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Robert R. Reilly, August 2010

This achingly nostalgic theme also appears in the new Naxos label release of Herrmann’s score to The Snows of Kilimanjaro. It is introduced on the oboe in the lovely Nocturne and reappears as a variation in the following Memory Waltz. The Adagietto, The Letter, and The Farewell are all saturated with the theme. Herrmann’s use of it is obsessive (and obsession was the theme of many of the films he scored, especially for Hitchcock) but never tiresome, because the music goes to something so deep in the human soul concerning loss and yearning that I am always nearly overwhelmed by its powerful undertow. Thus I treasure this new release with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg, with it is the equally fine score to 5 Fingers, a superb spy movie with James Mason.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Two quite different films: the one, Five Fingers, dramatic—even melodramatic—the other, The Snows of Kilmanjaro, romantic, atmospheric and something of an epic; between them they show just how consistently and lyrically inventive Herrmann could be, whatever the challenge. The opening of the first has flurrying snow immediately in the title music, then in the three following sequences, Nocturne, Memory Waltz and Adagietto, he creates quite magical orchestral evocations, while the four closing excerpts, Witch Doctor, The Death-Watch, Panic and Finale, make a kaleidoscope of changing darker moods. Similarly, Five Fingers has sections labeled Dreams, Romance Excape and Alone, all very different, but with comparable melodic interest and imaginative colouring in John Morgan’s ingenious score restorations. Excellent performances in Moscow (of all places!) and good recording.

Colin Clarke
Fanfare, September 2008

The Muscovite players do indeed play the “Memory Waltz” [from The Snows of Kilimanjaro]as if it were heard through some sort of gauze. Their playing is infinitely tender towards the end of the little movement, as if to make up for the lack of visuals. Delicacy is once more the order of the day for “The Awakening,” and indeed there is an underlying grace and restraint that underpins the entire score. Only the more overt opening to “The Witch Doctor” and the short, penultimate movement (“Panic”) threaten to disturb this. The performance standard throughout is first-class, although a special word of praise is necessary for the excellent principal oboe of the Moscow orchestra…Herrmann ensures that a sense of foreboding runs through his score [for 5 Fingers]. The oboe solos of “The Old Street” seem to refer explicitly to Turkey (Herrmann was to use material from this movement again later in his career in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad), while the aching violin lines of “Romance” could only come from Hollywood. The sweet, gently circular rhythms of the brief “Rio” seem to usher in a coda, but the finale instead makes reference to the whirlpool of emotions that run through the movie.

Score restorations, expertly managed, are by John Morgan, while booklet notes are supplied by the film specialist John Caporiccio and Christopher Husted, the manager of Bemard Herrmann Music.

Chris Mullins
Opera Today, September 2008

Although not as individual as his work for Alfred Hitchcock, Herrmann’s music for “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “Five Fingers” reflects both his professionalism and his talent for evoking a dark-tinged romanticism (perhaps best displayed in the score for “Vertigo”)…All the music is well-served by William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, who have done such admirable work in most of the CDs from this Naxos “Film Music Classics” series…the Naxos “Film Music Classics” series has mostly presented treasures, and this disc devoted to Herrmann’s music is one such.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, July 2008

Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for his music for thrillers. Psycho, without doubt his best known music for film, can never be forgotten, even after one hearing—how much music in all genres can boast that feat I wonder? It can easily be forgotten that he wrote for music for all manner of film—drama, Citizen Kane (1941), period piece, Anna and the King of Siam (1946), supernatural drama, The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) (Herrmann’s, and my, favourite, score), quirky comedy, The Trouble with Harry (1955), kitchen sink, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) and psychological urban drama, Taxi Driver (1976) to name but a very few. Therefore, these two examples of his music for film, and very different films they are, should come as no surprise, and should be warmly welcomed.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is based on a story by Ernest Hemingway. Harry Street—as far as I am concerned played by a badly miscast Gregory Peck—lies dying in his tent at the foot of the mountain and spends his time reminiscing, in flashback, on his life and telling everything to his wife (Susan Hayward). Whether the film is to your liking or not, Herrmann’s music will be: it’s rich and romantic, this is music of love, lost love, and yearning for love. A swirling prologue is followed by a Nocturne of great beauty, then a very nostalgic Memory Waltz. The music for the women in Harry’s life is sumptuously scored, full of melody. Some said that Herrmann could not write melody, let them hear this score and eat their words. The cues for The Witch Doctor and The Death-Watch are as eerie as anything Herrmann ever wrote.

Five Fingers is based on a true story. During World War 2, in neutral Turkey, Ulysses Diello—Code Name: Cicero—(a wonderful James Mason) is the ambitious and highly resourceful valet to the British Ambassador. He forms a plan to make himself a rich gentleman of leisure. As his employer has many secret documents, he photographs them, and, with the help of a refugee Countess, sells them to the Nazis. When he has made a certain amount of cash, he will retire to South America with the Countess as his wife. However, when he arrives in Rio he discovers that the Nazis have paid him in counterfeit currency. Herrmann’s score is, in general, dark and brooding, full of atmosphere for time and place, containing those strange sonorities he so loved, and is tinged with eastern sounds.

This is another fine addition to Naxos’s growing catalogue of Film Music Classics. Stromberg brings strong and intelligent performances from the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and the sound is bright and clear in the label’s best manner. The notes, by both Joseph Caporiccio and Christopher Husted (Manager, Bernard Herrmann Music), are outstanding but there is no information on what work John Morgan had to do to bring these scores to recording. This latter is really important and in previous issues has been a source of fascinating material. But it’s the music we want and this is an outstanding exposition of two fine examples of music for film, by a master of the genre.

Bellows Falls Town Crier, April 2008

…the CD as a whole is certainly worth hearing.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2008

Hollywood having for many years largely relied on classically trained immigrant composers for its film scores, a new group of American trained musicians began to take control in the years after the Second World War, Bernard Herrmann being among the most famous. He had enjoyed a distinguished career as a conductor, and had been largely responsible for creating the CBS Symphony Orchestra as a major ensemble. Writing film scores began auspiciously with Citizen Cane in 1941, but is was after the orchestra was disbanded, that he decided to settle in Los Angeles where he began a long and fruitful relationship with 20th Century-Fox, a massive catalogue of scores commencing with the 1951 film, On Dangerous Ground, soon following.Though it was to be the emotive music for North by Northwest for which he will best be remembered, he was responsible among his prodigious output for twenty-two major feature film scores over the next twenty years including Prince of Players, Vertigo, Psycho, The Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Many of those suspense films largely depended on the music he provided for creating fear, though in the case of 5 Fingers the music and visuals complement each other to the extent that the music has difficulty standing alone. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is very different, its mix of drama and love bringing out the best in his music. There are already those harmonies Herrmann was to use in North by Northwest to create the warmth of love, and his creation of mood and scene painting is vivid and immaculately scored. The music for 5 Fingers, which starred James Mason, is here receiving its recorded premiere, and both scores are faithfully performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and William Stromberg. The disc was previously released on Marco Polo.

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