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EL CID – Miklós Rózsa

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Samuel Bronston had just finished his epic film King of Kings (1961) and decided that the time was finally right to realize his long desired ambition to bring the story of El Cid to the screen. Fredric Frank, a longtime collaborator with Cecil B. DeMille, had written a brilliant story and Bronson tasked him, Philip Yordan and Ben Barzman with writing the screenplay. Anthony Mann was given the director reigns and a stellar cast was hired. Charlton Heston was cast for the titular role and joined by Sophia Loren as Doña Chimene, Herbert Lom as Ibn Yussuf, Raf Vallone as Count García Ordóñez, Geneviève Page as Doña Urraca, John Fraser as King Alfonso VI, Michael Hordem as Don Diego, and Frank Thring as Emir Al-Kadir. Controversy among the two principle actors arose when Heston found out that Loren was being paid one million dollars more than him. He became furious and his disdain leaked out into his performance. You will notice that he consistently refuses to look at Loren, even during romantic moments, which detracted from his performance and the film’s narrative.

The story is set in Medieval Spain circa 1080 CE. The competing Christian kingdoms of Spain are at war with the Muslim Moors, who have conquered most of the central and southern regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Against this backdrop a new threat arises from the shores of North Africa as the fanatical Prince Ibn Yussuf of the Almoravides invades and compels the Moors to join him in Jihad. It comes to pass that as the Christian knight Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar travels to his wedding with Doña Chimene, he is forced to divert his troops to rescue a town under siege from the Moorish army. He wins the day and captures both the Moorish Emirs, to whom he shows mercy by sparing their lives if they pledge to never again attack the lands of King Ferdinand. In gratitude, they swear allegiance, and proclaim him in Arabic Al Sidj, El Cid in Castilian, meaning Lord. This act of magnanimity causes a fierce protest from Count Ordóñez, and uproar in the Spanish court. Charges of treason are brought to the king, which leads to a duel with his champion Count Gormaz, Chimene’s father. Rodrigo slays Gormaz to clear his name, but earns the enmity of Chimene.

Restored to good favor, Rodrigo wins many battles for the crown and over time Chimene’s love is rekindled. El Cid finally meets his end in an epic battle with Prince Yussuf for Valencia. Although Yussuf‘s attack against the city is inconclusive, Rodrigo is mortally wounded by an arrow. Sensing Divine favor, Yussuf prepares to attack at dawn believing El Cid has died. Rodrigo needs to have the arrow removed to survive, yet decides against it, as he would be left to weak to lead his army. Chimene promises him that she will see that he leads his army, alive or dead. El Cid passes in the night, but his body is secured in heroic gleaming armor atop his horse. In a scene for the ages, the gates open and to the sound of the battle cry “For God, the Cid, and Spain” his mounted corpse rides forth at the head of his army, flanked and guided by King Alfonso and Emir Al-Mu’tamin. Yussuf is dumbstruck, trampled to death, and his troops routed, fleeing in panic, as they believe El Cid has risen from the grave. The film was a commercial success earning more than four times its production cost of $6.25 million. It did not however receive universal critical acclaim, securing only three Academy Award nominations including, Best Art Direction, Best Film Score and Best Song.

Although Bronson was very pleased with Miklós Rózsa’s score for “King of Kings,” his first choice was Mario Nascimbene due to Italian financing of the film. The collaboration was stillborn with Nascimbene declining when Bronson insisted that he adapt music from Massenet’s opera Le Cid for the score. As such he turned to Rózsa, dropped the Massenet idea, and the rest is history. Bronson flew the enthusiastic Rózsa and his family to Madrid, providing a beautiful home from which to work. Life in Spain deeply influenced Rózsa and provided inspiration. He studiously researched the history of El Cid, and the Medieval poetry and music of “La Cantigas de Santa Maria” with Dr. Ramon Menendez Pidal. In addition, the 12th century works “Llibre Vermell” by Alfonso the Wise offered an astounding 400 songs to the Virgin Mary, which assisted Rózsa conceptualize his soundscape. Lastly, he also consulted a rich collection of Spanish folk songs that were compiled by musicologist Felipe Pedrell, which he interpolated within the score’s fabric.

Rózsa understood that his music had to incorporate the idiom of Medieval era and relates that stylistically his approach was influenced by a trio of factors; the Medieval, the Moorish and the fusion of the two to represent a divided Spain. As was his practice, the score construct was underpinned by leitmotifs, which included an astounding fifteen themes and four motifs. For our hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar we have a trio of themes, which support his identity; Rodrigo’s Theme represents him prior to his ascent to El Cid. Its string carried expression is warm, major modal, yet with reserved nobility. I discern a subtle religioso aura within the notes, which informs us that he is a principled man of faith. The El Cid Theme serves as his primary identity and permeates throughout the score. Its opening six-note phrase ushers in an extended long flowing melodic line carried by sumptuous strings nobile adorned with contrapuntal horns. Its bearing is masculine and its articulation is romantic, yet tinged with an intangible sadness. During battle it is militarized into a proud marcia bravura, which inspires and awes. Lastly we have the King’s Champion Theme, which offers one of the most inspiring themes of the score. As a testament to winning the King’s favor this ennobling melodic line is empowered by declarations by horns regale, solemn refulgent strings and crystalline chimes.

