By Charlie Brigden
Bernard Herrmann’s Obsession is a bit like buses; you wait ages for it to arrive and then two come along at once. We’ve already reviewed Music Box Records’ edition of the oft-requested score from earlier in the year, which included the restored film score and the original LP program, but the score has also been recorded by Tadlow Music and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Nic Raine and producer James Fitzpatrick. A Bernard Herrmann classic in pristine sound? Yes please!
And it is a classic, undeniably so. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that Herrmann’s relationship with Brian De Palma was as big a deal as Hitchcock’s, but there was something inspirational between the pair in the same way, and Obsession is the ultimate fruit that the partnership bore, similar to Vertigo. Obsession feels like Vertigo‘s sibling (understandably considering the latter film’s influence on the former), and both are an incredible achievement that on their own perhaps justify Herrmann’s reputation as the greatest film composer ever.
Obsession really is a towering triumph that displays not only Herrmann’s power but also his versatility. So much of the score moves from one mood to another so quickly, and Herrmann has an innate ability to segue so seamlessly where it might feel clunky by a lesser composer. One of the things about Obsession is, to steal an internet phrase, the feels. The music is charged with emotion, with deja vu and love and terror and all these fit together intricately, showing the depth of his writing. Yes, it’s great to listen to, but it’s so beautifully put together.
But it is an amazing listen. Herrmann pulls so much out of his hat, the gorgeous love theme, the hypnotic strings, the angelic vocals. The Herrmann harp. It feels like a memory trip in places, where we’ve been before, and then that organ comes in, brutal and beautiful. The sheer power of the organ against the vocals is a joy to behold, and the way a sinister undercurrent runs under everything. Trust no one, not even yourself. And then there’s the swirling melody, a symbol of reoccurance and inevitability. A bit like, well, you know.
The quality of the score is reflected in the recording. Tadlow have built a reputation on producing great recordings such as El Cid and Taras Bulba, and this is another beautiful creation. Massive credit must go to Raine’s expert conducting and Christopher Husted’s preparation of the music from Herrmann’s original score and sketches, as well as James Fitz doing a stellar job producing the whole thing. The recording has such clarity and depth, and the resulting power of the musicians is something to behold. It’s also worth noting that as well as a CD, the set also includes a second disc of Blu-ray audio. We didn’t get a copy of this for review, but I can only imagine how cool it is.
It’s hard not to gush about Obsession. It’s a stunning work, beautiful and seductive, tense and terrifying, and Tadlow’s recording is impeccable, as is the orchestra’s performance. One of the greatest film scores by one of the greatest composers in wonderful quality – it’s hard not to get obsessive about how good this album is. Mesmerising.
Obsession: The Complete Film Score is out on June 15th from Tadlow Music