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THE ALAMO – Dimitri Tiomkin


Original Review by Craig Lysy

This historical epic directed by and starring John Wayne focuses on the famous battle at the Alamo. In 1836, Generalisimo Santa Anna and his grand Mexican Army marched into Texas, then a province of Mexico, to break a rebellion by the locals. The Texans are not fully prepared to engage Santa Anna in battle, so in order to buy time for General Sam Houston and his troops, his subordinate, Colonel William Travis, devises a bold plan. He will fortify and garrison a small mission fort called the Alamo to forestall Santa Ana’s advance northward. The odds are near impossible as they are greatly outnumbered in men, cavalry and artillery. Yet Travis is resolute in his determination to stop Santa Anna at all costs. Heroes of American folklore, the legendary Jim Bowie as well as Davy Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers support him. And so this small band of 187 men stand their ground in the face of Santa Ana’s army of 5,000 only to find that relief is not coming. Resigned to their fate these American heroes fight an unwinnable battle, one where they will be slaughtered to the man, but a battle that will serve as a rallying cry that will inspire their fellow Texans to fight for and win independence. The movie has a stellar cast that included John Wayne (Davey Crockett), Richard Widmark (Jim Bowie) and Laurence Harvey as Colonel William Travis. The film was a critical success earning six Oscar nominations, but a commercial failure as ticket sales failed to recoup the production costs.

Dimitri Tiomkin was born in the Ukraine in 1894 and trained as a pianist in the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia before emigrating to the U.S. in 1921. Despite his foreign ancestry he became a Hollywood icon in film scores for his capacity to brilliantly emote classic Americana themes. Among his accomplishments were “Duel In The Sun”, “Red River”, “Big Sky”, High Noon”, “Gun Fight At The O.K. Corral” and “Rio Bravo”. Producer-Director John Wayne recruited him as a natural choice to score his film and Tiomkin responded with an effort that can only be described as monumental. Afforded a massive tapestry upon which to create, Tiomkin wrote several themes, which established identities for the Texans and Mexicans. For the Mexican themes, foremost is the classic El Degüello Theme, a bugle call notable for its use by the Mexican Army and figuratively translated as “give no quarter”. Evoking a strong ethnic flavor, the bugle line plays atop strummed guitar, marimbas, harpsichord and militaristic snare drums. Next we have the Santa Ana March, a classic marcia militare which features militaristic horn play, syncopated timpani, snare drum percussion and fierce strings driving forth and set against a potent string lead descending minor third motif.

Lastly, we have the Attack Motif, which features fierce strings driving forth in a descending minor third. For the Texans we have the Ballad Of The Alamo Theme whose solemnity and choral accompaniment creates stirring nobility. The Heroic Theme offers an ascending horn rich identity, which abounds with heroism. The Eyes of Texas Theme, a classic ballad also serves as an identity for Colonel Travis and his men. Trumpets carry the bold and confident Tennessean Anthem, which serves as the identity of Jim Bowie and his fellow Tennesseans. Tiomkin also infused his soundscape with a number of traditional American ballads including foremost the iconic Green Leaves Of Summer Theme, a nostalgic minor modal theme, which is tinged with sadness as it emotes a melody full of yearning for happier times. This melody offers a perfect confluence of melody and lyrics, and in my judgment offers one of the finest ballads of film score art. What is so remarkable about this piece is how Tiomkin shifts the main melodic line among the instruments; accordion, violin, oboe, flute, and muted trumpet all flowing atop a stream of lyrical woodwinds and strings. Then we have Tennessee Babe Theme, and the jaunty Here’s To The Ladies Theme. Lastly, we have a wondrous woodwind born Love Theme for the ill-fated romance of Davey and Flaca. Tiomkin received critical acclaim for his score, earning an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for best score.

