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Julius Caesar (1953)
Music by Miklos Rozsa
Julius Caesar Julius Caesar
Click to enlarge images.
Price: $19.95
Limited #: 3000
View CD Page at SAE Store
Line: Golden Age
CD Release: July 2004
Catalog #: Vol. 7, No. 9
# of Discs: 1

Released by Special Arrangement with Turner Classic Movies Music

M-G-M's 1953 Julius Caesar is one of the finest screen adaptations of William Shakespeare, featuring a stellar cast in Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Louis Calhern, Edmond O'Brien, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and more. The film was produced by John Houseman and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, filmed in stark black-and-white and using no additional dialogue beyond Shakespeare's text.

Scoring Julius Caesar was M-G-M's premiere dramatic composer, Miklós Rózsa, who faced a unique challenge. The story is set in Roman times, yet musical fidelity to ancient Rome would be inappropriate for a Shakespearean tragedy with its origins in the Elizabethan era. At the same time, evoking stage music of 16th century England would have also been wrong. Rózsa instead decided to score the film as a universal drama: "I wrote the same music I would have written for a modern stage presentation: interpretative incidental music, expressing with my own musical language, for a modern audience, what Shakespeare expressed with his own language, for a modern audience 350 years ago."

The resulting score is one of Rózsa's most powerful, shot through with dark and dramatic moods but a constant sense of melody. The score's twin main themes evoke the characters of Caesar (Calhern) and his disciple Mark Antony (Brando), who receive a martial and stern material; and Brutus (Mason), the pivotal character in the play, who is given more reflective throughline. The two themes dominate the score, finally merging in the climactic music. Rózsa also provides secondary thematic material for Cassius (Gielgud) and specific dramatic moments; as well as judicious Roman marches and source cues (including haunting use of voice).

This CD features Rózsa's complete score to Julius Caesar, including a comprehensive bonus section of alternate versions and pre-recordings. Unfortunately, while the film itself is in stereo, only monaural session elements survive for Rózsa's classic score. The climactic "Caesar, Now Be Still" is at least presented in stereo, due to fact that its various components were recorded as overdubs; and the film's "Preludium" and "Finale" are duplicated as bonus tracks in stereo from the finished film's soundtrack. Liner notes interpolate Rózsa's own comments on the score.

Miklos Rozsa Scores on FSM
About the Composer

Hungarian-born Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995) is a titan of film music. Responsible for such classic scores as Spellbound, Ben-Hur, King of Kings, El Cid and many others—from biblical epics to 1940s films noir to historical dramas—his signature style is one of the most pleasing and dramatic in film. He was under contract to M-G-M from 1948 to 1962 and FSM has released a great deal of this classic music; also available are his latter-period scores such as The Green Berets and Time After Time.IMDB

Comments (43):Log in or register to post your own comments
Anyone who said to him/herself, 'Well, I have that wonderful Intrada reperformance with Bruce Broughton and the London Sinfonia, and that suits me fine' really does need to think again on this one.

Musically, Rozsa created here one of his best-integrated scores. Frequently, in an 'epic' or historical assignment, he would elaborate with so many wondrous, perfectly crafted, precisely evocative, pull-apart-and-restructure themes and leitmotives, that the listener felt he was listening to a montage of about twelve films' worth of inventiveness. (No complaints here ...)

But with 'Julius Caesar' he truly classically used only a handful of motifs, and very inter-related at that. The music is subdued, never overwhelming in the OST, yet when all the material is brandished like a fanned-out flush of cards as here on FSM, one can see the full splendour of what is virtually a 'Ben-Hur' or an 'El Cid' .... but just with fewer themes, and what themes are there, apart perhaps from Brutus', don't aspire to the lyrical primarily .... brooding, uncertain, disturbed.

Rozsa liked to say the score differed from the normal historical brief in that 'research' and sources would be inappropriate for a Shakespearean play that is modern and timeless, all to do with attitudes to fate, or politics. But the musicologist shines through. The chords and modes do evoke the ancient, as much as 'Quo Vadis?' and a great John Dowland song turns up poignantly.

