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CITIZEN KANE – Bernard Herrmann


Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO Studio executives were impressed with Orson Welles success on Broadway as well as his historic ground-breaking 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”. They perceived genius and offered him an unprecedented contract to direct a film of his creation, his own cast and crew, and most remarkably, final cut privileges. Welles conceived a searing quasi-biopic on an American magnate’s life and legacy, collaborating with Herman Mankiewicz to fashion what is now regarded as one of the finest screenplays in cinematic history. Welles was audacious in casting the film, selecting unknowns who had never before acted in motion pictures including; himself as Charles Foster Kane, Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland, Dorothy Comingore as Susan Kane, Everett Sloane as Ray Collins as Susan Alexander Kane, George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher, Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane, Paul Stewart as Raymond, Ruth Warrick as Emily Kane, Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter, and William Alland as Jerry Thompson.

Welles conceived Citizen Kane as a quasi-biopic, which offers a damning commentary on the pursuit of wealth, its corrupting influence and the hollowness of the American dream. The film’s protagonist is Charles Foster Kane, who was conceived by Welles as an amalgam of American newspaper magnates William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, as well as business tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick. The story reveals the discovery of gold on his parent’s property in 1871, which leads his mother to send him away albeit for a first-class education, but also to protect him from his abusive father. The young Kane feels betrayed and slams his beloved sled Rosebud into Walter Thatcher, who’s ward he would become. Kane receives a fine education and secures rights to his inheritance at the age of 25. He buys the New York Inquirer newspaper and uses it to enrich himself through yellow journalism, which over time devolves further to an insatiable and ruthless pursuit of power.

He destroys all of those close to him and tragically ends life as a broken man, having suffered two failed marriages, and spending his final days in social isolation, surrounded by all the luxury he had purchased for his palatial estate Xanadu. Citizen Kane was a commercial disaster because of the unremitting antagonism of Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who intimidated both RKO and theater owners who feared lawsuits for libel. As a result, the film had a very limited run and secured a $160,000 loss from its production cost of $839,727. The film was triumph for Welles, securing widespread critical acclaim and earning nine Academy Award nominations, winning one for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Welles however was eventually vindicated by a revival of interest in the film, which led to a rerelease in 1956. Today film critics universally consider Citizen Kane not only the most influential film of all time, but also the greatest due to the confluence of Welles and Mankiewicz’s screenplay, Gregg Toland’s cinematography, Robert Wise’s editing and lastly, Bernard Herrmann’s musical masterpiece. Its legacy reveals that it secured first place on the American Film Institute’s greatest 100 movies list in 1998, as well as the 2007 update.

Orson Welles recognized and appreciated Herrmann’s talents as music director for CBS’ highly regarded series – Orson Welles’ “Mercury Theater of the Air”, and so when RKO Pictures signed him to a contract in 1941, he brought Herrmann along as his composer. Their first collaboration was “Citizen Kane” (1941), which earned Herrmann acclaim and his first Academy Award nomination for Best Score of a Dramatic Picture. The film is a masterpiece, set in the period of American industrialization. The brilliant screenplay by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz uses this backdrop to portray a great man’s rise and fall due to a misuse of power, which leaves him emotionally and physically isolated. Herrmann understood immediately the impetus of the film’s tragic narrative saying “it’s a picture about wealth and power… Kane, in my opinion was totally misunderstood.” Wells gave Herrmann unprecedented access and 12 weeks in which to write the score, which he used to create what I believe is one of the finest in his canon.