As the cue title “Overture” suggests, this is a classic overture with brief statements of several of the Texan themes. French horns herald the Ballad Of The Alamo Theme whose solemnity and choral accompiament creates stirring nobility. At 0:42 we segue into the renowned Green Leaves Of Summer Theme, carried by lyrical strings, which emote a classic sweeping Americana tenor. At 1:17 woodwinds lead a segue into the pastoral woodwind and string carried Tennessee Babe Theme, which in turn at 1:50 flows into the jaunty Here’s To The Ladies Theme. We come full circle and conclude with a portentous coda of the Ballad Of The Alamo Theme. What a great introduction to the score! The “Main Title” opens with the classic El Degüello Theme, a bugle call notable for its use by the Mexican Army and figuratively translated as “give no quarter”. Evoking a strong ethnic flavor, the bugle line plays atop strummed guitar, marimbas, harpsichord and militaristic snare drums. At 0:56 a duet of accordions introduce a pensive The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme, which plays over strummed guitar. From here we move into a most potent and complex cue.

In “Foreword” trumpets emote a reserved variant of the Ballad Of The Alamo Theme that sounds as a written narrative plays upon the screen. We segue into an almost dirge like rendering of The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme, which is carried by violins and timpani until 0:44 in “Houston’s Arrival” when it stirs to life with trumpets, accordion and guitar as General Sam Houston arrives. As Houston gives a speech to inspire the troops in “Houston And Travis”, Tiomkin introduces with subtlety and reserve the Heroic Theme born by woodwinds, muted trumpets, timpani and strings as well as a brief fragment of the Eyes Of Texas Theme. At 3:04 as Houston rides off in “Houston Departs”, an energetic reprise of The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme returns. The cue concludes in “Bowie’s Hangover” with a folksy woodwind laden melody as we see a hung-over Jim Bowie.

“Bowie’s Men Arrive” displays a now rousing version of the Heroic Theme
replete with trumpets, strings and timpani. In “Flag Ceremony” stark snare drums and a trumpet call accompany a defiant hoisting of the Texan flag. At 0:38 we segue with pizzicato strings into “Meeting In The Mission” where Travis and Bowie meet with an air of mutual disdain. Tiomkin provides a rich interplay of themes for this confrontation with the Eyes Of Texas Theme and El Degüello Theme. The music is carried woodwinds, horns and timpani. At 1:33 we have a scene change where we see riders bring news to the Alamo. The music just explodes into a rousing and energetic scherzo that fills you with excitement! At 1:49 the tempo falls off as Bowie’s men complain of cleaning up the mission. Strings and woodwinds carry a playful and at times comic melody with horn accents. As the Sequin family arrives at 2:07 in “The Seguins”, timpani and regal horn sound and are accompanied by woodwinds and snare drums. At 2:46 in “Adios Juan” a solo trumpets sounds as Colonel Travis curtly dismisses the Mexican family. The cue concludes as Travis and Bowie continue their argument with the music heard earlier in “Meeting In The Mission”. In “Smitty And The Parson” a gentile opening by strings and woodwinds ushers in a scene change. At 0:26 woodwinds, horns and snare drums emote the energetic ride of Davey Crocket and his Tennesseans. A soft variant of the Heroic Theme
with religioso under currents plays as Smitty queries the Parson as to why he prays so often. At 0:59 in “The Signal” Smitty fires off a signal to boldly announce that the Tennesseans have arrived. Tiomkin introduces a folksy anthem by full orchestra with a fiddle playing in counterpoint that erupts into a proud statement of the Heroic Theme by fanfare at 1:39. The cue concludes at 2:00 with “To The Cantina”
when trumpets reprise the Tennessean Anthem as the boys realize the town has a cantina.

