Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Movie Music and More #30: "Ben-Hur" (1959)

I (Hamlette) have had an incredibly hard time writing this post.  Well, not writing it so much as choosing which tracks to showcase.  This is the most majestic score I have ever heard, and I have many favorite themes which get featured in many different tracks.  Miklos Rozsa 100% earned that Oscar, my friends.

So I consulted my friend DKoren, and with her help, I narrowed down which tracks to highlight here.  But if you like these at all, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing on YouTube.  Then if you love it, buy the CDs, the big, long, full score, because it is completely worth it.  I do not tire of this music.  Because it's a long movie and a massive score, I'm going to break my usual tradition of sharing two or three songs and share... five.

I'll begin with "The Prelude" because it's what opens the film, and because it has bits of most of the major themes in it, so if you're only going to listen to one track, this one gives you an excellent taste of the style and overall sound of this soundtrack.  And yet it manages to meld so many disparate themes into a cohesive whole -- remarkable achievement, really. 

"Friendship" is a lyrical song, but with a masculine sensibility.  The title refers to the bond of friendship between the main character, a Jewish noble named Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), and Messala (Stephen Boyd), a Roman soldier.  The destruction of their friendship sets the story in motion, as a beautiful childhood relationship dissolves under the weight of adult loyalties.

"Parade of the Charioteers" is all barely-contained energy and mounting adrenaline.  Even if you don't know there's going to be a famous, fantastic chariot race happening next, this music would cue you in that something awesome and exciting is about to take place.

And now for something completely different:  the "Love Theme."  It's tender, pensive, yearning.  An oasis of quiet gentleness among all the spectacle.  But at the same time, not remotely boring.

If you want a little more, "The Overture" is also fantastic, and it covers even more of the main themes than "The Prelude."  Yes, Ben-Hur is such a colossal movie, it has an overture, and then a prelude.  And an intermission.  And it deserves them.

Okay, I'll stop here :-)


  1. THIS IS IN MY TOP FIVE FAVORITE OSTS OF ALL TIME! I was so excited to see you talk about this one! This is such a RICH soundtrack; it really gives the movie that edge of magnitude and greatness that it needs. I love the Overture so much. And Parade of the Charioteers is fantastic! <3 <3 <3

    1. Yeah, it's stunning. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! And could you imagine the movie with a different composer? Horrible. This is, quite simply, a perfect soundtrack.


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