The score is a masterpiece of both conception and expression, which has passed into legend. Herrmann provided two primary recurring five-note leitmotifs, both of which drew inspiration from Rachmaninov’s tone poem “Isle Of The Dead”, whose main theme incorporated the “Dies Irae” (Day Of Wrath) theme from the Roman Catholic requiem Mass. Within the words of the Dies Irae chant is revealed the Day of Judgment, which devout Christians believe they will ascend to heaven while the accursed will descend unto the fire pit of Hell. We therefore can discern from Herrmann’s reference to the chant, a commentary on Kane’s moral nature. As such, the evocation of “Dies Irae” within the Power Theme informs us of an indictment of Kane’s ruthless ambitions and actions throughout the film. Juxtaposed is the Rosebud Theme, which is kindred in construct to the Power Theme, in that it also contains five notes. Yet it’s fundamental expression and its color is juxtaposed with the Power Theme. While the Power Theme is emoted as a tritone or minor third, the Rosebud Theme ends with a falling fourth, which imbues it with a subtle radiant aura of hopefulness. The Rosebud Theme therefore is intrinsically linked with the more positive influences in Kane’s life, most importantly the sled Rosebud, which embodies the memories of his lost childhood, the resultant unhappiness, and regrets that ever plague him.

I would like to credit Mark Richards, PhD author of “Citizen Kane Leitmotifs and Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead” for his expert and incisive analysis from which I utilized for this paragraph. I highly recommend you read the full article at http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/citizen-kane-leitmotifs-and-rachmaninoffs-isle-of-the-dead/

Secondary themes include; his Inquirer Theme, which serves as the identity of his beloved newspaper. The music is energetic and propels each scene forward with and amazing ensemble of solo flute and oboe attended by kindred bubbling woodwinds, strings animato and vigorous cabaret can-can rhythms. Herrmann often used the cabaret can-can rhythms to support Kane’s accomplishments and singular focus on his newspaper. Lastly, we have the Time Motif, a tic-toc ostinato by harp and woodwinds, which support the passage of time. Herrmann also brought innovation in that he did not believe that he should be constrained by the make up of the traditional orchestra. He relates; “A film score can be made up of different fantastic groupings of instruments as I have done throughout my career.” Herrmann often desired to bath the audience in sonorities of kindred instruments such as four flutes joined with alto and bass flutes as a choir as was done in this film. His choir of ten harps to emote the aquatic landscape of “Beneath The 12 Mile Reef” and his choir of twelve flutes that provided the haunting ambiance of “Torn Curtain” are classic examples of sonorities in his scores. He also composed an aria for a fictional opera “Salammbo”. Herrmann purposely composed this piece to inform us that Susan, this little girl with a modest voice, has been thrown into the limelight, struggling to sing a part whose voice and range demands exceeded her native gifts. This was brilliantly conceived! Lastly, Herrmann infused his soundscape with classic waltzes and contemporaneous music of the era to provide authenticity to place and time.

The film opens without music to display the RKO and Mercury Production logos, and the film title. “Prelude” offers a masterpiece cue of conception and execution where the score’s two primary themes entwine, creating an eerie unsettling dichotomy. Herrmann created perhaps his most famous sonority with the use of four flutes, four alto flutes, four bass flutes, contrabass clarinets, tubas, trombones, low register percussion and vibraphone to create the haunting cavernous nature of Kane’s Xanadu estate. Herrmann said he wanted to create a “subterranean, strange heaviness of death and futility.” The cue opens the film proper with a view of a fence with a “No Trespassing” sign. As the camera slowly pans up Herrmann fills us with foreboding with the introduction of the Power Theme, which emanates darkly from his low register sonority of horns and woodwinds. The Rosebud Theme follows, also dwelling in the lowest register of horns and woodwinds, countered by the opening two notes of the Power Theme as we see a montage of caged monkeys, boat dock, golf course and the silhouette of Xanadu whose solitary bedroom light is suddenly extinguished at 1:38 with a timpani roll. We enter Kane’s bedroom, which dissolves into the swirling snowflakes of a snow globe he is holding in his hand carried by the Rosebud Theme by vibraphone with woodwind adornment. As he utters “Rosebud” its theme supports his expiation and the fall and shattering of the snow globe from his lifeless hand. His nurse enters, determines he has died, and pulls a sheet over his face. As the sun rises the Rosebud Theme also rises on vibraphone, yet its ascent is opposed by a descent of low register woodwinds, horns and strings. The confluence of film imagery and music for this scene was sublime.

