El Cid (Miklós Rózsa)
In the liner notes of Tadlow’s 2008 recording of El Cid, a note from film director Martin Scorsese (who considers the film one of the greatest epics ever made, and was a major force behind its 1993 restoration) reads “Rozsa himself thought that El Cid was one of his finest film scores. I would put it more generally: it’s one of THE finest film scores”. To put it more generally still: this is as good as orchestral music gets, film or otherwise.
Ben-Hur is considered by most to be Miklós Rózsa’s finest film score, certainly for the biblical genre. Ultimately however, for me at least, El Cid prevails over Ben-Hur easily, not only because I find the music more enjoyable, but because of the truly spectacular rerecording it was given in 2010, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Rózsa expert Nic Raine. This is easily one of the top ten film scores of all time.
Rózsa is acknowledged as one of the greatest composers in cinema history, and indeed, he wrote numerous masterpieces for many different genres. But it was when he scored biblical films that he excelled all expectations and brought something to the genre that no other composer can match. With such scores as Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe and of course Ben-Hur under his belt already, it’s no surprise that Rózsa got the job of scoring El Cid, although his experiences on the film with producer Samuel Bronston led to the composer refusing to work with him again. Although Rózsa would compose the scores to several more films following El Cid, it is generally regarded as his last major film score, and although it’s taken forty seven years, we can at last hear it in its full glory.
Rózsa was renowned for the extensive research that he put into his scores, particularly the historical epics. He approached El Cid with great enthusiasm, as he had never before scored a film set in Medieval Spain, and was keen to research the music of that time. Rózsa moved his family to Madrid, where he composed the score. The composer noted in his autobiography that the country was an influence on the score, saying “I couldn’t have written such music anywhere else”.
The score opens with the rousing “Overture”, which is one of the score’s best cues and probably the best march theme that Rózsa ever wrote (even over Ben-Hur’s “Parade of the Charioteers”). Introduced next, in the “Prelude” cue is the equally spectacular theme for the Cid, an epic, sweeping, string and horn heavy piece that easily ranks amongst the very best themes ever written for film.
Rózsa probably had the most distinctive voice of all the Golden Age composers, and it’s with a score like this that it shows – you could never mistake this music as being composed by somebody else. Though the score score has all the excellent qualities you’d expect when listening to one of Rózsa’s epic scores, it’s the Spanish influence heard in the score of El Cid that, to a degree, makes it stand out from the others.
The score’s primary theme, that for the title character, makes regular appearances throughout the score, each time adding exciting new ideas to the mix. The love theme is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful melodies ever heard in a film score, heard at its best in “The Barn Love Theme”, initially performed by a solo woodwind and then by several other instruments, accompanied by gentle strings and guitar. “The El Cid March” is possibly my single favourite composition by Rózsa, and that’s not something that’s easy to pick. I was going to continue by saying something along the lines of “highlights include”, but to be honest, just about everything from this magnificent work would qualify as a highlight. There are very few scores with a running time of close to three hours that don’t have a single dull moment, but this is certainly one of them.
“The Legend and Epilogue” is one of the finest conclusions to a score I’ve ever heard. Starting with a pipe organ for the first minute, the brass and the horns, and later the full orchestra come in. At 2:30 the chorus comes in joined by strings, which just sounds simply glorious. At 3:16 the chorus and the orchestra perform a rendition of the Cid theme, bringing the score to a heavenly and triumphant close.
So yes; that’s the end of the score. But this being a Tadlow release, it doesn’t stop there. The third disc contains several alternative takes from certain cues, as well as a suite from Rózsa’s 1944 Oscar nominated score for Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, as well as footage from the Prague recording sessions for this album and interviews.
Thanks must go to Tadlow and James Fitzpatrick, and of course Nic Raine and the wonderful City of Prague Philharmonic and Chorus for this extraordinary release of Miklós Rózsa’s masterpiece of a film score. If you love music from the Golden age, or music for historical epics, this is a dream come true. For me, this ranks amongst the ten finest film scores ever written, and is an essential addition to any collection.
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1 – Overture (3:41)
2 – Prelude (2:53)
3 – Ben Yussuf (5:23)
4 – Destiny / Burgos (3:11)
5 – Palace Music (1:26)
6 – Bad News (4:52)
7 – Entry of the Nobles (2:17)
8 – The Meeting (4:33)
9 – The Slap (0:48)
10 – Count Gormaz / Courage and Honour / Gormaz’ Death / Honour and Sorrow (7:44)
11 – The Court of Ferdinand (1:21)
12 – The Gauntlet (0:31)
13 – The Fight for Calahorra (3:34)
14 – The King’s Champion (1:30)
15 – Chimene’s Decision (1:58)
16 – Investiture (0:34)
17 – The Expedition (1:46)
18 – Betrayal / Ambush (3:59)
19 – The Wedding (0:44)
20 – Wedding Supper (1:36)
21 – The Wedding Night (5:39)
22 – The Road to Asturias / Thirteen Knights (2:56)
23 – Ride to Valencia (1:45)
24 – Al Kadir’s Delights (0:37)
25 – Sancho’s Demand (2:10)
26 – Dolfos’ Mission / Sancho’s End (6:02)
27 – Coronation (2:24)
Total Time: 75:53
1 – Alfonso’s Oath (0:39)
2 – Banishment / Forgiveness (6:13)
3 – Friendship (1:34)
4 – The Barn Love Theme (5:06)
5 – For Spain / Farewell (6:47)
6 – Entra’cte: The El Cid March (4:04)
7 – Rodrigo’s Men (1:10)
8 – The Twins (2:40)
9 – Rodrigo’s Doubt (1:54)
10 – Unity (1:27)
11 – Moorish Feast (1:27)
12 – The Siege of Valencia / Rodrigo’s Encampment (2:35)
13 – Desperate Love (1:53)
14 – United Again (1:21)
15 – Battle Preparations / Starvation / Revolt (7:38)
16 – Valencia for the Cid (3:21)
17 – Ordonez’ Death (0:53)
18 – For God and Spain / Battle of Valencia (8:46)
19 – The Arrow / The Promise (4:17)
20 – The Cid’s Death (4:14)
21 – The Legend and Epilogue (5:43)
Total Time: 73:39
1 – Burgos / Entry of the Nobles – Alternative Version
2 – Palace Music – Flute and Harp Version
3 – Sancho’s Demand – Take 1
4 – The Twins – Oboe Version
5 – Rodrigo’s Doubts – Take 1
6 – Battle Preparations / The Battle of Valencia – Short Version
7 – The Legend and Epilogue – With Original Intro and including “The Falcon and the Dove”
8 – Suite from Double Indemnity (Prelude / Narrative / The Meeting / The Murder / Finale)
Total Time: 32:21
The third disc also contains footage from the recording sessions and interviews with conductor Nic Raine and album producer James Fitzpatrick.
Music Composed by Miklós Rózsa
Original Orchestrations by Eugene Zador
Score Reconstructed, Orchestrated & Conducted by Nic Raine
Suite from Double Indemnity Conducted by James Fitzpatrick
Album Produced by James Fitzpatrick
Academy Award for Best Original Score (nominated)
Academy Award for Best Original Song (nominated)
Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (nominated)
As with all Tadlow recordings, the insert notes contain extensive information about the score and the recording process, including detailed information about each cue. Also included are notes from Rózsa’s daughter Juliet, Martin Scorsese, and album producer James Fitzpatrick.
All artwork and images are Copyright © Tadlow Music.