4 / 5 Stars
Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock's first American film, follows the story of a shy ladies companion (Joan Fontaine), who falls in love with Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). They marry, and soon she finds out that the former Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, has left a bit of a presence on the household. What happened to her becomes the source of much drama, and mystery. Rebecca was scored by Franz Waxman, who would go on to score three other Hitchock films. Coming out just as the Criterion Edition DVD version of Rebecca hits the stores, Varese Sarabande gives us a new re-recording of the score, as conducted by Joel McNeely and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
From the beginning of the album, the score is lush, sweeping, and full of emotion. The main theme, heard in boistrous fanfare in "Main Title" is followed by a secondary theme, heard in "Foreward" is melancholy and both will surface numerous times throughout the score. The bold and heavy romanticism of the score is rather prevalent in the first part, underscoring the introduction, and eventual romance of the leads. When they get married ("Marriage"), Waxman hits us with a playful bit of music, and it seems even hopeful and optimistic. But when the newly married couple arrives to his estate at Manderley, they meet the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. No subtlety here; "Mrs. Danvers" is a foreboding and ominous cue. The score really does change directions at this point, and while there are still plenty of romantically edged cues, they seem to take on a darker tone.
"The Confession Scene" is a six-minute long cue with quiet, murky undertones as Maxim tells his story. The next ten minutes (as the album finishes out) is rather subdued and gray. The final track, "The Fire and Epilogue" contains some frenetic and wild music as Manderley is consumed in flame. The track ends with a blaring rendition of the main theme as the film comes to a close.
The recording is quite clean, and of very good quality. As far as re-recordings go, I can't say how it compares to the original performance. But McNeely does justice to my memory of the score. Renowned as of Hitchcock's best film scores, Varese Sarabande has done another wonderful job with Rebecca. Film score enthusiasts and Hitchcock fans will no doubt find it a much appreciated addition to their collection.