First of all I should explain this is not a new recording. It was one of the
first Marco Polo classic film score releases, issued in 1995. So why am I covering
it now? Firstly because it is so good and because Film Music on the Web
was just a twinkle in the eye when it came out so we missed it -- and because,
quite honestly, it shames so many of today's lacklustre swashbuckler scores.
The compilation begins with music by Miklós Rózsa (reconstructed
by Christopher Palmer) for The King's Thief a dismal MGM oater from 1955.
It starred the insipid Edmund Purdom and David Niven, miscast and utterly unconvincing
as the villain of the piece. (The film was set in the time of Charles II of
England.) The music, though, is racy enough with plenty of swagger and pomp
together with Rózsa's typically broad romantic melodies. The music also
demonstrates his penchant for capturing period styles and there is an appealing
folk-song element in this score.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold is represented by his score for the film that made
Errol Flynn famous – Captain Blood. This is music in the grand heroic mould
and Korngold's evocations of the cut and thrust of sword duels has hardly been
bettered. The seascapes and West Indies sound pictures are also vividly drawn.
Noteworthy, too, is the music underscoring the developing relationship between
Blood and Arabella (Olivia de Havilland) the headstrong niece of the Jamaican
governor as it passes through tentative, then turbulent and finally submissive
Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers has been filmed many times with
varying success. The 1935 RKO production was not very successful mainly due
to the uncharismatic Walter Abel as D'Artagnan. But one of its strengths was
Max Steiner's score. This is gloriously heroic music, trumpets ablaze, tremendously
exciting stuff rushing forward at a cracking pace when darker figures full of
intrigue do not dominate. Then there are Steiner's unashamedly romantic heart-on-sleeve
But the real find here and one that I remember even the usually sniffy (as
far as film music is concerned) BBC Radio 3 endorsing, is Victor Young's splendid
score for Scaramouche filmed in 1952 with Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh,
Eleanor Parker and Mel Ferrer. It featured what must have been the longest and
most spectacular (and surprisingly ending) sword fight in screen history. The
'Main Title' music reaches right out at you – one of the most exciting pieces
of swashbuckling film music ever written, I reckon – very much in the style
of Richard Strauss's Don Juan. The music for the romance between André
and Aline captivates too. Added to these attractions, Young's romantic and witty
18th century style pastiches: 'Pavane', 'The Big Apple' and 'The
Magic Box' delight the ear.
The booklet credits inform that William Stromberg reconstructed Scaramouche
and that John Morgan reconstructed Captain Blood and arranged Steiner's The
Three Musketeers. Both Morgan and Stromberg would, of course, go on to helm
future releases in the continuing Marco Polo Classic Film Score series.
Kaufman and his Brandenburg players excel in this colourful swashbuckling
repertoire. If you can find a copy of this album in the shops don't hesitate,