In “Plan For The Republic”
Crockett, in an impassioned speech, declares his intention to support Texas independence. Tiomkin introduces a stirring and noble melody that speaks with warm strings accented with solo flute and oboe, kindred woodwinds, harpsichord and muted percussion. At 0:54 religioso strings, woodwinds and harpsichord join to emote a supremely moving expression of the Heroic Theme that adds a potent gravitas to the scene. The cue concludes as it began with the string born melody. Folks, this is a poignant score highlight and testimony to Tiomkin’s talent for powerfully supporting a film’s emotional narrative. “Emil And Flaca” concerns a dispute between Emil and Flaca. The cue is essentially a nocturne replete with woodwind solos, muted trumpet and Mexican ethnic accents. At times playful, pastoral and tense, the cue is beautifully written. “Mr. Tall American” is a beautiful cue that features nocturnal woodwinds, a number of beautiful string solos and a fine interplay between the lush string writing for Crockett and ethnic Mexican solo oboe for Flaca de Lopez. The nuance and textures of this cue are just outstanding. “Davy And Jim” involves a conversation between Bowie and Crockett where they discuss the beauty of the Texas. The nocturnal ambiance continues with woodwinds and strings emoting a lyrical folksy melody replete with harpsichord accents. At 1:15 in “Flaca’s Secret” the strings swell and become lush emoting a Love Theme that features solo violin as Flaca advises Crockett that Emil is hiding gunpowder in the church basement. At 2:27 a solo oboe returns the nocturnal ambiance to conclude the cue. This is another score highlight that features exquisite writing for woodwinds and strings.

“Powder Cache” opens a tertiary cue that details the final confrontation between Crockett and Emil where Emil is slain. It establishes the mood with edgy strings, syncopated horns and xylophone accents. A repeating line of bass with counter by bells and horns raises the tension until trumpets herald at 0:55 in “Emil Dies” Crockett and Bowie’s discovery. Deep rolling timpani and low register horns set the stage for the final confrontation marked by furious strings and potent horn blasts until Emil’s death to rolling timpani at 1:47. The extended cue concludes in “Someone To Lean On” carried by tremolo strings, woodwinds and harpsichord with an ethnic Mexican trumpet playing a counter line. Strings and portentous trumpet bring the music to conclusion.

The short cue “Santa Anna’s Troops” provides the backdrop for the arrival of Santa Ana’s army. Tiomkin brilliantly scores this scene by pitting competing militaristic motifs for Generalissimo Santa Ana against each other. We open with the Santa Ana March, a classic march which features militaristic horn play, syncopated timpani and snare drum percussion and fierce strings driving forth and set against a potent string lead descending minor third motif. The interplay of these two motifs is synergistic and serves to catalyze a powerful cue. We shift scenes with “The Letter” to Flaca writing a letter for Crockett in Spanish, which features some wondrous writing for strings and woodwinds. Solo flute and oboe dance with mid register strings as The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme flows into the piece. A solo flute plays against strings reprising the Love Theme that gives way to a concluding duet of solo oboe and violin. This cue brings a quiver due to its exquisite beauty.

“Here’s To The Ladies” features the energetic Here’s To The Ladies Theme carried by accordion, percussion, violin and trumpet that play as a polka! Bonus track nine provides a vocal version of this cue. At 1:10 a pizzicato string bridge lead a segue into “Flaca Reads The Letter” where Crockett has Flaca read his letter aloud to exhort his troops to stay and fight. Tiomkin uses the Mexican bugle carried El Degüello Theme set to tremolo strings to brilliantly highlight the moment. “Old Buck, Young Doe” opens with a reserved rendering of the Heroic Theme carried by field drums and trumpet as the Tennesseans enter the Alamo. We segue at 0:08 to a scene of Crockett and Flaca strolling, which Tiomkin emotes with a gentile pastoral elegance of solo flute, solo violin and French horns. At 1:12 a solo oboe and tremolo violins usher in a magnificent score highlight – a full and wondrous statement of The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme. This minor modal theme is tinged with sadness as it emotes a melody full of yearning for happier times. What is so remarkable about this piece is how Tiomkin shifts the main melodic line among the instruments; accordion, violin, oboe, flute, and muted trumpet all flowing atop a stream of lyrical woodwinds and strings. At 4:17 solo flute ushers in the Heroic Theme, which gains increasing potency becoming transcendent as an impassioned Crockett speaks proudly of the nobility of their cause. The ascent of the melodic line is just stirring and perfectly captures the emotional narrative at this crucial film scene. The return of The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme on accordion replete with tolling bells is bittersweet as Crockett realizes that his love for Flaca, like him will not survive the coming battle. This is seven minutes of pure joy and why I love film music. In “Tennesseans” Crockett and his men ride into the Alamo. I just love this piece where we hear a marvelous major modal reprise of the folksy anthem first heard in “The Signal” with solo flute and full orchestra replacing the fiddle’s contrapuntal line. This piece just abounds with a wonderful optimism that is just infectious!

