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This is a comments thread about FSM CD: Julius Caesar
 Posted:   Sep 6, 2012 - 7:14 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

If anyone's interested, the third of the 'Julius Caesar' albums, 'Dramatic Hightlights' with Gielgud, Brando and Mason etc., narrated by John Houseman and once available on MGM, then Mfp, is now available as a CD or download from the 'Saland' label.

It may not excite some filmscore collectors, the music is dialled down low, but it's one of the great Shakespearean albums of all time, and shouldn't be out of print. If you've the DVD, you probably won't see the need of it, but it's a fine classic album.

Available from Amazon.

And, it has more dialogue than what is in the film: Cassius' death speech for one, which, in the current edit of the film, is curtailed.

Likewise, the "Dialogue Highlights" for QUO VADIS has a speech by Peter that is no longer in the film, though I suspect it was in the roadshow version...

 Posted:   Sep 6, 2012 - 7:20 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Also, in an amazing detail, Bernard Herrmann was the one producer John Houseman and director Joseph C. Mankiewicz wanted originally to do the score, but MGM nixed that, and insisted on Rozsa.

Herrmann, contrary to his curmudgeon reputation, was not only appreciative of Rozsa's work on JULIUS CAESAR, he included the first known recorded suite from the score in his London album, "Suites from Shakespearean Films."

(Although, much as I love the Rozsa score, and ever have, ever since I heard only snippets from it on the "Dialogue Highlights" album, have always been curious about what Herrmann's interpretation would have sounded like...)

 Posted:   Sep 6, 2012 - 7:42 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Having seen the film many years ago, and not particularly struck by Rozsa's score, 'Julius Caesar' was not a priority for me. However, having listened to the track samples on the CD on this site and being impressed by them, I decided to purchase the CD. . . . I have found the film on line and intend to watch it again with Rozsa's music fresh in my mind.

When you do see it again, you will understand why you were unimpressed the first time. Large chunks of the score were discarded. The greatest loss was the moody, brooding underscoring of Brutus's nocturnal soliloquy, wherein he rationalizes the idea of assassination. It's interesting to note that Rozsa was not unduly distressed by this decision to cut his music. He later said that "when Shakespeare speaks, Rozsa should be silent." John Houseman seems to be one of the very few Hollywood producers that Rozsa respected. He also bowed to Houseman's critique of a scene in LUST FOR LIFE (Gaughin's arrival in Arles), rewriting the music to concentrate on the drama rather than the scenic atmosphere.

 Posted:   Sep 6, 2012 - 8:33 AM   
 By:   goldsmith-rulez   (Member)

In Steven Smith's Herrmann biography there's a long passage how Houseman and Mankiewicz wanted Herrmann, and not Rózsa ("We don't want a neo-Kodály sound on this picture"), how they even went to MGM music director Johnny Green to persuade him, and how he tried to loan out Rózsa so the budget would accommodate a non-staff composer - but failed. "Don't tell me Rózsa isn't going to deliver a good score. Will it be different from Herrmann? Sure. Will it be less effective? I doubt it. It'll be effective in a Rózsa way. You want the Herrmann way, but MGM can't afford it", Green told them.

In the event, Rózsa somewhat modified his style to please the producer and director, and the result was a very fine score that even Houseman would admit was effective.

 Posted:   Mar 15, 2014 - 8:47 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Ides of March BUMP.

 Posted:   Mar 15, 2014 - 3:16 PM   
 By:   Lukas Kendall   (Member)

One of my favorites of Rozsa's glorious work!


 Posted:   Mar 15, 2014 - 6:40 PM   
 By:   pp312   (Member)

To me the trouble with being a Rozsa fan is that it's hard to settle on just two or three favourites. The man's output was of such consistent quality he seems only to have been limited by the opportunities each film provided. You never seem to tune in on a Rozsa score to find him note spinning or waffling, even under dialogue in the most uninspired films (check out the dialogue scoring in Sodom & Gomorrah for an example). As we know he had this ethic that, since film music was the only 'symphonic' music most people were likely to hear, any music of his should be of the highest quality, and within the imposed time limits it's hard to imagine even a Wagner could have done much better. And yet, like any truly great artist, he never considered excellent quite good enough, even to the point of once admitting to being ashamed of more than half his scores.

