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EXODUS – Ernest Gold


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1958 Otto Preminger and United Artists studio purchased the film rights to Leon Uris’s forthcoming novel, “Exodus”. Preminger who would both produce and direct the film, felt that this was a story that needed to be told, and for him it became a passion project. He hired Dalton Trumbo who had been blacklisted as a communist by the infamous McCarthy Committee to write the screenplay. From day one he had Paul Newman in mind to play the lead role of Ari Ben Canaan. The stellar cast rounded off with Eva Marie Saint (Kitty Fremont), Ralph Richardson (General Sutherland, Peter Lawford as Major Caldwell, Lee Cobb as Barak Ben Canaan, Sal Mineo as Dov Landau and John Derek as Taha. The story is based on the actual historical events in 1947, which began with the ship Exodus, and the lead up to the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Nurse Kitty’s fate becomes entwined with Ari Ben Canaan a Hagannah rebel who obtains a cargo ship and smuggles 611 Jewish inmates out of the Cypriot internment camp for passage to Israel. In Israel, the British are preparing to leave, and the unfolding partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states portends war.

The film explores the struggles and tragedy of the founding of the state of Israel and ensuing conflict with Arab nationalists. The film ends with a flicker of hope as we see Ari swear on the bodies of his dead comrades that someday, Jews and Arabs would live together and share the land in peace. The film had mixed reviews, as there was significant criticism from British and Arab commentators, as well as both the New York Times and American Council Of Judaism, which described it as “an unhistorical novel read as history.” Never the less, the film resonated with popular culture and largely contributed to forging a favorable and supportive view of Israel by the American public, which has persisted to this day. The Academy of Motion Pictures awarded the film with three nominations, earning one for Best Original Score.

Preminger brought Ernest Gold in early to score his film. He traveled with him and resided in both Cyprus and Israel during filming. Gold sought to provide an authentic sound for his score and so researched most of the indigenous instruments of the Levant. Unfortunately, Preminger would have none of it and insisted on the traditional sound of the Western orchestra. Never the less, Gold did manage to infuse the sounds of the bongo, tambourine, E-flat clarinet and a treble recorder into his soundscape. In terms of the score, he created an astounding main theme, which perfectly captured the film’s emotional core as well as seven additional themes and a motif. Indeed, the Exodus Theme, which has passed into legend, earns it place in history as one of the greatest themes in film score art. Warmly declared atop six French horns solenne the horn rich and string-laden theme resonates with a stirring spiritual power, which brings a quiver, and a tear, It’s A Phrase has a forthright bearing carried by lush strings nobile with contrapuntal French horns, while the B Phrase speaks to the struggle with strings sofferenza that are also joined by a contrapuntal French horn line. This theme is brilliant in its construct, and profound with its emotive power.

Ari’s Theme emotes as a trumpet led and snare drum propelled marcia marziale. He sees himself as a warrior who will deliver his people to their ancestral homeland. The Cyprus Theme offers a sumptuous and exotic free-flowing dance, replete with tambourine accents and bongo percussion. First carried by divided strings, then divided woodwinds, we just do not want the melody to ever end. The Jewish Theme is brilliant in its simplicity, a five-note ostinato that seeks, yet never achieves resolution, thus alluding to the historic struggle of the Jewish people and what lies in their hearts – Israel. Karen’s Theme emotes for me as a wordless song. An accordion carries its melody and although tender, it exudes sadness as she lost her mother and brothers at Dachau. The Irgun Theme offers a stark repeated six-note figure by woodwinds and tremolo strings, which speaks to their dark purpose. The lush Love Theme offers a sublime joining of strings and woodwinds, whose phrases rise and fall like leaves in a summer breeze. The Brother’s Motif speaks to the estrangement of Ari’s father Barak and his uncle Akiva. Emoted by woodwinds, its six-note statement never coalesces into to a cogent statement, instead remaining unresolved, reflective of their on-going dispute. Lastly we have the Hatikvah Theme (The Hope) is expressed by this traditional Jewish folk song adapted by Samuel Cohen circa 1888. Within its notes I feel a deep abiding faith and mournful solemnity. Although the melody is minor modal in its expression, hope springs eternal in the form of a modulating shift to major key as the words Tikvatenu and Hatikvah resound, both joined with a romantic octave leap, which provides dramatic energy to the melodic line.