The first half of the film concludes with “Lancers Arrive At Bejar” which is a powerhouse cue! We open to the arrival of Santa Ana’s army in San Antonio with dramatic heraldic horns that emote Santa Ana’s Theme with both passion and power. At 0:47 Tiomkin begins to play the Heroic and Eye’s Of Texas Themes against Santa Ana’s Theme that enriches the passage. In “Ultimatum” after a short pause where a Mexican delegation issues an ultimatum to surrender, Travis fires a single canon shot to make his point and we hear at 2:29 the Mexican delegation retreat to trumpets and timpani. After a bridge passage we are treated in “Short Cut To War” to the Heroic Theme that arises on solemn strings for a full orchestral statement with trumpet fare and rolling timpani. “Entr’acte – The Ballad Of The Alamo” is a score highlight that provides a solemn and inspiring choral rendering of the score’s Main Theme. This salutary song is emoted in the finest traditions of American folk music and speaks to the indomitable spirit of the men and women that forged this great country. A wondrous orchestral version worth hearing is provided in bonus track eight.

In “The Massing Of Troops”
Santa Ana, in a pompous show of strength, arrays his troops before the undermanned Alamo Mission. We open powerfully with blaring horns, rolling percussion, marimba and tambourine accents as we hear an astounding interplay of the Santa Ana March, the Attack Motif which features fierce strings driving forth in a descending minor third, and lastly the classic bugle carried El Degüello Theme. “Over The Wall” displays Crockett and his men sneaking into the Mexican camp, destroying the mammoth canon that could pummel the Mission’s walls and their close escape. This fast paced cue features recurring fragments of the Heroic Theme with very energetic string writing punctuated with horn play and propulsive percussion. At 1:10 a variant of the carried El Degüello Theme with quivering tambourine impart a distinctly Mexican flavor as they enter the enemy camp. The cue continues its relentless drive forward ultimately becoming an amazing tour de force. “You’re Wrong / Travis’ Plan” speaks to the confrontation between Colonel Travis and Bowie when he returns from his unauthorized mission. Colonel Travis reveals that their situation is hopeless and that their strategy is to delay Santa Ana to the end so as to allow General Houston time to assemble his army. A solo oboe, strings, flute and kindred woodwinds emote a sad melodic line as the men argue. At 0:52 as a bell tolls, the music begins to swell as Travis gives an impassioned speech, yet it never culminates, instead remaining reserved and supportive of Travis’ narrative. Repeating bell tolls, muted horns and timpani speak to both the nobility and inevitability of their coming struggle. After a timpani roll, a reserved Heroic Theme sounds with horns at 3:03 and the music brightens as a clarinet, doubled by violins, and solo oboe carry the now a gentile passage to conclusion.

In “Texas Cattle” we see Crockett and his men out on a scouting mission for food. Tiomkin scores the scene with a pastoral color provided by guitar, solo flute, solo oboe, tambourine, xylophone and muted trumpet. The music gains tempo and energy until trumpet blasts at 1:30 usher in “Dragoon Chase” which features the Texan retreat with the Mexican cavalry in hot pursuit. We are swung into full attack mode as Tiomkin unleashes the fury of his Santa Ana and Attack Motif as the wounded Texans barely reach the sanctuary of the mission. 
In “Dark Night” Bowie receives a letter, which informs him that his wife and children have died of cholera. Crockett supports Bowie in this terrible moment as Tiomkin scores the scene as a stirring elegy. We hear a beautiful interplay of woodwinds and strings that feature oboe, flute, cello and chimes. At 2:21 in “Profound Sympathy”, Travis joins the men and seeks to console Bowie in his grief. The melodic line becomes increasingly lyrical and string driven as the cue progresses, perfectly emoting the pathos of despair in Bowie’s heart.

