Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

This vintage RCA Red Seal pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann) Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Taxing the Limits

An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. The music by its very nature taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep bass notes; incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can hardly imagine what instrument or group of instruments could possibly be making some of these sounds.

What We’re Listening For On Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small —- they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies —- my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” —- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean, original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak!

When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different — and dare I say, unforgettable — listening experience.

Booklet

The four page illustrated booklet included with the album is wonderfully informative. The print is quite small, so there’s plenty to chew on for those who love the music of Bernard Herrmann, the man who single-handedly changed the course of soundtrack music forever.

What Are You Selling?

Record dealers that sell records based on their reputation — and that means pretty much all of them — are selling the hype. If they haven’t played the record, they can’t tell you what it sounds like, TAS List or no TAS List. The catalog number may be right, but finding the sound that lives up to the description can only be done one way: by playing the record.

Table Setup

This is an excellent record for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like. Classical music is really the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge setup (and evaluation). A huge and powerful recording such as this quickly separates the men from the boys stereo-wise. Recordings of this quality are the reason there are $10,000+ front ends in the first place. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you do, this is the record that will show you what you got for your hard-earned dough.

Ideally, you would want to work your setup magic at home with this record, then take it to a friend’s house and see if you can achieve the same results on his system. I’ve done this sort of thing for years. (Sadly, not so much anymore; nobody I know can play records like these the way we can. Playing and critically evaluating records all day, every day, year after year, you get pretty good at it. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.)

Properly set VTA is especially critical on this record, as it is on most classical recordings. The smallest change will dramatically affect the timbre, texture and harmonic information of the strings, as well as the other instruments of the orchestra.

A Tough Record to Play

All Bernard Herrmann albums rank high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play them using anything other than the highest quality equipment.

Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems .

Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

A Must Own Orchestral Showpiece

These wonderful works, undoubtedly some of the greatest Bernard Herrmann composed, should be part of any serious Orchestral Collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Death Hunt (from “On Dangerous Ground”)

Citizen Kane

Prelude: Xanadu;
Snow Pictures;
Theme & Variations (Breakfast Montage);
Aria from Salammbô (Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano);
Rosebud & Finale (from “Citizen Kane”)

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef

The Sea;
The Lagoon;
Descending;
The Undersea Forest;
The Octopus;
Homecoming (from “Beneath the 12 Mile Reef”)

Side Two

Hangover Square

Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”)

White Witch Doctor

Talking Drums;
Prelude: The Riverboat;
Petticoat Dance;
The Safari;
Tarantula;
The Lion;
Nocturne;
Abduction of the Bakuba Boy;
The Skulls;
Lonni Bound By Ropes;
Departure (from “White Witch Doctor”)

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Citizen Kane: The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann is probably the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Every track is worthwhile and memorably played, especially Beneath the 12-Mile Reef and the suite from Citizen Kane, the latter highlighted by Kiri Te Kanawa’s performance of the Strauss-like aria from Salammbo.