Friday, April 27, 2012

Jane Eyre: Bernard Herrmann

"Dear readers, I married him" (Jane Eyre, Chapter 38)

Charlotte Bronte's renowned story, Jane Eyre, has been remade many times for the silver screen. Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine appeared in the 1943 film version of the novel. Bernard Herrmann scored the film with a dark and brooding work with an occasional lightness. This was written in his early days of film scoring, written only three years after Citizen Kane.

The original recordings are available in various guises. One such option was released by a company called Trumpets of Jericho. This release came as a two CD set, which threw in David Raksin's "Laura" and Charles Chaplin's "Modern Times". The sound quality is terrible for all three scores presented in this release. Even with the archival sound, it is hard not to appreciate what Herrmann brought to the film.

Another option that is readily available is a rerecording from the Naxos label. It is attributed to Adriano and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.The Naxos presentation offers more music than any of the versions of the original recordings.

The main theme for the film is in minor key. It is first heard in the opening track, "Main Title" or "Prelude" on the Naxos rerecording. The second track contains a pleasant ditty in the major key. This piece, along with the main theme, are the two ideas Herrmann uses throughout the score.

Both the original recording and the Naxos rerecording are worth looking into. The archival sound of the original is oddly satisfying. The newer recording is clearer, and therefore better for really analyzing Herrmann's compositions.

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