1. First, the proverbial good news. The music from Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score for the 1941 film THE SEA WOLF (TSW) on this CD is a milestone. Kudos to the releasing label (RL) for providing us with the first modern recording of the complete score of Korngold's TSW! And the complete mini score from the film's trailer. No musical stone has been left unturned this time! The sound is flat-out superb. More kudos to the RL for employing an orchestra whose size and challenging composition matches that demanded by the fully-orchestrated score! The performance gives every indication that much rehearsal time and effort went into the final product.
2. The CD booklet is outstanding. Its author, Brendan G. Carroll, a renown Korngold authority, brings together just the right balance of film analysis and score de-construction. End of the good news.
3. The conducting on this CD is periodically undermined by the snail-like pace of the performance. There is often too little that is exciting to hear here. Retarded tempo is endemic in modern recordings of Korngold's film symphonies, and this CD clearly adds to that epidemic. Compared to the Gold Standard established by the late Charles Gerhardt in the 1970's (the reference CD recording can be found in track four on ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, BMG RCA Victor GD80185, 1973), the conducting on the current CD can be ponderous at best. Then there's the OST Platinum Standard (the reference CD recording is THE SEA WOLF, Tsuami TSU 0144, 2003). Compared to Korngold's command of the orchestra and his lightening fast baton, the current recording frequently sounds like it is on life support. The energy that Korngold imparts to his score is phenomenal. His orchestra's performance remains unsurpassed after almost 65 years!
4. This CD also includes excerpts from Korngold's score for the 1938 film THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (TAORH). Boos to the RL for going cheap with a worn out (but inexpensive) musical filler just to increase CD playing time. This is the 25th CD that contains essentially the same sort of collection of bits and pieces from TAORH! A complete and definitive recording was recently released (KORNGOLD: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, Marco Polo CD 8.225268, 2003). While the performance on the current CD is better than average, it, not unexpectedly, pales by comparison to the Marco Polo reference recording. The RL could have just released a shortened CD with only the TSW score (and, perhaps, reduced the price accordingly). Or contributed something equally rare like a concert of cues from, say, the 1955 film MAGIC FIRE.
William Flanigan, Ph.D.