Budapest-born Miklos Rozsa was one of several 20th century European classical composers who, falling on lean times, forged a new and no doubt lucrative career composing scores for Hollywood films, in Rozsa's case for no fewer than ninety-five. Before then, however, he scored several British films produced by his fellow Hungarian, Sir Alexander Korda. One of these, The Thief of Bagdad (1939/40), is featured on this disc and a very attractive score it is, particularly in the sections entitled The Love of the Princess, The Sultan's Toys and The Flying Horse Gallop. Almost equally appealing is Rozsa's score for The Jungle Book (1942), from which the disc has a substantial Suite lasting over half-an-hour. A short Suite from Sahara (1943) is somewhat less interesting but benefits from an arrangement and orchestration by the late Christopher Palmer, whose knowledge of film music was unparalleled. The final item is a Suite from Ben Hur (1960), which gained for Rozsa one of his three Oscars. Although it is as expertly scored as the other works the style is somewhat portentous, given its religious element. Overall, however there is much colourful and full-blooded music here, to which the BBC Philharmonic under Rumon Gamba, specialists in film music recordings, give full reign. The recording venue is the new MediaCity UK, Salford and although the sound quality is perfectly acceptable it perhaps lacks some of the brilliance that is found on other Chandos recordings, such as those made in the natural acoustics of All Saints' Church, Tooting.
This would have been a great compilation, Rumon Gamba and the BBC Phil give their very considerable best to some splendid music, but have been let down by the recorded quality. I would go much further than the previous reviewer who said that the sound could have more brilliance, I think it sounds positively murky. The general effect is an homogeneous rather distanced sound. Where are the violins, they are so recessed that they lose the sumptuous quality so important in this music, the brass lack the necessary brilliant edge and the woodwind are buried within the overall sound picture. The bass drum makes an impressive thump but doesn't sound very realistic and the timps sound like they are rattling away in a cupboard. One only has to play a few bars of Rozsa's recording of Ben Hur, currently available on a Decca Australian Eloquence issue coupled with a tremendous account of the music from Quo Vadis, to be knocked sideways by the magnificent recorded sound, recorded in the 70's and analogue to boot. This is not what one expects from a Chandos recording but I have noticed that many of their issues in recent years, particularly from Manchester, all share similar qualities to those I've described. I remember Chandos in their early days produced some of the finest recordings going, matching warmth and brilliance in ideal proportions. A disappointing issue then, I think Chandos should go back to the mixing desk with this one and try to produce a recording that lives up to their former high standards.
Miklos Rozsa is perhaps not that well known in the classical repertoire, albeit that many recordings of his music have been released on the Naxos label including a Rhapsody for Cello & Orchestra, 3 Hungarian Sketches, a Viola Concerto, a Violin Concerto a Hungarian Serenade etc, but he is best known for his wonderful film scores. Here are superb recordings by the BBC Philharmonic under the baton of Rumon Gamba of 4 suites from the scores of the films, The Thief of Bagdad, Jungle Book, Sahara and Ben Hur. Grandiose music that sets the scene for these screen epics. This is wonderful orchestral music which can truly be enjoyed seperated from the films as great music. Great recording quality helps these scores to shine.
I can only agree with mr. Cable. To compare listen to Rózsa's own recording of Ben-Hur on Rhino R272197and take the Rowing of the Galley Slaves (track 33) as an example. The Chandos track starts with some timpani theme - NOT Rózsa - and plods through the music only making some loud sounds. But the rasping of the trumpets and trombones, the incisive rhythm, the growling of the basses, the laden atmosphere are ALL absent. What a waist of time and money.