“Prelude” offers a sublime score highlight, which showcases Gold’s immortal Exodus Theme in all its stirring and sumptuous glory. It supports the roll of the opening credits, which play over a fiery plume. Gold offers interplay with Ari’s martial theme, thus alluding to the coming struggle. In “Summer in Cyprus” we open with a gem! A local guide relates the tortured history of Cyprus to Kitty who is taking in the local culture. Gold introduces his Cyprus Theme, a sumptuous and exotic free-flowing dance, replete with tambourine accents and bongo percussion. First carried by divided strings, then divided woodwinds, we just do not want the melody to end. But end it does at 0:46 as we change scenes to the harbor where we see a long line of Jews boarding trucks that will take them to the interment camps. Plaintive celli impart a deep and unabiding sadness felt in the people’s faces as Gold introduces his Jewish Theme. Interplay with the Cyprus Theme on woodwinds unfolds, yet succumbs to the sad ostinato. “Escape” is a riveting action cue! A strident trumpet ushers in desperate flight music as Dov escapes the truck and is pursued by British soldiers. An astounding crescendo builds as he tries to escape. Yet he fails and is injured with dark descending horns declaring his fate. At 1:21 we segue into “The General” atop idyllic strings where Kitty joins the British Commander in his garden.

“Ari” is a score highlight with inspired emotive power, which features splendid interplay of a multiplicity of themes. Ari, a member of Hagannah, has covertly come to Cyprus with a plan to free his people. He forges alliance with other operatives to implement his audacious plan that will have him impersonate a British officer with orders to transfer the camp detainees to a ship that will take them Haifa. Gold supports the scene with interplay of a muted Ari’s Theme, The A Phrase of the Exodus Theme and the Jewish Theme, which is given strong voice and emoted with compelling power! Wow! In “On the Beach”, Kitty, who is volunteering as a nurse at the camp, bonds with an orphan girl Karen, who she takes to the beach. She asks Karen to go back with her to America, yet the girl hesitates and we see in her eyes that she does not want to leave her people. We open sumptuously with the Cyprus Theme that is now adorned with Celeste, which perfectly sets the ambiance. Yet, all this changes after her proposition; karen’s inner conflict is expressed by the Jewish Theme, now born by three violas and a solo flute deloroso. This is nicely done!

“The Tent – Karen” reveals Kitty back at the camp and learning from the doctor of what happened to Karen’s family. We are provided a very touching full rendering of Karen’s Theme on accordion, which gains voice with the full orchestra when Kitty hugs her after she agrees to join her in America. At 2:22 we segue to “Lorries” atop muted trumpets and Ari’s Theme as he bluffs his way at headquarters in securing lories to transport the refugees to the harbor. As he drives to the camp his now emboldened theme sounds more vigorously on unmuted trumpets. We conclude at 2:57 in “The Convoy” where Ari’s Theme is further empowered with now unbridled expression, which includes contrapuntal piccolo to boot! “The Star of David” is an inspiring cue where we see Ari has successfully loaded the refuges onto the Star Of David, only to be discovered by the British, who block their escape from the harbor. Ari orders a hunger strike and they discard the food overboard and signal their defiance by raising a flag bearing the Star of David. Gold supports the moment with a horn rich variant of the Exodus Theme that joins with the Hatikvah Theme, which is destined to become the national anthem of Israel. This is nicely conceived!

