An interview with Udo Heimansberg
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol. 5/ No.17/1993
Text reproduced by kind permission of the Editor Luc Van de Ven
It takes courage to put your own money into a privately-financed recording of Miklos Rozsa’s music, and that is precisely what Udo Heimansberg and Bernd-Jurgen Schlossmacher have done. They are here now to attend the recording sessions of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by their countryman Rainer Padberg. After weeks of planning, they are witnessing the recording sessions for the first album of a new label called Antares, produced and supervised by Christopher Palmer. “The Spectacular Film World of Miklos Rozsa” may be the first in a new series of albums that rivals Gerhardt’s RCA albums in scope and professionalism. It is the first German initiative of its kind (recording an LP in a foreign country, by a foreign orchestra), and so it seemed opportune to meet Executive Producer Udo Heimansberg and talk about the project he’s backing.
You have recorded an album with music from various films, instead of doing a suite from one or two films per side. Compilation LPs do not sell as well as complete scores do. What were your reasons for selecting material from several Rozsa scores?
In order to explain that, I should go back two years, which is when it all began. Conductor Rainer Padberg net Dr. Rozsa in Switzerland at the time – that was when the composer had just had his first stroke and was convalescing – and they talked about conducting some of his music, possibly about a complete EL CID album. Last year we met Mr. Padberg in Dusseldorf, and we came up with the suggestion to record Rozsa’s “Fantasy on Themes from YOUNG BESS”. This concert piece had been composed three months before Dr. Rozsa had his stroke, and may well be his last concert piece to date. Since it lasts only 16 minutes, we wondered what we could possibly put on side two. Why not add a compilation of Rozsa’s marches from the biblical films?
Around that time, I interviewed Elmer Bernstein in Munich and it was he who suggested that we get in touch with Christopher Palmer. We put the idea to Mr. Palmer, and he in turn discussed the project with Dr. Rozsa, who said that he’d like a balanced programme, because he has so many unrecorded pieces, like “La Java de la Seine” from THE STORY OF THREE LOVES, or the “Danish Dance” from YOUNG BESS (this piece had in fact been slated for release on Varese’s Rozsa LP conducted by Bernstein, but it had been cancelled). So the intention was to begin the record with an unrecorded composition and add some of his more popular pieces, as they are heard in the films (versions which are often quite different from the music heard on the various record albums). Side one is a concert side, if you like, and the film music begins on side two.
The music from EL CID was actually recorded because we had ten minutes left at the recording sessions. Christopher Palmer came up with the notes, which he had copied the day before, and the piece was played by two harps and two flutes, since the rest of the orchestra had already gone home!
Why did you decide to use the RPO, instead of the German orchestra as originally planned? Wasn’t that much more expensive?
Not really. A German orchestra would have needed more recording sessions, because it is not so used to playing film music as the RPO. The RPO needed only one rehearsal, and the second time around the music was recorded. For example, “Parade of the Charioteers” (which is the film version, not the version heard on the soundtrack LP) was recorded in only five “takes”.
Were there any unexpected problems in producing the record?
No, because we had the music materials, we had all those professional people working for us, like Bob Auger or Christopher Palmer… One problem we had was that we had just three hours for the recording session, and we didn’t finish in time. So we had to add 15 minutes. The “Fantasy” was written for 15 musicians, and the rest of the themes were played by 45 musicians. But I’m sure you can’t hear that when listening to the record Rozsa is such an experienced composer, he can make a “big” sound which is produced by only 15 musicians yet it sounds like many more! The only problem we had in West Germany, because the musicians there were not all that experienced, was that there were too many rehearsals and too many cuts in each piece, so we used the RPO.
For months now, there have been rumors of a planned recording of the complete EL CID score, on three albums…
The complete score is at our disposal. But Dr Rozsa himself is not terribly enthusiastic about doing a complete recording; as you know, film composers see their work in a different light to the people who actually buy their records! He said, in effect, that there are too many pieces in EL CID which have no musical form when you take them out of context (e.g. the scene where the knights enter the throne room) the music starts and then stops and then starts again. That’s why film composers arrange their music into suites or themes, for listening purposes.
Also, perhaps we would not produce the complete film score from EL CID, but only the unrecorded pieces, adding the Overture and Finale. All on one record containing just one hour of music, a Compact Disc. Of course most of all it is a financial problem. Recording the complete score would cost maybe DM300,000 (approx. $125,000). Remember it’s a full orchestra, about 100 musicians. And the chorus at the end is used for only 30 seconds of music!
Then, too, Miklos Rozsa would prefer a complete recording of KING OF KINGS, for he feels that the soundtrack of that LP is not very well performed: the Rome Symphony Orchestra were very much under time pressure. Still, KING OF KINGS would be even more expensive!
Dr. Rozsa would also like to see a recording of his other (almost) unrecorded scores from the ‘50s, like VALLEY OF THE KINGS and ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT. This recording was really meant as an homage to Miklos Rozsa, because he should realize that there are always new generations of film music collectors attracted by his music. His music will surely survive him. The problem is that not too many collectors seem interested in his concert works; that also goes for composers like John Williams and Elmer Bernstein of course. On the other hand, we should try to record as many of Miklos Rozsa’s unrecorded film scores as possible.
Also, pieces like “Parade of the Charioteers” are played as in the film, not like on the BEN-HUR record album.
You’ve said that Miklos Rozsa has agreed to record certain themes. Doesn’t the film score belong to the studio that made the picture in the first place?
Yes, if it’s the original soundtrack from the film. We on the other hand made a completely new recording, and we own all rights to this recording – we can make a cassette of it, or a Compact Disc, or whatever we like. Dr. Rozsa owns the rights to his music until 70 years after his death.
Is it your intention to record only Dr. Rozsa’s music?
No, not at all. We may produce records with music by Alex North or Maurice Jarre, for instance, It all depends upon the response to our first album: if the present LP sells well the producers will be able to continue.
[“The Spectacular Film World of Miklos Music” has been nominated for Best Recording of the Year by the German Music Critics’ Association – Ed]
A typical criticism that we get to hear is that limited editions like this tend to be rather expensive.
Yes, but you should bear in mind the many, many expenses. First of all, there is the copyist, who writes down the score for each musician in full: he alone cost us DM10,000 (approx.$4,000). Then there is the orchestra, the studio, the sound engineer, you have to rent the musical instruments, you have to go to London and stay at a hotel there…
- This interview took place in August 1985 at St. Pewter’s Church, Morden, Surrey, England