MIKLÓS RÓZSA’S FILM SCORE
BY DOUG RAYNES
It was in September 2014 that James Fitzpatrick of Tadlow Music revealed his intention to record MiklÓs RÓzsa’s score for the film SODOM AND GOMORRAH (1962), quipping that after a lull in recording he had renewed his enthusiasm for losing money (!). On the face of it, recording S&G might have seemed a surprising decision because, since its initial release the 1962 international co-production had largely been derided or forgotten; “cheesy, trashy fun” as one of the more generous reviewers said.
general disregard for the film has unfortunately led to very little attention being
paid to RÓzsa’s score; one searches
in vain for much written comment or analysis. PMS 19 provided capsule reviews
of all of RÓzsa’s scores and remarked
that the score possessed “incredibly fierce and violent music” but that the
effect within the film was of “untamed power rather than formal
perfection”. In his notes to
“It was an intriguing subject that developed into a bad picture, the kind of experience composers dread – a huge effort that sinks with the ship. But from the musicologist point of view, it was too fascinating to deny. Again, the opportunity to delve into the ancient past and possibly discover something different, something to help the composer describe the evil and perversion of the Cities of the Plain, the Helamite tribe, the love of Lot and Ildith, the sorrow of Lot as he turns away from the Pillar of Salt, and the exodus of his people from the Cities. How could I turn my back on such a challenge? As for research, I found that Idelsohn’s music of the Yemenite and Babylonian Jews provided me, as they had with my previous Biblical film scores, with themes as points of departure. These themes, along with the choruses of the Jews are all based on authentic material, going back to biblical times”.
Rózsa’s remarks demonstrate how well he endeavoured to ride above the defects of the film itself. Regardless as to the quality of the film, RÓzsa was as determined as ever to provide nothing less than his best music and to be as authentic as possible to the source material.
doesn’t seem all that long ago that John Fitzpatrick, Frank K. DeWald, Alan
Hamer and I had travelled to smeĉky Studios in central
Smeĉky had changed little since previous visits and rather than give another description of the premises and recording studio, I can do no better than refer readers to the detailed descriptions given in the articles about the QUO VADIS sessions in PMS 67. One major change to the premises was to the central outdoor courtyard of the building. From the control room and adjoining office, one looks down onto this courtyard. For many years it had been an unkempt, uncared for area but since 2012 landscape work has been carried out which has transformed the area into an attractive garden where some of the musicians would spend their leisure time during session breaks. Security had also been tightened up for access to the building. No longer could anyone walk straight into the building through the front door without requesting access.
was a pleasure to meet up again with producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic
Raine, recording engineer Jan Holzer and orchestrator Leigh
Philips who had performed wonderful work in reconstructing the 100 minute plus score
over a period of six months. I also recognised many of the City of
1963 RÓzsa recorded a concert
version of two themes from the film titled “Theme and Answer to a Dream from
During one of the sessions time was given over to playing a few Jerry Goldsmith cues (part of a forthcoming Goldsmith CD) and I was struck at how effortlessly the players went from Rózsa to Goldsmith. It made me wonder what the players thought of the music or indeed, whether it was important to them whether they liked the music or not. More likely, what is important to them is their own contribution and how they perform the music without necessarily needing to connect with the music on any emotional level.
the orchestral sessions, there were still choir sessions outstanding, which
were fixed for later in the month. Six cues have sung texts “The Desert," "Children's Games," "The
Prayer," "The Quarry," "Victory March" and
It remains to be said that the music in the studio sounded truly spectacular and this CD, to be released on the Prometheus label later in 2015, should at last give due recognition to SODOM AND GOMORRAH as being one of RÓzsa’s finest film scores and a worthy companion to his other epic scores alongside BEN-HUR, KING OF KINGS and EL CID.
Photo 1. Doug Raynes in the recording studio
Photo 2. Michal Turkowski, Nic Raine, Leigh Phillips and James Fitzpatrick in the control room.
Photo 3. A new courtyard to relax in between takes.