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Editor's Choice -

Best Of The Month

November 2010  

 

Classic Film Scores Series (6 CDs - Re-issues)

Featuring the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by
Charles Gerhardt

Note: It is a great pleasure to welcome back six of the original recordings from this RCA series, first released on LPs back in the 1970s and 1980s, then later on CDs. All six have been remastered and have excellent sound. The late conductor Charles Gerhardt deserves much credit for choosing this great classic film music. For the first time, I am choosing all six CDs as Best of the Month. Please read Steven Kennedy's detailed review below.

-- Roger Hall, FMR Editor

THE SEA HAWK—CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD



Featuring music from: THE SEA HAWK, OF HUMAN BONDAGE, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, JUAREZ, KINGS ROW, THE CONSTANT NYMPH, CAPTAIN BLOOD, ANTHONY ADVERSE, BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, DECEPTION, DEVOTION, and ESCAPE ME NEVER.

Originally produced by George Korngold. Mastering and engineering by Matt Fowler, Battery Studios, NYC. Recording date and venue not documented on available sources. Originally released 1972 as RCA LSC-3330. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by George Korngold.

12 tracks – (Playing Time = 50:30)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77932 2

Rating: ****

 

LOST HORIZON—CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF DIMITRI TIOMKIN

 

 

Featuring music from: LOST HORIZON, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, THE BIG SKY, THE FOURPOSTER, FRIENDLY PERSUASION, and SEARCH FOR PARADISE.


Originally produced by George Korngold. Featuring the John Alldis Choir. Mastering and engineering by Maria Triana, Battery Studios, NYC. Recorded December, 1975, at Kingsway Hall, London. Originally released 1976 as RCA ARL1-1669. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by Kurt Sven.

 

12 tracks – (Playing Time = 45:51)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77933 2

Rating: ****

  

CAPTAIN BLOOD—CLASSIC FILM SCORES FOR ERROL FLYNN

 

 

Featuring music by Max Steiner (THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, and DODGE CITY), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (THE SEA HAWK, CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD), Franz Waxman (ONJECTIVE, BURMA!) and Hugo Friedhofer (THE SUN ALSO RISES).

Originally produced by George Korngold. Mastering and engineering by Maria Triana, Battery Studios, NYC. Recorded November 18-19, 1974, at Kingsway Hall, London. Originally released 1975 as RCA ARL1-0912. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer, and Clifford McCarty.

8 tracks – (Playing Time = 56:01)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77934 2

Rating: ****

 

 

GONE WITH THE WIND
Music by Max Steiner

 

 

 

Originally produced by George Korngold. Mastering and engineering by Maria Triana, Battery Studios, NYC. Recorded September 7, 1973. Originally released 1974 as RCA ARL1-0452. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by Rudy Behlmer.

11 tracks – (Playing Time = 43:33)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77935 2

Rating: ****

 

 

 

CAPTAIN FROM CASTILLE—CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF ALFRED NEWMAN

 

 

Featuring music from HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, CAPTAIN FROM CASTILLE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE, ANASTASIA, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, AIRPORT, and THE ROBE.

 

Originally produced by George Korngold. Featuring the Ambrosian Singers and the Band of the Grenadier Guards. Mastering and engineering by Matt Fowler, Battery Studios, NYC. Recorded February 1-3, 1973, at Kingsway Hall, London. Originally released 1973 as RCA ARL1-0184. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by Page Cook.

10 tracks – (Playing Time = 44:38)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77936 2

Rating: ****

 

 

CASABLANCA—CLASSIC FILM SCORES FOR HUMPHREY BOGART


 

Featuring music by Max Steiner ( CASABLANCA, PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, THE BIG SLEEP, THE CAINE MUTINY, VIRGINIA CITY, and KEY LARGO), Franz Waxman (TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS), Frederick Hollander (SABRINA), Victor Young (THE LEFT HAND OF GOD) and Miklos Rozsa (SAHARA).

Originally produced by George Korngold. Mastering and engineering by Matt Fowler, Battery Studios, NYC. Recorded September 6-7, 1973, and February 1-3, 1973, at Kingsway Hall, London. Originally released 1974 as RCA ARL1-0422. Art direction by Roxanne Simak. Design by Skouras Design. Original liner notes by Rudy Behlmer.

12 tracks – (Playing Time = 51:07)

RCA Red Seal 88697 77937 2

Rating: ****

 


Review of Six CDs:

When Charles Gerhardt began his Classic Film Music Series there was very little of this music available. At best, fans of Golden Age music had to hope for arrangements on recordings from pop orchestras like Percy Faith or Hugo Winterhalter, and Bert Kaempfert or a film music “pops” recording from Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. The idea of connecting individual cues for public performance from the original scores was a unique approach. This coupled with choosing more than the “big themes” was only part of the appeal of these classic RCA recordings.

The unbelievably crystal clear sound of these classic film score moments by the National Philharmonic are seriously among the finest recordings in RCA’s vast catalogue and they have reappeared and disappeared rapidly in the CD era. Now RCA is re-issuing six of Gerhardt’s recordings in the Film Music Classic series of what will hopefully include all those releases. Each recording has been remastered digitally and the results are nothing short of miraculous. Original liner notes are also included and they are now repackaged in a sort of golden color suggesting the Golden Age of film.

