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Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain: The Unused Score
Bernard Herrmann
Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain: The Unused Score
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks
 
  •  Track Listings (30) - Disc #1

Bernard Herrmann's unused score for Alfred Hitchcock's dour 1966 Cold War drama has gained such a reputation that this Varese Sarabande release marks no less than its third recording. The aborted ninth and final effort by ...  more »

      
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CD Details

All Artists: Bernard Herrmann
Title: Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain: The Unused Score
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Varese Sarabande
Original Release Date: 7/14/1966
Re-Release Date: 6/2/1998
Album Type: Soundtrack
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks
Style: Easy Listening
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 030206581720, 4005939581725

Synopsis

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Bernard Herrmann's unused score for Alfred Hitchcock's dour 1966 Cold War drama has gained such a reputation that this Varese Sarabande release marks no less than its third recording. The aborted ninth and final effort by one of the greatest director-composer collaborations in film history (Herrmann's refusal to bow to Hitchcock's and the studio's pressures to deliver a "pop" score led to the permanent severing of the relationship and a replacement soundtrack composed by John Addison) recalls the darker moments of The Man Who Knew Too Much and North by Northwest. For Torn Curtain, Herrmann typically eschewed the melodic in favor of brooding, emotionally compelling orchestral colors, yet another testament to his genius as an arranger. Joel McNeely and the National Philharmonic (one of Herrmann's favorite recording ensembles) have paid rapt attention to the score's every nuance of tempo and tone, delivering the finest performance yet of this lost moody masterpiece. --Jerry McCulley

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CD Reviews

Pure 90 proof Herrmann
Good Stuff | 03/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is said that after the first run through of Bernard Herrmann's Prelude for "Torn Curtain", the Universal orchestra broke into spontaneous applause for the composer (who probably shouted something unprintable in response).

What we have here is a new recording of the music Mr. Herrmann wrote for Hitchcock's film before being fired. It is incomplete, leaving us on the bus at the beginning of the penultimate escape scene and ending, at least 20 minutes before the film ends. How wonderful it would have been if Herrmann had completed his score. But, it is said, he never looked back at it. And, of course, how wonderful it would have been if Hitchcock, in a fit of pique, hadn't removed Herrmann from the project. Not to take anything away from the replacement score the British John Addison wrote, in short order, for the film. It's actually quite good. But Hitchcock gained nothing from it. Ultimately, the "hit tune" Main Title the studio had coerced the aging Hitchcock into insisting Herrmann write, and that Herrmann refused to consider, was not delivered by Addison, either.

The score is pure Herrmann, with echoes of earlier works (North by Northwest, Stranger On A Train and The Wrong Man) in evidence, along with precursors of scores yet to come (Sisters, Obsession).

The late Elmer Bernstein also recorded Herrmann's "Torn Curtain", thouugh not quite as much of it, several years ago, for his Film Music Society label. It has never been released on CD. A few of the tracks Herrmann conducted at the single truncated scoring session have been released as well. Unlike this current recording, the miking for that session was very close. The accoustic quite dry. And the result is absolutely thrilling. Consider buying this recording, and then finding those few Herrmann conducted tracks to go along with it. You should be quite pleased with the result.

Oh, yeah. And will someone please release on CD all those fabulous recordings Elmer Bernstein conducted in the seventies.

May 2, 2008. Well, guess what? "They" (in this case Film Score Monthly) did exactly that. They issued on CD, in one integral set, Elmer Bernstein's series of recordings I mention here. They are fantastic. His "Torn Curtain" is simply wonderful. Get it if you can."
McNeely falters a bit with his conducting of Torn Curtain
Good Stuff | 07/16/1998
(3 out of 5 stars)

