Alternates & Bonus Tracks
In a production as large as Ben-Hur, changes inevitably occurred as the film was scripted, shot, edited and scored. Many alternate versions of various Ben-Hur cues have survived. Some are simply musical alternatives the composer wished to try; some reflect small changes in the timing of the film; some were created to offer the director one or more options before the final edit; some were the result of major changes made after the film’s previews during September 1959. More detailed information about many of these alternates can be found in Ralph Erkelenz’s essay.
Act I Alternates
- 15. Star of Bethlehem (alternate chorus)
- Rózsa recorded two different choral overlays for this cue. The film version (disc I, track 3) consists mostly of sustained chords; this alternate is more melodic.
- 16. Adoration of the Magi (alternate chorus)
- The latter part of this choral setting (beginning at 1:22) features the melody rather than the harmony-only chords of the film version. The chorus hums throughout instead of singing on an “ah” vowel.
- 17. Prelude (alternate take)
- It is not often that more than one satisfactory take of an M-G-M cue from this era survives. The studio masters did, however, include this additional take of the “Prelude.” The final chord demonstrates how a cue that Rózsa intended to overlap another (in this case, “Marcia Romana”) might sound abrupt or incomplete.
- 18. Spirit and Sword (alternate I)
- In this alternate, recorded on the same day as the film version, Rózsa extended the Christ theme to 12 measures instead of seven.
- 19. Revenge (outtake)
- Rózsa’s original cue for the rooftop scene, where Messala ponders what he has done to his former friend, differs entirely from the final film version (“Reminiscences”—disc I, track 17). There, the emphasis is on bittersweet memories—a lament for a lost friendship; here, angry statements of Messala’s motive bookend a heavy development of the friendship theme.
- 20. The Desert/Exhaustion/The Prince of Peace/Roman Galley (alternate sequence)
- The character of the first music Rózsa recorded for the desert sequence is quite unlike the heavy, oppressively dissonant material of the film version. Over a steady bass ostinato, a light haze of string tone hangs in the air while bassoon and bass clarinet engage in an acrid duet. Strings and woodwinds begin an aimless, weary motive, harmonized in tritones. The struggling melodic idea, familiar from the film, begins at 1:44. When Judah’s theme picks up optimistically after the second occurrence of the Christ theme, the countermelody is more pronounced in this alternate, and the final, exultant statement of the Christ theme more than twice as long. (Note that the concluding fragment of the rowing theme from violas and horns—recorded separately and added to the soundtrack version—is not present here.)
- 21. Roman Fleet (alternate)
- Only the bass line was played in the first two measures of this unused alternate—the violins, violas and horns heard in the film version are silent.
- 22. The Galley (alternate)
- This alternate assembly of the four “Galley” cues deletes the final measure of “The Galley No. 1”—an “extra” bar heard in the film (at 0:24 on disc I, track 26) but not on any album or “concert” versions. It also incorporates an alternate take of “The Galley No. 2,” which features some surprisingly untidy playing from the M-G-M Orchestra (around 0:30).
- 23. Rest (alternate)
- Two weeks after recording “Rest,” the studio’s “Daily Music Report” lists this unused “re-do” of the cue. It cuts the third measure, omits the persistent rhythmic figure normally heard against the Roman fleet motive and ends nine bars before the end. The final chord was recorded separately.
- 24. Battle Preparations—Part Two (alternate)
- As documented in Ralph Erkelenz’s study, Rózsa flirted with a different version of the Christ theme. While he never recorded most of the cues employing it, this one (recorded at the first session on June 29) is an exception—the alternate theme appears during 0:33–0:45. The abrupt cut-off was meant to overlap with “The Pirate Fleet.”
- 25. Roman Sails (alternate)
- Recorded just one day before the version used in the film, this earlier take does not feature the strong brass accent on the first chord.
- 26. Victory Parade (short version)
- This recording preserves the “short version” almost exactly as Rózsa wrote it in the score, without the cuts and repeats made for the film. Only the conclusion does not follow the manuscript—four bars before the end, it jumps to the last five measures of “Victory Finale.”