For Doña Chimene we have two themes; Chimene’s Theme serves as her identity and is emoted by a gentile solo oboe. It offers a graceful elegance, often serving as a prelude to the Love Theme. The Love Theme by many accounts may be the finest in Rózsa’s canon and serves as an affirmation of Chimene’s and Rodrigo’s love. Its melodic line is carried by warm, sumptuous strings romantico, with contrapuntal horns nobile. Its forthright and unabashed A Phrase offers a stirring declaration of Love manifest, while its thirsting B Phrase speaks of Love’s yearning. When rendered by solo violin, its articulation becomes sublime, evoking a quiver, and a tear. For Rodrigo and Chimene’s children we have the Twin’s Theme, which serves as the identity of their twin daughters, as well as Rodrigo’s paternal love. It draws inspiration from Cantiga No. 322, and offers a tender folk melody emoted by sonority of solo guitar.

For our villains we have Ibn Yusuf’s Theme, which empowers the warlord, and musically, offers a perfect foil to our hero. It emotes as a dire statement born by menacing horns that play darkly over a repeating quaternary ostinato, which informs us of his dark, destructive purpose. Count Ordóñez’s Theme offers a dark and adversarial construct, which serves as the Count’s identity. Its expression is biphasic with a repeating string declared six-note phrase, countered by grim horns. Like Yussuf’s Theme, its juxtaposition to Rodrigo’s and the El Cid Theme offers dynamic contrast and interplay. After he joins Rodrigo as an ally and suffers death at the hands of Yussuf, his theme is militarized and supports troops in battle. Lastly we have Count Gormaz’s Theme, which offers a grim long lined construct that serves as his identity. The horn carried line is forthright, reserved, and stern in its expression.

There are five secondary themes including the Knights Royal Theme #1, which offers a classic marcia maestoso that emotes with the bearing, and cadence of galloping mounted knights. Rózsa drew melodic inspiration from “Los set goyts recomtarem” from the Llibre Vermell, which carries the knights with martial nobility. The Knights Royal Theme #2 also offers a classic marica militare, which emotes with the bearing and cadence of galloping knights. However this theme, while kindred to the first, is more strident, purposeful and aggressive in its articulation. The Faith Theme is expressed with a profound, ritualistic, and religioso reverence, articulated by horns nobile and strings solenne. Rózsa has always had a gift for tapping into the Divine, and this theme offers enduring testimony of his gift. Prince Sancho Theme offers an intense identity born by a propulsive string ostinato with counters by trumpet bravura. From this underpinning rise determined, repeating statements by strings bellicoso, which speak to his driving intensity and regal ambitions. Dolfo’s Theme is underpinned by a dire, repeating four-note ostinato, which emotes darkly with the covert menace of an assassin. Its serpentine construct unsettles us, and is carried by mid and low register strings sinistre. Lastly we have the Military Theme, which offers a horn and percussion propelled marcia militare that offers a secondary expression of Rodrigo when leading his troops.

The score is rounded off by four Motifs. The Moorish Motif serves as the Moor’s identity and is kindred to the other Arabic identity, Yussuf’s Theme. The theme is emoted in a serpentine statement carried by oriental woodwinds. There is an exotic quality, yet it can also be rendered in menacing form to support armed conflict. The Castilian Motif offers a stirring statement by swirling strings abounding in Spanish auras, with powerful low register horn counters. It is introduced when opening the “Prelude” and articulated more fully in the “Siege of Valencia” cue. The Siege Tower Motif offers a powerful and menacing construct by horns brutale, strings and snare drum percussion, which carry the monstrous war machine towards the city walls. Lastly we have the Death Motif, which unfolds with simple phrasing and a grim resignation carried by clarinet and strings doloroso.

I provide technical insight into the score’s recording. Producer James Fitzpatrick sought a vintage, rather than a modern orchestral sound for score. As such he chose to record in a very dry studio soundstage instead of an over-reverberant concert hall. From my perspective I believe this was artistically an insightful and correct decision. Lastly, in the end controversy arose when Rózsa discovered after viewing the film’s final cut, that 23 minutes of his 136-minute score had been excised in hack-eyed fashion, leaving some passages clumsily truncated, with others missing, or stripped of their entry statements. He was aghast and appealed to Bronson to either restore the music, or allow him to make repairs, but to no avail. Rózsa never forgave Bronson for the way his handiwork was butchered by the sound and film editors, and refused thereafter to ever collaborate with him again.

“Overture” offers a splendid score highlight, which is not part of the film score. This set piece is constructed in classic ABA form with opening and closing fanfare. We open with the grand heraldic pageantry of the El Cid fanfare, which stirs the soul and portends an epic tale. At 0:29 we segue into the martial Knights Royale Theme #1 a classic marcia maestoso, which emotes with the bearing and cadence of galloping mounted knights. At 1:15 Rózsa speaks to the film’s setting as we transition upon Castilian splendor, which bathes us with the warm and colorful auras of Spain. Treasure this statement, as Rózsa offers no reprise. At 2:09 we regain the Knights Royale Theme #1, now adorned with contrapuntal horns, which crescendos, culminating grandly atop the El Cid Fanfare! Magnificent! “Prelude” supports the roll of the opening credits and also offers a stirring score highlight. It is perfect in its conception and construct, with Rózsa showcasing his two primary themes. The swirling strings of the Castilian Motif launch this set piece constructed in classic ABA form, which opens with a bold, forthright rendering of the El Cid Theme in all its glory. We bear witness as Rózsa commences an impassioned crescendo, a glorious ascent, which culminates at 1:11 with the sublime beauty of the Love Theme, so full of longing, and rendered fully with expression of both it’s A and B Phrases. We close with a string ascent from which is born a final closing statement of the El Cid Theme.