"What can one say about Bernard Herrmann that hasn't been said already? His unused score for Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain" may not rank up there with his best efforts but it still confirms the listener's belief in his unique and brilliant composition style. Now, a newly recorded version of this removed score has been released on the Varese Sarabande label with Joel McNeely conducting the National Philharmonic. McNeely has proven with his past recordings to be an able Herrmann conductor and I am grateful to him for providing his services to bring these scores to new life (even though I still can't understand why he didn't record the full Fahrenheit 451). Unfortunately, I don't feel "Curtain" is one of his best recordings. It certainly is no failure by any means, but it falls short of what I think it should be. Its presentation is somewhat more murky than its "metallic" origins (brass, etc.) deserve. The main title alone sounds weak and hollow, but the reco! ! rding seems to improve as it goes on. One of McNeely's strengths, as a purist, is that he stays with the composer's original tempo notations and he has done so here. Even with my misgivings, I find myself listening repeatedly to this fine score while hoping that McNeely will provide us more. I've heard that he is recording a version of "Citizen Kane" which I feel is not necessary since so many fine versions have already been released. Why not a complete "Obsession" or "The Bride Wore Black" which would provide excellent source material?"
Obsession
Interplanetary Funksmanship | Vanilla Suburbs, USA | 10/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Alfred Hitchcock was a fool for letting Bernard Herrmann go the way of Dimitri Tiomkin. The suits at Universal pressured Hitch into dumping Herrmann for this "old fashioned" (read: orchestral) score for Hitch's 50th motion picture, "Torn Curtain."

But, Herrmann would have the last laugh: After he was fired for not providing a "hit tune" for the keen teens of the mid 1960s, he was replaced with British composer John Addison, who contributed a lackluster score, and -- as another reviewer here mentioned -- no hit songs.

I just finished watching the VHS of "Torn Curtain": Addison's soundtrack is just awful -- mainly because it was trying so hard to be, in David Raksin's sneering words at Addison's mess of a soundtrack, "with it."

Instead, you can hear where Addison slipped in some guitar chords, a la Monty Norman's "James Bond" theme, but the rest of it sounds like it belongs in a commercial for Levitt Homes or the 1966 Ford Galaxie.

The problem is that, given a few years, "with it" only ends up sounding "painfully dated."

Not so with Herrmann's soundtrack, which I am listening to at this very moment. The great thing about "old fashioned" is that it always sounds "timeless."

Here, Herrmann was doing something new, brash, and bold, from his musical standpoint. He was taking an ensemble of brass and winds, layering them in overlapping thematic strands, employing polyphony to create something very unique, and personal.

You can feel the menacing chill of life behind the Iron Curtain in this one. As with his score of "black and white" music for "Psycho," Herrmann uses melancholic motifs in "Torn Curtain" to paint the screen in shades of grey. The rustle of wood flutes, repeating a loneley theme in ostinato, backed by the low rumbles of basses and cellos, and accented by muted trumpets, is a peculiarly Herrmannesque combination, but it evokes emotions of isolation, heartache and dread.

The opening title music is simply a bold, over-the-top, musical statement. As if a psychotic reworked the march "76 Trombones" into a foreboding dance of death. Pure chutzpah, pure Herrmann!

The cue "The Farmhouse" repeats the French horn "Fox Hunt" motif Herrmann used in "Marnie," but set contrapuntally against the flutes repeating the same alternating four and five note figures, it sets up what has to be the greatest murder music in any Hitchcock film (except the shower scene from "Psycho").

"The Killing" is a bombastic and brutal pummeling by the low brass and strings, pierced like a butcher knife with shrieking piccolos and flutes. It is the aural equivalent of a drive-by shooting. I once watched a documentary film about Herrmann, and it played the murder scene in which Paul Newman and a German hausfrau kill the Stasi agent Gromek: Once, without music. It was a by-the-numbers Hitchcock murder scene: Competent, neat, and thorough, by the time they got the goon's head into the gas oven.

Played again with Herrmann's soundtrack dubbed over (to show just how much Hitch needed Herrmann), and the scene was utterly transformed: It hit me like a ton of bricks, and as the farmer's wife came at Gromek with the butcher knife, the tension was unbearable. The same image of her sticking the knife into his neck, and the knife breaking in two was a killing gone awry in the neutral, music-less theatrical release. In the dubbed version, as soon as the knife's point THRUST into Gromek's neck and BROKE in two, piccolos were screaming the terror of the scene, piercing my eardrums!

Raksin said in that documentary that Hitch owed EVERYTHING to Bernard Herrmann.

This disc is proof.

Even if you've never seen "Torn Curtain," this dark and desolate score is worth all five stars. It's Herrmann at his idiosyncratic and Gothic best, looking forward to his scores for "The Bride Wore Black," "Fahrenheit 451," "Sisters" and "Taxi Driver.""