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Artwork copyright (c) 2001 Masters Film Music; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Wonderfully colourful adventure music

Bernard Herrmann is always thought of primarily as the composer of scores for deeply psychological movies, with one of his primary goals being to unsettle the audience.  Countless scores by him do try to do this, from (of course) his Hitchcock collaborations through to late efforts like Sisters and Obsession.  Elmer Bernstein said that Herrmann - his friend - always wanted to stress death and destruction as much as he could.  "Witty" and "light-hearted" are not adjectives that could be used with any frequency to describe his music.  But here we are - a Herrmann score that is witty and light-hearted.

In retrospect, given the other scores he was writing at the time, Herrmann was quite an odd choice to score Ray Harryhausen's classic adventure tales.  But his score for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was so successful that it was inevitable that he would be asked back to collaborate with Harryhausen for a second time (and Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts were still to come).  The 3 Worlds of Gulliver played into Herrmann's hands by offering him the chance to write in the style of music of the 18th century, a period he loved but rarely got to use in film scores.  Much of the first half of this album is taken up with dance forms of the period, though of course since it's a film score, these take on a more dramatic form than they traditionally might.  Particularly striking is the "Overture", a bouncy, jaunty, seafaring march whose theme dominates much of the earlier stages of the album.  The love theme, heard in "The Lovers", "Duo", "Nocturne" and elsewhere in different variations, is striking and beautiful.  The most attractive and delightful track is possibly "The Lilliputians", delightfully "small" music with a big heart.  (David Newman appropriated the piece for his score for Anastasia many years later.)

The score takes on a very different - and rather less appealing - feel in its second half, with things becoming considerably more dour, occasionally dirge-like, and I suppose more stereotypically "Herrmannesque".  Things are dark, brooding and menacing, though Herrmann doesn't do it in his usual, overbearing "crank it up to 11" way, he does it in a surprisingly restrained, almost funereal way.  It's really not very attractive and, especially compared with the bright and chirpy first half, liable to send you into bouts of depression more than anything else.  That said, Herrmann's attention to detail and the intricate construction of cues like "The Crocodile" just has to be admired.

This is a wonderful album to listen to, particularly the delightful first half, and receives a sensitive performance by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of Joel McNeely, who's conducted so much Herrmann now that he has become as assured and confident as you might expect.  Christopher Husted's liner notes concentrate more on what Herrmann was up to on a personal level at the time of the score than on the music itself, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It has Varese's typical concert-hall aesthetic, which works very well for the more strident passages but the softer material possibly gets a little lost.  Overall - a winner.

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  1. Overture (1:56)
  2. Minuetto (1:39)
  3. The Lovers (:48)
  4. Trio Refrain (:26)
  5. The Old House (:55)
  6. The Ship (:48)
  7. The Storm (:45)
  8. The Lilliputians (1:58)
  9. The Duel (1:17)
  10. The King's March (1:32)
  11. The Clouds (:37)
  12. The Trees (1:36)
  13. A Hatful of Fish (1:10)
  14. The Oath (:57)
  15. The Castle (:47)
  16. The Tightrope (2:40)
  17. The Prison (1:02)
  18. The Fight (:44)
  19. War March (1:05)
  20. Naval Battle (1:29)
  21. The Fire (1:38)
  22. Escape (:44)
  23. The Beach (1:15)
  24. The Shadow (1:53)
  25. Reunion (1:27)
  26. Duo (2:21)
  27. The Wedding (:19)
  28. Nocturne (1:18)
  29. The Woodland (1:13)
  30. The Squirrel (1:48)
  31. The Chess Game (1:59)
  32. Alchemy (1:29)
  33. The Girls (:43)
  34. The Crocodile (1:53)
  35. Pursuit (4:49)
  36. Happiness (:41)
  37. Finale (:51)