“Ben Yussuf” offers a complex, multi-scenic cue where Rózsa introduces new themes. The film’s opening narration is supported by an oriental solo English horn doloroso, which plays over refulgent strings with harp adornment. Rózsa genius is displayed with barely noticeable references of the El Cid Theme, which alludes to Yussuf’s and El Cid’s shared destiny. At 0:49 we segue darkly to Morocco where the demagogue Prince Ibn Yussuf rallies his Moorish brothers to unite in common cause, in holy Jihad to destroy the Christians. His theme unfolds darkly, carried by menacing horns, and a grim cadence of death, which fully reveal his dark purpose. At 2:27 we change scenes to Spain as we behold a burning village, alight is the fiery rays of sunset. The Arabic auras of the Moorish Motif support the new setting, and inform us of their grim handiwork. In a scene change at 2:53 we come upon our hero, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar who leads his troops on a journey to his wedding. A prelude to his theme joins with the Moorish Motif as he observes the burning village. As he commands his troops to intervene we bear witness to a score highlight where we are graced with a full rendering of his reserved and noble theme. In one of the score’s finest moments, Rózsa transforms his theme by infusing religioso auras as Rodrigo rides forth and recovers the sacred crucifix from the burning church. We close with interplay with the Moorish Motif as the two captured Emirs are brought to him.

“Destiny” offers a hinge of fate as Rodrigo is set upon a path to his destiny. In an act of Christian mercy, Rodrigo agrees to spare the Emirs lives if they swear an oath to never again attack the lands of King Ferdinand. A grateful Emir Al-Mu’tamin, pledges his loyalty and declares Rodrigo, Al Sidj (El Cid in Castilian), or Lord. Rózsa supports the powerful moment with interplay of Rodrigo’s Theme and the Moorish Motif, which ascends and culminates with a reserved statement of the El Cid Theme as Emir Mu’tamin proclaims him AL Sidj. At 1:23 this enrages Count Ordóñez, the King’s representative, who insists on execution. Dire and repeating declarations of his theme inform us of his opposition and menace. The Count’s protests however fail as we hear the El Cid Theme resume prominence. At 2:18 we change scenes to “Burgos” as Rodrigo and his party arrive for the wedding. We are graced with the splendor and pageantry of the happy occasion. Festive horn fare resounds for these are good times, however we discern a malignant statement of Ordóñez’s Theme, informing us of his dark purpose.

“Palace Music” offers source music of antiquity, with Rózsa interpolating cantiga 189. A small ensemble of recorder, two harps and guitar carry the tender melody. In “Bad News” Chimene awaits Rodrigo, and Rózsa carries her longing anticipation with her theme, which features a beautiful solo oboe highlight. Yet all is not well as portentous dissonance and dark auras cycle and intrude for fleeting moments. At 2:44 Chimene’s father and Count Ordóñez arrive with the bad news that they intend to challenge Rodrigo’s action before the King and nobles. Rózsa introduces Gormaz’s Theme, which is rendered grimly to support what he must tell his daughter. The Love Theme rises up and she seeks to overcome his ill tidings, but to no avail as he is resolute, and we close upon his theme. “Entry of the Nobles” offers a horn lovers dream come true as Rózsa dazzles us with resplendent heraldic fan fare. We begin with Counts Gormaz and Ordóñez departing to declare their accusations against Rodrigo. A dark rendering of Gormaz’s Theme carries their departure. At 0:13 we change scenes to the King’s court where we observe the arrival of the nobles. As the royal family arrives, Rózsa captures the pageantry of the Castilian court by providing each member with regal fanfare to acknowledge their privileged status.

In “The Meeting” Rodrigo and Chimene at last meet as he prepares to stand trial. We open on the Moorish Motif, which underpins the charges brought against him. From out its articulation begins an impassioned ascent that gives rise to a wondrous full rendering of the Love Theme as our lovers hold hands, uncertain of their fate. At 1:43 its melodic flow is interrupted by the Moorish Motif as Rodrigo explains his reasoning for freeing the Emirs. This gives way to the El Cid Theme, which is emoted with a reserved and dignified expression, yet there is uncertainty in its articulation, an outward manifestation of Rodrigo’s self-doubt. “The Slap” reveals their parents at odds as Count Gormaz issues a challenge of honor against Rodrigo’s father Don Diego. A grim rendering of Gomaz’s Theme supports his accusations. As we shift to our lovers waiting below, the Love Theme returns to support their embrace.

The next three cues support an extended scene where we witness the intersection of powerful emotions. In “Count Gormaz” he confronts Rodrigo for his dishonorable behavior. Repeat phrases of Gormaz’s Theme by horns minacciose and a bass clarinet supports his aggression. The confrontation soon swells upon his theme until 2:01 when a sword fight commences with “Courage and Honour – Gormaz’ Death”. Rózsa unleashes his orchestra with Gormaz’s Theme carrying his fury. Most interesting is that phrasing of the Love Theme is woven into the music’s fabric, which informs us of Rodrigo’s conflict in fighting Chimene’s father. Slowly, yet inexorably we crescendo upon fierce statements of Gormaz’s Theme until repeated orchestral strikes herald his death at 4:01. In “Honour and Sorrow” Chimene enters and rushes to her dying father, who commands her to avenge his death. His tortured theme carries his final words and expiation. Rodrigo is clearly bereft and we close with a tragic minor modal rendering of the Love Theme, as hatred has supplanted love within Chimene’s heart.