FSM, thorough as always, throws in umpteen alternative takes, specs, etc. including Rozsa himself playing a curiously Scottish unused opening cue 'Roman Holiday' on piano. One of the score's best moments 'Black Sentence' where the opportunist Antony (Brando) stretches himself before the bust of Caesar, is provided in no less than FOUR alternative versions in the supplement. Overkill? Not if you relish the rich carpet of thrusting brass/string underlay in that perfect wordless scene ... wordless in a Shakespeare movie at that!

When Intrada and Daniel Robbins selected 'Julius Caesar' and 'Ivanhoe' (and indeed 'Spellbound' later) for the full reconstruction treatment, they chose their prey with the utmost taste ... not a note of any of these particular scores is outside the matrix of leitmotif variation: they sit as well-crafted internally consistent compositional structures. And FSM have allowed extra insight into the development of 'Julius Caesar' here by expansion.

There's no attempt to 'compete', indeed Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall in their very fine notes (covering all aspects of film and score) even draw attention to the Robbins album (Intrada) as a modern take on the score. The remasterings are flawless, only partly stereo, since that's what survived, but this is a release that doesn't deserve to sit on the shelves.

I do plan to pick this one up eventually. For now I am content wtih the Intrada --- I guess I'm just hoping that FSM will reduce it's price like they have done on several of their other CDs?

If I didn't have the Intrada however, I susepct this would have been purchased quite some time ago...

after reading willimadmccrum's mesmerizing account of FSM'S JULIUS CAESAR, and agreeing with everything that he pointed out, the only thing left to say is :if u wallet will permit - buy it , it is worth every note.

I prefer the rerecording myself, and here's a thread I did on that:

I seldom do this but I brought out both CDs and played them and the difference is incredible. I say when the composer conducts you get the total intentions of what he put down to the fore. He knows what he heard to himself as he wrote it and knows totally what he trying to get out of the orchestra. The FSM sounds like the passion of Rozsa, and god bless Broughton, he sounds like watered down Rozsa. It is not just what you do but the way that you do it. I have seen Mr. Bill Stromberg work hard over the years and finally get damn close to Herrmann. But Mr. Broughton did not get anywhere near Miklos. I sometimes wish I had Thor's ears and not be able to tell the difference but I can in spades for certain composers. It gets me mad sometimes. Anyway, luckily, unlike a number of old recordings the FSM recording is a gorgeous recording. No contest which one I choose.

I thought the FSM was in Mono?

I agree. The OST for this one is the only way to fly.

I thought the FSM was in Mono?

It is. While regretable, it's not always a bad thing.

I thought the FSM was in Mono?

It is. While regretable, it's not always a bad thing.

You guys are right, I corrected that. It sounds great on my computer speakers.

Ordered. I've seen the movie, but William, you pushed me over.

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Track List
Click on each musician name for more credits

Leader (Conductor):
Miklos Rozsa

Samuel Albert, Dave Crocov, Sam Fiedler, Werner L. Gebauer, Saul Grant, Sidney Greene, Mort Herbert, William Hymanson, Sol Kindler, Arthur Maebe, Sr., Lisa Minghetti, Emanuel Moss, Lou Raderman, Al Vertchamp, Eunice Wennermark

Cecil Figelski, William Hymanson, Denes Koromzay, Virginia Majewski, Reuben Marcus, Germain Prevost

Alexander Borisoff, Alex Bunchuk, Alex Compinsky, Fernand Lhoest, Edgar Lustgarten, Michel Penha

George F. Boujie, Mario Camposano, Louis Previati, Arthur Shapiro

Aaron Gershunoff, Maxim Gershunoff, Arthur Hoberman

Philip Memoli

Gus Bivona, Mort B. Friedman, Alex Gershunoff, Don Lodice (Logiudice), D. H. McKenney, Andrew Young

Charles A. Gould

French Horn:
John W. "Jack" Cave, Vincent DeRubertis, Wendell Hoss, Herman Lebow

Colin Creitz, Robert H. Fleming, Maxim Gershunoff, Uan Rasey, Irvin Shulkin, Joe Triscari

Walter Benson, Charles Campbell, Herb Taylor, Simon Zentner

Mario Camposano

Jacob Gimpel

Mary Jane Barton

Frank L. Carlson, Preston Lodwick, Mel Pedesky, D. V. Seber, Dick Shanahan, Graham Stevenson

Orchestra Manager:
James C. Whelan

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