score restoration by John Morgan, with William Stromberg conducting those honorary Hollywood musicians, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, this time joined by a full choir (not to speak of a banjo and accordion, and an enlarged string section).
Dimitri Tiomkin, for American moviegoers of my generation, was a Big Name. Just look at a few of the movies for which he composed the score: Dial M for Murder, Rio Bravo (some of whose music was recycled for 'Red River'), Lost Horizon, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Giant, Duel in the Sun, The Big Sky, Friendly Persuasion, Hatari, The Alamo--and the list goes on. Notice how many Westerns there are in the list? Tiomkin may be considered to have more or less invented what we think of as the prototypical Hollywood Western filmscore 'sound.' And nowhere better than in this release. But did you know that Tiomkin, born in Ukraine, soloed as a pianist with the Berlin Philharmonic or that he played the European première of Gershwin's 'Concerto in F'? The concert world lost a pianist, but filmdom gained a great composer of apt and memorable scores.
This CD contains 37 cues from the movie, from the 'Main Title' to 'The New Brand.' Most of the cues are less than three minutes long, but there is a sound throughout that carries forward the movie's atmosphere with use of leitmotiv and similar orchestration. Recurrences of western tunes, some sung by the choir, tie the whole together as well. There is no question that music helps to romanticize the Old West, just as the movie did, and much of it may strike modern listeners as a bit old-fashioned. But one cannot argue but that the score completely underlines Howard Hawks's vision for this John Wayne movie about the first cattle drive north along the Chisholm Trail (and right past my boyhood home; another reason I loved the film).
The music has not been widely available before. It took a good deal of restoration by film score expert John Morgan. I, for one, am grateful to relive the music and recall the film; I saw it when I was eleven years old and happily can go back to that wondrous time via this recording.
Recommended for anyone remotely interested in American film scores.