- 27. Fertility Dance (orchestra only)
- Because the drums played on screen were recorded separately, FSM is able to present this version of the cue with the orchestra-only tracks.
- 28. Arrius’ Party (long version)
- This alternate performance plays at a slower tempo than the film version. It adds a two-measure introduction and includes internal repeats written in the score.
- 29. Judea (alternate)
- In this cue, composed and recorded before previews led to extensive changes during this section of the film, the English horn passage is in another key (and differently harmonized). The material covered in the film by “Balthazar” (disc II, track 5) (including Balthazar’s and Judah’s themes, plus the love theme) is incorporated here, albeit in different orchestrations. (Rózsa entitled this cue “Judea—New” but never recorded the original “Judea.”)
- 30. Homecoming (alternate)
- Although it does not include the opening reference to Judah’s theme, this alternate (called “Homecoming—New” in the score) is lengthier than the film version. Rózsa added measures to the opening statement of the Judea theme, the contrasting oboe melody and the final phrase.
- 31. Sorrow (alternate I)
- Revised after the previews, the original version of this cue opens with the same rising string line as in the film, but segues to Miriam’s theme rather than the Judea motive. In the score, Miriam’s theme continues for another seven measures beyond the four bars included here, but the cue as recorded ends instead with a strong statement of Messala’s theme. A note in the studio’s recording log explains the change: “Play bars 1–11, segue to ‘Desert—New’ bar 1 to d[own]b[eat] of 6.”
- 32. Intermission (alternate I)
- This interim version of the Act One conclusion (“Intermission—New” in the score), moves quickly through Messala’s and Judah’s themes and ends with a short fanfare, just as in the film—but with the material slightly more “stretched out” here.
Act II Alternates
- 15. Entr’Acte (alternate)
- Immediately after recording Rózsa’s revised “Entr’Acte” (disc II, track 12), the orchestra re-recorded the final 19 measures, providing an (unused) soft ending for the cue.
- 16. Panem et Circenses (complete version)
- Because the only source of the complete march available to FSM was a poor-sounding monaural cassette dub, Mike Matessino recreated it by editing together existing stereo sources and using a little audio-technical “magic” to re-create two measures entirely missing from the masters.
- 17. Circus Parade (Parade of the Charioteers) (film edit)
- The film version of this famous march includes several cuts, reducing the cue to 63 measures from the original 99.
- 18. Aftermath (alternate I)
- The original version of this cue featured an extended passage of “mocking brass.” A duet for antiphonal solo trumpets is answered by two trombones and an ensemble of three trumpets. The musical material derives from the opening fanfare and versions of Messala’s and Judah’s themes used in “Circus Parade.”
- 19. The Search (alternate)
- Beginning at 1:08 (the point at which Judah spots Esther bringing food for Miriam and Tirzah), this earlier version of the cue develops the love theme rather than the urgent string line heard in the film version.
- 20. Road of Sorrow (alternate)
- The first minute of this original version (up to Balthazar’s theme) is completely different than the film version. Instead of the Christ theme, it develops Miriam’s motive and segues to “Anno Domini” as the crowds gather on the mount.
- 21. The Sermon (alternate I)
- The only difference between this alternate and the film version is that it begins on the downbeat of the first measure rather than with the upbeat to the second.
- 22. Valley of the Dead/Tirzah Saved (alternate)
- In this original version of “Valley of the Dead,” the Christ theme (at 0:11) is played one octave higher. In “Tirzah Saved,” beginning at 3:25, a hushed tremolo statement of “Anno Domini” replaces the fortissimo climax heard in the film marking the shot of the Jerusalem gateway.
- 23. The Procession to Calvary/The Bearing of the Cross/Recognition (alternate sequence)
- This take of “The Procession to Calvary” is the same one heard in the film, except for the end (beginning at 2:34), re-recorded for the film due to some poor ensemble in low strings and trombone (at 2:43). In “Recognition,” the passage beginning at 6:50 is slightly longer than in the film version.