A documentary of Kane’s life unfolds over the next nine minutes of the film supported with source music, which is not found on the album. Afterwards his newspaper editor Mr. Ralston orders an investigation into the mystery of Kane’s last word – “Rosebud”. We change scenes to “Rain” set outside of the El Rancho nightclub on a stormy night. Herrmann offers an ambient soundscape using shifting strings, woodwind figures, vibraphone, and celeste, which unsettles us with its dark, eerie auras. As the camera pans into the nightclub through the skylight, the score shifts to source jazz. Reporter Jerry Thompson tries to interview Kane’s second wife Susan Alexander Kane but is pointedly rebuffed. The dark auras of the score are sustained in “Litany” as Thompson continues his investigation at the Thatcher Memorial library with a review of Thatcher’s personal diary. The library presents more as a mausoleum than library and Herrmann supports the scene with a subdued and reverential rendering of the Power Theme by harp, muted trumpets and soft woodwind figures. “Manuscript Reading And Snow Picture” reveals Thompson sitting down to read as an orchestral surge supports the closing of the massive vault door. Muted horns riverenti are joined by the Time Motif’s ticking clock ostinato of woodwinds and harp to mark the passage of time. As we read the diary, we shift back in time at 1:00 atop shimmering violins and harp glissando where we see a young Kane playing in a snow shower outside his home. He is throwing snowballs and we see his sled; which Herrmann supports with an ethereal rendering of the Rosebud Theme by vibraphone, chimes, harp glissandi, high register woodwinds and shifting strings. The music for this scene transition was exceptional.

In the next two cues Herrmann masterfully speaks to powerful unspoken emotions swirling within, not the overt narrative unfolding on the screen. “Mother’s Sacrifice” reveals her as sole executor of the family’s wealth in an argument with her husband over her decision to send Charles East to get a first-rate education as a ward of Thatcher. She calls to Charles and takes Thatcher out to meet him. Herrmann’s music speaks from the mother’s perspective, and is full of heartache, using a sad rendering of the Power Theme – an allusion to Charles’ destiny. Her regret and resolve is carried by a clarinet doloroso. “Charles Meets Thatcher” does not go well as Charles does not wish to go. We see betrayal in his eyes as he slams the sled into Thatcher, upending him. He tries to flee, only to be called back by his father’s tough voice. His flight is supported by a solo grieving oboe, joined by muted horns and a string ascent, which is truncated by the father’s harsh voice. At 0:19 the scene changes to reveal Charles’ beloved sled Rosebud left abandoned amidst a strong snow storm. Herrmann supports the pathos of loss with the Rosebud Theme emoted by sorrowful bassoon with tremolo string adornment. We scene change once more to Charles unwrapping Thatcher’s Christmas gift of a new sled, which is supported by quivering sleigh bells and eerie trilling woodwinds.

“Galop” offers an amazing cue, full of energy, playfulness and vigor. Kane, who at 25 years of age, has inherited is great fortune and has informed Thatcher, much to his dismay, of his intent to purchase the Daily Inquirer Newspaper. The music enters as we see men reading the newspaper filled with sensational headlines, including Thatcher who day after day reads headlines attacking him and his bank. Herrmann introduces his Inquirer Theme, which propels the scene forward with and amazing ensemble of solo flute and oboe attended by kindred bubbling woodwinds, strings animato and vigorous cabaret can-can rhythms! It is so rare and enjoyable to hear this side of Herrmann. “Dissolve” reveals Kane and Thatcher in a heated argument over his newspaper and mounting financial loses. Herrmann supports the moment with interplay of a mocking Inquirer Theme and darkly draped Power Theme. In “Second Manuscript” a grim rendering of the Power Theme supports Kane’s revelation that “he would have liked to have been a different man, one that Thatcher would have hated.” A scene change to the present reveals Thompson reading the Thatcher manuscript, where we are informed that Kane has gone bust due to the Wall Street crash of 1929 and is relinquishing control of his newspapers. A forlorn Power Theme is joined by tic-toc Time Motif ostinato as Kane contemplates his grim circumstances.