In “Flag Raising” field drums and traditional trumpet herald the raising of the colors. At 0:32 in “Food Poisoning” as Travis is advised that their food supplies have spoiled a solemn Heroic Theme replete with bell tolls sounds to underscore the dire situation. We conclude at 1:05 in “Obvious Course” with Travis’ bold plan to raid Santa Ana’s camp for cattle which Tiomkin scores with an interesting repeating descending motif of woodwinds, guitar, xylophone, harpsichord, vibraphone, timpani and layered string harmonics. In “The Cattle Raid” the men sneak into the Mexican camp and wait for sunrise to implement their plan. The cue begins energetically with an aggressive triplet based motif carried by strings, syncopated woodwinds, xylophone and pounding timpani that is joined by the Heroic Theme. As the music charges forth trumpets and kindred horns join the fray. At 2:03 in “Morning Over The Alamo” as the men settle down and wait to start the stampede, a quiet interlude of flute, clarinet, guitar and English horn signal the calm before the storm. But it is short-lived as at 2:43 in “Cattle Stampede” Captain Dickerson leads a diversionary attack, a signal for Crockett to start the stampede. The score simply explodes with staccato strings, pounding timpani and driving horn play that incorporates the Heroic Theme. Sustained by full orchestra, the music propels us forward with heroic dynamism that reaffirms Tiomkin’s gift for robust action writing.

In “The He Bull”, heraldic trumpets with kindred horns play as the men of the Alamo watch Santa Ana array his army for a conclusive assault. His theme emoted tempo di marcia sounds now with a brutal and potent power sustained by pounding timpani, staccato strings, tambourine, xylophone and trilling woodwinds. At 1:35 in “Evacuate Noncombatants” tremolo strings and pizzicato bass usher in a solo trumpet call that emotes the fateful El Degüello Theme where Santa Ana’s emissary offers to allow women and children to evacuate. As Travis orders the evacuation, muted trumpets, pizzicato bass and field drums play. Soon sul ponticello strings join a sad descending melodic line with contrapuntal play from Santa Ana’s Theme as the women and children are summoned. At 3:04 in “Exodus” as the men say a last farewell to their loved ones, a solo accordion with strings carry a mournful The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme. Soon woodwinds join with the sentimental rendering of the Tennessee Babe Theme as Captain Dickerson’s wife refuses to leave. At 4:11 trumpets and field drums play as the men say a final farewell in “Three Cheers”. As the women and children depart The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme emoted tenderly by accordion, harpsichord two guitars and a marimba conclude the cue. This is really a poignant scene and Tiomkin’s evocative music is perfectly attenuated.

In “Mexican Bugle Calls” Santa Ana’s orders an attack and we are treated to the classic repeated bugle call, which gives way to an ornate fanfare carried by trumpets. At 0:24 in “The First Assault” we hear a martial Santa Ana Theme and Attack Motif now rendered with a potent driving ferocity that overwhelms repeated attempts by the Heroic Theme to declare itself. The synergy of horns, percussion and strings makes this cue a score highlight. A bugle call at 2:21 signals a Mexican retreat and is followed by an orchestral decrescendo to end the cue. From here we proceed to a very emotional and poignant cue “The Parson’s Death” where a distraught Crockett comforts and then eulogizes his friend Parson. We hear a solo accordion with vibraphone, guitar and string accompaniment carry a sorrowful The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme. As Parson passes a solo flute takes up the melodic line with harpsichord and religioso chords born by strings and woodwinds with timpani and bell tolls. As the scene shifts at 2:18 in “Mexican Wounded” we see the removal of the fallen Mexican soldiers by their comrades as an accordion again emotes a sad rendering of The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme to conclude the cue.

