Music notes from the GDI release THE MUMMY. © john Mansell. 1999.
with many thanks to Margaret Reizenstein.
Composer Franz Reizenstein made his feature film debut with the score for the Hammer films production of THE MUMMY. His score is a sweeping and dramatic, yet remains lush , melodic and romantic.
The principal theme doubles as a love theme depicting Kharis centuries old affection and infatuation for princess Ananka. Reizenstein reprises the central theme throughout his score arranging it and orchestrating it to suit the mood of the film and create greater depth and give atmosphere to the proceedings. Although it is this central theme that is the heart and soul of Reizenstein’s score, there are a number of musical moments along the way that are equally as stunning and prominent. The scene where the MUMMY is seen smashing its way into John Banning’s room is accompanied by rasping brass which enhances the scene by blaring out over a background of driving strings that is further embellished by the addition of chaotic sounding xylophone. His exciting composition stops abruptly when Banning’s wife Isobel enters the room after hearing the sounds of a struggle, Reizenstein introduces the love theme from his score as Kharis ceases his attack on banning thinking that Isobel is his long lost love Princess Ananka. Kharis then beats a retreat back through the smashed doors of the study and makes off into the darkness. The sense of danger and excitement within this scene is heightened greatly by Eisenstein’s exhilarating score and his masterful approach to the scene and the way in which he places his music. The films climatic scene is another example of image and music fusing to create the correct atmosphere and mood. Kharis returns to Banning’s home intent on killing him. Things however do not go to plan and the Mummy abducts Isobel, pursued by the police, villagers and also Banning the chase comes to an abrupt end at a swamp. Racing timpani and booming percussion accompany Kharis as he enters the swamp carrying Isobel; when the Mummy is shot down the timpani resembles a heart beat that is racing as if it is the heart of Kharis, the music then accompanies his gradual disappearance beneath the swamp, eventually fading away as the Mummy disappears completely.
Franz Reizenstein was at the height of his musical powers when Hammer films commissioned him to write the score for THE MUMMY. Reizensteins music had its own style and fingerprint, the idiom being unmistakably twentieth century but not avant-garde. Many composers in the first half of the twentieth century became beguiled by the twelve tone series system, but Eisenstein found that the strict system cramped his natural style and he never cared for the tight intellectual music it produced. Reizenstein’s music flowed naturally from melodic ideas and harmonies with which the listener can easily identify. He composed concertos for piano, violin and also cello with orchestras, and two large scale choral works VOICES OF NIGHT and GENESIS. The latter was commissioned for the three choirs festival of 1958,which was held at Hereford Cathedral. The success of VOICES OF THE NIGHT led to the BBC asking Reizenstein to compose the first opera for broadcast on radio which was entitled ANNA KRAUS. This was the British entry for the prestigious Italia Prize. The composer also wrote music for documentary films and incidental music for a number of BBC productions. Shortly after his score for THE MUMMY, Reizenstein wrote the music for Sydney Hayers shocker CIRCUS OF HORRORS(1959). The composers versatility was also evident when Gerard Hoffnung asked him to write two works for the Hoffnung concerts. At first Reizenstein refused, arguing that he was a serious composer who would be reluctant to let his hair down at the Royal Albert hall. But Hoffnung persevered and Reizenstein eventually agreed contributing the witty CONCERTO POPLARE (or the piano concerto to end all piano concertos) and the hilarious LETS FAKE AN OPERA. Franz Reizenstein was born in Nuremberg on 7th June 1911. His father was a doctor and also an excellent amateur pianist. His elder sister was a painter and his elder brother played violin. The composer’s Mother was also musical and was astonished that her son could sing back to her all the songs she had sung to him in perfect pitch and time. At the age of four Franz began to teach himself to play the piano and began to also compose short pieces. When he was a teenager the sudden death of his Father inspired him to compose a piece in his memory. At the age of seventeen he decided to study composition under Paul Hindemith in Berlin. Despite opposition from his Uncle Eisenstein arrived in Berlin in 1930. As the 1930,s progressed the Jewish Reizenstein relocated to England and continued his studies at the Royal College of Music in Kensington. Whilst there he was under the tutelage of Vaughan Williams for composition and also studied under Solomon for piano. He never returned to Germany but instead adopted British nationality and remained in London until his untimely death at the age of 57, leaving a wife Margaret and a son John.