arr. Paul Henning
The Ride of the Cossacks is, simply put, one of the great pieces of 20th-century film music.
Originally titled The Ride to Dubno, it is a brass section tour de force. According to Waxman’s son, John, Ride has been played as a freestanding concert piece in halls throughout the world. Composer Bernard Herrmann, no slouch in the film-composing department himself, called Waxman’s complete work, “the score of a lifetime.” Waxman was 56 years old when he wrote the score, but film music historian Christopher Palmer points out that “it is a young man’s music in its exuberance, dashing colors and whiplash energy.”
Taras Bulba was Waxman’s twelfth and last Oscar nomination. He lost to Maurice Jarre’s music for Lawrence of Arabia (1962). But it was a great year! In addition to Waxman and Jarre, the other Best Original Score nominees included Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Bronislau Kaper’s Mutiny on the Bounty, and Jerry Goldsmith’s Freud. Kaper had been originally set to write the music for Taras Bulba, but was scoring Mutiny and recommend Waxman. Both men wrote scores worthy of nominations and both wrote scores which outshone the films themselves.
— Jim Brown
Franz Waxman wrote for the soundtrack re-recording liner notes:
To compose the music for Taras Bulba was an unusually challenging assignment. Not only from the standpoint of composition, but also as far as orchestration and rhythmical invention is concerned. Here was a subject that demanded the flavor of the proud and unconquerable spirit of Ukrainian Cossacks of the sixteenth century combined with the harmonic and rhythmical palette of contemporary music. Fortunately, just before writing the Taras Bulba music, I was invited by the Soviet government to conduct the major orchestras of the U.S.S.R. in six symphony concerts. This took me to Kiev, one of the oldest Russian cities situated in the heart of the Ukraine. This gave me added opportunity to study the folk music of the Ukrainian people…
He went on to describe The Ride of the Cossacks:
Taras (Yul Brynner) and his sons leave their farm to meet with other Cossack tribes on their way to Dubno. As more and more Cossack brothers join the hard-riding Taras, the music increases in volume and orchestral effects.
The first CD recording is by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic, as part of a compact disc Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores by Franz Waxman. (RCA/SONY). This music has also been recorded by Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Pops on the Vintage Hollywood CD (Telarc) and John Mauceri with the London Philharmonic. The complete soundtrack for Taras Bulba, including The Ride of the Cossacks, was finally recorded in 2011 by Nic Raine with the City of Prague Philharmonic (Tadlow). The recording received many awards.
In 2019-20 the Volksoper in Vienna performed the music as part of their production of the Peter Pan ballet.
— John Waxman