Liner Note Author: Dimitri Kennaway.
Benjamin Frankel's music for the movie The Battle of the Bulge was, along with the staging of the combat scenes, one of the few shining elements in a deeply flawed film. Frankel was a serious composer with a style of his own and avoided most of the expected cliches that one would anticipate in a score for a film of this kind. The music is surprisingly spare and intimate, without the kind of enveloping and sweeping thematic material typical of the genre. There is gorgeous, lyrical music for horns and reeds, and, punctuated by shattering passages for the brass, all of it is intended to get inside and behind the action, rather than merely mimic it externally. Even some of the less promising material, such as "Christmas in Ambleve," which starts out quoting a pair of carols, evolves into far more inventive underscoring, depicting the troubled state of mind of the principal character and the doubts about his competency. Frankel was forced by the producers to include "Panzerlied," the actual 1936 battle song of the German Panzer troops, but he makes the most of it with differing levels of irony in the most pompous arrangement possible or as underscoring buried in the orchestration for the ultimate defeat of the force. The extended pieces depicting the initial German breakout and the first tank battle are more tone poem than film music, exquisitely flowing and lyrical material alternating (and sometimes overlaid) with music of gripping, spellbinding savagery. Of a completely different nature is the elegiac, almost funereal music underscoring the scene depicting the Malmedy massacre in which tubular bells and horns dominate along with the violins. This recording is very much an idealized version of Frankel's score, with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under conductor Werner Andreas Albert playing with the kind of fervor, precision, and soaring virtuosity that they might normally reserve for the likes of Mahler or Bruckner. All 78 minutes of music that Frankel wrote for the film is represented here, including his overture and entrance music. ~ Bruce Eder