“Thanks” reveals a frustrated Thompson completing his inquiry at the Thatcher Library. As the insufferable librarian advises him that it is time to leave, mocking horns and comic woodwinds inform us of his disdain. “Bernstein’s Narration” was intended to support Bernstein’s reminisces of the past, and Kane’s passing, but it excised from the film. Herrmann provides a wistful pastorale born by flute tenero and warm strings gentile to carry the moment. I believe Welles made an artistic misjudgment to remove this cue as it achieves a beautiful confluence with the imagery and film narrative. “Kane’s New Office” reveals a flashback to the day Kane with Leland and Bernstein, took possession of the Inquirer and is introduced to the staff. Interplay of and energetic Inquirer Theme and proud Trumpet born Power theme supports the scene. In “Hornpipe Polka” Kane co-opts Carter’s office and informs him that the paper will now be open 24 hours a day instead of twelve. The Time Motif joins with a comic rendering Inquirer Theme, which speaks to Carter, who is just flabbergasted. “Carter’s Exit” supports his aggrieved departure as he will not be party to transforming the Inquirer from a respected newspaper into a shameless, sensationalist tabloid. Comic woodwinds propelled by the Inquirer Theme‘s cabaret can-can rhythms support Carter’s inglorious departure. We close darkly as the camera pans into Kane’s office where he prepares the morning edition.

“Chronicle Scherzo” is a wonderful score highlight with Herrmann’s playful comic genius on full display! Kane decides to display his “Declaration of Principles” in which he commits to the paper to tell the news honestly, to tirelessly fighti for, and champion their rights as citizens and human beings. The music enters in the morning as we see hundreds of newspaper bundles readied for delivery. Strings energico and proud horns play over a propulsive timpani rhythm adorned with chattering xylophone, which perfectly propel the film’s narrative. Herrmann’s creative writing here is just superb! “Bernstein’s Presto” was intended to support Bernstein informing Leland of a communique from Kane, who is vacationing in Paris, but it was excised from the film. Herrmann offers an energetic and fast paced piece propelled by strings and woodwinds animato, jaunty percussion and festive cabaret can-can rhythms. In “Kane’s Return” a festive rendering of the vibrant cabaret can-can rhythms of the Inquirer Theme supports Kane’s return from Europe with the wonderful announcement of his engagement Emily Monroe Norton.

“Valse Presentation” reveals Leland, Bernstein and the staff gazing out the window to the street below to see Kane and his fiancée Emily, niece to the President. Herrmann supports the scene with classic elegance, a wonderful waltz with woodwind adornment. In “Sunset Narration” we return to the present with Thompson and Bernstein discussing the origins of Rosebud. In a scene change Thompson visits Leland who is hospitalized for old age-related problems, hoping to discover who was Rosebud. Herrmann creates a soundscape of palpable melancholia replete with shifting string figures, oboe doloroso and kindred woodwinds as we see a man who knows he has reached the end of his days. We end once again with Thompson failing to obtain the identity of Rosebud.

“Theme And Variations” offers a masterpiece cue, brilliant in its conception and execution. The Kane’s are having breakfast and cue supports a montage, which displays a journey through the years of their marriage. Herrmann uses a classic valzer gentile to underpin the montage. What is brilliant is how the waltz’s development mirrors the change in Charles Kane’s persona; growing increasingly more sour, harsh and arrogant over time. The confluence of music and film narrative is sublime. In scene one we have the idyllic setting of two newlyweds with professions of love, which is supported by a warm valzer gentile. At 0:55 in scene two Emily criticizes Charles for being late, and we see this is not the first time. The fluidity of the waltz is replaced by a staccato cadence by woodwinds animato and shifting string figures. At 1:12 in scene three we see a growing discord as a jealous Emily competes with the newspaper for Kane’s affection. Kane hits back by criticizing her uncle the president. A musical dichotomy arises with woodwinds animato countered by muted horns and pizzicato strings. A statement of the Power Theme is heard informing us that Kane values power over love. At 1:43 in scene four Emily and Kane argue over Bernstein’s gift. Herrmann supports with woodwinds and strings agitato accented with muted horns. In scene 5 at 2:02 Emily again criticizes the Inquirer and Kane will have none of it, rebuking her. The chasm between them is fully exposed by grim repeating statements of the Power Theme, which ends painfully with muted horns. We conclude in scene six at 2:30 with the two sitting at opposite ends of the table, emotionally divorced, as she reads the Chronicle and he reads in Inquirer, each draped in oblivious silence. Shimmering ethereal strings and a plucked harp ostinato create a lifeless, emotionless void that has become their marriage. We close returning to the future as Leland continues to reminisce with Thompson, who entices him to discuss Kane’s second wife, Susan.

