M-G-M's 1953 Julius Caesar is one of the finest screen adaptations of William Shakespeare, featuring a stellar cast in Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Louis Calhern, Edmond O'Brien, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and more. The film was produced by John Houseman and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, filmed in stark black-and-white and using no additional dialogue beyond Shakespeare's text.
Scoring Julius Caesar was M-G-M's premiere dramatic composer, Miklós Rózsa, who faced a unique challenge. The story is set in Roman times, yet musical fidelity to ancient Rome would be inappropriate for a Shakespearean tragedy with its origins in the Elizabethan era. At the same time, evoking stage music of 16th century England would have also been wrong. Rózsa instead decided to score the film as a universal drama: "I wrote the same music I would have written for a modern stage presentation: interpretative incidental music, expressing with my own musical language, for a modern audience, what Shakespeare expressed with his own language, for a modern audience 350 years ago."
The resulting score is one of Rózsa's most powerful, shot through with dark and dramatic moods but a constant sense of melody. The score's twin main themes evoke the characters of Caesar (Calhern) and his disciple Mark Antony (Brando), who receive a martial and stern material; and Brutus (Mason), the pivotal character in the play, who is given more reflective throughline. The two themes dominate the score, finally merging in the climactic music. Rózsa also provides secondary thematic material for Cassius (Gielgud) and specific dramatic moments; as well as judicious Roman marches and source cues (including haunting use of voice).
This CD features Rózsa's complete score to Julius Caesar, including a comprehensive bonus section of alternate versions and pre-recordings. Unfortunately, while the film itself is in stereo, only monaural session elements survive for Rózsa's classic score. The climactic "Caesar, Now Be Still" is at least presented in stereo, due to fact that its various components were recorded as overdubs; and the film's "Preludium" and "Finale" are duplicated as bonus tracks in stereo from the finished film's soundtrack. Liner notes interpolate Rózsa's own comments on the score.
Preludium/Idle Creatures 2:57
Caesar's Procession 2:40
Flavius Arrested/Feast of Lupercal/Flourishes/Caesar and His Train 1:56
Scolding Winds/Brutus' Soliloquy/Brutus Awake 7:11
Brutus' Secret/They Murder Caesar 2:17
Warning of Artemidorus/Ides of March 4:01
Nenia/Black Sentence/Brutus' Camp/Enter Cassius 6:05
Heavy Eyes/Now, Oh Now I Needs Must Part/Gentle Knave/Ghost of Caesar 4:21
Most Noble Brutus/Cassius' Farewell/Cassius' Departure/Prelude to Battle/Battle of Phillippi 3:05
Titinius Enclosed/Caesar Revenged/Caesar, Now Be Still/Rites of Burial/Finale 9:17
Total Time: 47:23
Preludium (stereo)/Idle Creatures (alternate) 2:57
Roman Holiday (pre-recording) 0:40
Scolding Winds (short version)/Brutus' Soliloquy (short version) 3:15
Nenia (short version)/Black Sentence (film version) 2:53
Black Sentence (short version) 2:04
Nenia (pre-recording) 3:39
Black Sentence (intermediate version) 2:51
Now, Oh Now I Needs Must Part (pre-recording) 1:07
Finale (stereo) 0:56
Total Time: 20:41
Total Disc Time: 68:03