MAX STEINER.

MaxSteiner

 Maximillian Raoul  Steiner was born in Vienna on May 10th 1888. He was the grandson of the musical impresario who is credited for discovering Strauss and was also responsible for bringing Offenbach to Vienna and introducing the composer to the Viennese court. With such a full and rich musical home life, it is not a surprise that the young Steiner developed into a musical prodigy. The composers father, also had creative and artistic connections and was  a theatrical producer, who had promoted and befriended Brahms, and it was this composer that Steiners father asked to give Max piano lessons. At the age of just 13yrs the young composer/musician  had already completed and graduated from the Imperial Academy of Music in Austria, winning the Gold Medal of the Emperor. By the time he had reached his 16th birthday Steiner  was already conducting, composing, and continuing his studies under the revered composer Gustav Mahler. Steiner decided to leave Austria in 1905 and journey to England, where he took up the position of conductor at His Majesties Theatre in London. He stayed at the theatre for 9 years and in 1914 with the assistance of his friend The Duke of Westminster Steiner made his way to The United States at first settling in New York where he worked steadily as an arranger on musicals and operettas, it was at this time that he also began to compose and conduct music to accompany silent film screenings. This type of musical work interested Steiner greatly as he could obviously see the potential for such a medium. Whilst working on one such assignment for a movie entitled THE BONDMAN, Steiner became good friends with film maker William Fox, it was this film and this friendship that would eventually lead the composer to Hollywood where in 1929 he worked as an orchestrator on RIO RITA for Ziegfield.  But it was at RKO pictures that Steiner was given the opportunity to begin to develop the ideas he had concerning the way in which motion pictures should be scores and also the way in which the music should add to the atmosphere of a film.  Adapting the ideas of Richard Wagner, 
 
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Steiner developed a style of writing for film that meant the music did not just act as a  background heard playing continuously without direction or purpose, the score became part of the film and the action, in essence it became an integral and important factor of the movie. His scores for films such as KING KONG and THE INFORMER were perfect examples of this leitmotif style of music which Steiner would eventually become well known for pioneering in film scoring. Steiner however did have his critics and at the outset of his career in film scoring many referred to his style as Mickey Mousing, but filmmakers and audiences alike took to it immediately, after leaving RKO Steiner went to work for David O Selznick and stated work on GONE WITH THE WIND after the success of this the composer was hired by Warner Brothers where he was to stay for the majority of his working life. 
 
 
Steiner’s first assignment for the Warner Brothers studio was a movie entitled TOVARICH, and later Steiner utilised a section of this score and turned it into the now familiar Warner Brothers fanfare, which was heard at the beginning of every movie that they released. During his glittering and illustrious career Max Steiner was responsible for scoring more than 250 movies and received no less than 26 Academy award Nominations for his work, he won the coveted Oscar statue on three occasions, this was for his music to, THE INFORMER,SINCE YOU WENT AWAY and NOW VOYAGER.
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Max Steiner was certainly a driving force and source of inspiration within the film music arena, and created the blue print which showed others how a film should be scored. The composer passed away on December 28th 1971 after a long battle against cancer and failing eyesight. He still remains The Father of Film music to many dedicated followers, and his music lives on and is still well respected.  
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GOLDEN AGE.