In “Kane And Susan” Susan, who sought medicine for a tooth ache meets Kane on the street as she walks home. He has been splattered with mud from a passing carriage and she offers him hot water in her apartment. Kane is intrigued and accepts her offer. She tends to him and he closes her bedroom door, which she reopens. Herrmann supports their intimacy tenderly with the Rosebud Theme on solo violin, attended by kindred strings with harp adornment. “Susan’s Room” offers a beautiful romantic score highlight. It reveals that Kane has warmed to her and is flirting. He entertains her by wiggling his ears and making shadow animal figures. He is pleasantly surprised that she does not know who he is. Herrmann supports the tender moment with an extended rendering of the Rosebud Theme, which opens with solo flute tenero and strings gentile, transitions to clarinet and strings, and then returns again to solo flute with strings and harp adornment.

“Mother Memory” was intended to support Kane’s reminiscing about his mother, but was excised from the film. Plaintive strings usher in a clarinet doloroso, which inform us of Kane’s sadness regarding his mother. In “The Trip” Kane decides to run for Governor of New York and is poised to win when his campaign is upended after his political rival exposes his affair. The revelation occurs at Susan’s apartment where Gettys informs Emily of the affair. When Emily asks him to depart with her, Kane without hesitation refuses, choosing to remain with Susan. We see in her eyes devastation and the end of their marriage. Herrmann sows disquiet with a forlorn soundscape born by plaintive woodwinds, bass and vibraphone. “Getty’s Departure” reveals Emily’s departure, soon followed by Gettys. Kane is defiant, follows him down the stairs and rages, threatening to destroy him. Herrmann supports Kane with a powerful crescendo of rage, which crests with thunderous timpani strikes and blaring horns of doom. “Kane Marries” reveals Kane’s marriage to Susan, which Herrmann supports by interpolating a festive arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March embellished with horns trionfali.

In “Salaambo’s Aria” we bear witness to the score’s emotional apogee, which serves as a testament to Herrmann’s genius. Kane has built a magnificent opera house in Chicago for Susan’s debut. Her on stage wardrobe preparations are frantic and she seems overwhelmed by events. Herrmann composed an aria for a fictional opera titled “Salammbo” to support the film’s supreme scene, with Susan’s singing dubbed by soprano Janice Watson. As the curtain rises, we open with repeating grand horn declarations supported by strings appassionato and exotic woodwinds, which serve as a prelude to the aria. At 0:38 the aria commences supported by tremolo strings, exotic woodwinds, muted horns and harp glissandi, but we hear as the camera pans upwards to stage hands that her voice lacks the power and gravitas demanded by the aria. At 1:22 soft strings provide a swaying motion with woodwind adornment, which better compliment her underpowered vocals. At 2:49 proud horns declarations resound, joined by exotic woodwinds and strings romantico. At 3:10 the aria demands virtuoso singing for its grand climatic statement, which Susan clearly lacks as we build atop her strained, underpowered vocals to climax at 3:51. She cannot sustain her vocals as the part demands and she is dwarfed by the music’s concluding grand orchestral flourish. During the performance Kane hears guests mocking her performance, Bernstein falls asleep and Leland cuts out figures in his program. Kane realizes her debut was disastrous, simmers with anger and returns to the newspaper office to find Leland drunk and passed out over a scathing review of Susan’s performance. Kane takes the unfinished review and proceeds to finish it in his office as was intended by Leland.