The hunger strike takes its toll as the frail Dr. Odenheim dies in “Odenheim’s Death”. Elegiac strings bear witness to his passing and usher in a forlorn rendering of the Exodus Theme on a plaintive solo flute. We segue into “Karen’s Story” where Karen and Dov debate their different views of gentiles. Gold contrasts their views with interplay of the Jewish Theme and A Phrase of the Exodus Theme on flute and alto flute, with her theme on strings gentile. In “Approaching Haifa” the British relent and grant the Exodus passage to Haifa. As they arrive and view the port, Gold offers a passage of just exquisite beauty. We hear the Jewish Theme born on violins serene adorned with arabesques by Celeste and solo flute. At 0:52 we segue into “The Oath” where Dov is interrogated and confesses to his complicity with the Nazi’s at Auschwitz, as well as his rape. He wins Akiva Ben Canaan’s trust and is sworn in as a member of Irgun. Gold supports the oath with his Irgun Theme. We launch into a bravado rendering of the Exodus Theme in a scene shift as an Irgun representative goes to meet Ari to see if their two organizations can end their differences. The Irgun Theme supports his journey. In “Kitty” Ari and Kitty meet at a hotel and Gold graces us with a beautiful duet of piano and solo violin, which supports their rendezvous and growing attraction.

“Akiva’s Hideout” is an amazing cue with wonderful writing for woodwinds! Ari as the leader of Hagannah goes to meet with his uncle Akiva leader of Irgun. Trilling woodwinds join with strings as travel music as Ari is taken by motorcycle to meet Akiva. As he navigates dark grounds Gold sows disquiet and tension with an array of discordant woodwinds. When he finally enters his uncle’s hideaway the Irgun Theme ushers in a tentative Exodus Theme, which supports his welcome.

Regretfully, “Love is Where You Find It” supported a deleted scene. We are provided a sumptuous rendering of Gold’s Love Theme, which unfolds with its florid phrases, which rise and fall like leaves in a summer breeze. At 1:59 we robustly segue into “The Valley of Jezreel”, a beautiful score highlight. We see Ari and Kitty traveling to Gan Dafna and Gold supports the journey with a festive rendering of the Exodus Theme. He parks the car and takes Kitty to a bluff, which overlooks the verdant valley. He relates that the valley is steeped in biblical history, and explains why as a Jew, the land is so important. What unfolds is a full and wondrous rendering of the Exodus Theme is all its inspired beauty, including a tender passage by solo oboe, kindred flutes and violins. The Brother’s Motif intrudes when Ari speaks of his father. We see in her eyes love well up with his musings and Gold supports this with the Love Theme, which joins in exquisite interplay.

In “Yad El” Ari takes Kitty home to meet his family. The Exodus Theme with interplay of the Brother’s Theme expresses the joy of this occasion. Strings animato support Barak’s running to announce Ari’s return. Later while dining in “He is Dead” Ari mentions uncle Akiva who his father has disowned as a terrorist. Gold renders the Exodus Theme in a more intimate and folksy form atop a treble recorder and violins, with a full expression of the Brother’s Motif. What a nice cue. “Goodbye” reveals Kitty, who feels out of place, bidding Ari goodbye. She is torn by Ari’s competing love interests; her and the state of Israel. Gold weaves a poignant joining of the Exodus and Love Themes, which is brilliantly conceived. At 2:06 we launch into “Intermission Music – Fight for Survival”, which features a powerful and martial expression of The Hatikvah Theme. “Karen’s Father (In Jerusalem)” is a score highlight. Ari has located Karen’s father and he and Kitty take her to see him. Regretfully he does not respond, and Karen is deeply saddened. Gold provides a cue of uncommon beauty to support the pathos of the encounter. The Exodus and Irgun Themes offer a prelude to the visit, which is supported by a full rendering of Karen’s Theme, by string sextet. This is a perfect marriage of music and film.

