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Max STEINER (1888-1971)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Score restoration by John Morgan
Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/William Stromberg
rec. Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, October 1999
NAXOS FILM CLASSICS 8.570185 [60:17]



This is another escapee from Marco Polo [8.225149] newly revivified by Naxos in their Film Music Classics series. There’s an hour’s worth of music here with short cues run together for reasons of continuity in the proper sequence. Steiner’s music is consistently enjoyable and exciting. It glistens with personal touches and little orchestral feats that captivate and evoke in the shortest possible time.

The Train Attack scene sets the pulse racing – all one hundred seconds of it – and Steiner cleverly uses percussion voicings to summon up thoughts of finding gold. There are opportunities for nostalgia and reflection as well – Steiner uses Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms as such a device in the sixth track here, Campfire, and it reappears later. The cave-in scene is excitingly but tersely done – for all Steiner’s symphonic depth and range he maintained a "go for the jugular" precision when necessary.

These are qualities strongly in evidence in the banditry and violence of the score as when, for instance, the remorseless gaining of the bandits is so trenchantly evoked by the slash of the strings and the throb of the rhythm. Steiner builds up tension with inexorable but concise precision. And there are of course plenty of moments for the unleashing of his lyric affiliations; the romantic string curve of the tenth track, Cody’s Letter, leads on to a reprise of Texas Memories and its evocation of the sentiment of Believe Me.

The more horrifying elements of the score are also targeted with his accustomed finesse and compact perception. The cue The Ruins for instance has an abundance of high string and harp writing that has a satisfyingly high spine-tingle quotient. The Chorus is used very sparingly, here to sing the Funeral Chant [track twelve] and it’s done in the usual accomplished way.

Talking of accomplishment the orchestral and vocal forces of the Moscow Symphony sound notably well drilled and on the ball in this performance. John Morgan’s restorations are part of the backbone of the whole series and his written notes are always worth reading. Production values are high, as always.

Jonathan Woolf

 



 


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