Philip Sainton: Moby Dick (Complete Film Score)

Philip Sainton: Moby Dick (Complete Film Score)

by William T. Stromberg


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The music for John Huston's 1956 movie Moby Dick, by Philip Sainton (1891-1967), is one of history's great lost film scores, and one needn't be a fan of Huston's movie to enjoy Sainton's music. Previously only available on a long out-of-print LP, in a crude monaural release from RCA marred by lots of artificial reverb, the score never got the treatment it was due as music until now. Sainton's score is one of the finest pieces of music ever written about and inspired by the sea -- his language is melodic and highly appealing, and his use of the orchestra to describe the moods and actions of his characters, the men, the ship, the whale, and the sea, is rich with well-developed, attractive, and exciting passages. In spirit, he's closer to, say, Ralph Vaughan Williams (Sinfonia Antartica) and Sir Arnold Bax than to Claude Debussy, and there's not a trace of Hollywood convention here, which seems to be what Huston had in mind -- this music could stand free, like Frank Bridge's suite The Sea. The playing is precise and spirited, and it would be difficult to imagine a finer performance; rather wisely, the producers have avoided the use of some of the more literal sound effects that marred the original recording.

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