Frank McLynn

Knowing The Score

Hitchcock’s Music

By

Yale University Press 354pp £20 order from our bookshop

Film music is a neglected topic, but an increasingly important one in a world where there is a bifurcation between the increasingly banal universe of rock music and the creative cul-de-sac that is contemporary classical music. To declare an interest, I would rather listen to a concert of Sergio Leone than the desiccated tunelessness of Harrison Birtwistle. Composers for the movies tend to fall into three distinct categories. In the first are the incontestably great composers who have from time to time written fine film scores: Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Copland, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Bliss, and so on. In the second are the specialist movie composers, skilled professionals who cry all the way to the bank about their lack of critical recognition in the concert halls: Dmitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, Maurice Jarre, John Williams. Finally, there are those who divide their time between the movies and ‘serious’ repertoire: Bernard Herrmann, composer of an opera on Wuthering Heights and a cantata on Moby-Dick; Miklós Rózsa, in third place in the pantheon of Hungarian composers, after Bartok and Kodaly; and Erich Korngold, prolific writer of operas and symphonic music and once hailed as the greatest musical prodigy since Mozart.

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