In “Leland’s Dismissal”, Leland wakes from his stupor and is informed by Bernstein that Kane is finishing his review. As Leland enters Kane coldly fires him without remorse. The music enters darkly after Kane’s words atop grim horns, beleaguered woodwinds and a grotesque variant of the Inquirer Theme. The scene ends in the present with Thompson and Leland’s discussion. “New Dawn Music” reveals Leland being taken away by nurses. Music enters as we change scenes to the El Rancho night club with the camera again taking us inside through the skylight. Horns of regret strings doloroso and twinkling ethereal woodwinds carry us into the club, with a transition to soft jazz as we see Thompson again trying to pry information out Susan, who is clearly drunk. We flash back to the aftermath of her debut. She wants to quit singing, as she feels humiliated by the scathing reviews. Kane forces her to continue lest he lose face, and we see a montage of her singing in all the grand opera houses of America supported by her flawed aria vocals – not reprised on the album. Only after she attempts suicide does Kane relent in his demands that she continue touring.

In “Xanadu”, its dark silhouette is seen in the distance and we are carried inward atop a grim rendering of the Power Theme. Inside we see a pathetic Susan wiling away the hours with jigsaw puzzles. She is unhappy with her isolation and pleads with Kane to take he to New York where she can live life and have fun. A grim, recurring Power Theme informs us that Kane is resolute in denying her request, yet a fleeting fragment of the Rosebud Theme suggests a kernel of doubt. “Jigsaws” reveals the tic-toc monotony of the Time Motif as we see a montage of Susan playing with various jigsaw puzzles. We see dissatisfaction, weariness and unfulfillment in her eyes. “Second Xanadu” Kane walks in on Susan playing yet another jigsaw puzzle and asks how she knows that she has not played this one before? She counters by criticizing his statue collecting. Kane responds with an offer to invite guests for a picnic to which she expresses little interest. Horn blasts announce Kane’s imperious arrival and eerie woodwind descents and shifting string figures elicit the specter of the Power Theme as he willfully decides that they are going on a picnic.

In “Kane’s Picnic” we see Susan and Kane traveling with guests in a car caravan along the beach. Later in their private tent she informs him that he never gives her what she wants, thus revealing that she feels trapped in a loveless, unfulfilling marriage. As she screams at him, he slaps her and refuses her request that he apologize. Herrmann speaks to these feelings with a grotesque, mocking Blues performance by bassoon, muted horns, piano, and a drum cadence of futility. “Susan Leaves” was intended to support the scene where Susan packs her bags and leaves Kane, but Welles dialed it out of the film. Kane demands that she stay, and she refuses. He then does what we imagined impossible; he pleads with her to stay, promising to give her everything she wants – for his sake. She rebuffs him and walks out of his life, never to return. Herrmann supports the moment sadly, with interplay of the Power and Rosebud Themes, which speak to the internal struggle being waged in Kane’s mind. I believe Welles made an artistic error in omitting this music as I believe it added poignancy to Kane’s unspoken mental struggles. “El Rancho” reveals return to the present, where Susan realizes that it is morning. Soft strings and woodwinds gentile support the scene. A scene change to the Kane estate at 0:13 is supported with blaring horns barbaro declarations of the Power Theme. As the butler Raymond asks for money to reveal the identity of Rosebud, its theme is heard on a woodwind mysterioso.

