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Editor's Choice:

Best of the Month
July 2009

 

 

 

 

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (1937)

Music Composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold

43 Tracks (Playing Time = 65:20)

 

 

 

Album produced by Anna Bonn, William Stromberg, and John Morgan. Original orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer and Milan Roder. Music reconstruction and restoration by John Morgan, Anna Bonn, and William Stromberg. Featuring the Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Stromberg. Recorded at Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, Russia, March 2008. Recording engineered and edited by Alexander Volkov. “The Twins of Twain” booklet essay by Ryan Brennan. Design by Jim Titus.

Tribute Film Classics 1006

Rating: ****

EDITOR'S COMMENT: Tribute Film Classics continues to produce superb CDs of vintage film music. This time it is one of Korngold's great scores from the 1930s. So, for the second time this year (see THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE), it is my pleasure to select this TFC CD as Best of the Month for July 2009.

-- Roger Hall, Film Music Review

 

CD Review:

For fans of Korngold, any modern re-recording can be an event worth celebrating. Tribute Film Classics new release of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER gives us the first chance to hear this 1937 adaptation of Twain’s novel. Warner Brothers’ production featured Errol Flynn with Claude Rains and a host of stock players in a film that is one of the better versions of the novel.

The film is often overshadowed by Flynn’s 1938 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, but the music here is no less fascinating. The present recording allows us to hear more of the score than what has appeared from the original soundtrack recording (which somehow Stromberg’s tempos seem to match so well) and a series of cues for a Korngold disc released by Andre Previn on the Deutsche Grammaphon label a couple years ago.

Korngold ’s music is so recognizable a voice that it is his themes that often make or break a listener’s enjoyment. But in THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER we hear an intriguing mixture of rich orchestral writing (along the lines of his contemporary Richard Strauss). Far more dissonant sounds, in denser harmonic textures, are what make this score so fascinating to hear on its own. There are intriguing percussive effects that are somewhat unique in the composer’s output, giving the music a bit of an off-kilter feel at times. The thematic material for “The Prince” has that semi-swashbuckling sound that Korngold was continuously capable of producing but it is coupled with a bit of humorous scherzo-like playfulness. Some devilishly fast music with attention to instrumental color is on display everywhere, especially in the track “The Prince” (a lengthier cue that allows a broad range of musical effects). “Riot” might come about as close as the composer came to writing an almost jazz-like orchestral cue with its great syncopation and light scoring. There is also a regal sound as the orchestra plays the prince’s theme, but fewer overall brass fanfares than in the later ROBIN HOOD score. But Korngold always finds ways to vary the instrumentation keeping the sound fresh. Beautiful, richly-detailed, gorgeous sound and great thematic ideas are what make

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER a worthy addition to any film music library.

As bonus material, there is a recording of the “Trailer” which reworked some of the music and a “British End Title” which features a reorchestration of the original and includes a rendition of “God Save the King.”

As with previous work by the Stromberg/Morgan/Bonn team, there is such an amazing attention to orchestral detail in the recording itself that one simply sits back and lets the music wash over you. The Moscow Symphony is in high form here throughout with strings sounding rich and full and wind soloists perfectly balanced in the texture. We get a recording that in some senses is a mix of both how one records a classical CD and how a soundtrack recording might sound. The result is a perfect balance between appropriately ambient warm orchestral sound with crisp detail for solos. It’s just another in the many masterful releases that somehow manages to be even better than one could ever hope.

On top of the recording itself, there is a superb booklet with essays discussing the film and the score restoration and reconstruction—customary for all TFC’s releases, but always worth praising for its attention to detail. The packaging is cast in a golden, warm tone, both attractive and a hint perhaps to the Golden Age of filmmaking from which the score comes.

Do you really need a reviewer to tell you to buy such a great release?

Highly recommended for fans of great music.

 

--Steven A. Kennedy, 27 June 2009

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: stev4uth@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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