“Akiva’s Arrest” offers a tension and suspense cue that showcases the Irgun Theme. Dov has blown up the King David Hotel and makes a stealthy, serpentine trek back to Akiva’s quarters. The British are trailing him and succeed in capturing Akiva. Eerie tremolo strings join in an unholy union with the Irgun Theme, and Gold sows disquiet and tension with an array of discordant woodwinds. This is masterful scoring! In “Execution Chamber/Don’t Let My Brother Die” Akiva has been tried and sentenced to the gallows. Ari and Barak visit him in prison, but Barak is overcome with sadness and cannot bring himself to speak. A grim rendering of the Irgun Theme supports Akiva’s dire circumstances. Barak tells Ari that he does not want his brother to die, and Gold supports this with a mournful rendering of the Brother’s Theme on string doloroso. “Acre Prison/The Chess Game (Conspiracy)” is an ambient sound effects cue, which features the treble recorder, bongos and odd string and percussive effects. Ari forges an alliance between Irgun and Hagannah with a plan to free Akiva and other freedom fighters from Acre Prison. Dov surrenders to arrest so he can work from within. A montage is provided as weapons are surreptitiously smuggled into the prison.

“D-Day” features the audacious prison break preparations with Ari’s four teams working from without in Arab disguise and Dov’s team working from within. Gold sows tension with the Irgun Theme, which is now fully militarized. Trilling woodwinds usher in a march variant of the Irgun Theme, which builds to a discordant crescendo, only to subside. At 4:01 we segue into the score’s fiercest cue, “The Bombs (Prison Break)”. As the bombs detonate all hell breaks loose atop a propulsive string ostinato fueled firestorm of the Irgun and Exodus Themes. Ari, Dov and Akiva all manage to escape with over 250 other prisoners. Wow! In “The Arsenal” our three escapees manage to break past a British checkpoint, but Akiva is mortally wounded and dies, while Ari suffers with a grave chest wound. They flee to the kibbutz only to be moved again to the Arab village Gan Dafna as the British search the grounds. To their dismay, they find the Kibbutz’s hidden arsenal of weapons. The Exodus Theme supports the scene with a counter militaristic percussive line for the British. “The Operation” reveals Ari near death. Frightful string harmonics sow unease as Ari’s life ebbs. As his heartbeat fades, Kitty injects his heart with adrenalin to revive him. After the injection a bass drum’s rising cadence mirrors Ari’s return to life. She is relieved and our lovers embrace as the Love Theme is heard.

“Children on the Hill” is a suspense cue where Gold uses themeless string harmonics, and an array of instrument effects to sow tension. The United Nations has voted to partition Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. Taha warns Ari that Arab nationalists plan to massacre the Kibbutz, which causes Ari to lead all the children to safety under the cover of darkness. In “Dawn”, Ari returns to the Kibbutz to mount a defense. Mournful strings intone the Exodus Theme, which entwines with Ari’s Themes as he discovers Taha who has been slain by fellow Arabs as a collaborator. A solo cello elegy, which is crowned with a lamenting Exodus Theme, informs us of Ari’s grief. On his way back he discovers Karen’s dead body, as she too was brutally murdered. We hear her theme one last time by a duet of celli, which offer a stirring elegy that is again crowned by a lamenting Exodus Theme, replete with muted trumpet calls. At 5:00 we segue into a grand score highlight, “Finale – The Fight for Peace”. Ari gives an impassioned eulogy for Taha and Karen, swearing that one day Arabs and Jews will share the land in peace. Gold supports the scene with an inspiring and majestic rendering of the Exodus Theme, which offers hope as we see everyone leave to join the battle for Israel’s independence.

We conclude with “Exit Music – Hatikvah”, which Gold wrote to accompany people exiting from the theatre. It features a more lyrical yet reserved rendering of “Hatikvah”, the Israeli national anthem. “Exodus – This Land is Mine” offers another wondrous score highlight with a stirring choral rendering of the Exodus Theme as a song, lyrics provided by Pat Boone. For me the addition of human voices and lyrics makes the rendering of the theme, transcendent. In “Exodus – Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” Gold offers a concert piece where he treats us to an extended articulation of his score’s defining theme. He uses a solo cello to carry its stirring melody with orchestral support. Its presentation here is contemplative and somber, which offers a different listening experience. Lastly, we have “Exodus – Concert Overture”, a fine overture created by James Fitzpatrick, which offers us a parade of Gold’s primary themes, including: the Main Title, Ari’s Theme, the Jewish Theme, and the Exodus Theme version heard in the Valley of Jezreel scene. This is an exceptional piece and an outstanding score highlight.

