Archive for the ‘Favourite Scores’ Category
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 29, 2012
- Kings Row
- Erich Wolfgang Korngold
- Varèse Sarabande / 1991 / 48:10
According to Korngold’s son, George, thousands of filmgoers wrote to the composer to express their enjoyment of his score. And listening to this re-recording from Charles Gerhardt/The National Philharmonic Orchestra it is easy to hear what all the fuss was about. Right from the outset, Korngold’s fanfaric theme grabs the attention immediately and for me it is Korngold’s themes and leitmotifs contained in this score that is the attraction.
This version (subsequently, Film Score Monthly have gone on to release the original soundtrack recording – that I have yet to hear) has been arranged as a couple of symphonic suites and the quality of Korngold’s music means that this is not a problem.
As well as the main theme (that many have said has similarities to John Williams’ theme from Star Wars, though I did not notice this until it was pointed out to me) there’s a beautiful, rather romantic theme that’s very European in style to my ears and Korngold’s skill is to take these themes (and others) and adapt them into a whole myriad of forms.
The score can be a bit melodramatic in places but, again, Korngold’s themes are some of the best he composed and mean that this score goes to the top of the pile for 1942 in my view.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, favourite score, film music, film score, Kings Row, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 10, 2012
- Citizen Kane
- Bernard Herrmann
- Varese Sarabande / 1999 / 52:45
This is a difficult choice for this year as there’s not one that really stands out for selection. Herrmann’s score is rightly seen as a landmark score at a time where film in general was being experimented with by innovative directors such as Citizen Kane‘s director, Orson Welles.
I am not expert enough in film history or theory to understand whether Herrmann’s experience in composing for radio put him in good stead for Welles’ directing style for this film, but Herrmann’s use of the short cue that was particularly effective at bridging scenes is a technique frequently in radio.
It’s the moodiness of this score that is appealing to me; the way in which Herrmann creates a feeling with what appears to be very little effort. The slow, off-kilter tracks in particular are highlights. Alongside the highlights there are also tracks that I always skip: up-tempo tracks such as “Galop” I avoid. And I may be in the minority not liking “Salaambo’s Aria”. Although there are parts I do not like, when it’s good it is very good.
For years, Joel McNeely’s version (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) was the go-to version. Rumon Gamba’s more recent release of 49 minutes of Herrmann’s score (BBC Philharmonic, Chandos Records) is now the more sonically appealing though I do not like their choice of making 6-7 minute suites from joining together several of Herrmann’s individual cues.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Bernard Herrmann, Citizen Kane, favourite score, film music, film score | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on December 5, 2011
- The Sea Hawk
- Erich Wolfgang Korngold
- Naxos Film Music Classics / 2007 / 114:22
The score for this classic Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk is probably my favourite score from Korngold. It certainly contains my favourite theme of the genre. This “Main Title” theme sets out right from the start that there’s going to be lots of action and adventure but there’s also going to be some sweeping romance too!
Korngold’s scores can sometimes be a bit over the top for me and this one does have its excesses in terms of relentless action scoring. But to my ears at least, The Sea Hawk has the balance right delivering the right level of action and romance as well as the quieter “underscore” passages. The whole feel of the music is of a film score rather than being a classical piece lifted from the concert hall and placed in a film. There’s certainly enough variety to keep me listening to the whole 2+ hours of music (though I rarely get the chance to do that now). And the long playing time means that the songs (which are not a highlight for me) can easily be lost in the orchestral score!
Looking through the various versions I have of this score (with each version having various amounts of music), I count five different versions ranging from a 10-minute suite of original tracks that is featured on a Rhino Records boxed set of Korngold’s scores when at Warner Bros., a suite of tracks re-recorded by Charles Gerhardt for RCA and another suite of cues released in 2002 and recorded by André Previn. But it is the complete score recording from William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus that makes this score shine. Played in equal measures with bravado and tenderness, it’s a great recording.
