McNeely's Re-Recording of Batman Music

The Batman Trilogy

Joel McNeely conducting the
Royal Scottish National Orchestra & Chorus

Batman (Danny Elfman) [15'03]

Batman Returns (Danny Elfman) [21'23]

Batman Forever [11'07]

Batman (TV Theme by Neil Hefti, arr. David Slonaker) [2'30]


Varese Sarabande VSD-5766 (1997)



As much as Joel McNeely is admired in the film music community as a champion of Bernard Herrmann's film scores - routinely rerecording and premiering repertoire from Vertigo and Psycho to the Fahrenheit 451 suite and Torn Curtain soundtrack - his exploration of Elfman's two Batman scores is at best a duplication of already stunning recordings, and at worst a superfluous cash-in on another composer's success. Listening to the excerpts and suites recorded is, however, a further lesson into the idiosyncrasies of Elfman scoring - at least at this stage of his career.

Batman in particular shows how Elfman's scoring (a problem left unsolved by his orchestrators) requires complex balancing when recorded. Most at risk are the woodwind, often drowned by the rest of a colossal orchestra. This criticism is borne out by similar problems in Nic Raine's recording of the Mars Attacks! march for the album Alien Invasion: Space And Beyond II. [Nic Raine with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for Space And Beyond II: Alien Invasion (Silva Screen, FILMXCD190, 1980)]

Batman Returns fares a good deal better, although the chorus is somewhat raucus (track 10), and speeds are a little laboured at times—this, however, is more of a concern in Batman, where only track 4 succeeds in widening the musical experience through its close-up of the woodwind lines, but the original soundtrack leads overall in terms of recording quality and sheer orchestral virtuosity. Otherwise McNeely retreads old turf, and this disk is only redeemed by an almost faultless re-telling of 11 minutes of Elliot Goldenthal's music for Batman Forever. This third "suite" of music shows how the latter composer's command of the orchestra achieved a more transparent effect (benefiting the quieter woodwind in particular), easier to recreate under McNeely's talented baton.

Music correlates with sections from Batman Returns tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 19, 20. A few brief bridging sections were noted.

Top of Page / Batman Returns Feature / Englishman's Home