In “Bonham Arrives” the scout Bonham tells Travis that a support contingent of men had been ambushed and killed. Travis addresses his troops and grants permission for those who wish to leave to do so. We open with solo oboe and then solo flute that are extinguished by the percussive Santa Ana’s Theme. From here a somber string line with muted trumpets and timpani plays as the men discuss their options. At 2:03 in “Decision To Stay” we hear the Heroic Theme rise forth from out a somber horn line with timpani percussion and bell tolls revealing the men’s resolve to fight. The theme gains in tempo becoming a march until at 3:10 we segue into “Close The Gate” where we hear The Tennessean Theme sound as Crockett and his men resolve to stand by Travis to the end. “Smitty’s Mission” features Smitty riding furiously to deliver news of Travis’ dire situation to General Houston. We are provided an energetic ostinato rhythm of strings and trumpets that pause as Smitty delivers his urgent message at Houston’s camp. The galloping pace resumes as Smitty sets off anew to rejoin his comrades, but now it is emoted with strings ascending in their register with trumpets in homage to the young hero. As Houston receives and reads the communiqué strings descend into the depths of their registry and are joined by timpani. Flutter-tongue flute, piccolo and plaintive trombones emote a somber tenor as Houston praises the Alamo’s sacrifice. The cue concludes with muted trumpets and solemn strings that emote a reserved statement of the Heroic Theme, which plays against fading trumpets and timpani.

The passage “The Green Leaves Of Summer” is for me the score’s most poignant. It plays as an a cappella chorale as we see the many men silently contemplating their lives and their coming death in the morning. The song lyrics, written by Paul Francis Webster, found their inspiration in the Old Testament passage Ecclesiastics 5.18. I consider this song to be one of the best American ballads ever written and cannot understate Tiomkin’s musical gift for providing it a truly sublime melody. For me, the synergy of music and film imagery in this scene is transcendent and achieves an apotheosis. I provide you the lyrics;

“A time to be reapin’, a time to be sowin’.
The green leaves of Summer are callin’ me home.
‘Twas so good to be young then, in a season of plenty,
When the catfish were jumpin’ as high as the sky.”
“A time to be laughin’, a time to be livin’,
A time to be courtin’ a girl of your own.
‘Twas so good to be young then, to be close to the earth,
And to stand by your wife at the moment of birth.”
“A time to be reapin’, a time to be sowin’.
The green leaves of Summer are callin’ me home.
‘Twas so good to be young then, with the sweet smell of apples,
And the owl in the pine tree a-winkin’ his eye.”
“A time just for plantin’, a time just for ploughin’.
A time just for livin’, a place for to die.
‘Twas so good to be young then, to be close to the earth,
Now the green leaves of Summer are callin’ me home.”

The song’s melodic line is simple in construct, yet potent in its emotive power. Although tinged with sadness and full of yearning, the song resonates with an abiding serenity.

In “I Believe”
Bowie frees his slave Jethro who decides to stand by him as his first act as a free man. Tiomkin scores this poignant scene intimately for a small ensemble. The cue opens with harpsichord, strings and pizzicato contrabass, which usher in a fragment of The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme by muted trumpet that ends abruptio. A plaintive oboe with guitar and strings emote a new melodic line that is soon transferred to a trumpet. From here we are provided a beautiful lyrical, albeit pensive rendering of the El Degüello Theme that ends with a dark chord of finality. This is beautiful writing. “The Battle Of The Alamo: Marching Field Drums” commences the final battle sequences. We open with deafening militaristic field drums as Santa Ana arrays his troops for the final assault. At 1:47 we segue into “Santa Ana’s Mounted Band”. Originally scored for full orchestra (do listen to Bonus track 12 which I believe is superior), field drums are joined with trumpet fanfare blaring the El Degüello Theme with a potent menace.

