In the early days of the film industry Hollywood didn't have sufficient home-grown talent and sought to attract composers from Europe. The supreme example of this is Erich Wolfgang Korngold who had grown from a child prodigy to become a very successful classical composer in Vienna. Although he only scored 15 films before returning to Austia, his film scores are frequently classified among the finest in their class. This double album captures 2 of these film scores in their entirety, "The Sea Hawk" and "Deception", with all the on-screen cues and any extra recorded material being lovingly restore and recaptured. The 24-page booklet accompanying the album gives plenty of background into the films and their creation, the composer himself and the process of score restoration.
In one word the score of "The Sea Hawk" is gorgeous to listen to and arguably one of the composer's finest works. Although following on from a number of Errol Flynn swashbuckling soundtracks, this one seems to be more complex and rounded. It starts in true heroic form with one of film music's most exciting fanfares. This fanfare returns in a number of places to herald the start of battle scenes and heroics. Though the music isn't all action: there are relaxed sections, love scenes such as "Rose Garden", moments playfullness such as "Night Banquet" and "The Monkey", and emotional conflict is also in evidence, though most of all the music speaks eloquently of adventure on the high seas. Even the action scenes are balanced since there is the real sense of danger, that things might not work out. At all times Korngold demonstrates his superb grasp of the orchestra. It is scores such as this which clearly place Korngold on a path somewhere between Gustav Mahler and John Williams. The story moves from scene to scene culminating in the mammoth track 14 which is 13 and a half minutes long, and yet after a brief song ("Maria's Song") the action continues on CD2.
Although most of films that Korngold scored were costume dramas, "Deception" was a notable exception being set in the present day. This was to be Korngold's last score before his return to Europe, but an interesting project nonetheless for any composer. The three main characters are musicians and the film centres around their love triangle with a Cello Concerto (written by Korngold) playing a key part in the story. The actors had to mime the playing of their instruments including a number of shots with closeups of fingers so a variety of photogrphic trickery was used. In addition, Korngold had to be invovled from a very early stage with music playing a key part in the film. The downside for Korngold fans is that a lot of the music played was from the Classical repertoire, so there is less film score than on other movies of the day which is probably why a recording of this score has not previously been released. In terms of timing however, it makes a perfect partner for "The Sea Hawk" so that both together make up 2 CDs worth of listening. The music itself could be described as romantic film-noir, with hints of some classical works and including the theme later to feature in the track "cello concerto". Korngold released an expanded version of this work for the concert platform, though it is still quite a short work by concerto standards.
The scores have been recorded by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under the batton of experienced film music conductor and composer William Stromberg. This double CD is an excellent release which is sure to attract the attention of classical and film music fans. It is available at these links: Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
You can hear samples of all tracks online at this product link on the Naxos website.