THE GREATEST FILM SCORES OF DIMITRI TIOMKIN

07.03.12
Richard Kaufman
Cinemascore and Soundtrack Archives

By John Mansell

What happens when you combine the music of one of the worlds most respected film music composers with the worlds leading symphony orchestra performing it. Well you get a superb collection of marvellous and magical music played to perfection.

Dimitri Tiomkin was one of Hollywood’s most revered and respected composers of film scores and he was responsible for creating lush and lavish music for some of the best known movies to come out of tinsel town, the composer had a talent for creating so many scores for movies that not only worked perfectly in conjunction with the film but also these vibrant and tuneful works had a life all of their own away from the images that they were originally intended to enhance.  Tiomkin began his career in the period that many refer to as the Golden age of film music. It was a time when cinema screens were dominated by rip roaring swashbucklers, intense and risqué romances, dastardly villains, cleaner than clean heroes and heroines and good old weepy’s, many of which contained storylines that were not exactly water tight or historically correct but none the less were good old fashion entertainment, that were uncomplicated and provided escapism for the watching audiences. Everything during this period was pretty much black and white within the area of the plots or storylines, good was good and bad was at times downright evil. It was during this period that Tiomkin along with Alfred Newman, Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa, Hugo Friedhofer, Bernard Herrmann and their like, penned sumptuous and thrilling scores that are now regarded as classics, these often majestic, emotive and stirring works were to become the blue prints for many a modern day film score, acting as inspiration for the film composers that followed. Tiomkin’s connection with music for film began back in his native Russia, the composers professional debut was in the picture houses of St. Petersburg, where he would accompany Russian and French silent films. He also provided accompaniment for the ballerina Thamar Karsavina on piano when she performed on army post tours and improvised again on the piano during performances by the comedian Max Linder.
 
The experiences and the skills that he collected whilst working within this environment were to stand him in good stead for what was to follow when he re-located to the United States and the hills of Hollywood to pursue a career as a movie music composer. Tiomkin began to score movies as early as 1929, one such example was MGM’s  DEVIL MAY CARE, which was a historical musical that included an Albertina Rasch ballet sequence filmed in Technicolor, which had music by Tiomkin.  The composer worked prolifically throughout the 1930,s and through the war years of the 1940,s, where he was responsible for writing the music to a number of documentary/news films for the United States war department such as, BATTLE OF BRITAIN and BATTLE OF RUSSIA both in 1943 and THE NEGRO SOLDIER and TUNISIAN VICTORY in 1944. After the war Tiomkin began to work on numerous Hollywood productions, such as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, DUEL IN THE SUN, RED RIVER etc, collaborating with directors such as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra,  King Vidor, Anatole Litvak  and  Richard Fleischer, to name but a handful. The 1950,s were to prove to be a fruitful time for the composer as he scored numerous films that are now looked upon as classic examples of American cinema, HIGH NOON, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, LAND OF THE PHARAOHS, THE THING, GIANT, FRIENDLY PERSUASION, GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, WILD IS THE WIND, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, RIO BRAVO, LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL, THE MEN (which introduced Marlon Brando to cinema audiences) and his highly acclaimed music for RHAPSODY OF STEEL and many more, including the now famous theme for the television series RAWHIDE, which starred a fresh faced Clint Eastwood before he became a household name via his role in the westerns of Italian director Sergio Leone. The 1960,s too were good for fans of the enigmatic Tiomkin, he worked on some of that decades biggest blockbusters and enhanced and supported movies such as, THE ALAMO, 55 DAYS AT PEKING, THE UNFORGIVEN,THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, THE SUNDOWNERS, THE WAR WAGON and CIRCUS WORLD with his unmistakable and original sounding musical fingerprint. Also at this time  Tiomkin began to produce movies and we saw his name appear on the credits of films such as MACKENNAS GOLD as co-producer.
 
