Korngold: The Adventures of Robin Hood (CD review)

William Stromberg, Moscow Symphony Orchestra.  Marco Polo 8.225268.

There is little doubt that Warner Brothers' 1938 production of The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn is one of the screen's classic adventures, nor that Erich Wolfgang Korngold's epic music helps the movie immeasurably. What's surprising is that up until recently we have never had a recording of the complete score, only a few minutes worth of the famous "March of the Merry Men" or at best a fifteen-minute suite. Fortunately, composer and restorer John Morgan, conductor William Stromberg, and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra rectify this situation with their recording of every shred of music in the movie, over seventy-eight minutes worth.

Fortunately, too, Stromberg and company, by now old hands at this sort of thing, play the music with verve and commitment. The music is so vivid and so engaging, and the playing is so enthusiastic, listening to it is like watching the movie all over again. Stromberg and Marco Polo have given us a whole string of reconstructed film scores over the past few years, and this one joins the very best of them, if not surpassing my favorite, Max Steiner's Treasure of the Sierra Madre, then at least coming close.

Korngold was primarily a symphonist and writer of operas, but he spent much time in Hollywood as well. He would surpass himself a year or two later with music for The Sea Hawk, but the music for Robin Hood is plenty good. What's more, presented complete it comprises a wonderfully seamless whole, despite the fact that it is obviously made up of a number of tiny bits and pieces describing and bridging the film's various characters and scenes. As such, it sets a good deal of the mood for the swashbuckling action it accompanies and does so with an easy charm, grace, and wit that make for comfortable listening.

The disc is divided into twenty-five tracks for easy reference, and it comes accompanied by an exhaustive twenty-eight page booklet insert of notes covering everything from Korngold's life and music through the making of the movie itself. Moreover, Marco Polo's sound is up to the task of conveying all of the story's musical derring-do clearly and dynamically. It's really quite the complete package.

With Warner Brothers having released a gorgeously restored transfer of The Adventures of Robin Hood on DVD and Blu-ray, this new CD of the complete film score complements it perfectly. Wonderful stuff.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa