It was 1972, I was seventeen years of age and I remember saying to a record shop in London over the phone, YES BUT IS IT GOOD? Oh, how naive I was. I was at the time enquiring about a new release on RCA RED SEAL entitled THE SEA HAWK- THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD. Did I buy it of course I did and still have it too and the subsequent CD release and also its on my Spotify too. As a child I do remember the film being shown on TV and loving it but was the music something I was conscious of when I saw the movie probably not, although I do recall loving the music for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. So, this was the first album in a series of many that were to see the light of day with the National Philharmonic Orchestra re-creating the wonderful themes of the Golden age of Hollywood, under the baton of the esteemed conductor Charles Gerhardt. The series would be a hit with collectors of film music, even the then less informed ones.
It brought back so many memories for people who had heard the scores in numerous movies as children. It also opened up a whole new world of film music for others who never experienced the likes of Korngold, Newman, Steiner and others. Gerhardt’s attention to detail in the reconstruction and in the conducting of these scores is evident because of the brightness and the quality of each and every subsequent release within this treasure trove series. The National Philharmonic was made up of musicians from many of London’s leading orchestras, so essentially it was the best of the best, and this showed within these recordings more than any other time. The vibrant brass section is complimented by the luxurious sounding string section and embellished by wistful woods, pounding percussion and the eloquent and virtuosity of solo performers and other sections of the orchestra. The sound achieved was formidable and anything else that had been recorded before or come to think of it after these re recordings paled in their illuminating style.
The selections on THE SEA HAWK compilation range from the 90 second piece from DECEPTION to a wonderfully absorbing eight minute arrangement from ESCAPE ME NEVER. I think at the time of its release it was THE SEA HAWK that attracted my attention more than anything although I was mesmerised and still am by TOMORROW from THE CONSTANT NYMPH with its glorious melody and eternal lyrics. Gerhardt was in my opinion the first conductor to give the classic film music of Hollywood the respect it had been due for decades, re-vitalising it and bringing to a younger audience in such an exquisite way, filled with energy and having to it a positively grandiose aura. First release also included music from KINGS ROW, ANTHONY ADVERSE, DEVOTION, DECEPTION, JUAREZ, BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and OF HUMAN BONDAGE. It still today stands as a beacon of glorious musical works that every film music collector worth their salt should own.
ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD.
Born in Vienna on May 12th, 1897, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, was destined to become one of the worlds most celebrated and revered composers of music for the cinema. His musical aptitude being so advanced that he was able to play piano proficiently by the age of just five. He found it relatively easy to play melodies and tunes on the instrument after hearing them just moments beforehand. By the time he had reached his seventh birthday Korngold was able to write music, he was looked upon as a genius by many and hailed as a child prodigy. His Father took the advice of a number of composers such as Mahler, that it would be a waste of time to send the young musician to study at a conservatory, he was so advanced in his musical knowledge that it was highly improbable that he would actually learn anything or gain any more knowledge from doing so. At just eleven years of age Erich Korngold had his first important musical work performed, it was entitled THE SNOWMAN. This was in Vienna at the Court Opera, in the presence of honoured guests which included, Emperor Franz Josef. After this Korngold composed works for chamber orchestra and also symphonic works. In 1915, at the age of eighteen, Korngold wrote two operas. Four years after this he composed his first score for the theatre, this was a production of William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. In 1920, his opera THE DEAD CITY made its debut, this transpired to be the composers most successful work and is regarded even by today’s musical experts as one of the major operatic works of the twentieth century. Korngold’s first foray into writing for the cinema came in 1934, this is when the composer went to America and in Hollywood supervised the music for Max Reinhardt’s cinematic version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, the play had been a huge success at the Hollywood bowl and Warner brothers films were keen to have it transferred to celluloid. Reinhardt told the film company that he would agree to do the movie, but only if he could retain the stage score by Mendelssohn and also told Warner’s that Korngold was the only person he trusted to adapt it and enlarge the score for the film, he also wanted Korngold to conduct the music, Warner’s agreed. Korngold’s work on the production assisted its impact and also its overall presentation. The composer received much recognition for his work on the production and it was this that prompted Warner Brothers to offer the composer another scoring assignment which was CAPTAIN BLOOD.
