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American Record Guide, January 2008

The main attraction on this 1996 recording is 39 minutes of Alfred Newman's Hunchback—it is both sacred and profane, with an abundance of haunting leitmotifs and ingenious development. The tender, yearning "Esmeralda" theme is quintessential Newman, but you'll also hear reverence, bravado, and torment, all ending with an exultant "Hallelujah" whose attribution remains controversial. (Naxos has reduced the Marco Polo booklet to a mere eight pages, but the dispute over the contributions of Ernst Toch is covered fully and fairly.)

Beau Geste (20 minutes) is colorful, All About Eve (five minutes) sophisticated. This is another fine job from Stromberg and Company, as they used to say in the movies, "now at popular prices".

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2007

Had Alfred Newman welcomed public approbation he may well have become one of the leading conductors in the States, which would have robbed the film industry of one of its most prolific and gifted composers. Born in Connecticut in 1901 to a very poor family, he was to receive a musical education that numbered Schoenberg among his mentors. At nineteen he was conducting on Broadway and became the youngest musical director of a major musical, George White Scandals. Aged twenty-nine he moved to Hollywood with the idea of writing and conducting musicals, but found a more ready market for his music in the film studios. He did try to continue his conducting career with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, but found stage appearances stressful. In 1939 he was appointed head of music for 20th Century Fox and over the next twenty-one years worked on 225 films, many scores winning Academy Awards. He died at the comparatively young age of sixty-nine having been one of the most significant influences in American film music. One of the  finest scores to carry his name dates from 1939 with the incredibly expensive remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Charles Laughton in the role of the disfigured hunchback. There has been speculation that at least part of the score came from Ernst Toch, an emigre fleeing to the States from the Nazis. The extent of his involvement depends on who you speak to, but there seems to be little doubt that he contributed. For this disc the film music buff, John Morgan, has reconstructed much of the original music to create a sequence in film order amounting to almost 40 minutes. In the same year Newman wrote the background to the film Beau Geste, on the theme of the Foreign Legion, 20 minutes of highly emotive music reconstructed by the disc’s conductor, William Stromberg. Coming forward to 1950 and the twighlight years of Newman’s career, we have the composer’s own brief ‘suite’ from a Bette Davis film, All About Eve. The playing from the Moscow Symphony is assured though not quite possessing the feel for Hollywood that they were to show in later recordings. The 1996 sound is good, the disc having appeared previously on the Marco Polo label.

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