I must once again thank James Fitzpatrick and Tadlow music for this sterling rerecording of Ernest Gold’s score for Exodus, which also includes music from two additional Ernest Gold Scores (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Ship of Fools) and four films dealing with issues relating to contemporary Judsiam (Sol Kaplan’s Judith, Jerry Goldsmith’s QB VII, John Williams’s Schindler’s List, and Elmer Bernstein’s Cast a Giant Shadow). Gold provides us with a multiplicity of fine themes and motifs, which he renders in different forms and exceptional interplay. His main Exodus Theme has passed into legend and stands as one of the finest in film score art. This exceptional score, written in the waning year of the Golden Age offers stirring and inspired music that perfectly captured the film’s narrative. Scene after scene there was a perfect marriage and synergy of music and imagery, a testimony to Gold’s mastery of his craft. I highly recommend this fine 2 CD album as an essential member of your collection.

Buy the Exodus soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prelude (2:42)
  • Summer in Cyprus (1:55)
  • Escape/The General (2:06)
  • Ari (3:49)
  • On the Beach (2:06)
  • The Tent – Karen/Lorries/The Convoy (4:13)
  • The Star of David (0:40)
  • Odenheim’s Death/Karen’s Story (4:02)
  • Approaching Haifa/The Oath (3:03)
  • Kitty (2:02)
  • Akiva’s Hideout (1:41)
  • Love is Where You Find It/The Valley of Jezreel (6:08)
  • Yad El/He is Dead (2:26)
  • Goodbye/Intermission Music – Fight for Survival (2:44)
  • Karen’s Father (In Jerusalem) (3:51)
  • Akiva’s Arrest (3:21)
  • Execution Chamber/Don’t Let My Brother Die (1:36)
  • Acre Prison/The Chess Game (Conspiracy) (5:41)
  • D-Day/The Bombs (Prison Break) (7:43)
  • The Arsenal (1:26)
  • The Operation (1:47)
  • Children on the Hill (2:04)
  • Dawn/Finale – The Fight for Peace (6:45)
  • Exit Music – Hatikvah (3:30)
  • This Land is Mine (written by Ernest Gold and Pat Boone) (2:20)
  • It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – Exit Music (2:06)
  • Ship of Fools – Candlelight and Silver Waltz (5:11)
  • Judith – Main Title Music (written by Sol Kaplan) (4:09)
  • QB VII – Main Title (written by Jerry Goldsmith) (2:02)
  • QB VII – The Holocaust (written by Jerry Goldsmith) (2:52)
  • QB VII – Visit to the Sheikh (written by Jerry Goldsmith) (2:14)
  • QB VII – The Wailing Wall (written by Jerry Goldsmith) (3:15)
  • QB VII – Kaddish for the Six Million (written by Jerry Goldsmith) (3:20)
  • Schindler’s List – Schindler’s List (written by John Williams) (4:18)
  • Schindler’s List – Remembrances (written by John Williams) (5:55)
  • Cast a Giant Shadow – Prelude (written by Elmer Bernstein) (3:00)
  • Cast a Giant Shadow – Land of Hope (written by Elmer Bernstein) (3:21)
  • Exodus Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra (6:56)
  • Exodus Concert Overture (4:28)

Running Time: 132 minutes 48 seconds

Tadlow Music 007 (1960/2009)

Music composed by Ernest Gold. Conducted by Nic Raine. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Orchestrations by Gerard Schurrmann. Recorded and mixed by Jan Holzner. Score produced by Ernest Gold. Album produced by James Fitzpatrick.

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  1. August 28, 2017 at 10:01 am

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