Gerhardt’s Korngold album is perhaps the best overview of the composer’s music that one can hear. The disc includes music from practically every score Korngold wrote save three (THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, ANOTHER DAWN, THE SEA WOLF). The album opens with the boisterous “Main Title” from THE SEA HAWK (1940) with the sort of energy missing from even the fine recent recordings of the complete score. The fanfares of KING’S ROW’s “Main Title” will sound familiar (as a sci-fi fanfare) for those new to this score. A beautiful contralto (unidentified) accompanied by chorus provides a moving performance of “Tomorrow” from THE CONSTANT NYMPH. The one thing that is truly wonderful to hear throughout is the sort of crisp, clean orchestral recording captured so perfectly. The ensemble is fairly tight throughout this recording and even with some occasional early entries (very slight and not disconcerting) in a couple of faster action passages there is very little to quibble about. The choices of music are taken from main titles, and occasional love themes, but also from other less obvious segments of the score to create a real variety. Most interesting of these choices is “No Father, No Mother, No Name” from ANTHONY ADVERSE which illustrates Korngold’s masterful harmonic shifts from major to minor tonality while building tension. The moving “Death of Emily Bronte” from DEVOTION makes a wonderful penultimate dramatic track before a suite of highlights from ESCAPE ME NEVER brings this fine recording to a close and the love theme is simply gorgeous without over emoting its beauty as some later mushier performances tend to do.

The CD of Dimitri Tiomkin’s music begins with a lengthy suite of music derived from LOST HORIZON, the composer’s first major film score which essentially launched his career. The suite is an example of Gerhardt’s interest in providing concert opportunities for film music by creating an opportunity to hear the most interesting episodes while also attempting to draw a musical narrative that would work on its own. It is an early example of including music that was cut from the film (the “Chinese Children’s Scherzo”) or music faded out and now restored (“Funeral Cortege of the High Lama”). The recording was made with Tiomkin present which lends it a bit of authority. Some might find the imaging of the choir and orchestra a little unusual at first but overall the dramatic presentation is stellar. “Side B” of this 1976 album featured selections from five additional Tiomkin scores illustrating the different sides of the composer: WWII (the “Prelude” from THE GUNS OF NAVARONE), the American West (a suite from THE BIG SKY), light comedy (THE FOURPOSTER), period drama (the “Love Scene in the Barn” from FRIENDLY PERSUASION which holds off on Tiomkin’s familiar “Thee I Love” until its final bars), and an example from a score in Cinerama (SEARCH FOR PARADISE). Again the recording is superb and made even more clear in this new remastering.

Gerhardt made several compilations of film music around famous actors and actresses as well and the first of these to be reissued features music for Errol Flynn films spanning 22 years of his career. Having already recorded music for several of the Korngold-scored films, Gerhardt chose to record a longer suite from THE SEA HAWK, a score cue (“Ship in the Night”) from CAPTAIN BLOOD, and a longer suite of music from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Max Steiner is represented with music from ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, and DODGE CITY. Each suite shows a little different side of Steiner’s approach to period romance, historical drama, and the western. The disc is rounded off with Waxman’s exciting “Parachute Drop” from OBJECTIVE, BURMA! and Friedhofer’s “Prologue/The Lights of Paris” from THE SUN ALSO RISES (one of the rare recordings of this composer’s film music). Worth noting is the listing of the individual cues being used in the suites that Gerhardt assembled for these recordings.

Gerhardt chose his generation’s most memorable film, GONE WITH THE WIND, to devote a single disc to that was more than just variations of “ Tara’s Theme” (which does not receive a dedicated “concert version” track). Instead, as he had with Tiomkin’s LOST HORIZON, Gerhardt assembled an album that revisited key musical sequences of the film creating a symphonic tone poem that works quite well on its own. The worst thing about this release is its short playing time, making one wonder what more might have been included. The performances here are wonderfully realized complete with emotionally distraught string slides and dramatic music making. One should have no doubts as to the power of this score after hearing this recording. The tracks essentially are self-contained cues but work beautifully well as the music moves from light-hearted period music to the underscoring for the devastating images of destruction.

Alfred Newman is the first American-born composer of the Golden Age to receive a single disc of selections from his vast film scoring career. Newman had recently passed away as Gerhardt began his series of recordings, but his legacy is perfectly captured here from his earliest film scores such as CAPTAIN FROM CASTILLE to his last, AIRPORT. Here are moving moments from THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and THE ROBE along with lighted-hearted fare from DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS, beautiful love themes ( WUTHERING HEIGHTS), and main titles (from THE BRAVADOS, ANASTASIA, and AIRPORT). The program is beautifully reproduced as well.

Seven films scored by Max Steiner are included on the retrospective of music from Bogart films. The disc begins with a suite of music from CASABLANCA followed by a selection from the now more obscure PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE, classic music from THE BIG SLEEP, and a suite from THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON. Other highlights of this compilation will be the march from THE CAINE MUTINY, the “Love Theme” from Victor Young’s score to THE LEFT HAND OF GOD, and the “Main Title” from Rozsa’s score for SAHARA. The album closes with music from the taut KEY LARGO and overall Gerhardt managed to mix special suites with significant underscoring cues so that the album demonstrates the way these composers captured the essence of its star within these disparate narrative situations.

Many film music fans will own some previous incarnation of these releases, but if you do not, these are simply quintessential to any film music library. There would be no better way to introduce younger generations of music lovers to these amazing recordings illustrating some of the most memorably and engaging music from the Golden Age of Hollywood. What Gerhardt managed to do is present music from these masters that showed off their abilities at thematic writing, brilliant (and diverse approaches to) orchestration, and narrative underscoring. These initial six reissues are hopefully just the start of the reappearance of Gerhardt’s remaining film recordings from RCA. If you missed them in the 1990s when they appeared, do not make the mistake of overlooking them at the reduced price being offered.

—Steven A. Kennedy, November 2010

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address:

stev4uth@hotmail.com


 

 

 


 

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