With Bernard Herrmann as one of the best film music composers ever, and his music for one of the best films ever made, Citizen Kane, being one of the greatest, classic scores, I cannot deny that I did look forward to this re-recording by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely, very, very much.
Herrmann's score is mixed bag of different styles, which makes the listening very varied and entertaining. There's the jolly, upbeat and optimistic music in cues like "Galop", "Kane's New Office", "Hornpipe Polka", Chronicles Scherzo" and "Kane Marries". Many of them make wonderful use of muted brass - primarily trumpets - and playfull woodwinds, sometimes a little reminiscent of Tjaykovskij's Nutcracker. There's the grand music in "Valse Presentation" and the beautiful waltz in "Theme and Variations" and the lovely "Susan's Room" with its soft woodwind solos. Further there is a great deal of dark, dramatic music, such as the opening "Prelude", "Xanadu" and "Leland's Dismissal". There's also the beautiful "Salaambo's Aria", performed by soprano Janice Watson. A spot on pastische on Romantic opera.
But everything isn't great with this release. Many of the cues are under one minute in length, some under half a minute, and some even shorter! "Dissolve", for instance, is just 14 seconds, and "Thanks" just eight. I suppose the score has been recorded exactly as Herrmann wrote it, but some, careful, editing would have been nice, and necessary. Also, many of the shorter cues are basically the same theme, but with different orchestrations. And when they come one after another it can get a little annoying. Once again, some editing would probably have made the listening more enjoyable and satisfying.
But apart from that, this re-recording is superb. The peformance, of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, is top notch, and the sound is stellar, although I suppose some will dislike the "concert hall sound". The liner notes include a lengthy comment by Christopher Husted, manager Bernard Herrmann Music. They are quite informative, but some kind of analysis of the cues, or the score in general, would have been good.
Bernard Herrmann's score for Citizen Kane is a true classic. And this recording is a worthy representation of a score that belongs in every film music fan's collection.