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Editor's Choice

Best of the Month
February 2009

Sammy Awards for

Best Golden Age Film Score CD of 2009

Preservation Award: Best Album Producers

 

 

THECHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1936)

2 CDs
Disc One: 25 tracks (Playing Time =65:28)
Disc Two: 12 tracks (Playing Time = 34:54)

Music Composed by Max Steiner

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by William Stromberg

 

 

Album produced by Anna Bonn, John Morgan and William Stromberg. Executive Producer for Tribute Film Classics: Anna Bonn. Music Reconstruction and Orchestration: John Morgan. Music Preparation: Anna Bonn, William Stromberg. Bugle Overdubs: Doug Watson. Recording Engineer/ Editor: Alexander Volkov. Design: Jim Titus. Recorded at Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, Russia, February 2008.

Tribute Film Classics TFC-1005

Rating: ****

This is the fifth release for Tribute Film Classics and like the previous four: FAHRENHEIT 451 - (winner of a Sammy Award), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, SHE, THE KENTUCKIAN (another Sammy Award winner), this new 2 CD set is a superior release.

The Warner Bros. film starred Errol Flynn (as Major Geoffrey Vickers), Olivia De Havilland (Elsa Campbell), Patric Knowles (Captain Perry Vickers), C. Henry Gordon (Surat Khan) and a top notch supoorting cast for this 1936 release.

These two CDs provide the complete version of Max Steiner's first major score for Warner Bros. and one of his grandest achievements. As Executive Producer Anna Bonn writes in the booklet about this film score it...

"was among the most ambitious writing of Steiner's film scoring career. We knew going into this project that the Warner Bros. studio orchestra had played this music once before, so it would not be impossible to do it again...but could we do it as well as Steiner?"

My answer to her question is a definite YES!

Not only is this score a thrilling experience to hear, it also contains some of the most vividly recorded music by Alexander Volkov, who worked his musical magic on previous TFC releases.

Because this score lasts about 100 minutes total it was necessary to have 2 CDs to include the complete score. And what a score it is! Full of exciting music, especially for the brass section. The trumpets really get a workout in this score.

The film was a highly fictional depiction of the famous 1854 militaty blunder, as told in the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which is included in the CD booklet.

On the first track of Disc One (Main Title/ Palace of Surat Khan, 4:08) it opens with a typical Steineresque grand flourish and a quote from the popular British military song, "Rule Brittania." Since just about every track has worthwhile music I'll confine my observations to only a few tracks on each CD.

On Disc One, there is track three (A Brilliant Shot, 2:59), part of which was previously recorded on the "Now Voyager" CD with the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt. But that has only a small sampling of this track. On the TFC CD the original cue as written by Steiner for the first cut of the film is presented with its memorable march-like theme. Being originally from Vienna, Max Steiner had a gift for writing memorable waltzes and other dances. This is demonstrated on tracks 9 to 11 (At the Lancers Ball/ Elsa's Waltz/ Ballroom Waltz) which are delightful departures from all the heavy action sequences which make up so much of this fine score.

Disc Two contains the highlight of the entire score on track 8 (The Charge of the Light Brigade, 9:27). This famous action film sequence is incredibly intense as accompanied by Steiner's very dynamic music. As J.B. Kaufman writes in his informative track notes in the booklet: "the charge is masterfully paced: beginning with a stately march, accelerating by degrees to a trot, then a full galop, intersperse with individual vignettes of action, culminating in an all-out charge." Conductor William Stromberg was also thrilled by this sequence and he wrote the following in the CD booklet:

"Performing the final climactic charge, captured in stunning clarity by Alexander Volkov's expert recording, was nothing short of hair-raising and one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. It just doesn't get much better than that for this Steiner fan."

If you are also a Steiner fan, like William Stromberg, or like me, you'll be thrilled by this exceptional recording with a beautifully designed booklet by Jim Titus to go along with it.

John Morgan, who reconstructed about half of this massive score from Steiner's original sketches housed at BYU's Max Steiner Archive, offers his personal comments in the CD booklet in a section titled: "One Must Bleed." These words are from a saying by Hollywood musicians who have stated: "To perform a Steiner score properly, one must bleed." Morgan mentions that one cue, "Dispensing with Formalities" (Disc One, track two, 1:45) uses a balalaika and cimbalom for ethnic effect and this cue was later borrowed by Steiner and altered slightly for his famous score, CASABLANCA. Also mentioned are the funny cartoons and other things in the score, such as expression markings like "Screwissimmo" and "Schmalzando" that Steiner jotted down for his main orchestrator, Hugo Friedhofer. There were three other orchestrators (George Parrish, R.H. Bassett, Maurice De Packh) used on this huge score which totaled more than 1,000 pages.

Kudos to John Morgan, Anna Bonn, William Stromberg and The Moscow Symphony Orchestra for restoring this great Steiner score to its full brilliance.

This TFC 2 CD set of THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE is a sonic masterpiece.

Highest recommendation for this wonderful historic film music release.

 

--Roger Hall, 28 February 2009

This CD is available from

Screen Archives Entertainment

 

Also recommended is the DVD of the film...

The Charge of the Light Brigade

THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE

 

 

See also Film Focus No. 3:
Max Steinerr and KING KONG

Steiner has 8 film scores on the list of the
100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century

 

 

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FMR Winter Issue 2009


 

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