“The Court of Ferdinand” reveals the assembly of the King and the Court of Nobles to hear a challenge from the Kingdom of Aragon for the city of Calahorra. Heraldic fanfare declarations introduce a solemn march, which supports the entry and seating of the assembly. Subtle references of the EL Cid Theme allude to Rodrigo’s rise to become the King’s Champion. In “The Gauntlet” Rodrigo sees opportunity for redemption and declares his desire to defend the King’s honor as his champion. When the King consents and bestows his gauntlet, a reserved yet determined rendering of the El Cid Theme carries Rodrigo’s honor. “The Fight for Calahorra” reveals Rodrigo’s date with destiny. Rózsa interpolates the festive cantiga 266, empowered by celebratory trumpets to support the grand pageantry of the scene. At 1:15 Chimene calls upon Aragon’s champion Don Martin to slay Rodrigo, which Rózsa supports by interpolating another of the cantigas, #7, which joins powerfully in the orchestra’s lower register. At 1:59 Rodrigo prays for divine sanction and Rózsa introduces his Faith Theme to support the moment. We close with bravado horn fare, which culminates atop trumpets as the fight commences. No music accompanies the duel of champions.

In “The King’s Champion” Rodrigo is victorious, and King Ramiro rescinds his claim to Calahorra. To commemorate Rodrigo’s triumph, Rózsa introduces his King’s Champion Theme, which offers one of the most inspiring themes of the score. As a testament to winning the King’s favor, this ennobling melodic line is empowered by horns regale declarations, solemn refulgent strings and crystalline chimes. In this stirring scene we behold a noble man who has regained his place in the sun. “Chimene’s Decision” reveals the treachery of Count Ordóñez when he offers Chimene to slay Rodrigo. Rózsa speaks to the ugliness of Count Ordóñez with a truly dire and malevolent rendering of his theme, replete with trumpets of doom. Unresolved strains of the Love Theme on solo oboe, and faint echoes of the El Cid Theme offer insight into Chimene’s decision to accept the blood offer. “Investiture” offers a grand cue of affirmation as Rodrigo is honored, and formally invested as the King’s Champion. Rózsa supports the ceremony with a solemn rendering of the King’s Champion Theme, which culminates with a resplendent horn flourish!

In “The Expedition” Rodrigo undertakes his first mission as the King’s Champion when King Ferdinand tasks him to collect tribute from Moorish vassals. If successful the King will grant his request to wed Chimene. As Rodrigo departs we are graced with the grandest rendering of the King’s Champion Theme, which is now embellished with contrapuntal horn fare. In a scene change to a discussion between Chimene and Urraca, the theme darkens, dissipates, and we transition to wistful and unresolved expression of the Love Theme. The music informs us that Chimene is conflicted in her decision to conspire with Count Ordóñez. “Betrayal – Ambush” offers one of the scores finest action cues where Rózsa unleashes his orchestra for a truly breath-taking interplay of his themes. We open with powerful martial rendering of the Knights Royal Theme #1 as Rodrigo, Sanchez and their cavalry ride forth. Unbeknownst to them an ambush by Count Ordóñez and some dissident Moors awaits them. The Moorish Motif lurks, and infiltrates the still dominant the Knights Royal Theme #1, bringing dissonance until all hell breaks loose at 1:11 with the ambush. As our heroes fight for their lives a malevolent Count Ordóñez Theme joins the fray and we bear witness to the fury of combat as the theme of the protagonist contests the two themes of the antagonists for supremacy. The entry of Emir Al-Mu’tamin turns the tide of battle and Rodrigo triumphs. At 2:07 the themes of the antagonists dissipate, vanquished by a now reserved, non-bravado statement of the El Cid Theme as Rodrigo thanks Al-Mu’tamin. We close darkly upon Count Ordóñez Theme, and we conclude with an impassioned crescendo as his treachery is exposed. Remarkably, Rodrigo spares Ordóñez’s life, completes the king’s mission, and prepares to wed Chimene.

“The Wedding” offers another cue butchered by the two editors with the lovely solo flute prelude to the Love Theme excised. The Love Theme’s articulation is not joyous, but one of resignation as Chimene marries unwillingly by order of the King. In “Wedding Supper” Rózsa uses an intimate ensemble of harps and guitars to subtlety support the dining. He interpolates Cantiga No. 3 to carry the gentile ambiance. “The Wedding Night” offers an exquisite cue where we bear witness to the intersection of powerful emotions as a distraught Chimene prepares to accept Rodrigo unto their wedding bed. Rózsa reminds us of the ghost of Chimene’s father, which casts a dark pall over them, with a plaintive rendering of his theme. From out this pain ascends her theme on oboe and then English horn, which ushers in the Love Theme. Its articulation is not ardent, or longing, but instead one of resignation. A fleeting return of Count Ordóñez Theme – an echo of her complicity in the murder plot, interrupts its narrative flow. Yet the Love Theme reemerges and crescendos on violins affanato as Rodrigo departs, for he will not take Chimene unless she submits to him willingly. His departure leaves Chimene to dwell in a crucible of pain, which is beautifully emoted by a transfer of the Love Theme to solo cello with contrapuntal strings.

