I'm a film music nut, and Miklos Rozsa is by far my favorite composer. He's proven quite popular on CD, with many re-releases and re-recordings of both his film scores and his purely concert works. A release like Three Choral Suites can get lost among Rozsa recordings because most of this music has been recorded many times. However, this CD has much to offer the Rozsa fan or the casual listener.
This recording features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir united with the Cincinnati Pops and Mr. Kunzel. The choir adds a welcome dimension and breathes new life into such classics as King of Kings, where the original soundtrack recording suffered from distortion. In this reworking of Rozsa's music, one gets to hear the sheer power and beauty of the King of Kings score, and one can admire the craft that went into these influential film scores.
Speaking of craft, special kudos must be given to Mr. Kunzel for actually seeming to interpret these works, rather than perfomring a perfunctory or rushed reading as I have so often heard on Silva releases. Silva has released many re-recordings of rare film music, but I always get the feeling when listeining to them that the orchestra is almost sight reading the material and there doesn't seem to be a budget for retakes as often times mistakes are heard. Kunzel on the other hand, seems to have taken his time and has brought some fresh interpretations to this material. Sometimes this may fall flat, as in the rushed Rowing of the Galley Slaves from Ben-Hur (those slaves would have been dead from exhaustion long before the piece is over), but most times the fresh perspective works.
As a Rozsa fan, I really love the Quo Vadissuite. In fact Marcus and Lygia is for me the standout piece on the CD, bringing forth music that hasn't been heard apart from the film before, and which was buried way down in the mix of the film; a trait common to MGM. The piece has absolutely beautiful phrasing, and foreshadows Rozsa's techniques for his Ivanhoe score, which he would compose two years later. The Fertility Dance and Finale from Quo Vadis are also standouts.
Even Rozsa's most recorded score, Ben-Hur, has beautiful perfomances, and one gets the feeling that the choir and orchestra are performing with real passion.
The recroding itself is very clean, but a little subdued, with a small lack of presence. I feel as though I'm sitting too far back in a huge concert hall.
Aside from the couple of quibbles above, this is one of the best releases of Rozsa film music in a long time. If you are a Roza fan or someone who wants an introduction to his music, you can't go wrong with this CD.