The pandemic may have canceled live performances and theatrical releases for most of 2020, but for movie music lovers, that simply meant more time at home listening to their favorite music, including music. numerous releases of music never heard before outside of their original cinematic contexts.
“There’s always an insatiable thirst for classic sheet music, both unpublished and extended sheet music reissues, remastered, or both,” says Matt Verboys, label co-owner of LA La-La Land Records. “As technology continues to advance, many previous versions can now benefit from a sound upgrade that makes music worth revisiting. “
However, the commercial stakes remain unchanged, he specifies: “Who owns the rights to a given partition and can these rights be obtained? Do the musical elements even exist and if so, can they be rounded? Once obtained, is the audio good enough to play or does massive restoration work need to be done? “
Eternal favorite composers Bernard Herrmann, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith – always sure to generate strong sales – were again represented this year on several different labels.
Here are, in alphabetical order, our picks for the best classic film music releases of 2020:
Agathe (on the Domaine du Dragon label). The original score by English composer Howard Blake for the 1979 film about Agatha Christie’s disappearance in 1926 was commissioned by star Vanessa Redgrave. This first release shows that it is a richly romantic and dramatic work that deserved better.
Endless night (Quartet). The music for this 1972 mystery with Hayley Mills was one of the legendary Bernard Herrmann’s last scores before his untimely death in 1975. The original tapes are considered lost; the enterprising label Quartet commissioned Fernando Velázquez to conduct the Basque National Orchestra in a comprehensive and welcome re-recording based on Herrmann’s original manuscripts.
Far (La-La Land). This is what we’ve been waiting for: John Williams’ full score for Ron Howard’s 1992 epic American West with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, inexplicably overlooked for the prices and yet one of the most colorful works and the most exciting of the maestro.
The Gerald Fried collection (Domain of the Dragon). This first in a series features two scores from the late 1970s by the now 92-year-old composer, perhaps best known for his music for “Roots” and the original “Star Trek”. For “Cruise Into Terror” (1978), he took the old plainsong “Dies Irae” to demonic heights; for To survive! (1976), he used a classic ensemble for the tragic story of a plane crash in the Andes.
The good the bad and the ugly (Quartet). Ennio Morricone’s 1966 spaghetti western masterpiece, the third of his seven films starring Sergio Leone, has never received such lavish treatment. This three-disc set includes all of the music for the 85-minute film, the 34-minute soundtrack album, and an additional 54 minutes of additional material carefully restored from the original recording sessions.
Hoffa (La-La Land). David Newman composed a powerful dramatic score for Danny De Vito’s 1992 biopic of the controversial union leader (played by Jack Nicholson), which is on AFI’s all-time highscore list. This extended edition adds an additional 35 minutes to the previously available 42 minutes, and in this case, more is better.
How to train your dragon (Varèse Sarabande). Composer John Powell’s award-winning and Oscar-nominated score for the 2010 animated feature film is rightly his most popular (and its sequels scores are just as touching), making this two-disc expansion not only welcome. , but a must.
A John Addison Trilogy (Quartet). The Spanish label surprised us with no less than three scores from the 1970s by the underrated English composer: “The Seven Per-Cent Solution” (Sherlock Holmes-meets-Sigmund Freud’s whimsical adventure from 1976), “Swashbuckler” (the Robert Shaw pirate film, also from 1976) and an expanded edition of his superb “A Bridge Too Far” (Richard Attenborough’s WWII epic 1977).
John Williams in Vienna (Deutsche Grammophon). The dean of American film composers, now 88, has conducted a dozen of his greatest baker’s hits, from “Star Wars” to “ET” and “Jurassic Park”, with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s the best-selling orchestral album of 2020, with over 150 million streams, and there’s a Blu-Ray companion of the live concert.
King of Kings (Tadlow). Miklós Rózsa’s epic music for the Life of Jesus by Nicholas Ray in 1961, with Jeffrey Hunter, has long been recognized as one of the composer’s greatest works. Nic Raine conducted the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in this 140-minute re-recording of the entire score.
The last castle (Intrada). One of composer Jerry Goldsmith’s last projects, this 2001 military prison drama starring Robert Redford features an elegiac score that has become the source of his moving tribute to the dead of September 11, 2001. Its copper writing is stellar and music survived the movie it was written for.
Legends of the Fall (Intrada). James Horner’s music for Edward Zwick’s 1994 historical drama (starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins) has become one of his most beloved scores. This expanded edition, the entirety of Horner’s emotional score, will delight fans of the film.
Midnight Cowboy (Quartet). The songs and soundtrack of the 1969 Oscar winner for Best Picture, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, are a defining moment for musical supervision. Everything was handled brilliantly by composer John Barry, as we hear in this expanded edition including, for the first time, the recordings of scores from New York. (Full disclosure: I wrote the essay for the booklet, which contains rare photos of the sessions.)
River (Intrada). Director Mark Rydell has worked with composer John Williams on four occasions, always looking for an American sound to complement his visions of historic America, Western or rural. Three of the four were Oscar nominees for Original Score, including this 1984 film starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek as Tennessee Farmers.
SeaQuest DSV (Varèse Sarabande). Steven Spielberg’s expensive sci-fi series starring Roy Scheider may not be well remembered, but his Emmy-winning music by John Debney remains a highlight of 1990s TV scoring. This set of two CD contains music for the pilot and six more episodes from the first season.
Swarm (La-La Land). Disaster film mainstay Irwin Allen hired Jerry Goldsmith to write the music for his 1978 Killer Bee epic starring Michael Caine and Katharine Ross. The film is terrible, but Goldsmith’s score is still fun and musically inventive.
Two mules for sister Sara (La-La Land). Ennio Morricone’s original score for Clint Eastwood in 1970 teaming up with Shirley MacLaine is one of his most colorful and evocative (and that’s saying a lot), with a boy’s choir singing liturgical phrases and an orchestra mimicking braying animals. This long-awaited album is his first full release.
Journey to the bottom of the sea (La-La Land). Following the successful releases of “Lost in Space” and “Land of the Giants”, this 4 disc set from the previous series from producer Irwin Allen (with Richard Basehart and David Hedison) features more sci-fi music by Jerry Goldsmith, Paul Sawtell, Leith Stevens and other composers of the 1960s.
Wild Wild West (Varèse Sarabande). Elmer Bernstein had been writing film music for almost 50 years when he composed the hip Will Smith-Kevin Kline adventure in 1999. Although the film is a joke, Bernstein’s music is anything but – variously robust, charming. , even fun as requested.
Young Lions (Intrada). The brilliant Hugo Friedhofer, Oscar winner for ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’, won his ninth and final nomination for this powerful symphonic score of the 1958 World War II classic with Marlon Brando as a Nazi officer. This set of two discs marks its first full version.