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Max STEINER (1888-1971)
All This, and Heaven Too (1940) [44:51]
A Stolen Life (1946) [26:11]
Score restoration by John Morgan
Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/William Stromberg
rec. Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, February-March 2002
NAXOS FILM CLASSICS 8.570184 [71:08]



This is another emigrant from Marco Polo [8.570184] and joins the Naxos Film Music Classics series, a burgeoning one that reflects well on the company’s steady devotion to the art on disc. The music is by Max Steiner and was written for two Bette Davis vehicles, All This, and Heaven Too and the post-War A Stolen Life.

One thing that distinguishes the series, apart from the purely musical values embodied by the Moscow Symphony’s performance under the experienced John Morgan, is the nature and quality of the supporting notes; you won’t necessarily want to plough through the purely theatrical-dramatic ramifications, nor – if you’re not much of a cineaste – will you much be exercised by what Bette Davis thought, or didn’t think about her roles in these films; but it’s good to know that these details are here.

All This, and Heaven Too has a hundred minutes of music, which is here condensed to under half that length by means of eliminating repetition and such like. The orchestration is by Hugo Friedhofer, whom Steiner held in the highest professional esteem for his work – and no wonder. The result is a kind of through-composed Wagnerian approach, rich, vibrant, exciting and fully up to the expected Steiner Standard.

There are twelve cuts and some run scenes together. The Carriage Ride scene, for instance, lasts a mere 1:32 whilst track eight holds All Hallows Eve, the Lotis Song, Springtime and the Carousel and consequently lasts 5:42. The Duke’s Dying and finale lasts an even longer 7:28. In other words there is plenty of variety both musical and in terms of cutting.

That Carriage Ride is written in Steiner’s best light and airy style whereas A Night To Remember for Louise is full of rich, verdant and gorgeous lyricism. A feature of the writing is the opposition between the open-hearted lyricism of the love music and the more eerie, malevolent writing; for such things Steiner reserves percussion and here we find him using two pianos and celesta and more besides. Romance and portent hover over the final scene before the End Cast – always a good feature of the series in presenting an "authentic" listening experience.

The companion work is a more sparsely and simply orchestrated affair lasting twenty-six minutes in this reconstruction. Best to pass over the note’s reference to a "sea chanty" and better to concentrate on the precision of the writing and its effective realisation. A Stolen Life has a central storm scene which is the opposite of grandiose in its orchestration – instead the clever use of the piano effectively evokes the hubbub without undue exaggeration. There are some splendid little dance moments and some cod Nauticalia that amuses.

Standards are strongly maintained in this release – giving a budget price injection to a notably well curated series.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Bob Briggs



 


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