In “The Road to Asturias – Thirteen Knights” offers a splendid action cue. King Ferdinand’s death has caused a succession crisis, which pits Prince Sancho against his siblings Prince Alfonso and Princess Urraca. As the eldest brother, Sancho will not accept dividing the kingdom amongst the three of them, and so orders the arrest and imprisonment of Alfonso. The royal guard is dispatched and escorts him to his prison at Zamora. The Knight’s Royal Theme #2, a strident, purposeful and aggressive marica militare carries their progress. The El Cid Theme soon joins with a matching cadence, and informs us of the presence of Rodrigo as we discern in the distance, his approach. Rózsa builds tension upon the two themes, which join in powerful contesting interplay. At 1:20 Rodrigo challenges the thirteen knights, and trumpet calls unleash hell as Rózsa whips his orchestra into frenzy, providing some of the score’s most aggressive and strident battle music. At 2:15 Sancho’s knights make their last stand on a cresting Knight’s Royal Theme #2, only to be vanquished by Rodrigo and the victorious El Cid Theme, which herald’s his triumph. Afterwards, Rodrigo and Alfonso ride to Calahorra, where Ferdinand’s daughter, the Infanta resides.

“Ride to Valencia” offers a powerful cue, which showcases Yussuf’s Theme. Prince Yussuf rides forth to Valencia to rally his followers to strike before the Christian kingdoms can unite against them. An aggressive snare drum propelled rendering of his theme carries his progress. A brief respite from its militancy supports narration as he enters the city, with the cue concluding as it began with a fierce malevolent statement of his theme. In “Al Kadir’s Delights” Yussuf has entered the Emir’s palace, and he conspires to land his armada at the city’s port, and to hire the assassin Dolfos to murder Prince Sancho. Rózsa sets a gentile ambiance by infusing the scene with a danza Araba born by a small ensemble of guitar, harp, oboe, viola and tambourine. “Sancho’s Demand” was regretfully excised from the film. It reveals Prince Sancho riding to Calahorra to declare his demands to Alfonso and Urraca that he, and he alone shall be crowned King of a united kingdom. Rózsa supports Sancho’s ambitions with his theme, which is music born by a propulsive string ostinato with trumpet counters. At 0:34 aggressive, repeating statements by strings bellicoso raise tension and create urgency, which carry his progress. In a scene change at 1:02 we see an unsettled Alfonso, which Rózsa supports with a diminuendo on Sancho’s Theme that then crescendos darkly as Urraca accepts Dolfo’s offer to murder her brother. Dire references to Yussuf’s Theme close the cue, as he is the architect, which has set Dolfo on his dark purpose.

Regretfully, the two editors butchered this exemplary cue, one of the score’s finest, replacing much of it with the sounds of nature. In “Dolfos’ Mission” Dolfo, who is well known to the ruling family departs to rendezvous with Prince Sancho, a departure. Rózsa supports his progress and menace with a full rendering of his theme. At 0:52 the theme transforms into a horrific marcia il male, empowered by snare drums and foreboding trumpets, which crescendos powerfully, only to resume is occult dark purpose. At 2:40 we segue into “Sancho’s End” where Dolfo joins Prince Sancho, convincing him to return to Calahorra. As they travel Dolfo seeks the moment to strike and his menacing theme carries their progress, building to a crescendo of death at 4:23 when he strikes the fatal blow. Before Dolfo can escape, Rodrigo arrives and avenges Sancho by striking him down. A fierce crescendo supports Rodrigo’s wrath, with a gong strike at 4:47 his mortal blow. As Dolfo falls, a diminuendo upon his theme carries his expiation. At 5:10 Rodrigo comes to a dying Sancho to comfort him. As he holds him in his arms Sancho is thankful and his theme struggles for life, yet succumbs as he passes. We close on a phrase of the Dies Irae Theme, which dissipates upon the wind.

Once again the two editors excised a wondrous cue from the score, just unforgiveable. The replacement hack drawn from earlier score fragments rob the scene of its magnificence and grandeur. “Coronation” reveals Alfonso being crowned King. In an act of magnanimity, he forgives all his transgressors, and demands all take an oath of fealty. Resplendent and regal fan fare usher in a magnificent marcia maestoso, which supports Alfonso’s grand ascendancy, with the cue culminating in a glorious horn declared flourish! In “Alfonso’s Oath” Rodrigo earns Alfonos’s ire for his insolence when he refuses to kneel and pledge fealty, insisting that Alfonso must first publicly swear on a bible that he did not conspire to kill his brother. A dire descending line for strings buttressed by horns of doom inform us of Alfonso’s profound anger.

“Banishment” reveals royal retribution as Alfonso issues his edict banishing Rodrigo from the realm. Rózsa supports Rodrigo’s fall from grace, with a plaintive marcia del disonore, which slowly dissipates into nothingness as dawn rises the next day. We now come to a wondrous score highlight where we are graced with one of the most stirring renderings of the El Cid Theme. As Rodrigo travels a solo oboe tenero emotes his theme and carries his progress. As he comes upon a desperate leper we bear witness to an impassioned, heartfelt ascent on his theme, which culminates sublimely as he offers the suffering man water. At 1:02 we segue atop a stirring idyllic bridge into “Forgiveness” as Chimene comes upon Rodrigo. Her theme on solo oboe carries her to welcoming arms. As she professes her love for him the Love Theme unfolds sumptuously with an unabashed rendering of its declarative A Phrase and thirsting B Phrase. In “Friendship” a young girl offers our weary travelers food and shelter for the night in her family’s barn. Rózsa supports the scene with a wondrous woodwind pastorale adorned with exquisite passages by solo flute, solo oboe and solo violin.

