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Classic Oscar-winning score given the release it deserves for the first time

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Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Tadlow Music Limited; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.

Otto Preminger's 1960 film version of Leon Uris's Exodus - about the founding of the state of Israel after the second world war - wasn't quite the critical hit its makers probably hoped for, but was certainly a commercial one and received a few awards too - including an Oscar for its music, by Ernest Gold.  Gold had a very long career as a film composer, but was relatively unprolific - just over sixty scores written from his first in 1945 to his last in 1988.  While many of his most famous scores came from the films of Stanley Kramer - Exodus is probably his defining moment as a film composer, and inspired a top-selling soundtrack album, though all releases of it have been dogged by very poor sound.

Perhaps one way to describe the score would be to say that it's "earnest gold".  (If they don't give me a Pullitzer Prize for that one, I may as well give up.)  Mostly very serious, with that unmistakable "golden age" film music sensibility that just about lived on in 1960, it's a very strong score now given the kind of release it deserves for the first time.  Of course, its famous main theme has always been well-known, but people will now be able to uncover just how far this score extends beyond that theme (which is actually used surprisingly sparingly).

For starters, there's the lighter material, which is always welcome respite in a largely heavyweight score.  With the delightful "Summer in Cyprus", Gold brilliantly combines both aspects, warm strings giving way to far darker material.  The two main female characters - Karen and Kitty - are given nice treatment, with a lovely piece for solo accordion for the former ("The Tent") and a swelling romantic theme for the latter ("Kitty").  

Most of the score is somewhat darker, and there are some spectacular moments contained therein; the piece which closes the first disc, "D-Day / The Bombs" is one of the most impressive.  Surprisingly subtle as it builds up, the piece explodes into an orchestral tour-de-force with spectacular action music for brass and strings, a first-rate piece of film music.  The second disc opens with a handful of quieter pieces before the stirring finale, "The Fight for Peace", and the Israeli national anthem is used as the film's exit music.

Exodus is an excellent score, never given a decent album release before; this terrific recording rectifies that in a big way.  The two concert pieces included at the end of disc two are a real boon (particularly the "Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra"); and while this album as a whole ought to disprove any notion that this score is all about its famous main theme, these two pieces serve as a reminder of just how good that theme is.  Because there was just too much music for a single CD, producer James Fitzpatrick has generously added some other music on the second disc, from other vaguely-connected films - some famous, some not-so-famous - I was particularly pleased to hear Sol Kaplan's Judith for the first time.  Highly-recommended!

Disc One

  1. Prelude (2:43)
  2. Summer in Cyprus (1:55)
  3. Escape / The General (2:06)
  4. Ari (3:50)
  5. On the Beach (2:06)
  6. The Tent - Karen / Lorries / The Convoy (4:12)
  7. The Star of David (:41)
  8. Odenheim's Death / Karen's Story (4:03)
  9. Approaching Haifa / The Oath (3:03)
  10. Kitty (2:01)
  11. Akiva's Hideout (1:40)
  12. Love is Where you Find It / The Valley of Jezreel (6:07)
  13. Yad El / He Is Dead (2:26)
  14. Goodbye / Intermission Music - Fight for Survival (2:45)
  15. Karen's Father (In Jerusalem) (3:48)
  16. Akiva's Arrest (3:20)
  17. Execution Chamber / Don't Let My Brother Die (1:36)
  18. Acre Prison / The Chess Game (Conspiracy) (5:30)
  19. D-Day / The Bombs (Prison Break) (7:44)

Disc Two

  1. The Arsenal (1:24)
  2. The Operation (1:46)
  3. Children on the Hill (2:00)
  4. Dawn / Finale - The Fight for Peace (6:48)
  5. Exit Music / Hatikvah (3:30)
  6. Exodus - This Land Is Mine (2:25)

    Bonus tracks
  7. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (2:06)
  8. Ship of Fools (5:11)
  9. Judith (Kaplan) (4:09)

    QB VII (Goldsmith)
  10. Main Title (2:01)
  11. The Holocaust (2:51)
  12. Visit to the Sheikh (2:13)
  13. The Wailing Wall (3:16)
  14. Kaddish for the Six Million (3:17)

    Schindler's List (Williams)
  15. Schindler's List (4:18)
  16. Remembrances (5:42)

    Cast a Giant Shadow (Bernstein)
  17. Land of Hope (3:15)
  18. Prelude (3:05)

  19. Exodus - Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra (6:54)
  20. Exodus - Concert Overture (4:24)