THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE was surely one of the last true epics to be produced. Released in 1964 it boasted an all-star cast and was a magnificent and attractive movie, full of action, romance and vibrant, colourful scenarios. The music score was the work of the multi-talented composer Dimitri Tiomkin and is a soundtrack which ingratiates and enhances this truly epic motion picture. This is one of Tiomkin’s best scores – a grand affair, brimming with surging strings, dramatic and robust battle themes, imposing and inspiring marches, poignant and heartfelt themes which are poetic and lush in their construction and sound. Originally released on a long playing album back in 1964 on the CBS recording label and later, on the Varese Sarabande label on CD with a further CD release on Cloud Nine Records some years later of previously unreleased tracks; the latter being an inferior release in the sound quality department. It has always been a popular score among film music collectors old and new and this latest release from La La Land Records will attract a lot of interest from collectors who already have the soundtrack as well as creating more than a ripple of attention among enthusiasts who have not yet sampled the music.
This is one of those scores which never loses its attraction or appeal and is as fresh today as it was in 1964. The disc begins with a brief but rousing cue “Fanfares and Flourishes”. Although less than a minute in duration, it is an impressive and stirring track which sets the scene perfectly for what follows. Track 2, “Overture” opens with an imposing pipe organ performed in classical style heralding the commencement of proceedings. Tiomkin’s magnificent yet melancholy and sombre theme is played on screen over various frescos which depict the Roman age. As the main title credits roll, the music creates a grand atmosphere but one filled with an air of fragility – at once relaying the mighty power and influence of the Roman Empire and at the same time an underlying sound showing its weaknesses and flaws. Strings take on the theme already established by the organ and carry it forward, developing the almost despairing sound. The strings are supported by organ and joined by brass, combining to create a luxurious and magnificent composition which is lavish and opulent in style but also has tragic undertones that tug at the listener’s emotions. Track 3, “The Fall of Love” did not actually appear in the movie, Tiomkin having recorded this arrangement of the film’s love theme for the soundtrack album release. It is rich, vibrant and brimming with emotive content but again we hear an underlying or secondary sound that purveys a sense of the tragic. Track 4, “Lucilla’s Sorrow”, is heard as Lucilla (Sophia Loren) watches Caesar die after having been poisoned. She is overwhelmed by grief and opens the shutters in Caesar’s room letting in the blowing winds, as a thunderstorm rages. Tiomkin’s music is masterful within this sequence, heartfelt and mysterious; the composer utilizing mandolins to create a shuddering, ghostlike effect. The scene is mostly dialogue free, thus Tiomkin’s music acts as a romantically laced accompaniment to the scene, giving it depth and a powerful impact upon the watching audience.

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE is a classic score and this particular edition of the soundtrack will strengthen its standing and preserve its epic, rousing themes, its sweeping love themes, glorious marches and action cues for many years to come. An essential purchase, adorned with wonderful art work and enlightening and highly informative notes. Sound quality is also very good. Yet another gem of a release from La La Land Records…