- 24. Aftermath (alternate II)
- In this variant, the mournful timbre of English horn intones the friendship theme (at 1:37) while the four-note fragment of Messala’s motive sounds from bassoon.
- 25. Golgotha (alternate I)
- The Christ theme at the beginning of this alternate is slightly longer (five measures instead of three). Beginning at 0:53, the cue adds considerable material, with the Christ theme more extended and an additional reference to the “Prince of Peace” motive.
- 26. The Miracle/Finale (alternate)
- In this alternate of “The Miracle,” the orchestra does not repeat measures 48–53 of “The Desert” as in the film. At 1:27, the last eight bars of the original “The Miracle” (recorded August 3, 1959) provide a different transition to the finale. (The notation, “Diss[olve] to empty crosses” at the beginning of this passage suggests how the final cut differed from the one Rózsa was working with in August.) From 1:53 to 3:08 is “Finale—New Beginning,” (recorded after the previews), which includes a full statement of Judah’s theme (interrupted in the film by “Alternate Beginning to Finale”). The passage at 3:08–4:03 matches the film version, but the concluding “Alleluia” passage is shorter. (No chorus was ever recorded that would synch to this orchestral track.)
- 27. Entr’Acte (original version)
- This unused “Entr’Acte” opens with an arresting fanfare—first in horns, trombones and trumpets and then in full orchestra (with a busy background in both treble and bass that is rhythmically at cross-purposes with the 2/2 fanfare). Although it was never heard in the film, listeners had a “preview” of it on the “More Music from Ben-Hur” album, where it opened (and closed) a track misleadingly entitled “Overture” (disc V, track 1). A rich, full-throated arrangement of the love theme follows, and the fanfare returns to close the cue in a blaze of glory. (The notation “attacca Victory Parade” at the end of this cue in the score suggests that, at least at the time it was copied on July 9, the intermission was planned for an earlier point in the story.)
- 17. Star of Bethlehem/Adoration of the Magi (orchestra only)
- 18. Star of Bethlehem (chorus only—alternate version)
- This alternate chorus (heard with orchestra on disc III, track 15) makes a satisfying musical experience heard a cappella. Unlike the arrangement used in the film (which primarily provides harmonic background), this version features all of Rózsa’s hymn-like melody and rich, modal harmonies.
- 19. Adoration of the Magi (chorus only—alternate II)
- 20. Adoration of the Magi (chorus only—alternate III)
- These two alternates are musically the same as disc III, track 16 (with the more melodic final section). In track 19 the chorus alternates an “ah” vowel with humming; track 20 is sung entirely on “ah” (as in the film).
- 21. Spirit and Sword (alternate II)
- The Christ theme is shorter (six measures instead of 12) in this alternate cue, which was perhaps recorded for a different edit of the scene.
- 22. Gratus’ Entry to Jerusalem (long version)
- Although still not the complete composition as it appears in the score (no recording of which survives), this alternate of the march does not cut off abruptly as in the film (when the roof tile breaks loose and lands on the Roman governor).
- 23. Revenge (alternate)
- Rózsa added brass (initially trombones, then horns and, finally, trumpets) to give more weight to the friendship theme in this alternate orchestration of an unused cue (see disc III, track 19).
- 24. Arrius’ Party (fragments)
- In the film, the onscreen ensemble starts this piece, only to be cut off by Arrius so that he can make an announcement to his guests. Rózsa recorded three “false starts,” the first two performed at a slower tempo than the third (the film version). The first features one measure of introduction and the second includes two.
- 25. Sorrow (alternate II)
- The only difference between this and “alternate I” of the same cue (disc III, track 31) is that the sixth measure (0:19–0:22) is in 3/2 instead of 2/2.
- 26. Intermission (alternate II)
- This, the shortest of the two “Intermission” alternates, opens with Messala’s theme but moves directly to a brief concluding fanfare. Unlike the other two versions, this one contains no reference to Judah’s theme.
