August 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /Aug01/



Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD and Max STEINER
Golden Age of Songs and Instrumentals
  Albert Dominguez (piano); Maria Martino (soprano) and William Teaford (piano);Gayle Davis (cello) and Thomas G. Grath (piano)
  CITADEL STS 77127   [63:59]

Golden Age Songs...

  • Korngold: Between Two Worlds – Rapture (piano);
  • Escape Me Never – Love for Love (vocal); Sonnet for Vienna (cello & piano)
  • Songs from Give Us This Night:
    • ‘My Love and I’; ‘I Meant to Say I Love You’;
    • ‘Music in the Night’; ‘Sweet Melody of Night’
  • DevotionGluckwunsch (cello and piano)
  • Deception – Romance – Impromptu (cello and piano)
  • Steiner: Now, Voyager – ‘It can’t Be Wrong’ (vocal)
  • A Bill of Divorcement – Unfinished Sonata (piano)
  • The Great Lie - ‘I Have So Much More’ (vocal)
  • Saratoga Trunk – ‘As Long As I Live’ (vocal)
  • City for Conquest – The Rhapsody (duo piano)
  • So Big – ‘So Big' (vocal)
  • They Died With Their Boots On – 'All My Life' (vocal)

For Korngold and Steiner fans and unashamed romantics this unusual collection is a rare treat. These songs and instrumentals come from some of the best-loved films of the 1930s and ’40s. The small forces here (no big lush orchestras) create a beguiling intimacy. If these songs had graced today’s films they would have been commercially exploited for all they were worth.

Not surprisingly, considering the Viennese backgrounds of both composers, the songs are very much the stuff of operetta, melodic and very heart-on-sleeve; and soprano Maria Montez sings them all beautifully and without the slightest hint of denigration.

The Erich Wolfgang Korngold selection begins with ‘Rapture’ - the piano solo, played with sensitivity and finely judged rubato by Albert Dominguez, - featured in the composer’s score for Between Two Worlds. This was Korngold’s own favourite score (it can be heard together with the music from Escape Me Never on ‘The Sea Hawk – The Classic Film Scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’ played by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt on RCA Victor GD89890). The music for Escape Me Never (rarely shown on TV) is especially effulgent with one lovely tune pouring out after another. ‘Love for Love’ is one such tune, so too is the Sonnet for Vienna played with less enthusiasm and conviction by Davis and Groth.

The real find comes with the four Korngold songs that were featured in the 1936 Paramount musical Give Us This Night. The film was ill conceived and unfortunately Korngold's songs, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, were forgotten along with the picture. They are very operetta-ish but they are gems and deserve to be much better known. From Devotion comes Korngold’s song, Gluckwunsch, followed by the Romance-Impromptu from Deception, but again Davis and Groth fail to deliver the requisite passion – you can’t short change Korngold!

The first selection from Max Steiner is ‘It Can’t Be Wrong’ from Steiner’s Academy Award-winning score for Now Voyager (it can be heard on Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis – Charles Gerhardt conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra on RCA Victor GD80912). This was the story in which ugly duckling spinster, Bette Davis has her confidence rebuilt by Claude Rains and blossoms under the love of Paul Henreid. This lovely number, the film’s main theme, actually took on a life of its own as a popular song in the early 1940s. Other beautiful Steiner thematic melodies presented here are: from Saratoga Trunk the tune that became the song ‘As Long As I Live’; from The Great Lie, ‘I Have So Much More’; the title song ‘So Big’ and ‘All My Life’ from They Died With Their Boots On in which Erroll Flynn died heroically as General Custer.

Albert Dominguez plays a very early piece of Steiner film music, the very romantic ‘Unfinished Sonata’ from A Bill of Divorcement (RKO 1932). Dominguez completes the Steiner section by playing the two piano parts (through studio over-dubbing) of ‘Rhapsody’ (from City for Conquest, 1940) which nods strongly towards George Gershwin.

The album’s booklet notes by Tony Thomas and Alain Silver are most informative and liberally illustrated by stills from the films. Hugely enjoyable for those listeners prepared to accept the effulgent romantic styles of the 1930s and ’40s

Ian Lace


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