Miklós Rózsa’s music for Ben-Hur appeared only partially—and sporadically—on discs over the last 52 years. Its history on record began with three LPs recorded in conjunction with the film’s original release. (The first of these LPs has rarely been out of print, seeing numerous vinyl, tape and CD reissues.) The composer himself revisited the score in the recording studio on two occasions: in 1967, when he recorded a four-movement suite with the (uncredited) Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra for Capitol Records, and in 1977, when Decca Records (U.K.) recorded a full disc of highlights with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Sony Music reissued two of the MGM LPs (along with a few selections from the actual soundtrack) as a 2CD set in 1991, but the “complete” Culver City and Rome recordings had to wait until 1996, when Rhino Records released a stunning 2CD package. Rhino’s presentation finally gave Rózsa’s music the treatment it deserves, with then–state-of-the-art audio mastering by Doug Schwartz and a gorgeous oversized booklet containing essays by producer Marilee Bradford and Rózsa’s associate (and close personal friend) Tony Thomas. The extraordinary quality of that Rhino release ensures it will remain a necessary acquisition for any Rózsa “completist.”
This comprehensive 5CD set may be Wagnerian in size but is not intended as a beginning-to-end listening experience like Götterdämmerung or Die Meistersinger. FSM has organized over six hours of music into six separate “programs”: the complete film score on discs I and II, a sequence of alternate versions presented in film order (split between discs III and IV), additional alternates and bonus tracks (also in film order but, of necessity, containing a great deal of repetition) on disc V, and the contents of the three MGM LPs on discs III, IV and V. Of course, purchasers are free to create their own “playlists” from this material.
The booklet that accompanies the CDs contains essays on the film production and the musical score. For additional information—including a track-by-track listening guide to each of the programs and a “cue assembly” providing recording dates and exact cue titles for each track—follow the links in upper right corner. These supplemental notes are also available in convenient PDF form for easier printing.
A Personal Production Note
For me, this 2012 FSM release celebrates a Golden Anniversary. In the spring of 1962, sitting in a theater watching King of Kings with a sixth-grade classmate, I fell under the spell of Miklós Rózsa’s music for the first time. Being able to work on this release with Lukas Kendall, Mike Matessino, Joe Sikoryak, Doug Schwartz, Jeff Eldridge and Jeff Bond has been a privilege beyond my wildest dreams. FSM’s commitment to Rózsa’s legacy is unprecedented and peerless. If all FSM Rózsa releases were issued together they would constitute a boxed set of 39 discs with a lavishly illustrated book featuring hundreds of pages of text. Surely, no single label has ever done so much for the cause of any Golden Age composer. I will be forever grateful to Lukas Kendall for this, and for the extraordinary opportunity he has given me to come along for (some of) the ride. —