It has taken over half a century, but Miklós Rózsa’s iconic score for William Wyler’s 1959 epic, Ben-Hur, arrives in complete form at last—and “complete” in the best FSM sense of the word. This 5CD “Complete Soundtrack Collection” includes every film cue, every outtake, every alternate and every additional take preserved by the studio, mastered from the original six-track recordings, augmented by rare material from the Miklós Rózsa collection at Syracuse University. In addition, the set contains all three LP recordings released by MGM Records in conjunction with the film—including the premiere CD release of the rare (and controversial) Lion label disc.
Rózsa’s mammoth and colorfully orchestrated score—over two hours long—is rich in thematic material. Even so, over six hours of music from a single film might be a bit much for continuous listening, so FSM has organized the material into six different programs. Disc 1 and 2 are devoted to the full score (with outtakes); discs 3 and 4 present alternates from Acts One and Two in film order; disc 5 features still more alternates and bonus tracks (including a “do-over” of a Quo Vadis cue first released in FSM’s 15CD Miklós Rózsa Treasury). The three “soundtrack” LPs (all re-recordings made in Europe) make up the first half of discs 3–5.
Befitting its scope, nearly 20,000 words of text accompany this “Monumentum Maximum” edition. About 4,000 of them appear in the 28-page booklet, beautifully designed by FSM art director Joe Sikoryak and featuring track lists, film stills, poster art, album covers and essays on film (by Jeff Bond) and score (by Frank K. DeWald). In order to make the set more affordable, FSM is providing the rest of the notes online—for free. These include a track-by-track analysis of the film score, original LP liner notes and an explication of the various alternates and album versions.
With audio restored, remixed and assembled by Mike Matessino and Neil S. Bulk and with digital mastering by Doug Schwartz (a veteran of Rhino’s distinguished 2CD set from 1996), this stunning release is the capstone of FSM’s commitment (now totaling 40 discs) to this outstanding Golden Age composer.