Jerome Moross seems to be fairly poorly presented on disc and fairly unknown outside of his classic score to The Big Country. This double CD collection from Silva Screen provides us with not a hint of that classic score and instead turns its attentions to lesser known works, most of which I've never heard of, although with golden age scores, I take it as read that I won't know the films, even if I come to know the music.
The Jayhawkers was, by all counts, a fairly shallow western of a potentially interesting situation, but things such as complexity of character have never stopped Hollywood then or today. It is almost unfortunate this score starts off the album, not because it is bad, but simply that it is very similar in style to The Big Country. I don't wish to seem too uncharitable, but Moross leans heavily on the classic score of only a year earlier. I'm sure there was some pressure to revisit the material, but even so, it's slightly disappointing in that it does little to help the listener forget the one big score and learn to appreciate the diversity of the composer. Of course it's nothing less than polished stuff with the balletic approach that Moross takes to such things, which means it sounds like pure concert music than a film score and taken on its own terms, quite wonderful.
Seven Wonders of the World is represented by two cues which are curiously separated by another entry. The first is the slightly hymnal, but exotic The Holy Land which has that definite mid 50's Cinerama sound about it, but manages to be considerably more timeless than some of the other Cinerama scores I've heard. The Mediterranean is laid back, again slightly exotic and curiously reminds me of a mixture of John Barry and Philip Glass in places. The lushness of a Barry theme combined with the arpeggios of Glass. The track in between is a suite from Close Up which sounds by the description to be something that Alfred Hitchcock might have made into something rather more famous. As is the case with many of Moross' scores, the darkness one might expect the score to have is seemingly absent. This doesn't make the music itself any less in quality, but certainly doesn't instantly suggest a Hitchcockian thriller. The opening is a little darker than usual, but the suite rounds out with more laid back jazzy riffs.
The second disc contains two longer suites, the first from The Proud Rebel which, being another western has the distinctive Moross western sound although the more oppressive Main Titles are a long way from the spacious Big Country. While much of the music is pastoral, the final fight is a agile and aggressive, but soon giving way to the more expansive finale. The Cardinal begins with the ringing of the bell of St Peter's in Rome and immediately throws us into the life of an American-Irish Catholic Priest (the liner notes inform me). While generally restrained, Moross recalls the period with the more lively Annemarie Quickstep and an elegant Viennese waltz for The Cardinal In Vienna.
As is the case recently, the performances from The City of Prague Philharmonic are commendable under the baton of Paul Bateman. Any complaints are essentially minor quibbles, otherwise the playing is excellent, the recording clear and vibrant. Unusually for a Silva compilation, the two discs aren't that long, but the original intention was for a single disc compilation, but in order to fit the entirity of the planned music, the set is now a (single disc priced) double CD set. The liner notes are typically excellent with plenty of detail about the music and films. To paraphrase the Film Four mantra, great film music you know and (in this case) great film music you don't. Highly recommended in every respect.