Previn conducts Korngold
presents suites from four of the finest and most influential film scores ever written, performed by an orchestra (the LSO) well used to the genre and conducted by someone who, like Korngold before him, has always had an equivocal relationship with Hollywood. Ever a reluctant film composer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold nevertheless became one of the principal architects of the Hollywood Sound; the style and scope of his scores for the four swashbuckling Errol Flynn vehicles here continue to resonate through any number of modern films, from the Star Wars
saga onwards. Korngold's "operas without words", written in the same splendidly grandiose Viennese manner he brought to his concert works, helped define film music's pivotal role in the on-screen drama and provide textbook examples of how to underpin both action and emotion. The earliest is 1935's Captain Blood
, which Korngold scored, not without protest, in just three weeks; then came 1937's The Prince and the Pauper
with its highly chromatic, almost decadent lyricism (parts of it were later recycled in his Violin Concerto). Both The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
(1939) and The Sea Hawk
(1940) are works of high melodrama and bold gestures, replete with rousing marches, stirring fanfares and delicious love themes.
It's a safe choice of repertoire for Previn, who knows Korngold's idiom well, and a comfortable one for this orchestra. The result is an album of plushly upholstered performances, which emphasise the continuities and similarities between each suite. Although all the scores have been recorded before in more complete versions, these abbreviated suites suit Previn's expansive, concert-hall approach to the music as he lingers long over the big romantic gestures. Korngold collectors will find nothing here they haven't heard before, but perhaps they'll discover it's rarely been so luxuriantly performed.--Mark Walker