Miklos Rozsa conducts Ben-Hur suite (1979)

I confess, I still have Ben-Hur on the brain (if you read my little tirade from yesterday then you understand why). And since I can’t stop thinking about the 1959 epic, I thought I would share a concert clip I discovered several years ago. At the time I was studying the different film composers of the Golden Age of Hollywood and I was learning all I could in particular about Miklos Rozsa (1907-1995), the last composer of that era to pass away. Having lived so long, I was curious to see if there were any film clips of him giving interviews or, even better, conducting some of his work. That’s when I discovered a clip from a 1979 television program that was looking at film music. In this excerpt, Rozsa himself is conducting a suite from his most famous work, Ben-Hur.

Miklos Rozsa conducts Ben-Hur Suite (1979)

The suite is divided into three sections:

  1. Overture and Main Theme(s) (for more on the overture to Ben-Hur, see “Overture” from Ben-Hur by Miklos Rozsa )
  2. Judah and Esther (The Love Theme): One of the many subplots of the film is the love building between Judah (initially a prince of Jerusalem) and Esther (the only daughter of Judah’s steward and technically a slave as a result, though she’s given her freedom early in the story). The theme is first heard when Esther is about to leave for an arranged marriage (that ultimately never takes place) and returns poignantly when Esther and Judah meet again after almost five years have passed.
  3. Parade of the Charioteers: Actually, this piece wasn’t written for Ben-Hur at all. The music that became this piece was originally composed for Quo Vadis, a 1951 Biblical epic that many credit with launching the Biblical epic obsession of the 1950s. The music comes at the end of the film as Gratus, the new emperor, makes a triumphal entry into Rome. 8 years later in Ben-Hur, Rozsa turns the music into a fanfare as the charioteers ceremonially circle the track before the race begins.

I believe that if you ever have the opportunity, you should always listen to the film score as conducted by the composer, because that will give you the best idea of what the music SHOULD sound like (for example, listen to the overture in this clip and then search YouTube for more performances of the same piece, you’ll hear it a slightly different way each time.)

Enjoy the music of Ben-Hur, composed and conducted by Miklos Rozsa and brought to life by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra-Bex

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