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Brentwood Gazette, April 2012

Naxos has just reissued at bargain price a collection, Captain Blood And Other Swashbucklers (Naxos 8.557704). Performed by the Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Richard Kaufman, the 1994 Berlin recording still sounds vivid as it highlights tracks from four swashbuckling films and classic movie scores by Miklos Rozsa, Victor Young, Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. Each composer has become a legend in the history of movie music, and any one who delights in that history needs this album from films such as Scaramouche and The Three Musketeers. © 2012 Brentwood Gazette



Andy Cooper
Leader-Post, January 2007

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland went from bit players to overnight megastars in this 1935 pirate caper.

This recording, by the Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Richard Kaufman, includes almost 20 minutes of thrilling music from the film by Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

You can almost feel the swish of cutlass and roar of ship's cannon in the fine score.

The 65-minute CD also includes music from three other costume capers: The King's Thief (Miklos Rozsa), Scaramouche (Victor Young) and The Three Musketeers (Max Steiner).



Andy Cooper
Leader-Post, January 2007

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland went from bit players to overnight megastars in this 1935 pirate caper.

This recording, by the Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Richard Kaufman, includes almost 20 minutes of thrilling music from the film by Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

You can almost feel the swish of cutlass and roar of ship's cannon in the fine score.

The 65-minute CD also includes music from three other costume capers: The King's Thief (Miklos Rozsa), Scaramouche (Victor Young) and The Three Musketeers (Max Steiner).



Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, August 2006

This is another winner from the Naxos stable’s Film Music Classics series and proves once again that the composers of film music deserve to be taken seriously, especially when the likes of Rózsa and Korngold are involved. It goes without saying that much of the music presented here is exciting and the films would have been nothing without it – indeed the music, written between 1935 and 1955, has lasted a lot longer than the films have, proving the point.

First up is Rózsa’s score for The King’s Thief. This is packed with full-blooded, lavish themes with sufficient suggestions of the King’s Court of the 17th century to be convincing. Rózsa had an uncanny knack of producing perfect sounding melodies to order and his fascinating and rewarding autobiography describes the processes and the incredible time constraints the movie bosses placed upon composers like him. The music here is so quintessentially English that it is difficult to take on board the fact that it was penned by a Hungarian. However, with almost ninety film scores including Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Ben-Hur, and El Cid, under his belt, Rózsa was one of the very best writers of music for film. To get an idea of how rounded he was as a composer, if you’ve not discovered it yet, I urge anyone interested to seek out his concert music, including a piano concerto, string quartets, and a wealth of other truly brilliant, inventive and exciting works.

Victor Young, who wrote the music for Scaramouche, a true "swashbuckler" in every sense of the word, was not known for his concert music as far as I know but with such film scores as Samson and Delilah, For whom the bell tolls and Around the World in Eighty Days, he proved his worth to Hollywood. The music for Scaramouche is both thrilling and romantic by turns and shows he was the perfect choice for this rollicking tale of love, rivalry, mistaken identity and other elements that contributed to its huge success at the box office in 1952.

Newly arrived in the USA in 1934 to arrange and conduct the score of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Warner Bros. film, Korngold so impressed the movie moguls that they asked him to write an original score for the forthcoming Captain Blood (1935), from the novel by Rafael Sabatini (also the author of ‘Scaramouche’). The idea intrigued him and the rest, as they might say, is film music history, as he succeeded wonderfully and went on to score the classic films The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939) and The Sea Hawk (1940), all three starring the now top box-office name of Errol Flynn. Flynn made his breakthrough with Captain Blood and when you hear the music it’s not hard to understand why – the pairing of Flynn and Korngold was so potent. Indeed Korngold was, like Rózsa, a concert music specialist who wrote many wonderful works, several of them embodying that flamboyant means of expression so often required in film scores. A detractor once quipped that he was "more corn than gold" and whether that was sour grapes or not is debatable whilst his unerring ability to write music of real worth is without question.