We now bear witness to the score’s apogee. The following extended and powerfully percussive nine and a half-minute cue provide an extraordinary tour de force! It features a wonderful contrapuntal interplay of themes that pits the Mexican Santa Ana and El Degüello Themes against the Texan Heroic and Eyes Of Texas Themes. I must say that this is a horn lovers dream come true as their competing lines and themes clash in a duel that will resonate through time. We begin with a Mexican canon shot and charge, which opens “The Charge” that is dominated by trumpets and Santa Ana’s Themes with fleeting references to The Eyes Of Texas Theme. At 1:55 in “Lancer’s Charge” a repeating trumpet line heralds the advance of the Mexican Cavalry. With “Travis’ Death” at 3:55, we hear The Eyes Of Texas Theme resound heroically as Colonel Travis falls and breaks his own sword as a final act of defiance. At 5:41 in “North Wall” blaring trumpets signal the breech of the North Wall and the start of the last stand. At 7:48 El Degüello Theme blares unrelentingly to open “Death Of Crockett And Bowie”. As a dying Crockett blows up the munitions store The Eyes Of Texas Theme gains a transitory prominence over the relentless Mexican motifs. We now begin the final passage at 8:29 with the death of Jim Bowie, which is marked by a last refrain of The Eyes Of Texas Theme followed by a gong clash. I believe the complexity, boldness and richness of this cue earns Tiomkin immortality.

In “Smitty Returns” he arrives to late to join the battle. As he views the burning mission the El Degüello Theme plays with a grim finality. At 0:33 in “Tennessee Babe – Lisa” 
we see Mrs. Dickinson and her daughter Lisa walk out of the Alamo amidst the devastation and corpses of the fallen. Tiomkin again scores this poignant scene with a cappella chorale of the Tennessee Babe Theme, which serves as a stirring counterpoint of hope to the carnage. At 2:13 Santa Ana orders a trumpet salute to the fallen as we continue the hymn. We conclude the film in “Finale – The Ballad Of The Alamo” with a stirring rendering of the indomitable Americana anthem Ballad Of The Alamo. As the chorus sings we see the three survivors depart and the Battle of The Alamo pass into legend. With “Exit Music – The Green Leaves Of Summer” Tiomkin provided exit music for the audience that renders a more hopeful The Green Leaves Of Summer song that includes a second verse not heard before.

I have already referenced some of the important bonus tracks above and I invite the reader to listen to each of the other tracks as they provide alternate approaches, instrumentation and textures to the cues used in the film. I will limit my review to track six “End Title – Alternative Version” where Tiomkin provides a dramatically different approach to scoring the scene. The music opens decidedly upbeat and attuned to Mexicans being shot, rather than Smitty’s forlorn reaction on the hilltop. As Mrs. Dickinson and Lisa leave we hear and orchestral rendering of first the Tennessee Babe Theme and then The Green Leaves Of Summer Theme played mournfully as a dark lamentation. I believe the choral version to be superior in supporting the film’s narrative.

I must thank Prometheus Records, James Fitzpatrick and Luc Van de Ven for a stunning rerecording of the complete score to “The Alamo”. The sound quality has pristine crystal clarity and the recording is exemplary. This is in my judgment Tiomkin’s Magnum Opus, a score filled with a multiplicity of excellent themes that perfectly captured its emotional core. The brilliant juxtaposition of the Texan and Mexican identities empowered and enhanced the film’s narrative and offer testimony to Tiomkin’s mastery of his craft. The use of chorale, ballads, folk instruments and complex contrapuntal action writing is brilliantly conceived and of the highest order. I highly recommend this score as absolutely essential addition to your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score I have embedded a Youtube link to the cue Charge of Santa Anna/The Final Assault where Tiomkin unleashes his orchestra as the Texan and Mexican Themes battle for victory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfKhsGFzG9w

