Korngold: The Prince and the Pauper (CD review)

William Stromberg, The Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Tribute Film Classics TFC-1006.

Dashing, charming, and impossibly handsome, Australian actor Errol Flynn took Hollywood by storm in the mid 1930's, making a remarkable succession of adventure classics like Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Essex and Elizabeth, and The Sea Hawk. Within a decade or so his light began to fade, the swashbuckling hero overtaken by drink and hard living, but what a ride it had been. Almost lost amongst his bigger hits, however, is The Prince and the Pauper (1937), somewhat forgotten, perhaps, because Flynn actually took a backseat in it to a pair of young boys, the Mauch twins, who played the movie's leads, a young prince and the street beggar he trades places with in Mark Twain's famous novel. Poor Flynn doesn't even show up to help save the day until the movie is almost half over. Still, it's a rousing tale and well worth one's while.

But we're here today to discuss the movie's music, another of those wonderfully swaggering scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Captain Blood, Anthony Adverse, Juarez, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, The Sea Wolf). The music has been around on disc for years in various suites, bits and pieces, but now, thanks to film-music restorers John Morgan, Anna Bonn, and William Stromberg, we can hear it complete. And what stirring and intoxicating music it is.

Naturally, things begin with an atmospheric overture, the music for the main titles that set the stage. There follow forty-two more segments, each one descriptive of a particular action or scene in the movie, from the ceremonial birth of the prince through his street escapades and right up to the epilogue and end title. When the album concludes, it's with music for the trailer and even special end-title music that includes "God Save the King," done especially for the British market.

Morgan, Bonn, and Stromberg have been doing this sort of thing for quite a while, of course, seeing their music restorations recorded on Marco Polo, Naxos, BMG Classics, and presently on their own label, Tribute Film Classics. The reconstructed Prince and the Pauper, as originally orchestrated by Hugo Friedhofer and Milan Roder, tackles the music "one cue at a time and one instrument at a time to restore Korngold's musical score in its entirety," as the booklet note says.

Maestro William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra have also been doing this old film music for so long now, it's undoubtedly in their blood. They seem to have a special affinity for it because they always sound better, more attuned to the nuances of the action, than the original orchestras in this material. It's kind of like having the movie there in your mind's eye if you just glance at the scene descriptions and listen to the shifting moods of the music.

Accompanying the disc, Tribute Film Classics provide a lavishly illustrated, thirty-two page booklet of text and pictures. It covers the movie, the stars, the filmmakers, the history, the score, and the score's reconstruction. You'll find Tribute left no stone unturned.

The sound, recorded at Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, in March 2008, is wonderfully vivid. And while the midrange transparency, air, and smoothness are outstanding, it's really the treble that sparkles, the high notes shimmering with beauty and clarity. Although the relatively close-up miking doesn't always deliver the greatest orchestral depth, the audio makes up for it with a wide stereo spread, a quick transient response, and more than adequate dynamics. It's a pleasure listening to the recording, and the disc is a delightful effort all the way around.

To learn more about Tribute Film Classics and their products, you can visit their Web site at http://www.tributefilmclassics.com/.

JJP

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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.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa