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THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Exquisite Rozsa score given beautiful new recording
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Tadlow Music Ltd; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
These days, it is hardly unusual to hear that films are experiencing post-production problems, that studios are ordering them to be re-cut, drastically reduced in length, etc - and there's always a temptation to think that it never happened back in the good old days. But it even happened to the great Billy Wilder, whose 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was butchered before release. It is still fondly-considered, but one can't help but wonder what might have been had Wilder been allowed to release the film he wanted to.
Composer Miklos Rozsa was certainly excited by it. This marked his fourth (of five) collaborations with Wilder, but his first for 25 years (after the seminal The Lost Weekend, one of the composer's finest). Wilder had fallen in love with Rozsa's violin concerto, and asked the composer to use adaptations of it for the basis of a lot of his score - Rozsa's concert music was always dramatic, virtually cinematic, so full of rich colour - and his violin concerto one of his finest pieces - so this approach was one destined to work very well.
The music has never been available before - much of it not even heard within the film itself, thanks to the re-cutting - until now. To celebrate Rozsa's 100th anniversary, producer James Fitzpatrick has recorded the score for Tadlow Music, with the City of Prague Philharmonic conducted by Nic Raine (who also reconstructed the entire score) and violinist Lucie Svehlova. It is a project borne of real passion for the music, and that passion shines through every pore.
The Prague musicians (fairly) got a bad reputation back in their early days of recording film music - but that was a very long time ago, and those who continue to tar them with the same brush are wrong. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes marks a new high for the orchestra in terms of its film music output - an A-grade performance. Svehlova in particular is worthy of the highest praise, bringing such vibrancy and passion to the solos.
The music itself is simply wonderful. While Rozsa's scores are admittedly all cut from a very similar cloth, he still managed to apply them very well to a wide range of films, and there is a slightly lighthearted sense of adventure here which is pitched perfectly. Several themes are introduced in the wonderful main title piece, including a stately theme for Holmes himself and an exquisite love theme. That love theme is one of the composer's most expressive and rewarding, working beautifully when played by solo violin ("Gabrielle" could bring a tear to the eye), but equally when taken up by the full orchestra. It is truly one of Rozsa's greatest creations.
Of course, there is much exciting action/adventure music here too, full of an appropriate sense of mystery, with particular attention being demanded by the sequences written for the Loch Ness Monster (!) - especially the glorious "After the Monster / The Monster Strikes", an aural assault in which the thrills come thick and fast. There's a rousing finale, "Auf Wiedersehen / The End", and plenty of bonus material, the highlight of which might be the original take of "Castles of Scotland", discarded as being "too Scottish", but it's great fun! (And wonderful that no matter what corner of the globe Rozsa used for his musical inspiration, the resulting cue sounds like nothing which could have been written by anybody other than Miklos Rozsa!) These alternate cues, plus all the music written for but not used in the film, add up to over 20 minutes of material which has never before been heard by Rozsa fans.
With a world class film score such as this, accompanied by informative, interesting liner notes (a short note from the composer's daughter Juliet, a biography of Rozsa by Steve Vertlieb and lengthy analysis and information from Fitzpatrick himself), given such a fine performance - it's already hard to imagine that too many film music releases in 2007 could be in the same league. The disc is dedicated to David Wishart, the pioneering film music album producer who tragically died earlier this year. The album is available from the usual online retailers, and also from Tadlow direct. I couldn't recommend it more highly - the label has now released three film music re-recordings of the highest quality, and one can only hope that many more are in the pipeline.