Buy the Alamo soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (2:58)
  • Main Title (2:04)
  • Foreword/Houston’s Arrival/Houston And Travis/Houston Departs/Bowie’s Hangover (5:16)
  • Bowie’s Men Arrive (0:51)
  • Flag Ceremony/Meeting In The Mission/The Seguins/Adios Juan (3:55)
  • Smitty And The Parson/The Signal/To The Cantina (2:23)
  • Cantina Music/”Here’s To The Ladies” (2:12)
  • Cantina Music/”Adelita And Pajarillo” (2:47)
  • Plan For The Republic (2:25)
  • Emil And Flaca (2:33)
  • Emil’s Demands/Cantina Music (2:04)
  • Mr. Tall American (2:51)
  • Emil’s Thugs (1:05)
  • Davy And Jim/Flaca’s Secret (2:59)
  • Powder Cache/Emil Dies/Someone To Lean On (3:07)
  • Santa Anna’s Troops (1:31)
  • The Letter (1:31)
  • Bowie Blows Up (0:59)
  • Here’s To The Ladies/Flaca Reads The Letter (2:06)
  • Old Buck, Young Doe/Davy And Flaca/Love Scene (7:03)
  • 23 Tennesseans/Davy Crockett And The Tennesseans (2:32)
  • Lancers Arrive At Bejar/Ultimatum/Short Cut To War/Intermission (3:28)
  • Entr’acte/The Ballad Of The Alamo (3:40)
  • The Massing Of Troops (1:37)
  • Patrol’s In Trouble/She’s A Big One (1:34)
  • Over The Wall (3:50)
  • You’re Wrong/Travis’ Plan (4:38)
  • Bowie Stays (1:35)
  • Texas Cattle/Dragoon Chase (2:48)
  • Untitled (Reel 19) (0:47)
  • Dark Night/Profound Sympathy (3:48)
  • Flag Raising/Food Poisoning/Obvious Course (1:26)
  • The Cattle Raid/The Wait/Morning Over The Alamo/Cattle Stampede (4:50)
  • The Long Horns (0:53)
  • The He Bull/Evacuate Noncombatants/Exodus/Three Cheers (6:45)
  • Mexican Bugle Calls/The First Assault (2:36)
  • The Parson’s Death/Mexican Wounded (3:12)
  • Bonham Arrives/Decision To Stay/Close The Gate (3:54)
  • Smitty’s Mission/Untitled (Reel 24) (5:02)
  • The Green Leaves Of Summer (2:42)
  • I Believe (2:33)
  • The Battle Of The Alamo/Marching Field Drums/Santa Anna’s Mounted Band (3:09)
  • The Charge/Lancer’s Charge/Travis’ Death/North Wall/Death Of Crockett And Bowie (9:23)
  • Smitty Returns/Tennessee Babe/Lisa (2:37)
  • Finale/The Ballad Of The Alamo (1:13)
  • Exit Music/The Green Leaves Of Summer (3:43)
  • End Title (Alternate Version) (4:23) – BONUS
  • The Signal (Original Version) (1:02) – BONUS
  • Entr’acte/The Ballad Of The Alamo (Orchestral Backing Track) (3:38) – BONUS
  • Here’s To The Ladies (Vocal Version) (performed by David Shannon) (1:11) – BONUS
  • The Green Leaves Of Summer (Guitar Version) (2:58) – BONUS
  • I Believe (Original Version) (2:31) – BONUS
  • Santa Anna’s Mounted Band (Full Orchestra Version) (1:20) – BONUS
  • Spirit Of The Alamo (2:09) – BONUS
  • Tennessee Babe (Album Version) (2:38) – BONUS
  • Finale/The Ballad Of The Alamo (Album Version) (1:14) – BONUS
  • The Ballad Of The Alamo (performed by David Shannon) (4:00) – BONUS

Running Time: 163 minutes 59 seconds

Prometheus XPCD-168 (1960/2010)

Music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. Conducted by Nic Raine. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Manuel Emmanuel, Jimmie Haskell, George Parrish and Herbert Taylor. Recorded and mixed by Jan Holzner. Score produced by Dimitri Tiomkin. Album produced by James Fitzpatrick and Luc Van de Ven.

  1. twebb2
    August 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Craig, I LOVE this series of “100 Greatest Scores”! I am being introduced to specific works by composers that I knew were great, but whose music I had never heard before. I’m enjoying every entry in this series – keep it up! Heck, continue on with “The top 25 scores that didn’t crack the Top 100” or something. Love it!

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