This week I checked out two Rozsa concert works on Youtube: the piano and viola concertos. I've never felt Rozsa's concert work to have quite the impact and variety (stylistically and thematically) of his film scores (maybe the formalism of an abstract work restricted his imagination a little), but I couldn't help but be struck by the brilliance of even the viola concerto, which I hadn't warmed to previously. No, there isn't the profusion of themes we associate with Rozsa, and the work is certainly more 'ethnic' than any film score. Nevertheless the brilliance of the composer shines through so clearly one can only wonder why Rozsa is a name still largely unknown to regular concert goers. And as for the Piano Concerto, as I noted on the Youtube site, what a powerhouse work! Wow! Were there many more impressive, more exciting piano concertos written in the 20th Century? If so I'd be interested to hear them.

Anyway, not sure what I'm rambling about--nothing to do with Julius Caesar here. I only own the Broughton version anyway.

 Posted:   Mar 15, 2014 - 7:23 PM   
 By:   Krakatoa   (Member)

One of my favorites of Rozsa's glorious work!


It works so brilliantly on different levels.

An amazing boost to the drama in the film and an endless source of orchestral meditation.

Also astounding that it is at least as good as what genius Bernard Herrmann might have created.

 Posted:   Mar 15, 2014 - 7:25 PM   
 By:   Krakatoa   (Member)

 Posted:   Mar 15, 2017 - 7:27 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Beware the Ides of March (look it up, Millennials).

While you're doing all that bewaring, do it while listening to this magnificent score.

 Posted:   Mar 15, 2017 - 7:42 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Caesar: The Ides of March are come.

Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar. But not gone.

 Posted:   Aug 7, 2020 - 2:16 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

Anyone who said to him/herself, 'Well, I have that wonderful Intrada reperformance with Bruce Broughton and the London Sinfonia, and that suits me fine' really does need to think again on this one.

Musically, Rozsa created here one of his best-integrated scores. Frequently, in an 'epic' or historical assignment, he would elaborate with so many wondrous, perfectly crafted, precisely evocative, pull-apart-and-restructure themes and leitmotives, that the listener felt he was listening to a montage of about twelve films' worth of inventiveness. (No complaints here ...)

But with 'Julius Caesar' he truly classically used only a handful of motifs, and very inter-related at that. The music is subdued, never overwhelming in the OST, yet when all the material is brandished like a fanned-out flush of cards as here on FSM, one can see the full splendour of what is virtually a 'Ben-Hur' or an 'El Cid' .... but just with fewer themes, and what themes are there, apart perhaps from Brutus', don't aspire to the lyrical primarily .... brooding, uncertain, disturbed.

Rozsa liked to say the score differed from the normal historical brief in that 'research' and sources would be inappropriate for a Shakespearean play that is modern and timeless, all to do with attitudes to fate, or politics. But the musicologist shines through. The chords and modes do evoke the ancient, as much as 'Quo Vadis?' and a great John Dowland song turns up poignantly.

FSM, thorough as always, throws in umpteen alternative takes, specs, etc. including Rozsa himself playing a curiously Scottish unused opening cue 'Roman Holiday' on piano. One of the score's best moments 'Black Sentence' where the opportunist Antony (Brando) stretches himself before the bust of Caesar, is provided in no less than FOUR alternative versions in the supplement. Overkill? Not if you relish the rich carpet of thrusting brass/string underlay in that perfect wordless scene ... wordless in a Shakespeare movie at that!

When Intrada and Daniel Robbins selected 'Julius Caesar' and 'Ivanhoe' (and indeed 'Spellbound' later) for the full reconstruction treatment, they chose their prey with the utmost taste ... not a note of any of these particular scores is outside the matrix of leitmotif variation: they sit as well-crafted internally consistent compositional structures. And FSM have allowed extra insight into the development of 'Julius Caesar' here by expansion.

There's no attempt to 'compete', indeed Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall in their very fine notes (covering all aspects of film and score) even draw attention to the Robbins album (Intrada) as a modern take on the score. The remasterings are flawless, only partly stereo, since that's what survived, but this is a release that doesn't deserve to sit on the shelves.

Thus spake Professor Bill McCrumbly in 2009. And, you know, although I mocked his name right now, he did have a lot of good things to say, and I have resurrected his comments on JULIUS CAESAR because they have a lot in common with my own reaction to it.

But first - The Prologue....