We now come to a magnificent score highlight where Rózsa graces us with his most beautiful articulation of the Love Theme. “The Barn – Love Theme” reveals our lovers enjoying a quiet, intimate interlude, safe from the vicissitudes of life. We open upon a solo clarinet expressing Chimene’s Theme, which transfers tenderly to solo oboe. We flow into the Love Theme atop a solo violin, which in turn gives way to a solo cello. What follows is breath taking in its exquisite elegance and beauty. A virtuoso solo violin carries the melody countered by kindred strings, and then they transpose, with strings assuming the melodic line and the now contrapuntal solo violin dancing atop it. This is writing of the highest order! In “For Spain!”, as Rodrigo and Chimene exit the barn they are startled by a fervent crowd exhorting him to lead Spain to glory. An inspiring horn laden prelude ushers in a powerful rendering of the El Cid March in all its glory. At 1:54 we cut away darkly to Urraca’s bedchamber where she reads Sancho’s account of an unsettling, portentous dream – his death. A sinister clarinet carries a serpentine line, with disquieting ambient effects, which reminds us of her evil complicity in her brother’s murder. At 3:03 we segue into “Farewell” as Rodrigo accepts the mantle of leadership and prepares to set forth in pursuit of his destiny, which is affirmed by the El Cid Theme. For safekeeping, Rodrigo leaves Chimene in a convent. She is heart broken and the Love Theme unfolds with a sad resignation to support their parting. Once again the exquisite solo violin adornment weaves a stirring testament of love refulgent. We close Act I gloriously atop a bold rendering of the El Cid March.

“Entra’cte: The El Cid March” offers my favorite cue of the score, and perhaps of all time. In my judgment it provides the greatest march in cinematic history, one that gains entry into the hollowed halls of the Pantheon of great film score themes, and earns Rózsa, immortality. The cue supported the intermission for the extended film and is presented as a concert piece. Rendered in classical ABA form, the music opens gloriously with refulgent regal horn fare, and unfolds with an astounding heroic power, a rousing and bold marcia maestoso, irresistible, and, unstoppable. “Rodrigo’s Men” opens Act II of the film with the Military Theme, a marcia militare, which boldly supports Rodrigo and his troops, culminating with a flourish atop horns brillante. “The Twins” offers an exquisite cue rendered in ABA form. Rodrigo has received word that he has fathered twin daughters. He is joyous and journeys to Chimene to see her and meet his new family. He sees his daughters first and the tender Twin’s Theme emoted by guitar speaks of the beauty, and his joy. When he sees Chimene, the Love Theme unfolds with a solo violin again prominent atop contrapuntal kindred strings. An attending guitar sustains the familial bond with the daughters, and moves to the forefront attended by sumptuous strings to bring the piece to perfect closure.

In “Rodrigo’s Doubts” he shares his uncertainty with Chimene as to whether he should regain the King’s favor by obeying his summons to join him in battle at Sagrajas against Prince Yussuf. A plaintive El Cid Theme, shorn of all its bravado supports the revelatory moment. Dark orchestral colors sow doubt and uncertainty, and outward reflection of Rodrigo’s conflicted inner thoughts. “Unity” offers another casualty of the two editors. It reveals Rodrigo refusing the royal summons and instead seeking to leverage his alliance with Emir Al-Mu’tamin in a bold plan to attack the city of Valencia, thus cutting Yussuf off from his supply port. Rodrigo is carried by the marcia militare of the Military Theme, while Al-Mu’tamin is supported by the Moorish Motif as their armies approach each other from opposite shores of a river. As the two men meet and embrace in friendship we ascend on a celebratory crescendo of jubilation. In “Moorish Feast” Al-Mu’tamin host a lavish feast to celebrate their friendship and alliance. Rózsa supports the scene with festive Arabic auras and rhythms.

“The Siege of Valencia” was a victim of the editors and excised from the film. Rodrigo and Al-Mu’tamin armies have laid siege to Valencia. An extended rendering of the Castilian Motif carries vistas of the city and a courier who reports to the two leaders that the city is encircled. The Moorish Motif joins as Al-Mu’tamin declares that starvation will lead them to victory. We change scenes at 1:22 with “Rodrigo’s Encampment” where we see that King Alfonso has been routed by Prince Yussuf, is wounded, and seeks sanctuary in the convent where Chimene and the girls reside. He does so with dark purpose, to leverage Rodrigo’s support by taking his family hostage. An aggressive and threatening set piece, propelled by snare drums and horns sinestre carry Alfonso menace as he occupies the convent and initiates his plans. At 2:01 a courier is dispatched to bring Rodrigo Alfonso’s ultimatum. An embellished variant of Count Ordóñez Theme carries his progress. In “Desperate Love” an imprisoned Chimene solicits the aid of Count Ordóñez. We open tentatively with the Twin’s Theme, which is joined by a fleeting reference to the El Cid Theme and a full rendering of Count Ordóñez Theme as she sets in motion her plan. We close as we began with the Twin’s Theme, which informs us of the impetus of her actions. “United Again” was excised from the film. The El Cid March propels Rodrigo’s ride to rescue Chimene. Remarkably he comes upon her and Count Ordóñez on the road and the Love Theme unfolds as our lovers reunite. We close upon Count Ordóñez Theme as he offers his aid.