 This excellent recording features a number of the titles I have already mentioned, it begins with THE OVERTURE from the 1950 production of CYRANO DE BERGERAC which starred Jose Ferrer, I must admit this is always a movie I forget as being scored by Tiomkin, but score it he did and provided the movie with a jaunty, exuberant and positively charged soundtrack which lent much to the films overall persona and impact.  This is a short lived cue but certainly makes its mark and sets the scene for the music and the action which is to follow. Track number 2, is a suite from the soundtrack that is probably Tiomkin’s most famous scoring assignment, THE ALAMO, the track which has a running time of nearly thirteen minutes, encompasses the central themes that the composer wrote for this epic western/war film. It begins with the Overture, which opens with a sorrowful faraway sounding horn that evokes an atmosphere of loneliness but also conveys a sense of pride and patriotism. The horn plaintively performs the opening bars of the films title music, the theme is enlarged upon by the addition of more brass and strings the theme then begins to build in a subdued fashion until it segues into an instrumental rendition of the now famous,  THE GREEN LEAVES OF SUMMER, which Tiomkin co-wrote with lyricist Paul Francis Webster. The Overture also includes the haunting TENNESSEE BABE (Sweet Lisa), heard here as an instrumental arrangement, the Alamo theme then returns and acts as an introduction to the slightly darker sound of the Deguello theme performed on solo trumpet which is short lived but so effective. The music once again mellows and returns on this occasion to a vocal performance of THE GREEN LEAVES OF SUMMER by the London Voices which closes the Overture in rousing fashion. Section two of the suite is the theme that the composer penned to accompany John Wayne’s character Davy Crockett and his band of followers from Tennessee. This is a jaunty at times comedic sounding piece written for brass, woods and also strings that combine to create a contagious and entertaining composition that is filled with character and bravado.  We are then treated to Tiomkin’s imposing and powerful music for THE BATTLE in section three of the suite, the orchestra perform the themes for both the Mexican army of Santa Anna and also the massively outnumbered defending Americans, effectively creating a musical battle as it were, this is a rousing piece, filled with excitement and also it exudes a sense and atmosphere of desperation and hopelessness that is felt by the defenders who are fighting against overwhelming odds . The epilogue is section four within the suite and this builds to become  a beautifully performed version of the GREEN LEAVES OF SUMMER for orchestra and choir, which brings the suite to its thundering conclusion.  
 
The collection continues with The theme, Cubana and Finale from THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, which was released in 1958 and starred Spencer Tracy who gave a compelling and convincing performance as Santiago the fisherman under the direction of John Sturges. The score garnered Tiomkin his fourth Academy Award. The music reflected perfectly the variable mood of the sea and also underlined the courage and determination of the old man, the three cues performed here are I think a perfect representation of the score and are executed by the LSO to such a high standard that it is hard to differentiate between these and the actual original score cues.

Track number four is The Overture from the 1952 release THE FOUR POSTER, this is a fairly light and energetic sounding piece, strings, brass and percussion combine to create a lush and luxurious sound that has a romantic framework with an underlying current which is somewhat chaotic and humorous. Track five, is a suite from the composers 1956 score for George Stevens GIANT, Tiomkin’s score is expansive and filled to overflowing with the sound of Americana. Lush strings, choir and proud sounding brass flourishes are the order of the day as the composers opening theme literally bursts forth quickly establishing itself and setting the scene wonderfully for this classic movie. Tiomkin also wrote a haunting love theme for the film which was heard in various guises throughout the score and accompanied the volatile, amorous and emotional love triangle that develops between Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. The reoccurring theme was also heard as a vocal with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster which was entitled “There’ll never be anyone else but you”. Tiomkin was nominated for an Academy Award but lost out to Victor Young’s music for AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, Giant was actually nominated for nine Academy Awards but only managed to win one which was given to George Stevens for best direction. Tiomkin however is rumoured to have received a record fee for his work on the movie.
 
Track number six, is from the score for the sprawling epic, THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, directed by Anthony Mann in 1964. Representing Tiomkin’s powerful and emotive soundtrack we have here the love theme THE FALL OF LOVE. Although variations of the theme were utilized within the film, Tiomkin insisted that he record a fuller or expanded version of the love theme specifically for the soundtrack album. The arrangement included on this recording is a particularly poignant and emotive variation of the theme. With woods introducing the piece then segueing into solo violin before the string section perform a full working of the haunting and rich sounding composition punctuated delicately by harp and further embellished by subdued brass. For me this is one of the highlights of this compilation as it is performed with so much emotion and passion which clearly shines through.
 
