, March 2005
This was the score that, in a sense, started it all. Certainly by 1933 writing music for movies was not new, but Max Steiner's contribution for King Kong was more extensive, more colorful, and more musically integrated than virtually all previous examples. It was the music that took on the responsibility for creating not just atmosphere, but an entire world, and it's no mistake that this pioneering effort occurred in the fantasy/science fiction genre, a field that would be so kind to film music composers in future. To modern ears, Steiner's achievement inevitably pales a bit, just as, say, the thunderstorm in Beethoven's Sixth must yield to the one in Strauss' Alpine Symphony in terms of sheer graphic imagery. The music has a genuine period flavor, with lots of splashy percussion writing for the jungle music and for Kong himself, and true Golden Age strings for Ann Darrow. There's plenty to enjoy, from the Aboriginal Sacrificial Dance, to Stolen Love, and the marvelous extended sequence called Kong Escapes. An essential addition to any serious film music collection, it has all been lovingly restored by John Morgan, performed with gusto by William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony, and vividly recorded by Naxos (formerly Marco Polo). Now reissued at budget price, this is irresistible.