“The Glass Ball” supports the aftermath of Susan’s departure. Kane’s rage erupts violently as he destroys and overturns everything in Susan’s bedroom. Only the sight of his beloved snow globe stops his rage. As he picks it up and places it in his pocket, he mutters “Rosebud”. The music enters with the snow globe, supported by the Rosebud Theme. The theme is emoted by strings doloroso and bass flute joined by a cadence of death as Kane walks alone through his cavernous palace. We conclude with a grim rendering of the Power Theme as we return to Raymond and Thompson in the present. “Finale” offers a score highlight. After cataloging and photographing Kane’s countless possessions, the reporters depart the estate as they concede they will never solve the mystery of Rosebud. As the camera pans over the multitude of crates, a sad and funereal rendering of the Power Theme by muted horns supports as a final sad testament to Kane. Slowly the music begins to soften and transforms into the Rosebud Theme on flute doloroso as we see the sled, which is clearly named Rosebud. It is grabbed by a worker as one of the many items slated to be burned. Tremolo strings sound as he tosses it into the furnace, from which erupts the Rosebud Theme on horns barbaro, slowly dissipating as the Rosebud name is burned away. At 1:48 as the black smoke flows out the chimney to the skies above horn irato declarations of the Power Theme resound powerfully. We conclude the film with a view of the “No Trespassing” sign and silhouette view of Xanadu, supported by the Power Theme emoted by muted horns, which ends in a dramatic timpani drum roll flourish.

I would like to thank Robert Townson and Varese Sarabande for this long-sought re-recording of Bernard Herrmann’s masterpiece, “Citizen Kane”. The masterful conducting by Joel McNeely with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was superb. In terms of sound, the recording and mastering provide pristine audio quality and an exceptional listening experience. The conception and execution of this debut film score reveals Herrmann’s genius, and mastery of his craft. He understood the psychology of Kane and created the Power and Rosebud Themes, two kindred yet competing identities, which spoke to his struggle to achieve power and find happiness. In scene after scene Herrmann’s insightful music penetrated into the very sinews of Welles’ narrative, achieving a rare and poignant confluence. Folks, this score is testimony to Herrmann’s genius, a masterpiece of film score art, and what many critics believe to be, one of the finest film scores ever written. I consider it the finest film score debut ever written, one of the finest in Herrmann’s canon, a gem of the early Golden Age, and an essential score for collectors. I highly recommend purchase of this magnificent album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have included a YouTube link to the magnificent “Finale”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OraLoXS_7-4

Buy the Citizen Kane soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prelude (2:59)
  • Rain (1:27)
  • Litany (1:15)
  • Manuscript Reading and Snow Picture (1:36)
  • Mother’s Sacrifice (0:50)
  • Charles Meets Thatcher (0:45)
  • Galop (0:46)
  • Dissolve (0:14)
  • Second Manuscript (0:58)
  • Thanks (0:08)
  • Bernstein’s Narration (0:37)
  • Kane’s New Office (0:48)
  • Hornpipe Polka (0:45)
  • Carter’s Exit (0:39)
  • Chronicle Scherzo (1:03)
  • Bernstein’s Presto (0:19)
  • Kane’s Return (0:26)
  • Valse Presentation (0:55)
  • Sunset Narration (2:47)
  • Theme and Variations (3:02)
  • Kane and Susan (0:28)
  • Susan’s Room (2:14)
  • Mother Memory (0:31)
  • The Trip (1:13)
  • Getty’s Departure (0:32)
  • Kane Marries (0:55)
  • Salaambo’s Aria (4:10)
  • Leland’s Dismissal (0:58)
  • New Dawn Music (0:47)
  • Xanadu (1:36)
  • Jigsaws (0:59)
  • Second Xanadu (1:14)
  • Kane’s Picnic (0:35)
  • Susan Leaves (1:06)
  • El Rancho (0:30)
  • The Glass Ball (1:32)
  • Finale (2:33)
  • The Night (3:06) [BONUS]
  • Xanadu Music (2:27) [BONUS]
  • Dawn (0:57) [BONUS]

Running Time: 50 minutes 40 seconds

Varese Sarabande 302-065-806-2 (1941/1999)

Music composed by Bernard Herrmann. Conducted by Joel McNeely. Performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra . Special vocal performances by Janice Watson. Original orchestrations by Bernard Herrmann. Score produced by Bernard Herrmann. Album produced by Robert Townson.

  1. Valentin Berger
    June 28, 2016 at 5:01 am

    Great Review, thank you very much, Craig! It is indeed one of the best scores ever written in the history of film scoring.

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