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Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
The Sea Wolf - film music (1941) [55:04] plus trailer [4:40]
The Adventures of Robin Hood suite from film music (1938) [16:22]
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester; 1, 3 Sept 2004. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10336 [76:22]

Ian Lace has already reviewed this extremely welcome disc with his accustomed thoroughness, perception and vitality and I refer readers to that review. My own comments serve as a dispensable footnote.

Two of Korngold’s film scores are represented here and neither are entirely new to disc. The second Korngold volume in Charles Gerhardt’s and George Korngold’s RCA Classic Film Score LPs included an atmospheric suite from The Sea Wolf while The Adventures of Robin Hood has been recorded complete and in extract form (Varese-Sarabande, Marco Polo). That said, the music on this disc is new to the commercially recorded medium. The Sea Wolf score has never been recorded complete while this version of the Robin Hood suite is a novelty with its specially reduced orchestration designed for the practicalities of concert hall performance.

As a novelist Jack London is terribly underrated. Of course White Fang and The Call of the Wild guarantee him immortality but people sniffily dismiss his major novels such as John Barleycorn, the fantasy Star Wanderer, his campaigning reportage of the slums of London’s east end and of course the psychological novel The Sea Wolf.

Korngold’s score for The Sea Wolf reflects the tortured psychological dimension of the story in a way that we may more readily associate with Miklos Rozsa. However the Main Title music heaves and yaws, lunges and plunges with the best swashbucklers. Even there the swell carries a steely menace. The message seems to be: can anyone keep their emotional and psychological footing in this weather? It’s clearly a metaphor for Larsen’s state of mind.

Other impressions crowd in. The snarl of the brass resolves into sounds beloved of Malcolm Arnold in evoking haunted landscapes (in his Cornish Dances and other works of the 1960s). The mood returns in Love Scene - Mutiny - Headache/Blindness and Man Overboard (trs. 8 and 9). Yuri Torchinsky’s succulent violin solo can be heard in Larsen's Room - The Patient (tr. 5) but even then there’s a cold shiver. In this mood Korngold harks back to his music for the trudge through the marshes in his own score for Elizabeth and Essex. There’s even an unknowing echo of the sourly disillusioned yet elegiac trumpet solo from Franz Schmidt’s Fourth Symphony. In track 8 a real yearning pulses through the theme and its treatment. This recalls Herrmann’s much later score for Marnie; again a film with a strong psychological dimension. Escape - The 'Ghost' in Trouble is memorable for its dank atmospherics (3:10) as well as remarkable climactic effects galvanic in their power and Hollywood ‘blaze’. Other hallmarks and signatures of the composer are there too including the use of the vibraphone. The orchestration is lapidary - a large orchestra used with great restraint. Shreds of the Dies Irae are woven into the crashes at the start of The Sea Wolf’s trailer music although I did not notice them in the main sequence.

Lush romance and the jocularly boisterous are not in evidence here; The Sea Wolf is just not that sort of film. If you need your standard Korngold ‘fix’ then the little suite from The Adventures of Robin Hood delivers. Robin and his Merry Men rollick and swagger offset to some extent by a verdant love scene which perhaps reminded Korngold of the score that brought him to the USA - a film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The definitive and readable notes are from Brendan G Carroll. While Chandos have spared no expense with the documentation and the sumptuous sound there are no stills from the film. No doubt negotiations with Warners did not produce a satisfactory outcome.

I still have hopes that the next disc in Chandos’s film music series will give us a generous selection of the film music of Brian Easdale - but please, not The Red Shoes!

For now though all credit to Chandos for this superb disc. It valuably fills a yawning gap in the Korngold discography and opens the door on one of the Hollywood master’s most subtle and grown-up scores.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Ian Lace

Track Listing

The Sea Wolf [55:04]1 Main Title [2:33]2 The Fog [2:58]3 The 'Ghost' - Collision [6:30]4 'You still feel like refusing?' - Larsen's headache [2:14]5 Larsen's Room - The Patient [9:56]
6 'Put some bars on her window' [1:58]
7 Louie's Death [1:48]
8 Love Scene - Mutiny - Headache/Blindness [11:40]
9 Man Overboard [3:41]
10 Escape - The 'Ghost' in Trouble [6:32]
11 Return to the 'Ghost' - Trapped - Larsen and Van Weyden [1:43]
12 Gunshot - Final Blindness [1:45]
13 The Ship goes down - End Titles/Cast List [1:48]
14 Trailer for 'The Sea Wolf' [4:40]
The Adventures of Robin Hood [16:22]
15 Old England [2:11]
16 Robin Hood and his Merry Men [3:52]
17 Love Scene [6:18]
18 The Fight, Victory and Epilogue [3:54]


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