Psycho Suite for String Quartet


Bernard Herrmann was perhaps one of the greatest musical all-rounders of the 20th Century. Although he is best known for his scores to perhaps some of the most iconic films ever made (‘Vertigo’, ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Psycho’), he was also a talented composer for the concert hall, with an early career marked out by his skill as a conductor – praised by Stravinsky amongst others, who autographed Hermann’s score for his Symphony in 3 Movements with "To the excellent musician and conductor, Bernard Herrmann. Cordially, I. Stravinsky."
The Tippett Quartet capture the energy and musical finesse of Herrmann’s works in this recording, accompanied for Souvernirs de Voyage by the clarinetist Julian Bliss and featuring a new arrangement of his score for ‘Psycho’.



What people are saying

"…thrillingly, chillingly delivered … it is impossible to imagine more expert renditions than these." Gramophone

“Clarinettist Julian Bliss plays with exquisite restraint, as though wanting not to disturb the intimate conversations of the Tippett Quartet.” The Independent    

“Perhaps his most famous score was for Hitchcock’s Psycho … here played in an arrangement by Robert Birchall for string quartet. If anything, it sounds creepier … Performances are splendid.” The Sunday Telegraph

Tippett Quartet

Julian Bliss clarinet

Release date:23rd Jan 2011
Order code:SIGCD234
Barcode: 635212023426

 The Independent, February 2011


Bernard Herrmann brought a distinctive, almost malicious relish to his work on Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, as exemplified in the 10-minute “Psycho Suite”, which features all the familiar dramatic flourishes and shrill chills.

But when the two men fell out over his score for Tom Curtain, Hermann returned to concert work, composing the clarinet quartet “Souvenirs De Voyage” and the string quartet “Echoes”, both of which display the melancholy tone that reflected the composer’s own prevailing mood. The brooding “Echoes” is especially interesting: it features many of the same jolting musical strategies that marked his movie scores, conjuring the kind of dark images of which his greatest patron would have undoubtedly approved.

Andy Gill

The Sunday Telegraph, March 2011

It’s good to find some of Bernard Herrmann’s film music on disc. Perhaps his most famous score was for Hitchcock’s Psycho. It was scored for strings only and is here played in an arrangement by Robert Birchall for string quartet. If anything, it sounds creepier. Souvenirs de Voyage pays homage as a clarinet quintet to works by Vaughan Williams. Performances are splendid and the disc invites further exploration of Herrmann’s talent. Perhaps someone will now give us authentic recordings of these works in their original form.

Michael Kennedy

Classic FM Magazine

The Music. Thanks to Bernard Herrmann, screeching violins have become the international language of bathroom-based alarm. Psycho’s famous frenzied score was written at the zenith of the uniquely fruitful working relationship between Herrmann and director Alfred Hitchcock. The gentler concert works Echoes (1965) and Souvenirs De Voyage (1967), were written during and after their eventual falling-out. 

The Performance. Across all three works, the Tippett Quartet lucidly communicates Hermann’s themes of mystery and paranoia . The drama created owes much to its intimate set-up – it’s hard to imagine any orchestra evoking a more intense, menacing atmosphere. Echoes and Souvenirs De Voyage (which features restrained work from clarinettist Julian Bliss) nod to the European impressionists, and allow the quartet to explore its more reflective side before the all-out assault of the climactic Psycho. 

The Verdict. If your interest in Herrmann doesn’t extend beyond the silver screen hits, this record may accumulate dust.

Anna Britten


Gramophone, June 2011

There’s more to Bernard Hermann than Psycho, thrillingly as it’s played here…

Many commercial composers have felt obliged to become stylistic chameleons but not Bernard Herrmann. While he may have been unhappy with his lot in Hollywood, his film work has a rare idiomatic consistency which extends to his music for the recital room. Nothing comes across as particularly American, perhaps because his musical heroes included the likes of Vaughan Williams and Sir John Barbirolli. As keen to escape the movie pigeonhole as his colleague Andre Previn, he returned to concert music after falling out with Alfred Hitchcock over the score for Torn Curtain.

