Rozsa's evocative, grand score from the 1959 record-setting Oscar winner (still tied with TITANIC for copping 11 Oscars) remains arguably the quintessential highlight of his spectacular career.
Recorded both in Hollywood and Rome, Rozsa's music is equal parts powerful, bombastic, and introspective, utilizing a mammoth orchestra and chorus, along with a pipe organ (depicting the presence of Christ) and motifs that range from Judaic source quotes -- supporting several of the film's most prominent melodies and harsh dissonances, underscoring the struggle of the characters in ancient Rome. It's an ultimately inspiring musical feast that stands as the ideal soundtrack in the '50s "Biblical film" genre, an achievement celebrated in Rhino's
outstanding 1996 2-CD boxset, which includes the first-ever release of the actual film soundtrack. Since the original soundtrack LPs were actually rerecordings done out of contractual obligations, Rhino went back to both the Hollywood and Rome session tapes and restored Rozsa's score (including several excised outtakes) for this splendid bookbound package, which features a fascinating 48-page booklet reflecting on the film's significance and the glory of Rozsa's score.