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The period referred to as the Golden age of cinema, was I suppose just that, it was a time when filmmakers seemed to be able to do no wrong with audiences and every day a new and exciting breakthrough was made within the motion picture industry. It was a time of rip roaring swashbucklers, intense and risqué romances, dastardly villains, cleaner than clean heroes and heroines and good old weepie’s, with storylines that were not exactly water tight but none the less good old entertainment. Everything was pretty much black and white within the area of the plots or storylines, good was good and bad was at times downright evil. But it was not just the movies that shone like precious and valuable golden nuggets during this period, music in motion pictures became an important and also a vital component of the whole filmmaking process.
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Directors and producers utilising this fairly new commodity to its full potential to enhance and support their projects. I think it would be fair to state that film music owes a great debt of gratitude to composer Max Steiner, who broke new ground with his score for the 1933 version of KING KONG. What was interesting and innovative about Steiner’s approach on this movie was that the composer actually scored the music to the action taking place rather than just providing the movie with a constant musical background or wallpaper, which had been the norm up until then.
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What Steiner started was soon to become the way forward for music in film or film music, thus the film score as we know it was born and rapidly evolved and improved as time passed, composers such as Korngold, Rozsa, Newman, Toimkin and Waxman became sought after by filmmakers and studios and their scores and style of writing has now become a reference for all other composers that have followed. But let us also not forget that whilst all this music was being produced in Tinsel town, British films too had a Golden age and composers such as Sir William Walton, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Sir Arthur Bliss, Richard Addinsell, Clifton Parker, Sir Arnold Bax, William Alwyn and Alan Rawsthorne were responsible for writing some great movie soundtracks during the 1930s and 1940s, a fact that is slightly overshadowed and neglected because of the Hollywood film score. But Alwyn, Williams and Walton in particular were responsible for creating a sound and a style that was to become synonymous with the British produced movie.
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It is quite unbelievable that it has not been till recent years that scores from British films from this period have been given any time or space by record companies, and it is thanks to labels like Chandos, Naxos and Silver Screen that collectors have got to savour the musical masterpieces created by these talented yet underrated composers. There were also composers in Europe that are most note worthy, who were very active and creative during this period. 
 
These include the French composers Georges Auric, Arthur  Honegger Jean Francaix and Henri Sauget, also we must not discount Dmitri Shotakovich and the great Sergei Prokfiev, who although thought of more as classical composers, worked their musical magic on numerous movies to great effect. So The Golden Age in film music was not restricted to Hollywood, therefore this section is dedicated to composers that worked in the United States, Europe and also in Gt Britain, and also composers that worked in more than one country such as Miklos Rozsa and Georges Auric

GAGARIN-FIRST IN SPACE.

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George Kallis first came to my notice when he wrote the music for HIGHLANDER the source, I thought then that this composer certainly must have a bright future, his latest score is for something that is slightly more high profile than HIGHLANDER, GAGARIN-FIRST IN SPACE is a 10 million dollar movie telling of the real life events behind the first manned space flight and the man who flew in space Yuri Gagarin. The score by composer George Kallis is an impressive and wonderfully lyrical work that has been written for large symphonic orchestra, choir and also has electronic elements within its framework that support and embellish the conventional instrumentation without being intrusive or overpowering in any way. What we are hearing with this score is a step back in time to the days of what I call wholesome and rich sounding themes, music that is highly melodic and lush with a sound that is not only dramatic and poignant but also posses an eloquent and imposing quality. The composer has created a driving work that has to it many facets and musical levels, all of which entertain and at times mesmerize the listener. It is a score that actually contains themes and real tunes that have a quality to them that remind me in so many ways of the style of soundtracks that were penned some three decades ago. Many of the compositions within the score are hauntingly beautiful, but there are also a number of more dramatic and hard hitting moments within the work both of which combine to create a score that will remain with the listener long after the compact disc has finished playing. The instrumentation or orchestration for me at least evokes memories of soundtracks from the mid to late 1960,s through to the 1970,s and 80,s by composers such as Barry and Goldsmith plus there is a sound and style present that could be Basil Poledouris or even James Horner, this being especially evident with some of the luxurious string passages and chorale work on the score, in fact the composers music for this movie reminded me in many ways of CONAN The Barbarian on more than one occasion. Booming and rumbling percussive elements act as a background to lush and strident strings with flyaway woods and brass punctuation all of which act as a support to an imposing sounding choir. These elements and style of scoring is more prominent in track number five, THE LAUNCH OF THE VOSTOK, this is an exhilarating cue, anthem like in places with driving strings and percussion building to a crescendo that is completed by choir, then mid way through the cue the mood alters and we find ourselves being treated to a highly emotional almost heavenly sounding interlude performed by both choir and strings, this soon reverts to a more dramatic sounding piece with brass enhancing the string section and again being supported by percussion which brings the cue to a conclusion.

Then there is track number six, THE EARTH FROM ABOVE, which is definitely a piece that is filled to the brim with emotive qualities. I love the way in which the composer utilizes horns combined with strings and percussion, it is a sound that does have connections with old school film scoring but it is also a sound that  posses innovative and original qualities. Overall GAGARIN is a score that I know will please film music enthusiast old and new, don’t miss this one, just go buy it…