KORNGOLD:  Music from the films The Sea Hawk, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Captain Blood and The Prince and the Pauper
London Symphony Orch/AndrČ Previn, cond.


Here is a most welcome addition to the catalog, a well-filled CD of music composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold for four Warner Bros. films. It is particularly valuable as it includes quite a bit of music not included in the famous RCA Classic Film Scores series in which the late Charles Gerhardt led the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Previn is a fine conductor for this music, luxuriating in Korngold's lush themes eliciting committed playing from the LSO. Korngold's film scores were orchestrated primarily by Hugo Friedhofer, Milan Roder and Ray Heindorf under the careful supervision of the composer. This CD contains Korngold's music expertly reconstructed and assembled by Patrick Russ.

The Sea Hawk contains the music identical with Gerhardt's first CD of the work (7890, nla) which combined music from this film released on two LPs. When Sea Hawk was first released on LP (LSC 3300) it was shorter; for the CD issue Gerhardt put together an expanded suite that included music from Sea Hawk issued on another LP of music written for Errol Flynn (Captain Blood) expanding the suite to 15:35. Shortly after this CD was released RCA quixotically decided to issue the entire Classic Film Scores series on CD exactly as issued on LP; CD 7890 was withdrawn and replaced with 60863, similar in content to the original LP.  Previn's recording contains the expanded suite except that he uses an orchestral version of the sailors' chorus—Gerhardt effectively used the Ambrosian Singers.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex suite is about twice as long as Gerhardt's recording (included on his Korngold CD 0185) which consists only of the overture compiled by Korngold for the world premiere at the Warner Bros. Beverly Hills Theater in 1939; however the overture does include five of the sections in the Previn recording. 

It is in Captain Blood and The Prince and the Pauper where we find much music not on Gerhardt recordings.  The latter's Captain Blood CD contained only a 2:08 excerpt from the score (Ship in the Night); Previn gives us a 14-minute suite including the dynamic main title and exquisite love music for Peter and Arabella. Likewise, The Prince and the Pauper in the Gerhardt recording contains only the Main title, The Boys Go to Play and Epilogue, a total of 4:45.  Previn's 22 minute suite contains much more of one of Korngold's finest scores including music he used later in his violin concerto.

Highly recommended although those who love this music surely will wish also to have the Gerhardt recordings which have their own validity, panache and spirit, with a touch more brilliance in the many brass fanfares. DGG's engineering is clear and wide range but lacks the rich sonorities of Kenneth Wilkinson's engineering three decades ago.

R.E.B. (Feb. 2002)