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CD: Screen Archives

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
The Prince and the Pauper - film score (1937)
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/William Stromberg
rec. Mosfilm Studios, March 2008
TRIBUTE TFC-1006 [65:20]
Experience Classicsonline

Korngold’s music for The Prince and the Pauper is best known, perhaps, in the form of the score’s leading motif used in the Finale of the composer’s Violin Concerto (1947). My recommended recording is the 1953 RCA recording with Heifetz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 

The Prince and the Pauper
, based on the story by Mark Twain, was Errol Flynn’s seventh film for Warner Bros and his second to be scored by Korngold; Captain Blood - 1935, was his first. This is the premiere recording of the complete score. It is a revelation thanks to the meticulous reconstruction and preparation work by the Tribute team of John Morgan, Anna Bonn and William Stromberg.

The Prince and the Pauper music is scored for a large orchestra that includes an elaborate percussion section including snare drum, bass drum, gong, woodblock, various sized cymbals, triangle, tambourine, bells, vibraphone, xylophone, marimba plus two harps piano and celesta. Interestingly, John Morgan, writing in the booklet suggests that “Korngold’s Pauper score is at times reminiscent of Richard Strauss’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme and other neo-classical works but that it also anticipates the music of Francis Poulenc”.

Hitherto the recordings have only been of suites and these have variously been conducted by: Charles Gerhardt on RCA GD 80185; André Previn on DG 471347 and another by the Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by William Stromberg on Marco Polo. There is also a fragment conducted by Korngold, himself, on the Premier label.

The main stars of The Prince and the Pauper were the child actors, the Mauch twins, Billy and Bobby playing the boy king Edward VI and his identical-looking friend the beggar, Tom. Errol Flynn, playing a relative supporting role, does not appear on-screen until almost an hour has elapsed. Claude Rains again presents a portrait of suave villainy as the would-be power-behind-the-throne, Hertford.

Twain’s story, simply put, is about the consequences of the boys unwittingly exchanging places - Tom to the Palace and Edward to the mean streets of Tudor London - in the critical period between the death of old King Henry VIII and the coronation of the boy king, Edward VI. An assortment of villains, in the palace and in the streets, threaten the two boys. They are rescued from their predicaments by their own quick wits and by the swashbuckling Flynn playing the adventurer Miles Henderson.

Erich KorngoldThis new Tribute recording has exemplary sound. How wonderfully the Moscow players respond to William Stromberg’s conducting of this notoriously difficult music. There are so many eccentric tempo changes and a plethora of intricate and very fast passages that must have taxed the Orchestra to the limit. An example is in the two ‘Seals’ cues where not only the orchestra had to race but also the pianist Irina Popova. She had to sprint through an exposed virtuoso solo part requiring great dexterity and accuracy. The presto cues, more often than not, underscore the high-spirited escapades of the two boys or Henderson’s fights.

Korngold had a happy knack of responding to the exuberance of childhood. An example of this is his music for the early children-at-play scenes in Kings Row. This score has rambunctious music aplenty contrasted with, in the Main Title, that sense of dreamy, yearning nostalgia that only Korngold could conjure. The warm affectionate material for the kindly Father Andrew also touches the heart and once again Korngold enthusiasts might be reminded of a similar achingly beautiful theme for Paris’s grandmother in Kings Row. Another gem is ‘Dining Scene’ with its haunting violin and saxophone solos for the scene when Henderson takes the endangered Edward under his wing. A romantic violin solo - recalling Korngold’s music for Another Dawn - decorates ‘Flirt’ a sly, mocking flirtatious waltz for Flynn. This cue is very appropriate to Flynn’s dashing, devil-may-care flighty persona. Appropriately, it also features a more down-to-earth saxophone part. From intimacy to pomp, there is also grand regal court music anticipating similar material for The Sea Hawk.

A sumptuously illustrated 32-page booklet features notes from each of the Tribute principals plus details of the film’s casting and production together with rare stills and poster designs and full track analyses.  

For Korngold fans this is a must.

Ian Lace 

Track listing:
1. Main Title 1:43
2. A Prince Is Born :33
3. Tavern and Palace 3:15
4. Tom/Tom Continuation 6:36
5. The Bench :44
6. The Prince 3:24
7. Biscuit and Seal 1:53
8. The Prince Goes Back 1:42
9. The Captain :47
10. The Boys Go to Play :49
11. Mirror 1:55
12. Prince Outside Palace 1:48
13. The Next Morning 1:14
14. Pauper Goes to King 2:11
15. That Is My Son :34
16. The King Is Dead 1:26
17. The Dog :55
18. The Church 1:13
19. Riot 1:23
20. Dining Scene 3:44
21. The Crown :58
22. His Majesty :57
23. Exit :31
24. The Murder 1:05
25. Street Scene 1:27
26. Nuts Knocker :25
27. Pauper’s Coronation :42
28. Flirt 2:10
29. Robbery :33
30. Knife Fight 2:13
31. The Maid and the Ride 1:43
32. The Prayer :52
33. Duel 2:26
34. Fanfares :09
35. Organ :27
36. God Save the King :06
37. Seal #1 1:04
38. Seal #2 :58
39. Hurrah! :56
40. Epilogue 2:09
41. End Title 1:11
Bonus Tracks
42. Trailer 2:43
43. British End Title 1:24 



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