The scoring schedule on BLOOD was very tight indeed, the movie needed an hour of fully symphonic music and Korngold had just three weeks to create it. Because of the scoring timetable that Warner’s had imposed on Korngold for the film, the composer decided to utilize sections of symphonic poems by Franz Liszt. The composer using the sections, PROMETHEUS, for the final sword fight between the films two main protagonists, played by Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, he also used Liszt’s MAZEPPA for the films sea battle sequence with the French fleet which came at the end of the movie. Warner Brothers were more than pleased with the score that Korngold had written for their swashbuckler, and the composer was almost immediately offered a contract with the studio. Korngold was to become the first composer known internationally to have a contract with a film studio, and Warner’s were so pleased that they had managed to secure the composers services that the contract might as well have been written by Korngold himself. It stipulated that he did not have to do any movie he did not like, also it stated that he would only have to work on three scores during a two year period, and that his music would remain his property at all times.
The composer’s contract with the studio came to an end in 1946, and after scoring the Bette Davies movie DECEPTION, Korngold decided to retire from scoring films. Because his last few movies had been less than runaway successes at the box office the composer began to lose interest in film. In 1956 Korngold suffered a stroke and was almost completely paralyzed, just over a year later on November 29th, 1957, the composer had a heart attack and died, he was sixty years of age. Korngold’s film music career may have been short lived, but in a handful of years the composer created numerous scores that would become an important part of film music history and also a part of the history of cinema, his music is grand, operatic and oozing with vibrant and passionate themes, ANTHONY ADVERSE, JUAREZ, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD,THE SEA HAWK, KINGS ROW,THE CONSTANT NYMPH,OF HUMAN BONDAGE,THE SEA WOLF and numerous others all benefited greatly from the lush and highly romantic and dramatic music of Korngold, film music has been a poorer art form since his passing.
But don’t stop at this one classic album, because there are many others within the series that are now thought of as classics all over again because of the way in which Gerhardt presented them and adoringly promoted them. Later release would showcase the works of the Hollywood film music Maestro of the fittingly dubbed Golden Age, Miklos Rosza, Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Max Steiner all would be represented and of course there would be mor from Korngold two more albums in fact, which took ELIZABETH AND ESSEX and CAPTAIN BLOOD as their main title heading.
Gerhardt also recorded a full version of the classic Max Steiner score for GONE WITH THE WIND, again this is a release that still attracts much attention today from collectors old and new. So if you love these classic movies and are in love with the rich and luxurious music that enhanced them this series is for you, The second LP to be issued in the series was NOW VOYAGER THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF MAX STEINER, again I still have it, KING KONG, THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, THE FOUNTAINHEAD, JOHNNY BELINDA, THE INFORMER, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, THE BIG SLEEP, they and more are all there, it is a collection of musical excellence which of the highest quality and of the most romantic, dramatic and heart breaking too.
Many refer to Max Steiner as the Father of film music, and in many ways, this is a title that the composer holds deservedly. It was Steiner after all that introduced a style of scoring that would be utilised for many years and inspired so many composers to write music for the cinema, a style that would be developed and also would evolve to become what film scoring is today.
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 composer’s father, also had creative and artistic connections and was a theatrical producer, who had promoted and befriended Brahms, and it was this composer that Steiner’s 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 nine 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,
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.
Max Steiner was a driving force and source of inspiration within the film music arena and created the blueprint 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 remains The Father of Film music to many dedicated followers, and his music lives on and is still well respected.
I am not 100% sure but I think I am correct when I say that it was CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF ALFRED NEWMAN that was released next, and this has always been one of my most cherished recordings, I think it was the suite from THE SONG OF BERNADETTE that I listened to most, but it also contained a faithful version of the composers rousing theme from AIRPORT, which although was I suppose a contemporary score also came into the category of being a classic in the eyes of many. Newman I think was a composer I was already aware of because as a child I was taken to see movies such as HOW THE WEST WAS WON which is a film where no one can’t avoid the rich sounds of Americana that he created, that powerful opening theme still sends shivers down my spine.
