Steiner: The Son of Kong (CD review)

Also, The Most Dangerous Game.  William T. Stromberg, Moscow Symphony Orchestra.  Naxos 8.570183.

For those of you who missed it the first time around on the full-price Marco Polo label, Naxos now offer these two classic Max Steiner film scores on a budget Naxos disc.

Lovers of old film scores may safely continue to cheer John Morgan's reconstruction of this music.  The disc offers works of a slightly lesser quality than, say, Steiner's King Kong,  but it is fascinating, nonetheless, and executed in superb sonics.

Why the combination of The Son of Kong and The Most Dangerous Game? Well, for one, both scores were written by Steiner during his early days at RKO. Overworked and tired, he would soon submit his resignation, only to go on to greater glory at MGM and Warner Bros. with projects like Gone With the Wind and Casablanca. For another thing, he wrote the scores back to back while RKO was using the same sets to film both pictures.

Of the two pieces of music, it's The Most Dangerous Game that stands out, being more original, less derivative, than The Son of Kong. Based on the famous Richard Connell short story, the 1932 film version of The Most Dangerous Game featured Joel McCrea and Fay Wray as castaways hunted down by the demented General Zaroff on a private island. (The female interest was added to the film and not found in Connell's original 1924 story.) The various segments of the score alternately and evocatively convey the story's lurid yet exciting plot, and, as always, William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony do a fine job delivering the thrills the scores deserve.

The Naxos sound, recorded in 2000, is solid, clean, and bold, with just enough resonance to produce a realistic hall effect but not so much to obscure inner detail. Stage depth is somewhat limited, but width and range are excellent. Also, the disc comes with a nice set of notes, not as comprehensive as the thirty-seven-page booklet of essays that accompanied the Marco Polo release, but enough to tell you everything you might want to know about the music, the composer, and the films. The recording makes a handsome and inexpensive addition to one's library of film music.


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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa