_Composers – Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann – The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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Reviews and Commentaries for Soundtracks and Soundtrack Music

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  • This superb release finally returns to the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • An outstanding recording with a huge three-dimensional stage, open, clear, extended up top and down low — the sound on this pressing is nothing short of amazing
  • 4 stars: “The sound glitters, some of the brightest and richest audio of its period (attested to by the album’s being part of Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo), and the performances have a dignity and intensity that makes the music — drawn from the key parts of Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen-created fantasy films The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts — seem even more serious and profound than it originally did.”

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. Who else but Herrmann could have orchestrated such phantasmagorical goings on?

The Three Worlds Of Gulliver Suite takes up all of side two. The complete score from which the suite is taken can be found on the original Herrmann album The Three Worlds of Gulliver, a long-time and extremely rare member of the TAS Super Disc List.

This vintage London Phase 4 Stereo 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. (more…)

Was It Even Possible for Harry Pearson to Create a Meaningful Super Disc List?

A customer brought up Harry Pearson in a discussion we were having about the best sounding records, to wit:

You’re as much a pioneer as Harry Pearson ever was, and your authenticity is unchallengeable…

Even I wouldn’t go that far! We make plenty of mistakes, and we learn new things about records all the time, so calling us “unchallengable” is way off the mark. However, we are always up for the challenge, and are happy to put our records up against any and all comers.

As far as Harry Pearson, I had this to say about the man:

Very kind of you to say. I think Harry could have been much better at his job if he had modern record cleaning technology, better playback, and a staff of people playing thousands of records every year to discover the best sounding pressings for him.

No one can succeed as a one man show in audio. Audio is too complicated. It takes a team of dedicated professionals with expertise in every area of audio and record collecting to do it right.

He never understood stampers and the like because he didn’t have the research staff to get the data he would have needed to find the stamper patterns.

He was stuck at the level of labels, and also not nearly skeptical enough of the idea that “the original is better,” a myth audiophiles cling to to this very day. That, and the superiority of the Heavy Vinyl remaster, which we both know is a crock of sh*t. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – Music From The Great Movie Thrillers

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This is a BEAUTIFUL London Phase 4 LP with Very Little Sign of Play. It contains music from Hitchcock classics – “Psycho” “Marnie” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and “The Trouble With Harry”.

Bernard Herrmann released many LPs on London Phase 4, and this is one of the better ones. Included are new recordings of scores to five Alfred Hitchcock films. Psycho opens the LP, and Herrmann has arranged the music into a 14 minute “Narrative For Orchestra.” A 10 minute suite from Marnie follows, then the main theme from North by Northwest. Side 2 starts with three selections from Vertigo and ends with “A Portrait of ‘Hitch,'” based on motifs from the score to The Trouble With Harry.


OLD PHASE 4 NOTES FROM A LONG TIME AGO

[Some of this we still agree with and some we do not, so take it for what it’s worth.]

Phase IV, Are You Serious?

Yes, absolutely. Allow me to make the case this way. Phase 4 has the life, dynamics, and deep articulate bass not found on most Golden Age recordings. There is no compression to speak of on the album, not on the best copies anyway.

Shaded Dogs may have sweeter strings and more Tubey Magic (which, as anyone who listens to live classical music knows, is mostly a euphonic coloration), but this recording sounds dramatically more like live music than most of them in every way other than soundstaging.

There are of course multiple mikes being used, and sometimes they call attention to themselves, but for the most part the stage is wide and deep enough, and the mikes far enough from the orchestral sections, to create the illusion of a real orchestra in a hall.

The tympani at the back (along with most of the percussion) are especially convincing in this regard. On the copies with the most correct top ends, the triangles and bells are shockingly lifelike, sounding, to my “mind’s ear” exactly the way they do in the concert hall.

Satie / Parade – The Eccentric Erik Satie

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This contains various works by Satie as performed by Camarata, Bernard Herrmann, London Philharmonic and The London Festival Players.

Obviously these were Phase 4 recordings which have been compiled on this album from 1973. The sound is quite good: very transparent and lively. It does not have the tubey magic that the best of the Golden Age recordings so often have in abundance, but the tonal balance is correct and the overall sound is quite good.

This album contains many of Satie’s most famous works on one LP. I can’t imagine that you will find this music easy to come by on other pressings.

Satie, Ravel, Debussy / The Impressionists / Herrmann – Phase 4, its Strengths and Shortcomings

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Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

More Recordings on the London Phase IV Label

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Presenting an exceptionally rare and very good sounding Decca Phase IV pressing (with the textured cover, ooh!), the first to ever hit the site. We have been on the lookout for this album for years and somehow cannot find any clean copies, other than this one of course.

Not to worry; this one will do nicely. Three of the six works here have SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound. We went through them one by one and were rather surprised that the sound quality varied so much from track to track.

One might conclude from the variation in the sound that the album must be a compilation — so many of Herrmann’s albums are — but that is not the case, assuming the liner notes are to be believed.

Here’s what we heard, taken directly from our notes.

Side One

Satie / Gympnopedies I & II

A++ or better. Rich, smooth, sweet, big, natural, clear and very ANALOG. I don’t know when I’ve heard these famous works sounding better than they do here.

Debussy / Clair de Lune

A+, rich but a bit smeary, strings need more texture.

Debussy / Valse ‘la Plus Que Lente

No grade – Too murky.

Ravel / Five O’Clock Fox-Trot

A++ to A+++, with Demo Disc sound! So lively and clear, the sound will jump out of your speakers when you play this track! (more…)

The Insufficiently Dedicated Will Struggle Mightily with The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality.

Herrmann’s music taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); 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 everywhere — 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’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!

Your Hard Work Pays Off

A recording of this size and scope will bring virtually any stereo system to its knees. This is the real Power Of The Orchestra! You had better have a top quality front end if you want to play this record properly, not to mention plenty of power and big speakers.

This is not the record for the Weekend Budget Audiophile. If you haven’t put in the years of effort and invested the tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and room treatments it takes to play records of this difficulty, your system is probably not up to the challenge this album represents.

If on the other hand, you have done the work and spent the money, this is the album that will show you what you have achieved. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – Conducts Psycho and Other Film Scores

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Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

More Recordings on the London Phase IV Label

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  • An incredible sounding copy of this London Phase 4 title with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Especially noteworthy is the ’Psycho Narrative For Orchestra’, at 14 minutes the longest piece here – written purely for string orchestra, the string tone is Right On The Money, with biting violins and cellos that growl like the real thing
  • This London recording is yet another brilliant showcase for one of the great orchestral colorists, Bernard Herrmann
  • The London Phase IV recording approach allows powerful orchestral works such as these to explode right out of your speakers and into your listening room
  • Features works from Citizen Kane, Snows of Kilimanjaro, North by Northwest, Mysterious Island, Vertigo, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, The Three World of Gulliver, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Devil and Daniel Webster, and Psycho

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Bernard Herrmann on Vinyl – These Are Some that Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings of the music of Bernard Herrmann that we’ve auditioned and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place on our site, in your collection, and might even belong in a Hall of Shame.

A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

Bernard Herrmann – The Fantasy Film World of…

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  • This early British London pressing has excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • On the better copies such as this one you can hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
  • The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of size and spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
  • A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall

The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings just can’t approach. The brass here is excellent, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.

Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice.) (more…)

Bernard Herrmann / Citizen Kane & Other Classic Film Scores – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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More Citizen Kane & Other Classic Film Scores

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — 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.

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. (more…)