This collection opened with the familiar and stirring 20TH CENTURY FOX FANFARE which Newman had penned for the studios, this performance also including the Cinema scope extension. The familiar fanfare has since its creation become an important part of film history. This segues into STREET SCENE from King Vidor’s 1931 production of the same name, THE SENTIMENTAL RHAPSODY as it was known was also used in numerous film noir pictures as either background or an opening. Most memorably the music was used as the overture for HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE in 1953. It has a luxurious sound and a vibrant persona to it, evoking memories of the style displayed by George Gershwin in his RHAPSODY IN BLUE written in 1924. The next section is a suite of music from CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE, an historical adventure released in 1947, the film which was directed by Henry King starred Tyrone Power, Cesar Romero and Jean Peters. The story was set in Spain during the 16th Century. Adapted from the 145 novel of the same name by Samuel Shellabarger, the film focuses upon the first part of the story in which the central character played by Tyrone Power suffers injustice and persecution from the cruel Spanish Inquisition and of his escape from his native Spain to the New World where he enlists as a mercenary in an expedition to conquer Mexico. Newman’s music is romantic and powerful and contains a particularly lilting and melodic love theme as well as a patriotic and rousing march. It is lush and luxurious and was in my opinion typical of many of the Hollywood scores that were written during the post war period. An abundance of haunting and Hispanic sounding themes adorn the movie and it is one of the composers most accomplished, but that is as I say my opinion. The next cue is CATHY’S THEME from the 1939 William Wyler directed WUTHERING HEIGHTS, which starred Merle Oberon as Cathy and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff.
The cast also included David Niven and Flora Robson. Not surprisingly, Newman’s score was filled with romantic overtones and haunting rich thematic material.
DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS is always a track I remember when I first heard the recording, it was brief but an entertaining and joyous sounding hornpipe, taken from the Henry Hathaway directed motion picture which was released in 1949, the film starred Richard Widmark, Lionel Barrymore and Dean Stockwell. Newman’s robust and invigorating soundtrack enhanced and underlined the action and the drama as it unfolded. Next, we are treated to a seven-minute suite from THE SONG OF BERNADETTE, this is a simply stunning score, in which we hear the composer at his best with majestic and fragile sounding themes combining to create a commanding and memorable soundtrack. Helmed by filmmaker Henry King, the movie which starred Jennifer Jones, Vincent Price, William Eythe, Lee J Cobb and Charles Bickford, was a great success at the box office.
The movie was released in 1945 and Newman’s score played an important and an integral role within the film, especially within the scenes when the young girl claimed that she saw the Madonna. When Bernadette Soubirous first claimed to see what she called her shining lady in 1858, the locals were sceptical, and many said that she was insane. The local authoritarians went as far as to board up the place where she claimed to have had the vision and did all in their power to make her out as a fraud. But after being treated badly and branded a mad liar the Roman Catholic Church finally believed her, and Bernadette spent the last years of her life in a convent. THE SONG OF BERNADETTE suite is most certainly the highlight of this collection, it is a glorious and at times apprehensive piece, but one that entertains and also when heard in the movie moves one to tears. Other selections on the album included the rousing opening theme from THE BRAVADOS which is entitled THE HUNTERS, plus ANASTASIA, THE ROBE, AIRPORT and LONDON CALLING.
Alfred Newman was born in Connecticut in 1901, he was one of the eldest children in a family of ten. He began to take a keen interest in music from an early age and aged just 5 years he began to have piano lessons and two years later was performing in public. He studied at the Von Ende school of music in New York, where he concentrated on piano under the tutelage of Sigismond Stojowski and counterpoint and composition under the watchful gaze of George Wedge and Rubin Goldmart.
The young Newman made an impression on his teachers and won medals for his high standard of piano performance.
After his time at the school of music Newman continued to take further musical education from Arnold Shoenberg. During his teen Newman began to perform piano to support himself and also his family, after leaving the school and finishing his studies he was introduced to Broadway by the vaudeville producer Grace La Rue, he began to conduct a handful of shows and these became very successful and as they did Newman’s reputation as a fine conductor arranger spread. He finally got his big break in 1920 when George Gershwin appointed him as musical director for THE GEORGE WHITE SCANDALS, which ran till the latter part of 1921. Newman continued to work on Broadway for just over a decade, he was involved in numerous productions that involved Gershwin, Jerome Kern and even Al Jolson.
In 1930, Newman received a commission from Irving Berlin and the young composer travelled to Hollywood, Berlin had written the theme for a film entitled REACHING FOR THE MOON and had asked Newman to be musical director on the movie. Newman decided that he liked Hollywood and settled in California and it was at this time that the composer met Samuel Goldwyn who introduced him to the studio system. Newman’s career is phenomenal and he is probably one of the most prolific composers of film scores ever, he wrote the music to well over 200 motion pictures and acted as musical director and supervisor on hundreds of others, he adapted lots of musicals which had been successful on Broadway when they were brought to the big screen and also worked with Charlie Chaplin, conducting the actors music for MODERN TIMES and CITY LIGHTS, it is also Newman’s music that we hear at the beginning of every 20th Century fox movie and TV show, this has to be one of the most familiar pieces of music that is connected with the cinema. In 1940, Newman began to work for Fox, he was MD for the studio and not only wrote numerous film scores during this time, but also hired various composers and assigned them to films.
