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The music from 'Ben-Hur' is more a masterpiece than the film

Film Music

Miklos Rozsa, "Ben-Hur" World Premiere digital recording of the complete film score performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Nic Raine (Tadlow Music, two discs).

To many of us, William Wyler's "Ben-Hur" is now almost completely unwatchable even though it was, in its time, a champion Oscar winner. Two things distinguish it now -- only two. But they distinguish it enormously.

The two things are the chariot race staged by the great stunt master Yakima Canutt and the musical score composed by Miklos Rozsa, which invented the template for all biblical films afterward but still managed to greatly exceed every one of them in power and musical glory. It is, absolutely, one of the greatest musical scores ever written, no matter how the film now seems. What's happening here is something uniqu: the complete film music for the first time, recorded by a very good symphony orchestra (the City of Prague Philharmonic) and conducted by Nic Raine.

The film itself no longer seems like anything close to a masterpiece, as exciting as that chariot race is. But Rozsa's music is, unquestionably, the great masterpiece in the lifetime of one of the greatest film composers.

4 stars (out of four)


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