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Captain From Castile: The Classic Film Scores of Alfred Newman
  • Composed by Alfred Newman
  • RCA / 2010 / 44:39

Alfred Newman is one of the most important figures in film music history – not just in terms of his composing, but also his many years as head of film music at Fox, conducting so many scores by other composers, giving countless great composers their big breaks, etc.  He was instrumental in furthering the careers of such giants as Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Alex North and Jerry Goldsmith, to name just four.  He is probably the only conductor in the history of film music with his own unique, instantly-identifiable sound (the famous “Newman strings”).  But most of all, he was a composing titan – I feel he is never really given his due in that regard.  Many of the Golden Age’s great scores are his.  Many of them appear on this album, re-released in 2010 as part of the first of two batches of new issues of the indelible Classic Film Scores series conducted by Charles Gerhardt.  Unlike a couple of the other albums in the series, this one does focus on what many would consider to be Newman’s most famous themes and scores – very few of which would have been available for purchase when Gerhardt made this recording with producer George Korngold (son of Erich) and engineer K.E. Wilkinson in 1973.

Charles Gerhardt

The album begins – how could it possibly not? – with the most famous studio logo music, the 20th Century Fox Fanfare, which Newman wrote in (wait for it…) 1933.  I wonder what he would have thought then if someone had told him it would still be in use almost eighty years later.  This leads into Street Scene, which may not be a very well-known film, but it’s a piece that Newman utilised in countless later films he worked on (I dread to think what the James Horner self-repetition critics would have made of film music back in its formative years).  The energetic piece is a brilliant ode to life in New York in 1931, when it was written.

One of the composer’s greatest works follows in a six-minute suite combining the ravishing love theme with the indelible “Conquest” from Captain From Castile.  It truly is one of the greatest pieces of film music – energetic, adventurous, still sounding so fresh even now.  Two other true epics of film music are also blessed with suites – The Song of Bernadette (possibly my own favourite Newman – a stunning religious masterpiece) and The Robe (insert same comment again), both of which see the mighty National Philharmonic Orchestra joined by the Ambrosian Singers.

Few did ravishing romance quite like Newman and that side is also generously represented, with the themes from Wuthering Heights, Anastasia and The Best of Everything.  Impossible to pick a favourite – they’re all so great.  The bustling themes from The Bravados and Airport (insanely catchy – and the composer’s final score) are fantastic also.  I have run out of adjectives so will conclude by saying that this is one of the top five most-cherished albums in my 3,000-album collection of film music.  Newman was the godfather of film music, probably the most towering figure in its history so far and certainly one of its finest composers – an album like this can only scratch the surface, but it’s a magnificent summary of his glorious career.  *****

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  1. Erik Woods (Reply) on Thursday 14 April, 2011 at 14:36

    Another excellent album in the Classic Film Scores. Thank you for championing Gerhardt’s work.

  2. Daniel Azevedo (Reply) on Saturday 16 April, 2011 at 05:06

    This whole series should be part of any serious film music fan. They’re all must-have albums filled with great music played with passion. I was just on facebook talking to Jon Broxton about the “Hanna” score (which, apparently, he couldn’t stand) and it is utterly depressing to compare these modern scores with the stuff that the giants of film music come up with decades ago. Long live the Newman legacy!

  3. Kevin (Reply) on Wednesday 25 May, 2011 at 22:24

    I’m glad you mentioned the bit about him recycling some of his music. I don’t understand why people castigate Horner so much about the same thing. He’s not the first and probably won’t be the last.