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Film, Music Review



An Idle Mind..., Part II: Korngold's Film Scores

May 7, 2020 - Raleigh, NC:


Coping with crisisErich Wolfgang Korngold (May 29, 1897 - November 29, 1957), Wunderkind å la Mozart, was, after Shostakovich (September 25 (12, O.S.), 1906 - August 9, 1975), the greatest film composer of the 20th century,* but it takes some effort to see and savor his work as he originally intended it – thanks to America's arcane copyright laws, his movies are kept under mostly tight lock-and-key confinement, meant to enrich their current (offshore) owners in perpetuity. (For more about this hideous legal quagmire, click here; note that the law in effect protects film far beyond the lifetimes of the creators, thus rendering the age-old concept of 20-years-plus-a-renewal little more than a farce.**) Unlike Shosty's, Korngold's movies are not readily available – for free – online. Some are on YouTube, chopped up into small pieces, but I cannot in good conscience recommend them, although looking at a few clips may influence your decision to purchase a commercial copy.... (I am reminded of my childhood fascination with the word "blivet": ten pounds in a five-pound bag. That's what the copyright owners have forced on interested viewers, due to greed.)

In many instances, however, the music is available online, if not the original films.

So yes, you may obtain and see a good many of the films for which Korngold arranged or composed soundtracks – for a price.

And with that caveat, there follows a tabulation of these important classics of the Golden Age of Cinema. We've included the title and year, the IMDB film citation (embedded beneath the title), the Wiki citation (including in some cases fairly good précis), Korngold's musical role, and links for the film, excerpts, and/or the soundtrack or parts thereof. We've marked the ones thought not to be available commercially. Otherwise purchase copies from all the usual suspects.

Tip for searching online to buy: enter the title and the year to guide you to the correct edition as often there have been several film versions over the years. And IF you are going to purchase any of these, please consider doing so from https://smile.amazon.com/ and picking Classical Voice of North Carolina Inc. as the beneficiary.

PS The compilation files made up of many excerpts don't all relate to the films with which they start – and anyway, Y-T tends to yank URLs it thinks infringe on copyright somewhat at random – so if you are downloading, you may wish to check carefully before you begin and, even then, proceed with caution.

***

And if that weren't enough, here are links to the greatest of Korngold's operas, Das Wunder der Heliane, (Part 1 & Part 2), and to his mentor Richard Strauss' most Korngoldian one, Die ägyptische Helena (information & recording). And finally, for much more information on the composer, click here.

*Ironically, Shostakovich and Korngold each produced 35 film scores or parts thereof.

**The Association for Recorded Sound Collections is among the non-profits lobbying extensively for a return to rationalization in our copyright laws. For much more information, click here and here.