Sea Hawk: The Classic Film Scores of Korngold (1897-1957)

July 10, 2011

If ever a release showed that Korngold was the number one composer at Warner Brothers in the thirties and forties this CD proves it. In fact it shows that he was the #1 composer of his time for the 10 years that he composed for the silver screen. Recently released again by Sony this 1972 compilation of twelve of Korngold’s films performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Gerhardt is a faithful reproduction to the original RCA LP (LSC 3330). To answer a commonly asked question it is not an improvement over the original mastering from LP to CD by RCA in the 80’s which was fine to begin with. It is an improvement in sound quality if you have the Dolby encoded version and don’t play it back through a surround sound system. For new collectors this is an opportunity to purchase the fine collection of recordings that Gerhardt did.


“Sea Hawk” (1940) is well represented in terms of recordings. If one wishes to explore more of the score I can recommend the Naxos (8.570110) two CD set with Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra being reconstructed by John Morgan. This suite which opens with an abrupt loud crescendo followed by a brass fanfare giving way to a full complement of strings giving us a taste of the romantic. The theme gives way to as a lush a melody you’ll ever hear before a rousing conclusion ends the mini symphonic suite. While he learned his compositional and orchestral skills from the classical composers Wagner, Strauss, and Mahler, Korngold has his own unique sound. One can instantly hear in the strings he composed the material. “Of Human Bondage”(1945) is a perfect example of his string work as the beautiful theme has allowed the brass a short holiday but they are quickly back in the action with his second Oscar winning score “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Swirling strings sometimes at a frantic pace with brass complementing a rousing soundtrack that has been imitated but never duplicated. For more music from this fine music I can recommend the Naxos (8.225268) CD with Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony with reconstruction by John Morgan. “Juarez” (1939) starring Bette Davis, Paul Muni, and Claude Rains is another of his heartfelt romantic melodies. “Kings Row” (1942) is one of his most beautiful melodies appearing in a number of other pictures and of course the film will never be forgotten as Ronald Reagan, former president of the United States, appeared in it. “Captain Blood” (1935) is another in the vein of Sea Hawk and Robin Hood filled with brass fanfares and an endless flow of melody from the strings. In  “Constant Nymph” (1943) we’re given a sampling of the operatic lyrical side of Korngold in a piece written for the exiting of the film which ended up being recorded separately. While “Anthony Adverse” (1936), his first Oscar winning picture has never quite caught on like some of his others it is nevertheless top rated material. His last film “Deception” (1946) is a big bold thematic one created for a large orchestra. “Devotion” (1946) offered a piece of music that oozed sadness yet romance, the perfect music for the dying scene in the picture. The final selection “Escape Me Never” (1945) is a series of melodies where Korngold never seemed to run out of ideas. It is a suite not to be forgotten.


This CD is a perfect introduction to Korngold. Once you listen to this you’ll be interested in exploring further. If you only had ten golden age CD’s this would definitely be one of them. In addition to the two Naxos releases I’ve listed some other material below.

1…. Chandos (CHAN 9171) Symphony in F Minor and Songs of Farewell

2…. Chandos (CHAN 9508) Military March, Cello Concerto, Symphonic Serenade for string orchestra, and Piano Concerto (for left hand)

3…. Chandos (CHAN 9631) Overture to a Drama, Fairy Tale Pictures, and Violanta

4…. Chandos (CHAN 10336) Sea Wolf

5…. Deutsche Grammophon (471 347-2) Sea Hawk, Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Captain Blood, and Prince and the Pauper

Track Listing:

1…. The Sea Hawk (1940) (6:53)

2…. Of Human Bondage (1945) (4:21)

3…. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (4:01)

4…. Juarez (1939) (1:48)

5…. Kings Row (1942) (1:39)

6…. Constant Nymph (1943) (6:02)

7…. Captain Blood (1935) (2:58)

8…. Anthony Adverse (1936) (2:39)

9…. Between Two Worlds (1944) (5:30)

10…Deception (1946) (1:33)

11…Devotion (4:05)

12…Escape Me Never (8:14)

Total Time is 50:30


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