With more than fifteen versions of The Three Musketeers made in Europe and the USA, it remains the most filmed of all the classic novels but often it is the musical score alone that stands the test of time. That is certainly true of the version made in Hollywood in 1935 by RKO, for which Max Steiner wrote the music. He was no newcomer to film scores having already written them for The Most Dangerous Game (1932), King Kong (1933) and The Informer (1935), for which he won an Oscar. It is doubtful if anyone could surpass Steiner’s brilliantly evocative score for The Three Musketeers which embodies all the key elements essential to ensure swashbuckling films are successful. To quote Tony Thomas from his liner notes there are "… throbbing love themes for heroines viewed from afar, orchestral fireworks for any amount of duelling and swordplay, proper pomp and circumstance to accompany persons of rank and privilege and, finally, a measure of humor to add humility to the swashbuckling heroes themselves". All the music on this disc could be used as an object lesson in all the above.

This Naxos series is a really valuable contribution to preserving the music from films that will not all stand the test of time and, in many cases would have sunk without trace but for the music. I take my hat off to them for the series and to the people who so painstakingly managed to reconstruct the scores. Plaudits also go to Richard Kaufman and the Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Potsdam, a recently formed ensemble that grew out of two other orchestras, one of them the DEFA Orchestra in Babelsburg, that over the years from the pre-Nazi era to the unification of Germany was responsible for the playing of the scores of so many classic films. An ensemble that has this genre of music running clearly in its collective blood.



Goran Forsling
MusicWeb International, August 2006

It is an interesting thought that this music, if not exactly symphonic but speaking a late romantic language and performed by symphonic forces, from the 1930s to the 1950s, was heard by millions of movie-goers. How many of them ever came into contact with ‘real’ symphonic music; still less consider going to a symphony concert. Even so, the films and the music were appreciated, and today composers like John Williams write film music in a largely symphonic idiom, get awards for it and sell records aplenty. It has also become increasingly common to borrow classical compositions for the soundtracks. All this means that more people than ever are exposed to the sound of a symphony orchestra. So why the decline of sales for classical music and receding figures for concert-going?

Are we – at least the generations younger than me and most of my reviewing colleagues – so visualised that we need pictures to appreciate the sounds? Pop concerts – reportedly – involve smoke machines and laser projections. I have heard more than one youngster saying: ‘I’m going to see a concert tomorrow.’ A couple of years ago I saw a concert performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold at the Stockholm Concert Hall in a production that was enhanced by visual effects, projections, texts, colours … you name it. The singers made their exits and entrances as they should in a staged performance and even though some of them needed vocal scores this was a world apart from the traditional ‘straight’ concert version. Reviewers waxed lyrical. The audience were ecstatic – and these were more or less ‘traditional’ concert-goers, versed in concert traditions. Clearly, the visual element has an impact. It probably won’t reverse the figures drastically for the concert halls if they install smoke machines, but maybe something along those lines.

Why this preamble? Because knowing the answers, as accounted for above, it must seem absurd to revive 50 to 70 year old film music from movies very few modern listeners - excuse me - viewers, have ever seen, in modern sound-only recordings. But in an absurd world this works, at least for me – and presumably for a lot of others since they continue to sell. Never being a very avid movie-goer I have listened to a lot of movie-music without greatly missing the pictures. It all started in the 1970s when RCA launched their series of re-recordings of classic Hollywood scores. These were in state-of-the-art sound and with the superlative National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt. Herrmann, Waxman, Rózsa and Korngold became household names and I soon realised that all of them had ‘serious’ careers as well. It was comme-il-faut in some camps to frown upon this music – sentimental and vulgar – and considering the last-named he was regarded as ‘more korn than gold’. However times change and it wasn’t long before a Korngold revival was on its way. Die tote Stadt appeared on disc, also on RCA, a new recording of the violin concerto - in which he recycled several of his film themes - the string quartets and then a steady stream of orchestral music (on Chandos and CPO). Then came the rest of the operas. Today Korngold is firmly established, the gold having got the upper hand over the korn.

