I have written and researched for Radio Times since 1999, with a strong interest in film and classical and popular music. My choices veer heavily toward the Romantic…
The Shanghai Gesture (1941) – Richard Hageman
The last of Dutch-born Richard Hageman’s six Oscar nominations (including a shared win for Stagecoach) was for this score of neurotic intensity and ominousness from an often misunderstood movie by Josef von Sternberg, best known for raising the benchmark of film-making with his six Hollywood Golden Age collaborations with Marlene Dietrich. Sternberg’s stylised gem (starring Gene Tierney, not Dietrich) charts the contrived downfall of a spoilt and beautiful rich girl, and the music richly captures the doom and seediness of the situation.
Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II (1944, 1946) – Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev’s ambitious, dense and varied score for both instalments of Sergei Eisenstein’s mid-1940s historical double bill registers as one of the most famous in all of cinema, and among the few that work well in the concert hall, away from the silver screen.
Vertigo (1958) – Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann received no Academy Award nominations for any of the seven scores he wrote for Alfred Hitchcock — a fact as shocking as Psycho. His hypnotic and consummately Romantic music here surely must rank as the best borrowing of Wagner in all of film, reinvented with a certain 20th-century anxiety.
North by Northwest (1959) – Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann again, this time conveying full-throttle fear, adventure, humour and romantic and sexual desire in one vital score, from the staccato and intense Russian-style zing of the opening title sequence (and later Cary Grant’s drunken car ride) to the simple and languorous melodic line accompanying Grant and Eva Marie Saint’s seated introduction on the train.
Blue Velvet (1986) – Angelo Badalamenti
The first of Brooklyn-born Angelo Badalamenti’s many scores for David Lynch, some of whose ‘dark’, dream-concerned and atmospheric film and TV works might seem unfathomable without Badalamenti’s melancholic and eerie touch. This is the favourite, owing to its overt debt to 19th-century Romanticism offset by modern, moody and angular sounds.