July 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Swan  
Music by Bronislau Kaper
  M-G-M Studio Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green
  Available On: Film Score Monthly Vol. 7 No. 5
Running Time: 49:54
Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA90232; Tel: 1-888-345-6335; overseas: 310-253-9595; fax: 310-253-9588 e-mail: Info@filmscoremonthly.com


"Think of what it means to be a swan, to glide like a dream on the smooth surface of the lake and never go on shore. On dry land where ordinary people walk, the swan is awkward, even ridiculous. When she waddles up the bank, she painfully resembles a different kind of bird, n'est pas?"

"A goose."

"I'm afraid so. So there she must stay, out on the lake, silent, white, majestic. Be a bird, but never fly. Know one song, but never sing it until the moment of her death."

The above dialogue between Alec Guinness as Prince Albert and Grace Kelly as Princess Alexandra (Grace Kelly was soon to become the real-life Princess of Monaco) is germane to my review because it not only sums up the story of this romantic fairy tale with a twist ending – the handsome young commoner (Louis Jourdan) does not get the Princess who relinquishes romance for royal duty– but Kaper's music evokes not only the beauty of the swan but also a suggestion of its more ungainly on-shore movements – i.e. in the scoring of the lighter more comic moments not associated with Grace Kelly's role.

Much of The Swan's (1956) score is built around the source music that is the imperious Rákóczy March (for the character of Prince Albert) composed in 1809 by John Bihari and popularised by Berlioz in his The Damnation of Faust and by Liszt in his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15). Interestingly, one cue of this march was conducted by Miklós Rózsa, suggesting that Rózsa was initially pencilled in to score the film (it is known that Kaper was not originally assigned to score The Swan). However Kaper thoroughly enjoyed the project, empathised with it completely and produced music of real enchantment.

For Princess Alexandra, Kaper writes a lovely waltz theme that is treated and developed with great delicacy and sensitivity as the doomed romance between Alexandra and Professor Agi (Jourdan) runs its course. [Agi is used to make a hesitant and non-too-enthusiastic Prince Albert jealous.] Further Viennese-style waltz music is heard for the ballroom scenes and there is more ceremonial music notably the 'National Anthem of Swanovia'. But there are other treasures such as the richly humorous musical observations like the cue for an exhausted sleeping Prince Albert and oblivious of all Princess Alexandra's court waiting for him…

As usual the Film Score Monthly booklet comes with many production notes, stills from the film and track-by-track analysis.

An enchanting score.

Ian Lace

**** 4

Track List
  1. Main Title/Europe 1900/Telegram 3:59
  2. Hurry/Instructions/En Garde/Father Hyacinth/Vega/Inspection Bugle Call 5:05
  3. Arrival/Asleep/Eat/Auntie 3:22
  4. Shall We Try/Hand 2:05
  5. Rakoczy March 1:50
  6. Theme From The Swan 2:12
  7. Foils/Reading/Smile/National Anthem of Swanovia 1:54
  8. Ballroom Waltz 7:07
  9. The Return 1:46
  10. Confession/Why Then? 6:43
  11. Man in Love 3:36
  12. Wing/Under Arrest/The Emperor 1:53
  13. Indisposed/I'm Packed/Too Large a Gift 4:26
  14. Take Me In & End Cast 3:26
  • Total Time: 49:54

FSM Press Release

Released by Special Arrangement with Turner Classic Movies Music

The Swan (1956) was a romantic fairy tale set in early 20th century Europe, based on a play by Ferenc Molnar. Grace Kelly starred as a young princess whose desperate mother hopes to betroth her to the crown prince, Alec Guinness. However, Guinness's visit leads to a romantic triangle with the third leg being the palace tutor, Louis Jourdan -- a commoner. What starts as a comedy of manners becomes a bittersweet romance and ultimately the coming-of-age story of Alexandra -- who accepts her role in society as a rarified "swan".

The Swan was Grace Kelly's penultimate film role, which eerily foreshadowed her own destiny as Princess Grace of Monaco. The film features fine performances, gorgeous architecture (including location footage filmed in a North Carolina mansion) and splendid M-G-M production values -- including a heartfelt and evocative score by Bronislau Kaper.

Kaper considered The Swan to be one of his finest projects, as if its fairy tale atmosphere rekindled his childhood memories of pre-war Europe. He ably matched its many moods, providing a shimmering, beautiful waltz for Kelly; light and frothy music for the affairs of the royal palace; an adapation of the Hungarian "Rakoczy March" as Guinness's theme; and lengthy, romantic passages for the deepening drama. His score is at turns noble, whimsical, melancholy and magical.

Kaper's score for The Swan (conducted by studio music head Johnny Green) was released on LP at the time of the film. This premiere CD features the complete original soundtrack in stereo, remixed from the original three-track masters; as well as the passages recorded specifically for the album, in monaural sound, as they were recorded (consisting of "Theme From The Swan" and brief transitions).

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