I focus on Korngold since he gets star billing on the cover of this issue, even though the music from Captain Blood is only marginally longer than the Young and Steiner suites, and this is music with a tingle factor! The Main Title was on one of those RCA records. This film was Korngold’s real break-through and established him as one of the top contenders – many regard him as without peer. For inventiveness, melodic and harmonic richness and a symphonic approach he is hard to beat. Here I return momentarily to the fact that through Korngold millions of non-classically oriented viewers got a healthy dose of symphonic music. What makes his music so congenial is its graphic quality. It is illustrative to the point when you hardly need the pictures, and that is also one reason why it is so listenable disengaged from the movie. One can hear this on track 12 of this disc. Elsewhere he creates – or rather underlines – the mood of a scene; listen to the chilling beginning of the Port Royal scene (track 14). Of course a full appreciation of Korngold’s idiom also requires a listener with a sweet tooth. When he lets loose his most seductive string tunes (also track 12) you may feel that he is over-sugaring the pudding. Then, when you have reached a near-diabetic stage, he adds some bold harmonic seasoning to neutralise the sweets and, who can resist his melodies? Add to this the rich orchestral texture where Wagner, Strauss, Mahler and Puccini were his masters. There is also a small (only 1:45) but exquisite pearl, Tortuga (track 13), a slow Boston Waltz with rubatos that even Franz Lehár would have envied. He wrote an enormous amount of music for this film in only three weeks but a tight time-schedule forced him to borrow a few minutes from a symphonic poem by Liszt for a battle scene. This caused him to demand that the credits read ‘Musical Arrangements by Erich Wolfgang Korngold”. Modesty indeed!

I will be more brief about the rest of the disc although I hasten to add that I enjoyed these three scores, too. Rózsa’s The King’s Thief includes some whistling and the music has, appropriately enough, a true 17th century feeling, even though the instrumentation is of later vintage. And Rózsa was of course one of the greatest, with around ninety film scores to his credit and being at his very best in some historical epics like Ben Hur and Quo Vadis.

Victor Young, best known for his score for Around the World in Eighty Days wrote a really catchy main title for Scaramouche, whereas the second scene, Vanished Merchant (track 3) has a certain thematic likeness to Around the World although composed three years earlier. I must admit that while being wholeheartedly in love with Korngold’s ‘sugar music’ the corresponding side of Young is harder to take, mainly because his sentimentality is not redeemed by Korngold’s brave harmonies, but he writes fine melodies and the End Cast (track 10) is accompanied by a lilting waltz.

Max Steiner was Korngold’s senior by nine years and started writing for Hollywood several years before Korngold arrived from Europe, reaping success in King Kong (1932). He also won an Oscar for The Informer the same year that he wrote the music for The Three Musketeers (1935), a film which has not gone down in the annals as a masterpiece, but was probably partly redeemed by the music. This is a score that bristles with energy and zest (tracks 17, 19, 21), but he could also write a tear-jerking love theme (track 18) and what I suppose is the Pigeons’ Theme on track 20, is distantly reminiscent of Whistle While You Work from Snow White.

The whole disc was a good listen, with an extra plus for Korngold. The orchestra, only two years after its foundation, acquit themselves well. They may not have the refinement of the National Philharmonic but in the excellent Jesus Christ Church in Berlin (Dahlem) – a famous recording venue for, among others, the Berlin Philharmonic before the days of the Philharmonie – they produce a mighty sound, comparable to the Kingsway Hall, where the RCA recordings were made. Tony Thomas writes a well-informed note in the inlay, but I would have liked some more explicit clues to what happens in the different scenes. There is also a note on reconstruction by John Morgan, responsible for the Korngold and Steiner excerpts. He regrets that the original scores do not exist any more and that the reconstructions had to be made from original piano reductions, warts and all, and through listening to the sound tracks; a painstaking job that we have reason to be e



KOLDYS
American Record Guide, August 2005

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