It’s a title that’s well worth hunting down whichever version you find.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, favourite score, film music, film score, Soundtracks, The Sea Hawk | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on November 20, 2011
- The Wizard of Oz
- Herbert Stothart / Harold Arlen / Edgar Y. Harburg
- Rhino Movie Music / 1995 / 130:33
“We’re Off To See The Wizard”, “If I Were King of The Forest”, “Over The Rainbow”, the list goes on. Rhino’s 2 CD “Deluxe Edition” gives you as much as you could ask for when it comes to the music for this iconic film. Outtakes, extended versions and alternate versions as well as all the well-known pieces are here. What this release highlights that there’s so much more to the music than just the iconic songs. For example, one of the things that has always stuck in my mind is Miss Gulch’s theme. Immediately memorable!
Listening to it again now, all the various themes/song melodies are weaved throughout the score to build to almost 2 hours that just flies by. The 2 CD version can be a bit excessive with all the various alternate & partial takes but it’s a loving reproduction of the score. There’s a great booklet that comes with this release that makes for an excellent score.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Edgar Y Harburg, favourite score, film music, film score, Harold Arlen, Herbert Stothart, Soundtracks, The Wizard of Oz | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on November 4, 2011
- Alexander Nevsky
- Sergei Prokofiev
- VoxBox / 1990 / 38:52 & Capriccio / 2004 / 55:49
There’s so many different versions of this title available that it was a recommendation from Lukas Kendall in Film Score Monthly’s magazine (when it was still in print form) that attracted me to this version of Prokofiev’s cantata format of his score to Alexander Nevsky (with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin). And listening more recently to a re-recording of the complete film score (Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra & Frank Strobel on the Capriccio label) only enhances my appreciation of Prokofiev’s score. In fact, I prefer the music as heard in the film score format.
It may seem an odd thing to say but the score is very Russian sounding! What particularly sticks in the mind are the great choral pieces such as “Arise Russian People!”, “Lake Plesheyeyo” and the choral passages in the Battle On The Ice scene. It’s quite a sombre score overall but does have numerous highlights (e.g., “Return To Pskov – Procession”).
Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky can’t be talked about without mention of James Horner and his “danger motif”. Film composers are always using tried and trusted musical devices in their music – and in a way this is what makes their “trademark sound”. Horner, perhaps more than most, references classical works and a specific musical device (heard in “The Battle On The Ice – April 5, 1242″ along with other devices and motifs familiar to anyone who knows Horner’s scores such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) stands out as what has become known as Horner’s “danger motif”. Personally, I don’t mind the various references he and others are always making but it can be a bit distracting to suddenly be reminded of other films when what you want to do is immerse yourself in this grand score.
I would probably recommend the complete film score over the cantata version but either one is a worthy addition to my list.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Alexander Nevsky, favourite score, film music, film score, Sergei Prokofiev, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on October 31, 2011
- Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs
- Frank Churchill / Leigh Harline / Paul J. Smith / Larry Morey
- Walt Disney Records / 2001 / 73:50
I have to admit upfront that 1937 is a bit of lean year for me when it comes to film scores*. But listening to Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs it’s clear that the music composed for this groundbreaking animation os much more than just a few well-known songs. The songs (well some of them) are iconic: “Whistle While You Work”, “Heigh-Ho”, what more can you say. But there are cues in the orchestral score that are so dark that it’s difficult to believe that the music was composed for an animated film – e.g., “Have A Bite”. But, I do have to admit that the singing voice for Snow White (Adriana Caselotti?) is really annoying.
* Korngold’s The Prince and The Pauper, Tiomkin’s Lost Horizon and Britten’s Love From A Stranger are all scores that I have heard but I don’t particularly enjoy.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: favourite score, film music, film score, Frank Churchill, Larry Morey, Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on October 27, 2011
- Things To Come
- Sir Arthur Bliss
- Chandos / 2001 / 32:06
Reading the excellent liner notes of Chandos’ excellent release of the film music of Sir Arthur Bliss it is clear that the music for this film had a tortuous life even at birth. Having been assured by H.G. Wells himself that Bliss’ music would be an integral element of the film and not just “tacked on” at the end, Bliss prepared a suite of music from his score for a concert at the Proms in 1935. But Bliss’ music was severely modified for inclusion in the final film release in 1936. Bliss felt obliged to modify his music for the suite in order to give the film audiences what they had heard in the film. And there was more changes to come…
What Chandos has done with for this recording is to return Bliss’ music more to a state that was composed by Bliss – and it reinforces just how powerful Bliss’ music is. Bliss’ vision of the future is not a particularly happy one with tracks such as “The World In Ruins” and “Pestilence” that paint broad strokes, that focuses on providing emotional backdrops for the film and hinting at the hardship. I prefer the way the composer provides an emotional feel with the music rather than spelling out everything in music.
