WORKS: Film scores: The Sea Hawk; Captain Blood; The Prince and the Pauper; The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
PERFORMER: LSO/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: 471 347-2
One biographer once described Korngold as a ‘fixed star between Gustav Mahler and Errol Flynn’. Richard Strauss might have been a more apt starting point, given his propensity to create in his film scores what Jessica Duchen described in her Korngold study as ‘operas without words’ – his transformation from Viennese operatic master to creator of the Romantic ‘Hollywood sound’ in the Thirties was seamless.
There have been various revivals of his lush film scores on disc, notably the series recorded by Charles Gerhardt in the Seventies for RCA, but I don’t think any of them have swashed their buckles as winningly as this one. André Previn conducts extended suites from the music for four of Korngold’s Errol Flynn vehicles with a real sense of love and devotion. Just hear how he delays each heart-stopping chord in The Sea Hawk’s ‘big tune’, for example, or the abandon with which he sends the Prince and the Pauper on their way (with the theme that became the finale of the Violin Concerto). Perhaps even more than his predecessors, Previn demonstrates how this music has the strength to stand alone from its filmic source – less ‘operas without words’, perhaps, than tone poems, even if the sequential nature of the suites lacks symphonic structure. The musicians of the LSO obviously had a whale of a time at the sessions, and they play with such swagger, virtuosity and warmth that a follow-up disc is imperative. Matthew Rye