It was Newman who championed Hugo Friedhofer and also gave Jerry Goldsmith his first big break in the film music arena. Newman’s music was to become a fixture within Hollywood and his sons David and Thomas carried on the family tradition by themselves becoming highly respected and sought-after film music composers and his nephew Randy is also an Oscar winning composer and lyricist. In 1960, Newman decided to leave Fox and go freelance, and he was certainly not short of assignments, it was during this period that the composer wrote the powerful score for the western HOW THE WEST WAS WON and provided THE FLOWER DRUM SONG with its musical accompaniment.
Alfred Newman garnered forty-five Academy Award nominations during his long and illustrious career and won the Oscar on nine occasions. His musical career spanned four decades, and his techniques and stylish orchestrations have had far reaching influences at times manifesting themselves within other composers works for the cinema. Alfred Newman passed away in February 1970, his last film score AIRPORT received an Oscar nomination just one month later. Newman’s rich and sweeping soundtracks brought a new dimension to the movies he worked on, like Max Steiner, Alfred Newman was an innovator and an inspiration to numerous other composers. He was also responsible for developing a new system for scoring pictures. This System is a means of synchronising the performance and recording of a movie score with the film itself. A rough cut of the film is shown for the conductor to look at whilst in the recording session, the film is marked with punches and streamers. Punches are tiny marks in the film, for two of every ten frames, creating a standard beat to help the conductor keep time. To synchronise music and action, the conductor then uses streamers, that are horizontal lines which move across the screen at a regular pace. This system devised by Newman revolutionized the way in which films were scored.
What came next, well to be honest I am not sure, I know I had all the LP,s and always eagerly awaited any new addition to the series, as I have already said there were more recordings which focused upon the music of Korngold, and also other releases that featured music from the films of Bette Davies, Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart, which included the music of Victor Young and Hugo Friedhofer. Composers such as Dimitri Tiomkin also had albums dedicated to their shining works for cinema in his case LOST HORIZON headlined the collection dedicated to the Russian born Maestro with a lengthy suite from the movie opening the recording which also included music from THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, THE FOURPOSTER, THE BIG SKY, FRIENDLY PERSUASION and a suite from THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.
After the initial release this and other titles from the series were re-issued onto compact disc, then a handful were given the quadraphonic treatment and released on the Vocalion label.
Dimitri Tiomkin was one of Hollywood’s most revered and respected composers of film scores and he was responsible for creating lush and lavish music for some of the best known movies to come out of tinsel town, the composer had a talent for creating so many scores for movies that not only worked perfectly in conjunction with the movie but also these vibrant and tuneful works had a life all of their own away from the images that they were originally intended to enhance. Tiomkin began his career in the period that many refer to as the Golden age of film music. It was a time when cinema screens were dominated by rip roaring swashbucklers, intense and risqué romances, dastardly villains, cleaner than clean heroes and heroines and good old weepies many of which contained storylines that were not exactly water tight or historically correct but none the less were good old fashion entertainment, that were uncomplicated and provided escapism for the watching audiences. Everything during this period was pretty much black and white within the area of the plots or storylines, good was good and bad was at times downright evil. It was during this period that Tiomkin along with Alfred Newman, Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa, Hugo Friedhofer, Bernard Herrmann and their like, penned sumptuous and thrilling scores that are now regarded as classics and these often majestic, emotive and stirring works were to become the blue prints for many a modern day film score, acting as inspiration for the film composers that followed. Tiomkin’s connection with music for film began back in his native Russia, the composer’s professional debut was in the picture houses of St. Petersburg, where he would accompany Russian and French silent films. He also provided accompaniment for the ballerina Thamar Karsavina on piano when she performed on army post tours and improvised again on the piano during performances by the comedian Max Linder.
