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Gottfried HUPPERTZ (1887-1937)
Metropolis The complete original film score for the 1927 German film directed by Fritz Lang
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Frank Strobel
rec. Haus des Rundfunks, Saal 1, Berlin; 2010
PAN CLASSICS PC10365 [2 CDs: 144:03]

Gottfried Huppertz? Huppertz was a composer (of lieder and music for the theatre) and singer (mostly in operetta), in addition to his work for 1920s silent films including Lang’s two-part epic film Die Nibelungen (1924). His music for Metropolis was his greatest success and it was to influence the work of composers working in Hollywood, scoring for the early ‘talking pictures’ of the 1930s and beyond: most notably Max Steiner. Steiner’s most memorable film score of that period must be the celebrated King Kong (RKO 1933) (please scroll down past the Nino Rota review to my King Kong music review). For this film, and as Huppertz had pioneered in Metropolis, Steiner used Wagner’s principle of leitmotivs to portray characters and their development and the screenplay’s dramatic and atmospheric involvements and developments etc.

I was fortunate enough to see the film Metropolis at the same time as listening to Strobel’s recording of the complete score. I would enthusiastically recommend that readers try to do so themselves. They might also like to look at the Wikipedia entry about the film which provides many valuable insights. Lang’s film, which was an extreme financial box office disaster, has influenced so many films over the years. Its art direction, for instance, the amazing Metropolis above-ground buildings, most notably Fredersen’s monolithic headquarters likened to the Tower of Babel, was clearly mimicked by Ridley Scott in his film Blade Runner (1982). The scenes showing the monstrous underground machines impress strongly too. But that is not to say that the film is all brilliance. It isn’t. The acting is typical 1920s over-melodramatic: hammy; and there are scenes in which the art direction, costumes and acting make one wince with embarrassment notably ‘The Eternal Gardens’.

It has to be said that after its initial release, the film was drastically truncated for further screenings. Since then portions have been rediscovered and tacked on to a basic thread, notably the announcement in 2008 that a significant portion of the original film had been discovered in Buenos Aires that added to the narrative’s cohesion. The film and its attendant music recorded here correspond to the most complete version of Metropolis currently available with very little, one imagines, now necessary for absolute completion.

On examination of the track listing I have added at the foot of this review, to cover all fifty-two tracks would be invidious. So I will restrict my remarks to a few revelatory ones at the beginning of the film and the climactic scene on the Cathedral rooftop at its end. The music follows the Late Romantic symphonic tradition of course. The CD notes explain how the music was precisely calculated to fit the timings of on-screen events and emotions

The opening track is the momentous ‘Metropolis Theme’ which is suitably imposing, providing a powerful sonic accompaniment to the extraordinary visual images of an advanced(?) city and civilisation. There follows a very realistic musical evocation of the vast machines below ground that power the City. Relentless pounding percussion, remorseless woodwind and brass contrasted with the human element represented by the workers attendant on these huge machines, they becoming almost a part of the machinery themselves, the music turning at length, to supplying pity and pathos at their plight. ‘The Stadium’, showing off the athleticism of the indulged upper class youth has proud fanfares declaring their prowess. Then comes the music for ‘The Eternal Gardens’ redolent of birdsong and in waltz time, the music sounding like a mixture of Waldteufel and Eric Coates. This music extends into the next track which is concerned with the entry of Maria and the children, the music becoming suitable tenderly caring and maternal. Going on through the score the music edges darker and more sinister for the deranged Rotwang and there is liberal use of the Dies Irae to signify the hopelessness of the lives of the workers. There is wild, demented jazz music for the licentiousness of the upper world’s menfolk seduced by the siren calls of the false Maria (Rotwang’s robot beneath her skin).

I will skip to the finale and the music for the fight between Feder and Rotwang on the Cathedral rooftop at the close of the film. This whole scene is treated quite unusually. ‘The entire scene is musically accompanied by a violin tremolo. This is in stark contrast to the customary illustration technique for ‘combat music’. There is no frantic music from the orchestra rather ‘the musical focus is centred on the father (Fredersen) looking up, paralysed with horror.’ Here it is the psychological counterpoint being played out.

Strobel and his Berlin Orchestra play with commended commitment and the whole is captured in bright, clear sound

A most interesting and instructive album of one of the first original film scores and how it must have influenced what was to happen in Hollywood in the following decade and onwards.

Ian Lace

Track listing

A. Prelude
1 The Metropolis Theme [1.01]
2 Machiness [3.31]
3 The Stadium [0.50]
4 The Eternal Gardens [2.22]
5 Maria with Children [3.38]
6 Machine Hall with Moloch [5.19]
7 Fredersen’s Office 7.07]
8 Grot’s Ideas – the Thin Man [6.40]
9 Freder in the Machine Hall [3.19]
10 The Car Ride [2.0]
11 In Rotwang’s House [3.31]
12 The Machine Man [3.48]
13 Freder and the Machine [2.38]
14 Rotwang and Fredersen [2.37]
15 In the Catacombs [1.50]
16 The Legend of the Tower of Babel [2.47]
17 Maria’s Srmon [2.43]
18 Freder and Maria – Rotwang’s Plot [5.30]
19 The Chase [2.42]

B. Interlude
1 In the Cathedral [3.28]
2 The Thin Man and Georgy, a Worker [2.17]
3 In Joseph’s Apartment [5.44]
4 Maria and Rotwang – The Fight [2.17]
5 Freder and Rotwang [2.17]
6 In the Laboratory – Transformation [2.53]
7 Freder and Rotwang [1.12]
8 Fredersen and the False Maria [1.15]
9 Freder’s Delirium [1.42]
10 In Rotwang’s Salon [1.03]
11 The Dance [2.17]
12 The Death [1.12]

C. Furioso
13 Freder and Josephat [1.46]
14 Josephat’s Narration [2.57]
15 The False Maria [2.31]
16 The Incitement of the Workers [4.23]
17 The Workers’ Revolt [4.37]
18 Fredersen and Grot [1.27]
19 Grot and the Workers [1.39]
20 The Heart Machine [1.44]
21 The Flooting [3.14]
22 Fredersen and his City [1.00]
23 Freder and Josephat [1.39]
24 The Flight [4.22]
25 The Rescue of the Children [1.31]
26 The Knowledge of the Workers [1.25]
27 Yoshiwara and the Masses [1.47]
28 Rotwang and his “Hel” [1.10]
29 The Clash of the Masses [3.03]
30 The Pyre [2.42]
31 Flight in the Cathedral – the Bell [1.38]
32 Flight on the roof of the Cathedral – Rotwang’s Death [4.15]
33 Reconciliation [3.02]



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