The next four cues were intended by Rózsa to support the battle of Valencia. Regretfully the editors hacked and piecemealed the score. The album presents Rózsa original conception. In “Battle Preparations” heraldic horn declarations initiate the battle and unleash the powerful and menacing Siege Tower Motif, which swells as a marcia del torrore as snare drum percussion carries the monstrous war machine towards the city walls. The Castilian Motif infuses vital energy and unleashes the heroic B Phrase of the El Cid March as Rodrigo rides forth with his troops to the city’s wall. At 3:14 we segue into “Starvation” where Rodrigo declares to the starving city defenders that he offers mercy and bread if they surrender. A less potent expression of the Siege Tower Motif supports Rodrigo with the clear message that a refusal of his generous offer will unleash Hell. The theme rebounds on a crescendo as Rodrigo orders his catapults to launch loaves of bread into the city. At 4:24 we segue into “Revolt” atop a storm of orchestral fury as the gift of bread breaks the defenders ranks and the city rises up in revolt. What unfolds is astounding thematic interplay as Yussuf’s, the Moorish and El Cid Themes contest for supremacy! Rózsa’s music empowers and drives the battle forward with a rich, dynamic and fierce kinetic force. The city falls in “Valencia for the Cid!” and a victorious Rodrigo rides into the city carried by a triumphant, yet noble rendering of the El Cid March. In the film the music ended at 1:28 of the cue. The album offers Rózsa’s intended conclusion with the joining of the El Cid Theme with victorious fan fare.

“Ordonez’ Death” was also dialed out of the film. The Count is captured, tortured and finally killed by Prince Yussuf. Count Ordóñez Theme supports his misery and is supplanted by a dire rendering of Yussuf’s Theme, which culminates on a crescendo of death as he stabs Ordóñez. In “For God and Spain! – The Battle of Valencia” Prince Yussuf displays the formidable enormity of his army to Rodrigo in a grand demonstration of intimidation. Thundering drums support this demonstration in the film, but are not present in this cue. Rodrigo’s reply to Yussuf’s posturing is to take the initiative and launch an attack, supported by the fan fare of a driving and now militarized rendering of Count Ordóñez Theme. As the two armies engage in hand-to-hand combat, Rózsa unleashes a tour de force for the ages as both men’s themes contest in a fierce maelstrom of violence. Slowly, yet inexorably Yussuf’s Theme begins to dominate as the tide of battle begins to shift in his favor. At 4:54 a volley of arrows find their mark, with one mortally piercing Rodrigo’s chest. Yet he remains resolute as the El Cid Theme returns and begins a stirring, yet struggling ascent on a crescendo of pain, which culminates at 5:50 as he breaks the arrow shaft. We bear witness to a reprise of the King’s Champion Theme, now full of unbearable pathos, and rendered as a minor modal funereal dirge as Rodrigo seems to succumb to his wound. We close with the fury of the Moorish Motif, as Rodrigo is taken to safety as his troops retreat and close Valencia’s massive gate with Yussuf’s troops in hot pursuit.

In “The Arrow” grim clarinets intone the despair of the Death Motif, as Rodrigo lies mortally wounded. From out this despair rises a plaintive rendering of the Love Theme, which struggles, powerless to forestall Rodrigo’s death. In an act of supreme bravery, Rodrigo refuses surgical removal of the arrow, as this would render him unable to lead his troops into battle the next day. The El Cid Theme enshrines this noble sacrifice, as by doing so his life is forfeit. He summons the last of his strength in an effort to inspire and rally his troops, but it proves futile as he collapses from pain and blood loss. At 2:57 we segue into “The Promise” where Rodrigo’s indomitable spirit struggles to forestall death. Violins and an English horn begin a tortured ascent to escape death, but succumb, overcome by the grim return of the Death Motif. Yet love will not be denied as we hear a comforting statement of Love Theme as Chimene is resigned to her fate, and promises Rodrigo that she will ensure he leads his troops the next day, alive or dead. “The Cid’s Death” offers a testament to Rózsa’s mastery of his craft. It reveals King Alfonso’s desperate ride to Valencia to join Rodrigo in their fight for Spain. His ride is carried by the horn fare and driving rhythms of the militarized rendering of Count Ordóñez Theme. At 0:33 Alfonso joins Chimene and Rózsa supports the death vigil with an entwining of the Death Motif and Love Theme. From out this despair rises hope for the future as the orchestra brightens at 2:23 when Rodrigo utters his final words by proclaiming that Spain now has a King. Yet the moment is fleeting as Rodrigo passes unto death, carried by the pathos of a parting statement of the Love Theme as Chimene kisses him farewell.

“The Legend and Epilogue” offers a supreme score highlight with one of the most glorious film music endings in cinematic history. Chimene, true to her word has ordered Rodrigo to be mounted and strapped to his horse. She watches with the twins as the troops call out “For God, the Cid, and Spain”. With King Alfonso and Emir Al-Mu’tamin riding in flanking positions the gates open and El Cid with open eyes emerges, achieving a resplendent apotheosis in the sparkling sunlight. The El Cid Theme resounds on a massive organ sowing panic in Yussuf’s troops who break ranks a flee, believing that El Cid has risen from the dead. As El Cid rides forth the organ carries his progress until 0:57 when we see Yussuf ordering his fleeing troops to stand their ground. An embattled rendering of his theme supports his futile efforts as he is thrown from his horse and trampled to death by his troops. Rózsa whips his orchestra into frenzy with quotes of the El Cid Theme propelling the flight of Yussuf’s army. At 1:48 the El Cid March resounds to carry Alfonso to victory as Yussuf’s men are slaughtered. After King Alfonso leads his men in a prayer asking God to receive the soul “of the purest knight of all”, we bear witness to El Cid riding off along a deserted beach to legend. Rózsa sanctifies the moment with a sublime joining of religioso wordless chorale and a full-unabashed expression of the El Cid Theme, which ascend gloriously, climaxing in a breath taking triumphant flourish.