- 27. Entr’Acte (original version—alternate take)
- FSM proudly presents not just one, but two takes of this original “Entr’acte.”
- 28. Aftermath (alternate III)
- The English horn passage heard at the end of “Aftermath (alternate II)” (disc IV, track 24) is here shortened from eight measures to six.
- 29. Aftermath (alternate IV)
- This, the earliest variant of this much-revised cue, replaces the extended “mocking brass” passage of the original version (disc IV, track 18) with Judah’s theme sorrowfully intoned by English horn.
- 30. The Sermon (alternate II)
- This earlier version of the cue is much shorter than the film version. Rózsa recorded it twice: once with organ
- 31. The Sermon (alternate III)
- and once without organ.
- 32. The Sermon (alternate IV)
- This is identical to the film version in all respects save that it starts on the downbeat of the first measure.
- 33. The Sermon (alternate V)
- The fourth measure (0:09–0:12) of this alternate is in 3/2 instead of 2/2.
- 34. Golgotha (alternate II)
- In this alternate of disc IV, track 25, the Christ theme in the middle (0:49–0:57) is shorter (two measures instead of five).
- 35. Miracle (alternate II)
- Recorded after the previews, this version of “The Miracle” (which references—for two measures—Rózsa’s alternate Christ theme) is slower than the interim version ultimately used in the film. It ends at the point where it would overlap with the “Finale.”
- 36. Finale (chorus only—alternate I)
- Rózsa recorded four versions of the choral part for the “Finale,” the only difference between them being the point at which they start. FSM used the longest in the main program (disc II, track 32); this track presents the second longest, beginning at measure 41.
- 37. Finale (chorus only—alternate II)
- Only the “Alleluia” was included on this take.
- 38. Finale (chorus only—alternate III)
- This version begins at measure 53.
- 39. Love Theme (demo version)
- Rózsa recorded a demo version of the love theme for alto flute and harp on May 15, 1959, preserved on an acetate disc that is part of the Rózsa collection at Syracuse University. Note in the B section that the phrase endings later made into eighth notes (at 1:02 and 1:08) are, in this early version, sixteenth notes.
- The purpose of this demo remains unclear, but Rózsa may have intended it as a guide for a lyricist. Paul Francis Webster did indeed write lyrics for the tune, although the studio (nor, apparently, anyone else) never made a recording. The lyrics, for the curious, are:
Behold the sign, written in the stars,
Behold this dream of mine, written in the stars;
The fates above decree true love will come,
In the evening breeze
Beneath the olive trees.
The hours pass like petals blown across the grass,
I gaze into the hour glass,
The sands are running low.
When stars grow pale in the evening breeze,
Perchance, she’ll lift her veil, ’neath the olive trees.*
Our eyes will meet, our hearts will beat
And lo! Romance will be ours,
It’s written in the stars!
*Webster provided a “feminine version” for these two lines:
The scent of lime lingers in the breeze,
Perchance, he’ll come in time ’neath the olive trees.
- 40. Harun al Rozsad
- Another early pre-recording (made May 25, 1959) features an exotic dance piece almost certainly intended (but never used) for the scene in Sheik Ilderim’s tent. Scored for mandolin, flute, recorder, zither, tambourine and castanets, the music reworks a theme Rózsa had previously used in The Light Touch (“Tunis”) and Valley of the Kings (“Sword Dance”). (The cue title “Harun al Rozsad” is a punning reference to Hārūn al-Rashīd, an eighth-century caliph of Baghdad.)
- 41. Quo Vadis Prelude (with chimes)/Drums (Appian Way)
- Although FSM’s release of the original tracks from Rózsa’s earlier Roman epic, Quo Vadis, generated great excitement, fans quickly pointed out a small mistake: the chimes for the “Prelude” were missing—overlooked because they were recorded separately. Here, as a final bonus track, is the Quo Vadis “Prelude”—complete with chimes. —