These experiences and the skills that he collected whilst working within this environment were to stand him in good stead for what was to follow when he re-located to the United States and the hills of Hollywood to pursue a career as a movie music composer. Tiomkin began to score movies as early as 1929, one such example was MGM’s DEVIL MAY CARE, which was a historical musical that included an Albertina Rasch ballet sequence filmed in Technicolor, which had music by Tiomkin. The composer worked prolifically throughout the 1930,s through the war years of the 1940,s, where he was responsible for writing the music to a number of documentary/news films for the United States war department such as BATTLE OF BRITAIN and BATTLE OF RUSSIA both in 1943 and THE NEGRO SOLDIER and TUNISIAN VICTORY in 1944.
After the war Tiomkin began to work on numerous Hollywood productions, such as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, DUEL IN THE SUN, RED RIVER etc, working with directors such as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, King Vidor, Anatole Litvak and Richard Fleischer, to name but a handful. The 1950,s were to prove to be a fruitful time for the composer as he scored numerous films that are now looked upon as classic examples of American cinema, HIGH NOON, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, LAND OF THE PHARAOHS, THE THING, GIANT, FRIENDLY PERSUASION, GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, WILD IS THE WIND, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, RIO BRAVO, LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL ,THE MEN which introduced Marlon Brando to cinema audiences and his highly acclaimed music for RHAPSODY OF STEEL and many more including the now famous theme for the television series RAWHIDE, which starred a fresh faced Clint Eastwood before he became a household name via his role in the westerns of Italian director Sergio Leone. The 1960,s too were good for fans of the enigmatic Tiomkin, he worked on some of that decades biggest blockbusters and enhanced and supported movies such as, THE ALAMO, 55 DAYS AT PEKING, THE UNFORGIVEN,THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, THE SUNDOWNERS, THE WAR WAGON and CIRCUS WORLD with his unmistakable and original sounding musical fingerprint. Also, at this time Tiomkin began to produce movies and we saw his name appear on the credits of films such as MACKENNAS GOLD as co-producer.
SPELLBOUND THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF MIKLOS ROZSA was another within the series that was re-issued onto compact disc and then released with quadraphonic sound on Vocalion records. The stunning recording is a firm favourite, and the quality of the performance is outstanding. It included music from films such as THE RED HOUSE, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, THE LOST WEEKEND, THE JUNGLE BOOK, THE FOUR FEATHERS, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, IVANHOE, KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE and SPELLBOUND. Interpreting the music of Rozsa at times can be difficult, the Maestro had his own unique sound, but Gerhardt managed to coax the same sound from the National Philharmonic under its leader Sidney Sax.
To say that Miklos Rozsa was a prolific composer of music for the cinema is certainly an understatement, plus we should not forget Rozsa was not just a composer of magnificent film scores but also wrote music for the concert hall another area in which he excelled. Born in Budapest Hungary in 1907, Rozsa was the son of an influential industrialist and land owner. Rozsa came from an affluent family and most of his early years were spent at the family’s country estate in the county of NOGRAD which lay close to the Matra mountains. His first encounter wit music came when his was just five years of age, it was then that he began to study the viola and piano, just three years later after celebrating his eighth birthday he began to perform in public and made his initial attempts at composing music. His Father however was convinced that music was not the right career move for his Son, so insisted that Rozsa should set out to get an all-round good education. Miklos attended a High school in Budapest for this education, but still remained actively involved in his study of music. After a while he moved to Leipzig where he began to study Chemistry. These studies however were short lived and after some intervention by Herrmann Grabner Rozsa’s Father was persuaded to allow his son to study music on a full-time basis and concentrate on making it his career. He began to study at the Leipzig conservatory and in his last years there would often stand in for Tutors giving lectures and also instructing fellow students. Rozsa’s first published orchestral work was a piece entitled HUNGARIAN SERENADE for small orchestra which was given its premiere performance in Budapest during the summer of 1929 by The Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Erno Dohnanyi (sometimes known as Ernst von Dohnányi). The piece was well received and garnered Rozsa much acclaim from composers such as Richard Strauss.
Rozsa soon established himself as a composer of note and built up an impressive musical canon, he collaborated with his friend and fellow composer Arthur Honegger to stage a concert of their combined musical works at the Salle Debussy in Paris. It was whilst working alongside Honegger that Rozsa heard the composer’s music for the move LES MISERABLES and became interested in the concept of writing music for the cinema and utilizing music to heighten the dramatic impact of film. After watching LES MISERABLES and seeing how music enhanced the images on screen Rozsa decided that composing music for movies was what he wanted to do. In 1936, he travelled to England to work on a ballet entitled HUNGARIA, and whilst there was asked to compose the score for Alexander Korda’s production of KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR (1937).
