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Captain Blood and other Swashbucklers
Miklos ROZSA (1907-1995)

The King’s Thief (1955) [7:37] (reconstructed by Christopher Palmer)
Victor YOUNG (1900-1956)

Scaramouche (1952) [18:44] (reconstructed by William Stromberg)
Main Title [1:34]; Vanished merchant [2:06]; The tomb, Andre and Aline [3:46]; Why? [1:48]; Pavane [2:19]; Andre escapes [1:37]; The Big Apple [1:23]; The Magic Box-Roses and Napoleon [3:25]; End Cast [0:46]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)

Captain Blood (1935) [19:50] (reconstructed by John Morgan)
Main Title [2:49]; Slaves - Arabella and Blood [6:57]; Tortuga [1:45]; Port Royal – Island of Magra – English Pirate Ships [5:07]; Pirate’s Flag [1:39]; Finale [1:32]
Max STEINER (1888-1971)

The Three Musketeers (1935) [18:50] (reconstructed by John Morgan)
To Paris – Fencing Demonstration [3:46]; Love Theme [4:08]; Fight behind Palace [2:06]; Night-time - Pigeons [2:56]; Carriage Ride [2:45]; Finale [3:08]
Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Richard Kaufman
rec. Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany, 14-16 April, 15-21 June 1994. DDD
NAXOS FILM MUSIC CLASSICS 8.557704 [65:16]


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.
A valuable issue altogether.

Steve Arloff

 



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