HELEN OF TROY - Max Steiner (1956)
I always tended to prefer Steiner’s scores from the thirties or the early forties to his later works. I guess they sound more imaginative and less formulaic. But I make an exception for his mammoth score for Robert Wise’s not so great 1956 epic. Flawed as it is, the movie is still better than Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy
thanks in no small part to Steiner’s inspired score. It contains so many themes and motives that it would take pages to analyse it properly so I’ll leave this to your appreciation and only point out a few highlights. The action music is exceptional in its brutality showing Steiner at his most ferocious. But my favourite section of the score deals with Paris’s first encounter with Helen up to their elopement and subsequent arrival in Troy. These scenes contain some of Steiner’s best writing for harps. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to write many scores for swords and sandals epics such as this one. His approach is more traditional than Rozsa’s (who used modal writing to convey a sense of antiquity) or Waxman’s and North’s (who relied on modern composing techniques such as polytonality to create an approximation of primitive sounding music).A note about this recording:
I read somewhere that in the early days of stereo recording, Warners were so stingy that they stored their music masters in the following fashion: after they had used the original masters for the film’s stereo mix, they re-recorded them on 3-track tapes but instead of using the tracks for stereo effect they used each individual track to store a portion of the recording as a mono mixdown! That way, a one hour 3-track tape could store 3 hours of music! That’s why even legit issues of this material (such as the beautiful BYU discs of Battle Cry
or Marjorie Morningstar
) are mono only. I guess they had no idea then that this material could be used for anything but the occasional use as stock music for lesser productions or TV shows that would not get a stereo mix anyway. Well, that’s too bad because if their early stereo LPs are any indication, I’m sure these recordings sounded fantastic.
Anyway, this rip was made from the Mythus 2 cd boot. It’s almost complete but always frustrated me because it presents the score in the form of long suites rather than individual tracks. Well I’m all for presenting this kind of scores as a continuing music narrative but when I hear a 20mn+ suite I kind of loose track and when I’m listening to a music score that’s as screen specific as Steiner’s tend to be, I like to figure out whether what I’m hearing is Hector’s death or Achilles’. So, using the film and Bill Wrobel‘s excellent rundown of the score (available here
) I indexed each track.
In the process of doing this (listening to the Mythus discs against the region 1 dvd of the movie) I noticed that the pitch was wrong (almost by a whole semitone) so I fixed this as well. I guess the tape Mythus used was either recorded or played at the wrong speed, so this version is a few minutes shorter than the cd. Even so, the sound quality is far from flawless, some portions containing a lot of distracting mag wow. I also cut the ‘overture’ from the program since it’s a fake that was put together by Warner Home Video for the Laserdisc release (it also appears on the dvd). It’s mono even on the 5.1 dvd release, indicating that they probably used the same master as the Mythus boot (they also made a ‘fake’ overture for East of Eden
So here is Max Steiner's Helen of Troy
in all its restored glory :http://rapidshare.com/files/1141312/helen_of_troy.rar