A Tale of the Christ

Rhino Records (0081227219727)
Movie | Released: 1996 | Film release: 1959 | Format: CD

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# Track   Duration
2.Anno Domini1:32
3.Star of Bethlehem1:33
4.Adoration of the Magi2:04
5.Shofar Call0:11
6.Prelude (Main Title)2:10
7.Marcia Romana1:56
8.Spirit and Sword0:51
10.The House of Hur1:41
11.The Conflict1:42
13.The Unknown Future0:43
14.Love Theme2:11
15.Ring for Freedom2:39
16.Salute for Gratus0:33
17.Gratus' Entry to Jerusalem1:57
18.The Arrest1:18
24.The Prison0:39
25.The Desert2:14
27.The Prince of Peace Part 13:07
28.The Prince of Peace Part 21:49
29.Roman Galley0:57
30.Salute to Arrius0:20
31.Quintus Arrives0:40
32.Roman Fleet1:05
33.The Galley (Rowing of the Galley Slaves)3:14
35.Battle Preparations Parts 1 & 21:59
36.The Pirate Fleet1:06
38.Ramming Speed!0:18
39.The Battles Parts 1, 2 & 33:05
41.Roman Sails0:48
42.The Rowers0:25
43.Victory Parade Parts 1 & 22:56
# Track   Duration
1.Fertility Dance0:59
2.Arrius' Party Parts 1 & 21:30
4.Farewell to Rome1:39
5.Judea Part 12:55
6.Judea Part 20:24
7.A Barren Coast0:27
9.Balthasar's World1:56
16.Sorrow and Intermission1:24
18.Panem et Circenses March0:52
19.Circus Fanfares0:42
20.Panem et Circenses March, 1st Reprise0:56
21.Fanfare for Circus Parade0:14
22.Circus Parade (Parade of the Charioteers)2:13
23.Fanfare for Start of Race0:11
24.Panem et Circenses March0:56
25.Victory March0:17
26.Bitter Triumph0:46
27.Aftermath No. 12:06
28.Valley of Lepers1:11
29.The Search2:19
30.The Uncleans2:28
31.Road of Sorrow2:48
32.The Mount0:39
33.The Sermon0:39
35.Valley of the Dead2:35
36.Tirzah Saved2:22
37.The Procession to Calvary2:54
38.The Bearing of the Cross2:46
40.Aftermath No. 22:22
42.Shadow of the Storm1:00
43.The Miracle1:46
Supplemental Material
45.Star of Bethlehem - Alternate Choral Track1:33
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Ben-Hur - 10/10 - Review of Tom Daish, submitted at
There are probably few films that have the glorious, gaudy and over the top bravura of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Even the title implies a story of the utmost gravitas and importance although the Tale of the Christ subtitle is a bit of a misnomer as the central story is of Ben Hur is tangential to the story of Jesus (kind of like Monty Python's Life of Brian without the comedy). Despite some pretty rotten acting and an unengaging narrative, it won eleven Oscars and started a trend for gargantuan epics. Aside from the stunning production and superb chariot race (easily the high point and probably the only really memorable moment), Miklos Rozsa's score is one of the film's saving graces and one of the most striking scores ever written, providing an almost unsurpassed film music spectacle. In fairness, there are a lot of quieter passages, but it's the loud passages and epic spirit that most remember.

Ben-Hur is essentially remembered musically by the indelible Parade of the Charioteers, which is possibly the summation of everything people associate with Roman pomposity. Of course, Roman music was unlikely to have been anything of the sort and although Rozsa did research to try and make the score authentic, there is little evidence of Roman music and so the composer merely wrote what he thought appropriate. The more brassy moments do immediately conjure up Rome, or at least the film version thereof, although the quieter moments are more in tune with Rozsa's eastern European musical language.

There being so many tracks and that almost every one as something to contribute, it is difficult to single out highlights. The opening is of course most impressive; the director originally wanted Adeste Fideles for the birth of Christ, fortunately Rozsa persuaded him this was a dreadful idea and wrote an inspiring choral cue - another tactic much imitated. The choir returns at the end as various miracles happen and Christ ascends into Heaven. In between, there are processionals such as Gratus' Entry to Jerusalem, Victory Parade and the aforementioned Parade of the Charioteers. Action is as percussive and brassy as expected and at its peak for the battle between Roman galleys and pirate ships, one of the more lack luster sequences in the film and given live almost entirely by Rozsa's music. Before the glorious finale is some of the most grinding and emotive music of the score as Judah searches through the Valley of the Lepers and before returning at the time when Christ is to be crucified.

There are two versions of the score available, both from the same remastering session and the tracks on the single CD set are directly selected from the original cue list so identically named tracks on both versions are exactly the same. The single CD release that has good liner notes that relate the tracks to the plot, but the tall double CD boxed set is lavish, contains all of the score, including many very short cues of under a minute, although these are almost always edited to run directly into one or both of the surrounding tracks. Many of the tracks are indicated as an Extended Version, although the liner notes do not indicate whether this means that some parts of the cue weren't in the film or it is just longer than the original release. Given that it was recorded in 1959 and has to put up with being held in the notoriously thoughtless custody of a major studio, the sound is superb, clear stereo with little or no distortion, even when the brass and choir are all playing together. Compared to scores of the same period such as Herrmann's North by Northwest, the difference in quality is astounding.

At least one version of Ben-Hur is an essential purchase, any Rozsa fan without it probably has something wrong with them and any film music fan without it, really has something hugely important missing from their collection. Rozsa lovers are of course encouraged to search out the boxed set, the extra music, the long and extensive liner notes covering almost every aspect of the film and its score and the smart presentation box make for an impressive package. For everyone else, the mid-price single CD is a must in any collection, but I suggest that the music is so impressive that a follow up purchase of the boxed set would be in order.

As a bit of encouragement, the Amazon link above is to the boxed set. Surprisingly, the single disc version doesn't appear on their listings, although it should be easy to find in real shops, you know, the ones with walls.

Other releases of Ben-Hur (1959):

Ben-Hur (1959)
Ben-Hur (2012)
Ben-Hur (1996)
Ben-Hur (2010)
Ben-Hur (1995)
Ben-Hur (1987)
Ben-Hur (1991)
Ben-Hur (2012)
Ben-Hur (1991)
Ben-Hur (1987)
Music from Ben-Hur (1959)
More Music from Ben-Hur (1960)
Twelve Choruses: Ben-Hur / King of Kings, The (2014)
Ben-Hur Volume 2 (1961)
Lion's Roar: Classic M-G-M Film Scores 1935 - 1965, The (2000)
Bible / The Ten Commandments, The (1966)
Musical Highlights From Ben-Hur (1959)
Ben-Hur Volume 1 (1959)
King Of Kings / Ben-Hur / El Cid (1979)
King of Kings (1961)
Box-Office Blockbusters (1960)
Box-Office Blockbusters (1960)
Essential Hollywood, The (2006)
Great Movie Themes (1963)
Great Movie Themes (1963)
Miklos Rozsa Conducts His Great Themes (1975)
Ben-Hur (2017)
Ben-Hur (2014)
Ben-Hur (2017)
Miklos Rozsa Epic Film Scores (1967)

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