Monday, 14 July 2014

RCA's Classic Film Scores

Thank heavens for car boot sales (in America the equivalent would, I suppose, be swap meets). This year I attended the grand local annual event and came back with a bag of 19 LPs (and also a CD, but we'll pretend that didn't happen).

Amongst the treasures on vinyl was this soundtrack album. Ignore the slightly dodgy cover; it's a masterpiece. More importantly, it's one of a series of masterpieces. The music is by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, drawn from various classic movies.

These are not the original original soundtrack recordings. In other words, they're not the music which was originally attached to the print of the film. They are re-recordings. This is almost always the case with so-called "original" soundtrack recordings. But these are great re-recordings, and part of a magnificent series of 15 LPs (some sources say 14) issued by RCA in the early  1970s.

The project was the brainchild of Charles Gerhardt, who conducted the National Philharmonic Orchestra on the recordings. They featured music by Hollywood greats such as Korngold, Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman. The music was superb, the performances were magnificent and the recordings and pressings outstanding — this was the last hurrah of quality vinyl before things went digital.

Elizabeth and Essex is splendid, particularly the Sea Wolf score which features gorgeous use of harmonica. But if you are into the golden age of film music, then really any of these Gerhardt RCAs are worth seeking out. They're well worth hearing on CD, but it's the vinyl you really want, if you can find it.

(Image credits: the LP cover is from the reliable Soundtrack Collector. The photo of Gerhardt at the piano, baton in mouth, is from Classical CD Review.)

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