Tag Archives: Erich Wolfgang Korngold

MUSIC BY ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD.

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Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold was probably one of the first serious music composers to become involved with the writing of film scores, by this I mean he had already had a career in composing music for the concert hall before starting to write for Hollywood movies and went back to the composition of so called serious music after he ceased to work on motion pictures. Korngold it is said is the Father of film music, well yes I suppose this is true but let us not forget Max Steiner who was also responsible for creating the craft of the actual scoring of motion pictures or at least that is my own personal opinion. There have been many re-recordings of the film music of Korngold released the majority of which have been true to the original compositions, most notable is the series of classic film music on the RCA label with the National Philharmonic orchestra, under the direction of Charles Gerhardt and produced by George Korngold, plus of course there have been recordings of Korngold’s original scores issued in recent years as well as recordings by THE MOSCOW SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA under the baton of William Stromberg Let us however not forget the recording that was originally released in 1962 on Warner bros records (ws1438) and was the first authorised recording by the Korngold estate, this was later re issued onto compact disc on Stanyan records (stz 117) which was conducted by Lionel Newman and performed by The Warner Brothers Studio Orchestra.

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This recording featured music from seven motion pictures, KINGS ROW, ANTHONY ADVERSE, ELIZABETH AND ESSEX,THE SEA HAWK, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER,THE CONSTANT NYMPH and last but by no means least THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Arguably these were the most prominent titles of the composers career, I say arguably because it omitted his first official film score CAPTAIN BLOOD and the excellent ESCAPE ME NEVER but nevertheless a worthy collection of music and one that once it begins will I know evoke all the memories of the movies in question. The compact disc is in no way lavishly illustrated in fact it is devoid of any stills or photos apart from one small black and white picture on the back cover of the composer, but the information in the liner notes by Bill Collins and Rod Mckuen is interesting and informative. The CD opens with four cues from KINGS ROW, released in 1942 it starred Ronald Regan, Robert Cummings, Ann Sheridan and Betty Field, directed by Sam Wood the movie was a success at the box office in the United States and enjoyed mild success also outside of America. Korngold’s glittering and imposing trumpet fanfares that open the main title are in a word stunning and send shivers down ones spine, these majestic and regal sounding flourishes set the scene perfectly for what is to follow in Korngold’s effecting score. The composer being regal sounding and also infusing a subtle and emotional feel to proceedings.

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The four cues included are MAIN TITLES, THE CHILDREN, RANDY AND DRAKE and GRANDMOTHER. Section two is from the score to the 1936 motion picture ANTHONY ADVERSE, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, this was a lavish production that was said to have over 120 sets. A romantic and historical drama, which starred Frederic March as Anthony and Olivia de Haviland as the love of his life Angela and Claude Rains in the role of the malicious Don Luis. Korngold’s luscious score gave the production greater depth and certainly added emotion to the storyline. Korngold was awarded his first Oscar for his labours. The selections included here are, ANTHONY IS BORN,THE LOVE SCENE and ANTHONY COMES HOME. THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX is next in the running order, released in 1939, the movie directed by Michael Curtiz a director whom Korngold had collaborated with before a year previous on THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, just two selections are included form this score, MAIN TITLE AND ESSEX’S VICTORY MARCH and LOVE SCENE AND FINALE.

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It starred Bette Davies as Elizabeth the first and is still hailed as one of her best performances, Laurence Olivier was originally scheduled to play Essex but it was Errol Flynn that eventually took the role much to Davies disapproval, but saying this Flynn’s portrayal of Essex is not an awful one and for the most part is convincing and entertaining. The film had a strong supporting cast in the forms of Olivia de Haviland, Vincent Price and Donald Crisp. Korngold’s triumphant sounding score was regal and highly impressive, lush strings are augmented by brass and Royal sounding flourishes from the brass section are further enhanced and bolstered by the composers use of strings. For the next section we move into the 1940’s Directed by Michael Curtiz THE SEA HAWK was once again a vehicle for the enigmatic Errol Flynn, a swashbuckling romp that still inspires and influences pirate movies of today this rip roaring adventure cried out for an even bigger and rousing soundtrack, a score that would underline, enhance and support the action on screen as well as being subtle when needed. Korngold’s opening flourishes have also inspired and influenced composers such as John Williams on his STAR WARS soundtracks and have been mimicked in numerous pirate and adventure movies, ie THE GOONIES and to a degree CUTTHROAT ISLAND and the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie. Korngold’s music complimented and heightened the dramatic sea battles, punctuated the somewhat cheeky manner of Flynn’s character and ingratiated the lavish sets, making them even more sumptuous and convincing, in fact the film and the score in my opinion have never been surpassed.

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Elizabeth the first was portrayed by Flora Robson and the films love interest or heroine of the piece is played by Brenda Marshall. It is a film that one never tires of and a score that spends a lot of time in the CD player. Two sections are representing the score on this recording, MAIN TITLE and THE REUNION. Next is THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, based upon the novel by Mark Twain this 1937 release was directed by Michael Curtiz, again having Errol Flynn in the principal role. Korngold once again produced a suitably rousing and majestic work, alas just one short cue included on this recording, THE BOYS GO TO PLAY. Tracks 13 and 14 are taken from Korngold’s score to THE CONSTANT NYMPH, directed by Edmund Goulding in 1943, MAIN TITLE and FAREWELL are short but most certainly sweet representations of Korngold’s soundtrack, the latter being poignant and subtle and containing a sense of melancholy, which is purveyed by strings and restrained woodwinds. A beautifully produced movie THE CONSTANT NYMPH s a touching and heartrending drama for which Korngold composed one of his best scores. The final section on the compilation is from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, what can I say, A CLASSIC in every way, a charismatic performance from Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, with Olivia de Haviland delightfully portraying Lady Marion, the movie had three directors, Michael Curtiz took charge of the studio action, whilst the outdoor scenes were handled by William Keighley and B. Reeves Eason.

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Korngold won his second Oscar for his dramatic and thrilling music and it is probably true to say that THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is the score that we most associate with Erich Wolfgang Korngold. This is a wonderful compilation and a fitting tribute not to just the artistry and talent of Korngold but also to the actors, directors and producers that were responsible for bringing to the screen these glittering examples of Hollywood at its golden best. Seek it out, it is an essential addition to any film music collection.

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ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD.

 

 

 

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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 anymore 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 it’s 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.

 

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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 composers 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 success’s at the box office the composer began to loose interest in film.

 

 

 

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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.