Herrmann probably wouldn’t have relished the primacy given to the Psycho Suite in the present collection although it is most successfully arranged (by Richard Birchall) and thrillingly, chillingly delivered by a double-tracked Tippett Quartet. It is difficult to think of a more influential piece of illustrative music, nor one so blatantly ripped off by its many imitators. Souvenirs de voyage, featuring the suitably restrained clarinet of Julian Bliss, is effective too in its more pallid fashion. It is Echoes, the haunting and melancholy string quartet written when Herrmann’s second marriage had unravelled, that proves most memorable, giving new life to turns of phrase and musical strategies familiar from the silver screen. The piece has been recorded before, as has Souvenirs de voyage – they were reunited for reissue on Unicorn (5/95) – but it is impossible to imagine more expert renditions than these. The players are always very tangibly present in a resonant venue which may or may not have produced some narrowing of dynamic range (the Psycho Suite sounds drier) and there are excellent notes by film historian Neil Sinyard. Recommended.

David Gutman

The Sunday Times

Slapping "Pyscho" on the cover is undoubtedly going to help sales of this collection of Herrmann’s chamber works. Yet it’s a little deceptive. What we hear is a transcription and arrangement of the soundtrack, made by Richard Birchall It sounds bitty, as film music turned concert music often does. A pity, because what characterises the other two pieces – the single-movement Echoes (1965), for string quartet, and the three-movement Souvenirs de Voyage (1967), for clarinet quintet – is their organic quality. Herrmann uses motifs to build structures in much the same way as Brahms.

Stephen Pettit

The Arts Desk, March 2011

Bernard Herrmann remains one of the few film composers whom most people can name. Best known for a series of remarkable collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, his career was bookended by scores to Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver. Famously grumpy, he was a versatile musician who found his métier as a composer of soundtracks, though he wanted above all to be respected as a serious composer of concert works and as a conductor. Herrmann’s relationship with Hitchcock fell apart after the score to 1966’s Torn Curtain was rejected as not commercial enough – extracts from Herrmann’s music, complete with 12 roaring horns and massed harps, can be heard on a wonderful Sony disc conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The string quartet Echoes was completed shortly afterwards. Brooding, intense and occasionally violent, it’s unable to shake off the darkness of the Hitchcock collaborations. Less painful is the ambitious clarinet quintet Souvenirs de Voyage which alludes to Vertigo’s rapturous love music.

Herrmann’s famous monochrome string score for Psycho is heard in a neat arrangement for double-tracked string quartet. The aggression is more of a shock when the microphones are placed this close; pizzicato notes have a powerful snap and it’s wonderful to hear Herrmann’s dissonant chords spelt out so clearly and cleanly. All three works are given exemplary performances by the Tippett Quartet and Julian Bliss’s liquid legato in the quintet is seductive.

Graham Rickson

The Independent, March 2011

Pigeon-holed by his fame as a film composer, Bernard Herrmann would have heaved a weary sigh at the shower on the cover. But the “Psycho Suite” is only the coda to a disc that otherwise focuses on the lyrical abstractions of Herrmann’s Eurioean-influenced “Echoes”, and the extended “Souvenirs de Voyage”.

Clarinettist Julian Bliss plays with exquisite restraint, as though wanting not to disturb the intimate conversations of the Tippett Quartet.

Anna Picard

 The Times

In between film assignments in the 1960s, Herrmann assuaged some of his private and professional pains by composing Echoes and Souvenirs de Voyage – chamber pieces resurrected by the Tippett Quartet and the fine 21-year-old clarinetist Julian Bliss. After their melancholy, it’s quite a jump to the stabbing strings of Herrmann’s Psycho film music, which famously accompanied Janet Leigh’s final shower. But it rounds off the disc nicely, and the warmly resonant recording only adds to the CD’s thrills.

Geoff Brown

  1. ECHOES (1965) for String Quartet – – 19.04
  2. SOUVENIRS DE VOYAGE (1967) for Clarinet Quintet: First Movement: Lento (Molto Tranquillo) – Allegro Moderato – Lento (Molto Tranquillo) – Adagio – – 12.46
  3. SOUVENIRS DE VOYAGE (1967) for Clarinet Quintet: Second Movement: Andante (Berceuse) – – 7.08
  4. SOUVENIRS DE VOYAGE (1967) for Clarinet Quintet: Third Movement: Andantino (Canto amoroso) – – 8.06
  5. PSYCHO SUITE for String Quartet – – 9.53