Track number seven, needs no introduction, as it is an iconic and classic song from cinema history. DO NOT FORSAKE ME, from the 1952 western HIGH NOON. The opening lines, DO NOT FORSAKE ME OH MY DARLING, ON THIS OUR WEDDING DAY, are probably instantly recognizable to the majority of people. The song which was performed by Tex Ritter on the soundtrack and also Tiomkin’s instrumental variations of the theme played an integral and important part within the movie and not only heightened the tension and created an anxious atmosphere, but also acted like a bridge between the movies scenes, augmenting and highlighting the hands of the town clock approaching noon and heralding the arrival of a band of murdering outlaws on the midday train. The composer received an Academy award for his score and also for the song which had lyrics by Ned Washington.  The version for this compilation is performed marvellously by Andrew Playfoot, who vocalises with enthusiasm and energy, evoking the atmosphere of the original but also bringing new dimensions and nuances to the song via his performance. For Track number eight, we stay out west but move to the small screen as opposed to the silver screen of the cinema, RAWHIDE was a popular television series that found favour not only in the United States but also in the UK and beyond. Tiomkin composed a stirring and robust theme for this sagebrush saga which ran for three years.  Lyricist Ned Washington provided the words for the now famous title song, Frankie Laine sung the song originally and it became a worldwide hit.  Again as soon as one hears the opening of the song you know exactly what it is, this is an iconic and evergreen composition that combines Tiomkin’s thundering theme with aggressive and powerful lyrics which together create a glorious piece of television music history. The sound and style that was achieved here has since been parodied and mimicked by composers such as John Morris in BLAZING SADDLES and was also a great source of inspiration for Maestro Francesco De Masi and other Italian composers during the late 1960,s and early 1970,s in many scores for Italian made westerns, where they attempted to give title songs at least, an American or Hollywood sound. Performed on this compilation by Andrew Playfoot, who again, steps up to the mark and, (forgive the pun) takes the bull by the horns and makes the song his own, ably supported by the London Voices and underlined and punctuated by an energetic performance from the LSO. Track number nine, is from the 1954 production, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY which starred John Wayne who also produced the movie. Based on the novel by Ernest K Gann and directed by William Wellman this was in a way the first film of its kind in a long line of aeroplane calamity movies that were to follow.
 
Tiomkin’s sweeping and exuberant sounding theme dominates the score and soars dramatically and luxuriously, enhancing the action and the emotion that is unfolding on screen. The composer received his third Academy Award for his sterling efforts on the soundtrack. The performance here by the London symphony Orchestra is magical and evokes perfectly a rich and full sound that just screams this is is Hollywood.
The remainder of the compilation is a joy to listen to, it continues with THE HITCHCOCK SUITE, which includes music from DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), Which were two of the four movies that Tiomkin scored for the famed director. There is also the alluring theme from WILD IS THE WIND (1957), performed on this recording by the excellent vocalist Whitney Claire Kaufman, THE SUNDOWNERS from 1960, the vibrant march from CIRCUS WORLD aka THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWMAN (1964),

the mysterious and captivating LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (1955) and two selections from FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956) which includes a charming and haunting version of the vocal THEE I LOVE performed by Whitney Claire Kaufman and Andrew Playfoot. This is magnificent collection of film music which at times is hard to believe all comes from one composer. The variation of style and high quality of music is stunning and also the performance by the London symphony is second to none, at times when listening I found myself doubting if this was indeed a re-recording as many of the performances were in my opinion so faithful to the originals. This compact disc is the first in what is advertised as an occasional series of live LSO performances that will concentrate on the greatest film music composers of all time. I look forward to the next release with great anticipation as I know that it will be as special and monumental as this one. Maybe a Dimitri Tiomkin volume 2, or some Korngold, Steiner, Newman etc etc the list is after all endless. The LSO and conductor Richard Kaufman must be applauded for bringing us this outstanding recording.  Presented very well, with notes on the composer and all the artists that are involved on the recording, including arrangers etc. Plus a brief history of the LSO and their connections with film scores, a track by track description and information on each film. This is an essential purchase.
 
Available in the UK as from July 30th, but you can purchase the compact disc as from 23rd July via this link.  http://bit.ly/KxKL77 which is direct from the LSO.