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THE STORY OF RUTH
Engaging, simple modern action music
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2003 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Based on the (very short) Old Testament Book of Ruth, The Story of Ruth was in gestation at Twentieth Century Fox for a very long time, and finally released in 1960 having been directed by Henry Kosher, who made The Robe. The studio had high hopes for the movie, given how popular Ben-Hur had just been, but aside from both being biblical tales, there wasn't much else in common between the films, and it quickly disappeared without trace. In common with various other old films, it is in the bizarre position of being preserved for posterity almost exclusively by its soundtrack album, which was released for the first time in 2003 in the Varese Sarabande CD Club.
The safe pair of hands providing the score was Franz Waxman, no stranger to this type of film. His score is a nice mixture of old-fashioned action music and beauty, in the classic style for biblical films, though (of course) it's more weighted towards subtle music than the scores for the more crash-bang-wallop epics. There's not really a big main theme which will necessarily stick around in your memory, the score more being a collection of fine set pieces which flow wonderfully together.
Waxman makes good use of a solo viola d'amore, producing some stunningly beautiful passages of music - the nine-minute "Return to Judah" runs through the whole range of emotions, from the explosive action music which opens it through an impassioned choral section in the middle, to the concluding viola theme which is beyond-gorgeous. There are a few other unusually-long pieces, and again these are probably the score's strongest: the twelve-minute "Boaz" again opens with a blast of some terrific action music before going into more tender, strongly-melodic, strained emotional music, at which Waxman so excelled. Along with the aforementioned viola d'amore, Waxman also wrote some beautiful parts for solo cello, perhaps the finest coming in the stunning "The Prophet Returns"; legendary cellist Gregor Piatagorsky was so impressed that he asked Waxman to base a cello concerto on his score, but sadly the composer never found the time. Finally, "Boaz and Ruth" contains perhaps the score's most moving passages, with yet more lilting string solos and a recapitulation of the glorious theme from "Return to Judah".
The score's highlights are immense, but even so, this is perhaps not quite top-drawer Waxman (which is a cherished position indeed). Liner notes by Christopher Husted go into great detail about the film's making (though not much about the music, sadly), but sound quality is a little on the disappointing side for a 1960 recording.