Classical Lost and Found
, July 2011
Classical Lost and Found Best Find for 2011
Even after the painstaking 2001 restoration of director Fritz Lang’s (1890–1976) 1927 legendary classic Metropolis, film buffs had to settle for a version less twenty-two minutes that were believed to be irretrievably lost. But in 2008 a miracle happened when the missing footage showed up in the vaults of an Argentine film company. The challenge then was to properly integrate it back into the movie. And to make a long story short (see the informative album notes, or better still the documentaries included with the earlier DVD and later Blu-ray restored versions of the film), it was the existing, meticulously annotated manuscripts and printed parts of German composer Gottfried Huppertz’s (1881–1937) complete score composed in 1926 that made this possible.
In the process all these tidbits were reconstituted under the supervision of film music expert Frank Strobel (b. 1966), whom many will remember for his highly acclaimed releases of Alfred Schnittke’s (1934–1998) movie scores…He’s also our conductor here, and along with the Capriccio Records’ production staff, now treats us to this immaculately laid out, world premiere recording of an extended suite distilled from the original Metropolis motion picture score.
Unlike most movie music, this can stand on its own! Brilliant orchestration that includes extensive percussion as well as some support from the organ, and the use of unifying leitmotifs hold the listener’s attention without the music needing any visual sustenance. A colorful late romantic score incorporating impressionistic, expressionistic and jazz elements, it undoubtedly served as an example to such European expatriate Hollywood composers as Max Steiner (1888–1971), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897–1957) and Franz Waxman (1906–1967).
Presented in the same order as they appear on screen, all of the cues are individually banded, and fall into three tableaus corresponding to the film’s tripartite structure. Highlights in the opening “Auftakt” (“Prelude”) include the ecstatic Metropolis main title (EM) [track-1], as well as some machine music [track-2] not too far removed from Alexander Mosolov’s (1900–1973) The Iron Foundry (1926–28) composed about the same time.
There’s also a lovely melting melody (LM) [track-5] characterizing Maria, who’s the leading female protagonist. This will recur, and might be considered a counterpart of Wagner’s (1813–1883) “Redemption through Love” motif in The Ring Cycle (1869–1876).
Other cues of note in the first part include the Dies Irae (DI), which will surface on several occasions, followed by a terrific 1920s dance music sequence (DM) [track-8]. One wonders whether John Williams (b. 1932) knew the mysterious machine-men number [track-10] when he wrote the score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
The second tableau, “Zwischenspiel” (“Interlude”), begins with a moving DI-laced, organ-enhanced cathedral cue [track-16]. It’s followed by some spooky laboratory music [tracks-17 through 20] presaging Franz Waxman’s score for The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). There’s also a radiant, heroic idea (RH) representing Freder, who’s the main male protagonist [track-17, beginning at 00:57]. The concluding selections [tracks-21 through 23] are an ear-catching blend of DM, RH, and DI rolled into a final rollicking dance of death made all the more sinister by the presence of a skeletal xylophone and funereal organ.
With the title “Furioso” (“Violent”), the final tableau begins anxiously [track-24] with references to “La Marseillaise” [track-25, beginning at 00:03] signifying the revolutionary activities of workers in the movie. The music builds mechanistically to a belligerent climax [tracks-25 through 31] with frequent references to RH. But order is finally restored, and it ends ecstatically with references to RH, LM and EM [track-32] underpinning the conclusion of a silver screen extravaganza you’ll never forget!
Superior in content to what’s been available before, film music guru Frank Strobel was not only the guiding light behind this extended symphonic synthesis of the original score, but also conducts the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSB) in this definitive performance of it. The spontaneity and emotional fervor he gets from the RSB musicians breathe new life into Huppertz’ inspired music.
Done in the Berlin Radio’s Saal 1, the recording projects a wide soundstage in a controlled acoustic. Sounding more like a Hollywood studio productions, clarity is not one of this release’s strong points. On the other hand there is a sonic homogeneity which adds to the emotional intensity of the score. Consequently what the disc lacks from the audiophile standpoint, it makes up for musically.