I had loved the original album of Masada that Jerry Goldsmith had recorded in London. The music was bold, epic and exciting and left me wanting more. A few years ago I found the two disc set, which had the original recordings from the mini-series. The first disc was of Goldsmith's contributions to the first two episodes (basically a more embellished version of the album; not as good sonically but a punchier performance) and the second disc was of the music that Morton Stevens had composed, which utilized Goldsmith's themes. I had listened to the first disc but for a myriad of reasons never had gotten around to the second until lehah and I ended up discussing it the other day.
Well, I've listened to that second disc. Morton Stevens is perhaps best known for his music for Hawaii Five-0, and there are certain stylistic aspects that his contribution to Masada has in common with that sound. Stevens writes in his own voice, but Goldsmith's themes fit seamlessly into that fabric.
I found two elements of this ironic. The first is that by 1981, Goldsmith had already started writing fuller, lusher music. Morton's palette is closer to the more spare Goldsmith sound characteristic of his output in the 60s and 70s. The other is that while Goldsmith established a general musical approach and thematic material, lending to the prestige a composer of his stature commends, but it was Stevens who had the job of scoring the most emotionally gripping sequences. If the original Masada album was an entertaining listening experience, it is Steven's work that really gets under the skin. I have rarely heard a piece evoke such eerie sorrow as "Walking Among the Dead" does. This isn't music to be listened to lightly, to be sure, but it most effective.