Saturday, June 22, 2013

Historical Romances (1936-1946)

This is a nice disc of, what I would call, Korngoldian inspired music on Marco Polo. As it states in the liner notes, Erich Wolfgang Korngold specialized in historical drama, from swashbucklers like Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, or more intimate stories like Anthony Adverse or Kings Row. Even the two sets of cues by Alfred Newman and Max Steiner in this anthology seem inspired by Korngold, so it’s fitting that they be put together. The music was performed by the Brandenberg Philharmonic under the direction of conductor Richard Kaufman. As it is so often, the scores were reconstructed by the great John W. Morgan and sound beautiful.

The opening is an overture for Warner Brothers’ 1939 historical drama Juarez that Korngold wrote for the premier. The film starred Paul Muni in the title role, and also Bette Davis. At the time I purchased this, the only music from the film was the love theme on the Charles Gerhardt disc of Bette Davis films. Since then, an extended set of sixteen cues has become available by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on Koch. The suite here is very nice, including some ingenious use of Mexican flavors and the brilliant love theme.

Next comes a very nice set of cues by Alfred Newman for the 1939 RKO production of Gunga Din. Newman starts off his opening with a few notes from the British national anthem and then moves into a set of martial themes. The fifth cue is a lovely melody that accompanies the reading of the Rudyard Kipling poem that the film was based on. Finally, “Auld Lang Syne” is heard before concluding with the end cast music. This is followed by a Korngold suite from Devotion, a 1946 attempt by Warner Brothers to tell the story of Bronte’s, England’s literary first family. Unlike the fluffy melodrama onscreen, Korngold attempted to bring in some of the gothic flavor of the novels written by the sisters and created music that seems reminiscent of his operas.

Finally, seven cues from Charge of the Light Brigade, another rousing Warner Brothers historical drama featuring Errol Flynn. This is almost superfluous now, with the two-disc set of the complete score available from Tribute Film Classics. But the different orchestra here is a nice contrast. The opening is a bit more ponderous than the William Stromberg interpretation, but soon settles into a nice set of cues. To my knowledge, this is the only disc with cues from Newman’s Gunga Din, and so that is a good reason to get it. But the overture from Juarez is very nice as well. As with most Marco Polo discs, the music is well recorded and a definite plus to anyone’s collection.

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