Korngold: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (film-score arrangement of Mendelssohn’s incidental music)

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WORKS: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (film-score arrangement of Mendelssohn’s incidental music)
PERFORMER: Celina Lindsley (soprano), Michelle Breedt (mezzo-soprano), Scot Weir (tenor), Michael Burt (bass); Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches SO Berlin/Gerd Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: 999 449-2
When Warner Brothers invited Max Reinhardt to adapt his stage production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the silver screen in 1934, the great German director demanded the best. Erich Wolfgang Korngold was shipped over from Europe to adapt Mendelssohn’s incidental music for the soundtrack and although he didn’t get his preferred Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton and Bette Davis to star, he nevertheless gained the services of James Cagney (Bottom), Mickey Rooney (Puck) and Olivia de Havilland (her screen debut, as Hermia). Thus was Korngold irrevocably won over to Hollywood. His reworking of Mendelssohn’s music draws on other works where necessary and maintains a healthily un-PC attitude to orchestration and the original musical continuity. Heavenly, wordless choirs drift in and out, saxophones play the ass in Bottom’s ‘translation’ scene and dominate a bizarre transformation of the famous Wedding March into a waltz. It’s all wonderfully kitsch and very much of its time – in short, just what one would expect of a Romantic Thirties Hollywood film. The orchestral playing on this first recording of the original film score is inviting enough, but some of the singing leaves a little to be desired – the German choir makes heavy weather of the English words. Matthew Rye