A talented pianist, Tiomkin started out as an accompanist of silent movies in St Petersburg, having studied with Glazunov at the conservatory. After the turmoil of revolution he moved to Berlin and pursued a concert career throughout the 1920s, also spending time in Paris and New York. His musical activities were eclectic and he rubbed shoulders with many of the great figures of the time, including Ravel and Gershwin, whose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ he performed. But he was also writing music, and in 1929 sought employment as a film composer in California. His entrée to Hollywood came through the dance troupe of his first wife, the Austrian ballerina Albertina Rasch, which performed several of his ballet scores in MGM musicals.
The rest is movie history. Tiomkin was signed up and went on to compose some of the most famous film scores of the 20th century, including those for many westerns. Excerpts from ‘Rawhide’ and ‘High Noon’ feature on this disc, and there are excerpts too from the epic ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ (think Sophia Loren and Alec Guinness) and Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M for Murder’.
Tiomkin’s orchestrations often draw upon his Russian romantic influence but are overlayed with a swaggering melodic interest to conform to the requirements of Hollywood. The suite from ‘The Alamo’ shows this fusion more subtly, the overture moving effortlessly from a distinctly Russian musical landscape into something altogether more ‘North American’.
Tiomkin had a striking ability to recreate the culture of his adopted land, deftly deploying a mouth organ here or a solo trumpet there. He also had an ear for a catchy melody. His stylistic range was a great accomplishment, and is well represented on this enjoyable disc.
James Mallinson, LSO Live Producer
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