The movie and also Rozsa’s musical score were a great success and later that year the composer was engaged to write the music for another Korda production THUNDER IN THE CITY (1937), shortly after this assignment the composer was signed to the permanent staff of London films which was Korda’s production company. Rozsa first major scoring assignment came in 1939, when he wrote the music for THE FOUR FEATHERS, after this he worked on a movie that is probably still regarded by many as the composers most accomplished and memorable work for cinema which was THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940). The film and the music thrilled and delighted audiences all over the world and became a lucrative production for the Korda organisation and was also the score that would lead Rozsa to Hollywood, this was because of the outbreak of WWll and the entire production of the movie including Rozsa being relocated to the United States who at that time were not involved in the conflict. The composer’s first Hollywood score was to come two years later when he penned the soundtrack to Korda’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (1942). The composer made a recording of a suite of music from the movie and also included narration on the recording by the film’s star Sabu, this was the first time that film music had been released on a recording in the United States and it proved to be very popular.
In 1945 the composer wrote the score for Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND and his hauntingly mesmerising soundtrack established him even more as a composer of worth and also garnered him an Academy Award for his efforts, in the same year Rozsa composed the music for Billy Wilders THE LOST WEEKEND and for this he employed what is probably the first electronic instrument within the score the Theremin. In 1947 the composer was awarded the Oscar for his music to George Cukor’s A DOUBLE LIFE and one year later Rozsa joined the staff at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, it is probably true to say that it was whilst at M.G.M that the composer was at his most prolific, writing the scores to such movies as QUO VADIS (1951), BEN HUR (1959), EL CID (1961) and KING OF KINGS (1962). He was awarded an Oscar for his monumental soundtrack to BEN HUR and received much acclaim for his epic score to EL CID. The latter becoming a firm favourite among numerous collectors of film music. As the Golden age of film music reached its sunset and the Silver age began to dawn film making trends and practices altered and styles of film production changed (not necessarily for the better) thus many up and coming film makers were attempting to create their own unique approaches to making movies and this did include the way in which music was utilized within film. Younger composers were beginning to break into the film music arena and although not turning their backs on the what had up till then been the traditional way of scoring movies were inventing new sounds and styles.
Rozsa however remained busy during this period even though he had himself acknowledged that EL CID was his last major film score. The composer created several noteworthy scores that in many connoisseurs’ opinions were more worthy than the films they were intended to enhance. There were also thankfully a number of production that were creditable vessels for his wonderful themes, these in my opinion included, PROVIDENCE, THE LAST EMBRACE, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, TIME AFTER TIME and DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID, the latter title including a score that parodied Rozsa’s own style and sound that he had employed in movies such as THE NAKED CITY, THE KILLERS and BRUTE FORCE. During the 1980,s the composer was forced to retire from writing music because of failing eyesight, he passed away on July 27th 1995 aged 88, he left behind a rich and varied tapestry of musical works and is still influencing film music in the 21st Century via his powerful, sumptuous, haunting and innovative style of composing for the motion picture industry.
There has never been anything like the CLASSIC FILM SCORE SERIES and although there are many worthy re-recordings out there of Golden Age film music, for me it was the Charles Gerhardt series that fired my interest in the music of that period and also.
Other releases included, SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF FRANZ WAXMAN, with THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, TARAS BULBA, REBECCA, PEYTON PLACE, PRINCE VALIANT and the title track of the album SUNSET BOULEVARD included and CITIZEN CAINE THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF BERNARD HERRMANN, which had selections from BENEATH THE 12 MILE REEF, WHITE WITCH DOCTOR, ON DANGEROUS GROUND, KING OF THE KYHBER RIFLES and the composers CONCERTO MACABRE from the movie HANGOVER SQUARE.
These were both stunning albums and were also re-issued to compact disc in later years as was LAURA THE CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF DAVID RAKSIN, which included selections from FOREVER AMBER, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL as well as the beguiling music from LAURA. Gerhardt even conducted music from STAR WARS and THE RETURN OF THE JEDI in a wonderful recording that featured the track HERE THEY COME from A NEW HOPE for the first time. The performances appeared in differing compilations and some of the early recordings were given more developed arrangements in the form of suites instead of just the themes or principal cues being featured. Charles Gerhardt passed away in 1999, if he had lived and was working still in the film music business, what wonderful recordings do you think we would have been gifted?