Do you lovely people out there recall when, on the 7th of June of this year, I asked you to choose some FSM titles for me? Do you remember that they were going for cheap in the vegetable market and that if I bought enough greens I'd get the CDs delivered to my door by the fishmonger's mother-in-law, free and with a happy ending? And perhaps you will recall how I duly received the following?


You may also remember (at least I hope you do, for my sake) that you will have at least a vague memory of some interesting rabbits which I produced from my sleeve and ejaculated onto the keyboard regarding the first four of those releases? In that case you will realise that JULIUS CAESAR's rabbit is long overdue. Now the wait is over. Here it is -

Right, so there I goes listening to my latest batch that the butcher's lovely daughter had secreted in her tiny black panties, and I had a curious stumbling block at JULIUS CAESAR, which prevented me from commenting on the last two on the list, because I must produce these mini-rabbits in a logical order. The more intelligent amongst you will have worked out what that order is. So, as I was saying, there I goes hitting this stumbling block with Caesar. I wouldn't say that it was of the magnitude of OnyaBirri's stumbling block regarding Alex North's CLEOPATRA and SPARTACUS (he just gave up apparently - Onya won't have the attention span to read all this - unlike you dear people - so I can freely insult him here. Onya just threw in the towel) because I already had a great affinity with Rózsa's music, and I love most of it. So why this block with Julius?

I put it down to my over-familiarity with the Broughton re-recording. I've always considered that one, and his IVANHOE, to be the best re-recordings of Rózsa scores out there, with all due respect to other noble efforts. I've adored that re-recording for years. And then this FSM release falls out of the butcher's underpants all of a sudden and puts a spanner in the works.

Gosh, the FSM release sounded so harsh and brittle! It was so...straightforward, so direct, so relentless. Now, one of the things that I loved about the Broughton version as reconstructed by Daniel Robbins is that he allowed room for a lot of poetic little touches, perhaps just a dramatic delay, a pregnant pause during a piece which Rózsa had done with no frills. And that spine-chilling cymbal clash at the end of the Overture... It took me ages to get the Broughton out of my head and listen to the original soundtrack "uncontaminated".

Then last night it just clicked. I was spellbound (tee hee) by the Rózsa original. My ears got attuned to what I initially deemed "harsh" and "brittle". The lack of poetic pregnant pauses which Broughton had incorporated became a redeeming feature. Rózsa's clarity of vision made the relentlessness and directness of it a virtue. And yes, it's dark and turbulent and tragic as only Rózsa could be. It's a great score but perhaps one which requires a little bit more work on the listener's part to assimilate. But I finally "got" it.

Then I went back to the Broughton. After having played the original ten or twelve times I was amazed at how..."soft" (?) the Broughton sounded. And then of course when switching from headphones to the hi-fi system and vice-versa things sound very different anyway. I could spend another few years just playing those two recordings alone (I'd have to abandon trying to get to the end of my Twilight Zone DVDs though, purchased ten years ago). I think the bottom line is that those two recordings should co-exist. And we're back to Mr Crumble.

And I've only played the extras once! I'll spawn another baby rabbit about the extras and tack it onto this thread in due course. Only the Lord knows when that will be because I must forge ahead and relisten to...what's next? Ah, DIAMOND HEAD/ GONE WITH THE WAVE.

You have been warned.

 Posted:   Aug 7, 2020 - 2:49 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Thanks for the run-down, Graham. I gave the FSM a couple of whirls years ago, and alas, I did not have the turnaround as you did. For me, there is only one JULIUS I ever need in my collection, and that is the Broughton rerecording.

 Posted:   Aug 7, 2020 - 3:07 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

Thanks for the run-down, Graham. I gave the FSM a couple of whirls years ago, and alas, I did not have the turnaround as you did. For me, there is only one JULIUS I ever need in my collection, and that is the Broughton rerecording.

It's funny Thor, because I never expected that to happen. Last week I would have said that the Broughton is the only one for me, but after blasting the original non-stop into my ears for a few days the Broughton actually sounded weird! I dare say that if I go back and listen only to the Broughton, I'll get used once more to its many virtues. But I'd rather not choose one over the other. I'd like to think I could switch between them without feeling that surprising jarring thing that occurred yesterday.

 Posted:   Aug 7, 2020 - 4:51 PM   
 By:   paul rossen   (Member)

While the Boughton recording is fine...when I'm in the mood for this score I turn to the FSM release of the original tracks since imo it's just better and more dynamic.