There’s a lot to discover with this score: not just in the tracks cited above. Lighter (it’s all relative) moments include “Ballet For Children” and there’s an almost patriotic feel to the concluding “Epilogue”.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: favourite score, film music, film score, Sir Arthur Bliss, Soundtracks, Things To Come | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on October 6, 2011
- Max Steiner
- Tribute Film Classics / 2008 / 69:42
I never really appreciated the quality of Max Steiner’s She until I heard Tribute Film Classics’ re-recording. I was familiar with this score as I already had the original score recording that had been released by Brigham Young/Film Music Archives. But that recording – though remarkable considering that it is a recording from 1935 – does show its age. With the re-recording Steiner’s score just shines.
What is so wonderful about this score is Steiner’s hypnotic and intoxicating main theme, best heard at the beginning of “The Queen / Tanya In Bed” for when She first appears. That particular passage, when compared with the original recording, highlights just how much can not be heard! The beguiling use of the wordless choir in such a way must surely have been in the minds of composers scoring TV’s Star Trek many years later.
I usually have to approach Steiner’s music with a certain amount of trepidation since I usually only like my mickey-mousing film scoring in very small doses (She does have a smattering of this style of scoring). But there’s so much more that is there to enjoy in the whole score.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: favourite score, film music, film score, Max Steiner, She, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on September 27, 2011
- Lieutenant Kijé
- Sergei Prokofiev
- Vox Box / 1990 / 20:27
From what I have seen of the film, Lieutenant Kijé is bizarre. Full of extremely exaggerated acting, I had hoped to watch the film in order to see how Prokofiev’s original music fits. But the film is so bizarre and the copy I saw (streaming on Google Video) is so bad that I gave up pretty quickly. So the suite version (premiered in 1937) will need to do for the time being. I believe the actual score isn’t available on CD and most people will have heard the symphonic suite that the composer put together that is based on the score.
It’s difficult to look beyond the popular “Troika” when this score (and suite) is mentioned – the fourth movement of the suite, “Troika”, is frequently used in films and documentaries and usually features on “best of” classical music compilations. Most of the suite has been used in film, documentaries and popular music.
The familiar melodies heard in movements 2-4 (“Romance”, “Kijé’s Wedding” and “Troika”) appear throughout the suite and it is this familiarity that means Prokofiev’s piece is chosen for this year. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: favourite score, film music, film score, Lieutenant Kijé, Sergei Prokofiev, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on September 25, 2011
- King Kong
- Max Steiner
- Marco Polo/Naxos / 1997 / 72:19
This year was the year of King Kong: with both King Kong and The Son of Kong being released this year, both with scores by Max Steiner.
It’s difficult to choose anything other this iconic score; a milestone score of quality. Steiner’s music is great on all levels: it’s a summation of the film in music. The effective title track gets things off to a great start and then we are thrown into a series of low-key and restrained cues that Steiner pulls off very well. (This is a movie that’s not over-scored: I believe that it’s some time before the second track here is featured in the film.)
It’s a score that has tribal music (forewarning the audience (and the characters if they could hear the music!) of the events to come), the already-mentioned restrained tracks and some excellent action scoring for the latter parts of the film. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been in the cinema when this movie was released, listening to Steiner’s music featured in “Entrance of Kong” and awaiting the spectacle of Kong’s final reveal? And Steiner’s music captures that anticipation wonderfully well. I’m not too keen on Steiner’s tendency to replicate as much of the on-screen action in his music (“mickey-mousing”), but it works very well here. Read the rest of this entry »
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