Please allow me to express my admiration and thanks to James Fitzpatrick and Tadlow Music for this magnificent reconstruction and rerecording of the complete score for Miklós Rózsa’s masterpiece, “El Cid”. The peerless conducting of Nic Raine and the City of Prague Orchestra and Chorus was superb, and the 24 BIT – 96 KHZ high definition recording offers pristine audio quality. Although written in the early years of the Silver Age, this score emotes with the sensibilities of the Golden Age. According to Rózsa this epic score served as a watershed for his career. He would there after write only twelve more scores and none of them would achieve the sterling brilliance of “El Cid”. An astounding fifteen themes and four motifs are provided, which speak of heroism, villainy, betrayal and love. We have glorious marches, resplendent fan fares, fierce battle music, as well as source melodies, which speak to the rich bicultural setting of 11th century Spain. This score offers enduring testimony to the power of music to enhance and elevate a film, indeed the film’s cinematography, story telling and music achieved a confluence rarely achieved in the cinematic experience. Rózsa composed a score for the ages, with his El Cid and Love Themes taking their place within the hollowed halls of the Pantheon of great themes. It is not possible for me to overstate the brilliance and magnificence of this score, which offers enduring testimony of Rózsa’s genius. I highly recommend that you purchase what I believe to be as one of the ten greatest film scores of all time.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score I have embedded a YouTube link to the rousing El Cid March with all its rousing glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-sv7WXQMcg

Buy the El Cid soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (3:42)
  • Prelude (2:53)
  • Ben Yussuf (5:22)
  • Destiny/Burgos (3:10)
  • Palace Music (1:25)
  • Bad News (4:52)
  • Entry of the Nobles (2:16)
  • The Meeting (4:33)
  • The Slap (:48)
  • Count Gormaz/Courage and Honor/Gormaz’s Death/Honor and Sorrow (7:43)
  • The Court of Ferdinand (1:20)
  • The Gauntlet (:31)
  • The Fight for Calahorra (3:33)
  • The King’s Champion (1:29)
  • Chimene’s Decision (1:57)
  • Investiture (:33)
  • The Expedition (1:46)
  • Betrayal/Ambush (3:58)
  • The Wedding (:44)
  • Wedding Supper (1:35)
  • The Wedding Night (5:39)
  • The Road to Asturias/Thirteen Nights (2:56)
  • Ride to Valencia (1:45)
  • Al Kadir’s Delights (:37)
  • Sancho’s Demand (2:09)
  • Dolfos Mission/Sancho’s End (6:01)
  • Coronation (2:22)
  • Alfonso’s Oath (:39)
  • Banishment/Forgiveness (6:13)
  • Friendship (1:33)
  • The Barn/Love Theme (5:06)
  • For Spain/Farewell (6:47)
  • Entr’acte/The El Cid March (4:03)
  • Rodrigo’s Men (1:09)
  • The Twins (2:40)
  • Rodrigo’s Doubts (1:53)
  • Unity (1:26)
  • Moorish Feast (1:27)
  • The Siege of Valencia/Rodrigo’s Encampment (2:34)
  • Desperate Love (1:52)
  • United Again (1:21)
  • Battle Preparations/Starvation/Revolt (7:37)
  • Valencia for the Cid (3:20)
  • Ordonez’s Death (:52)
  • For God and Spain/The Battle of Valencia (8:45)
  • The Arrow/The Promise (4:16)
  • The Cid’s Death (4:13)
  • The Legend and Epilogue (5:42)
  • Burgos/Entry of The Nobles (Alternate Version) (2:48) BONUS
  • Palace Music (Flute and Harp Version) (1:47) BONUS
  • Sancho’s Demand (Alternate Take) (2:32) BONUS
  • The Twins (Oboe Version) (1:12) BONUS
  • Rodrigo’s Doubts (Alternate Take) (2:48) BONUS
  • Battle Preparations/The Battle of Valencia (Short Version) (7:04) BONUS
  • The Legend and Epilogue (Original Intro/The Falcon and The Dove) (5:26) BONUS
  • Suite from Double Indemnity (Prelude/Narrative/The Meeting/The Murder/Finale) (8:39) BONUS
  • Battle Preparations (3:00) BONUS DATA VIDEO TRACK
  • Farewell (4:00) BONUS DATA VIDEO TRACK
  • The Twins (2:40) BONUS DATA VIDEO TRACK
  • Valencia For The Cid (3:20) BONUS DATA VIDEO TRACK
  • Interview by Doug Raynes with Nic Raine and James Fitzpatrick (11:00) BONUS DATA VIDEO TRACK

Running Time: 205 minutes 23 seconds

Tadlow Music (1961/2008)

Music composed by Miklós Rózsa. Conducted by Nic Raine. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Original orchestrations by Eugene Zador. Recorded and mixed by Jan Holzner. Score produced by Miklós Rózsa. Album produced by James Fitzpatrick.

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