Celebrating the Classics
Music for films by Max Steiner (The Fountainhead), Alfred Newman (The Robe), Dimitri Tiomkin (The Thing), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (The Sea Wolf), Bernard Herrmann (Beneath the 12-Mile Reef), Franz Waxman (Prince Valiant).
National Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Gerhardt, cond.
THEME & VARIATIONS T&V 0001 (M) (ADD) TT: 60:44

Collectors of film music surely will wish to have this special CD, the first issue on a new label, Theme & Variations, which gathers together music by six leading composers of film music: Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman, surely the elite of the genre. All performances are by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the late Charles Gerhardt, produced by George Korngold and engineered by legendary Kenneth Wilkinson. The CD is issued in conjunction with the United States Post Office special issue of six first-class postage stamps to honor these composers, and pictures of the stamps are on the cover of the CD. The stamps are available in most post offices; the CD is listed in the U.S. Post Office stamp catalog and can be purchased through them.

All of these recordings have been issued before in RCA's Classic Film Scores series, with one exception.  Here we have a somewhat extended site from Steinerís score for The Fountainhead that includes the cocktail piano sequence omitted from the previous issue,  played with consummate flair by Gerhardt, himself a formidable pianist. This is salon playing of the highest order, with a freedom of expression and ornamentation not heard in the film - but it fits and is a pleasure to hear.

Alfred Newman's majestic, heavily-scored music for The Robe here is given "the works" so to speak, with the assistance of the Ambrosian Singers and the Band of the Grenadier Guards. Dimitri Tiomkin's 10-minute suite from The Thing was not included on the Dimitri Tiomkin CD; it previously was issued only on the CFS sampler CD, The Spectacular World of Classic Film Scores. The unusual scoring (woodwind, brass, double-basses, five percussion groups and the weird sounds of the Ondes Martenot vividly convey the terror of the film beginning with "The Flying Saucer Under the Ice," through "The Hand," "The Growing Plants," "The Thing on the Walkway" and "Electrocution." It's a sonic block-buster—but then virtually everything on this CD fits that description. On the subject of sonics, it should be pointed out that, fortunately,  these remasterings were not done in Dolby Surround, as was the case with RCA's CD issues of the Classic Film Scores recordings.

Gerhardt's particular affinity for music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold is obvious in his direction of excerpts from The Sea Wolf. More exotic orchestration can be heard in a suite from Bernard Herrmannís Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, with its nine harps and the weird instrument called the serpent which represents the octopus. The CD ends brilliantly with a 10-minute suite from Franz Waxman's exuberant, dynamic score for Prince Valiant.

John Waxman, Franz's son, wrote the introduction for this CD, and Rudy Behlmer wrote perceptive program notes. The CD is dedicated to the memory of Charles Gerhardt; for more information about Gerhardt and his career, click here.

As mentioned above, this CD can be purchased through the U. S. Post Office for $10 including delivery (call 1-800-STAMP24 -- 1-800-782-6724  and ask for Item #440 898), or you can get it from Screen Archives Entertainment (craig@screenarchives.com).