 Posted:   Aug 8, 2020 - 5:00 AM   
 By:   Les Jepson   (Member)

A tiny piece of the score I've always been taken with is the last bit of the otherwise unused overture. It erupts when Antony turns his back on the agitated mob after his famous eulogy, walks towards and past the camera, and gives a little smirk. It makes the scene look as if it's Rozsa music spotted by Alex North. The original seems to do it best -- I'm probably brainwashed with it from multiple viewings of the film down the years.

 Posted:   Aug 8, 2020 - 7:19 AM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

The original has an extra dramatic texture to it that the re-recording glosses over. I rate the Broughton as one of my Top 10 re-recorded scores but the players sound a lot more relaxed than those in the original. I like the extra "edge" of the performances in the original.

 Posted:   Aug 8, 2020 - 8:05 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

Les - Nice to hear you relating a piece of music to a specific moment in the film itself. Aside from the jettisoning of the Overture, I think there are instances in the film itself where Rózsa's score was slightly mistreated, whether by being dubbed in too low, or having parts retracked. Whatever, I haven't seen the film in possibly twenty years, and I get by firstly by the quality of the music itself but also by my vague memories of studying the play at school, and even (curiously) seeing the steps where (supposedly) Caesar was murdered when I was in Rome last December. That level of context is sufficient for me. Little images play out in my head as I "direct" my own mini-film or collage to the music.

Basil - I tend to agree with you in general on this one. The Broughton is superb, but the original is the real deal, parhaps additionally so because as with all original recordings you hear a piece of history in the making. I like being a witness to that, although for others it will be of no importance. Whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, after having listened to the original ten times because I was having difficulty "feeling" its supposed brilliance, it suddenly clicked. This was part of one of my previous posts here, but I'll mention it again for the sake of context and continuity - I then went back to the Broughton and it sounded amazingly "soft" in comparison. But after that I blasted the Broughton once more through headphones and it was as splendid as ever. Then I went back to the original and it was great too. And I think that's the way things should be. Two different recordings each with their own strengths. Two different entities.

One more point, and it's pretty sweeping. Broughton's more "relaxed" take seems to romanticise some of the few lyrical moments. Rózsa's original is pretty no-nonsense throughout. Also, headphones can be very unforgiving when it comes to anything approaching archival sound (although I end up tuning any defects out mentally) so I find that the original plays better on my hi-fi system whereas the Broughton benefits from close scrutiny through the headset.

Ah - one MORE point (surely I'm nearing the end here)... After rabbiting all that I have rabbited about this score in the past few days, I've come to realise that it's perhaps not one that I'll be reaching out to play every week. Given the nature of the story and the film treatment of it, it's a million miles away from the colourfully lush scores provided for those epics we all know and love. No, this is pretty stark and grim. No romantic subplot! Where's the Love Theme? Well, there ain't one, ya numbskull. Go read some Shakespeare you uneducated twerp. Or see the film. What? It's in black and white!

I think I've overdosed on JULIUS CAESAR for the moment, although I warn you that I will be back to comment on the bonus tracks, which I've only heard three times so far. But for now I need an antidote. And I think I know what it's going to be...

I find the pairing of Johnny Williams' NOT WITH MY WIFE YOU DON'T! with George Duning's ANY WEDNESDAY to be one of the most joyously fortunate combinations in CD history, and that's where I'm going now!

 Posted:   Aug 8, 2020 - 9:27 AM   
 By:   Charlie Chan   (Member)

Hello Folks

I like both recordings. However, the original recording has a very great power.
Not quite sure what the 'power' is but Herrmann's on Dangerous Ground seems to have the same quality. Both are mono. Both totally superb! Charles Gerhardt's brief stereo selections come very close to recreating it.


 Posted:   Aug 8, 2020 - 10:27 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

A tiny piece of the score I've always been taken with is the last bit of the otherwise unused overture. It erupts when Antony turns his back on the agitated mob after his famous eulogy, walks towards and past the camera, and gives a little smirk.

In effect, then, you are giving credit to the unknown somebody (perhaps a music editor) who chose to insert that piece in the scene. Nathan Platte's fine Selznick book has made us realize how many scoring decisions in Spellbound were actually made by the de facto music director, Audray Granville.

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