When I arranged to meet with Roy Budd
for our interview I had no idea he had just completed the mammoth task of scoring the 1925 silent film version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which starred Lon Chaney in the title role, he had hinted to me in a couple of phone conversations that he had been working on something grand and also that he was very pleased with the end result. “I have just finished working on the silent version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA”. It has been restored and looks magnificent; I have just recorded the score and am waiting to hear when the compact disc of the recording will be released”. Roy was certainly excited about the project and was very proud that he had been involved on the picture. “I have written 82 minutes of music for the picture and it was certainly a very different experience for me as there is no dialogue, I am used to explosions and lots of dialogue in the pictures that I normally do, so when there were none of these to deal with it was like a dream. Writing nearly 90 minutes of music was a daunting task and also was very tiring, but the film inspired me and I just seemed to be able to get on with it quite easily. The film and also the score will premiere on September of this year (1993) at the Barbican with all the proceeds from the screening going to U.N.I.C.E.F. I will conduct the orchestra and hopefully the film and the music will finish at the same time (laughs). I am very proud of this score John and I am so pleased to say that I have been asked to score another silent movie and I am looking forward to this so much”. Sadly Roy never got to score another movie or indeed to conduct his sweeping and majestic score for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. His untimely death was a shock to all who knew him and also to those who collected and loved his music, this release of his opulent and gracious sounding musical soundtrack to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is more than just a welcome sight it is a tribute to the composers artistry his immense talent and above all his ability to create melodious, emotive and inspiring music. My lasting memory of Roy was his jovial manner and the way he made people feel comfortable when talking to them, but it was apparent that his passion for music and film and in particular THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was paramount in his thoughts and his love of music just shone through. I spent a few hours with him when I interviewed him and it was like we had known each other all our lives, which I suppose I had via his music. He even asked me questions one that made me laugh was “So John how did you get involved with scoring STAR WARS, oh sorry wrong John !!!!!! So it is with much pleasure that is tinged with sadness that I review his last symphonic score, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
Performed by the RTL Symphony Orchestra which numbered some 80 plus musicians, Roy Budd
’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA score is a masterpiece of film scoring, the composer has created a work that is overflowing with rich and lush thematic material, sweeping string passages and growling brass flourishes adorn the score but it is also a soundtrack that contains a more delicate, intimate and romantic side. Roy’s score for PHANTOM is far removed from his jazz performances and also is different from his other film scores in the sense that it has a more classical sound and style to it, in fact it is reminiscent in many ways of thee film scores of Max Steiner
with romantically tragic sounding strings and sumptuous orchestration. The composer makes good use of an eerie sounding organ solo to open the score with. Track number 1, BACK STAGE AT THE OPERA is a chilling and also melancholy sounding piece that after its organ introduction segues into a suitable grandiose and sweeping central theme with strings again being the mainstay of the performance enhanced by brass and woods and further supported by subdued percussive elements and piano that together create a proud and epic sounding piece which could be the work of either Steiner or Rozsa with commanding brass supported by percussion bringing the cue to a triumphant sounding conclusion. It is in the introduction of this cue that we hear for the first time THE PHANTOM THEME, which although unnerving is also filled with sadness and evokes an atmosphere of loneliness. The theme returns throughout the score and makes its second appearance in a more expanded version in track number 2, BALLERINAS/THE PHANTOM THEME, which begins in a slightly restrained fashion but soon builds with the composer relaying not only drama and romance in his music but hints at comedy and further conveys an air of charm and warmth, lulling the listener into a falsehood of well being and serenity before introducing the dark and sinister mood for the Phantom. Budd expresses his emotions wonderfully with his romantic and opulent score, and underlines and punctuates perfectly the picture with it’s driving and dramatic passages that are complimented and aided by the composers equal amount of less chilling and adventurous material that posses a luxurious and sumptuous sound which is comparable with the film music of the Golden age and evokes not just Steiner and Rozsa but Erich Korngold, Hugo Freidhofer and at times the melodic and lush sound achieved by composer Victor Young
. Track number 3, GENITRIX, is the first time we hear the harpsichord within the score; it is a gentle and simple melody which is purveyed upon the instrument, but one that nonetheless grabs the listener’s attention and holds it for its relatively short running time of just over a minute.
The harpsichord returns to repeat its performance in track number 6, THE MASKED BALL, on this occasion it acts as the introduction to an elegant and wistful waltz. Budd also acts an arranger within his own score when he arranges and adapts Charles Gounod
’s ‘FAUST’ which plays a major role in the films storyline giving it new life and vitality and also integrating it wonderfully into the fabric of his original score. One of the highlights of the score for me personally is ON THE ROOF OF THE OPERA, which opens at first in a subdued manner but erupts with grand sounding fanfares of brass and percussion that are supported by strings and flyaway winds again shades of Korngold, this cue seems to have everything, grandeur, drama and also romanticism that is laced with melancholy that seems to cry out in despair at times underlining the Phantom’s obsessive craving for the object of his desire Christine. Surging strings, plaintive woodwinds, fierce growling brass and also low key but highly emotive strings work together to create a wealth of melody and a highly atmospheric piece. As the compact disc progress so does the urgency in the composers music, THE STRANGLERS WORK for example opens with shady sounding low strings, but soon these segue into a more melodic and calm musical persona, strings and woodwinds combine to fashion a haunting and tender sounding composition, this however alters with rising brass supported by percussion and driving strings bringing a sense of danger and foreboding to the proceedings, fierce brass stabs are embellished by pounding percussion and menacing horns, the strings then enter into the equation adding even more of a sinister mood to the composition. This dark atmosphere fades and all is well again as understated woods are given subdued but affecting support by low key strings which bring the cue to its conclusion. Track number 9 THE TORTURE CHAMBER is a tour de force of musical richness with strings and brass once again taking the lead and setting the scene and imparting upon the listener an almost impish sound in the first couple of minutes of the track, the cue soon changes direction and becomes a more subdued piece which although melodic still relays a sense of underlying unease. The final track on the disc is the powerful and highly volatile RACE OF RAGE, this is the longest cue on the compact disc and weighs in at a full twelve minutes, it contains many of the major themes and motifs from the score and sends us headlong towards a dazzling and exhilarating finale that will I know take your breath away. Budd brings all the elements of the orchestra together in a final and commanding end sequence that is filled with drama, tinged with romance and also filled with passion, danger and foreboding. This is a score that is simply a must have item, an essential purchase in fact it is something that all film music connoisseurs should have in their collection. Has it been worth the wait, YES IT HAS…
Re-mastering is courtesy of Richard Moore who has done a magnificent job, the release includes rare stills of the composer conducting the score in the sessions and also of him studying the score at the mixing desk.
With notes on the score and also a background on the film, but these are brief and considering that this is an important release I personally was hoping for more detailed essays. Just go and buy it. NOW……
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Erika
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