Special Features

Reissue of Six Titles from Charles Gerhardt’s Classic Film Scores Series = Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Lost Horizon, Captain from Castile, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk – Nat. Philharmonic Orch./Charles Gerhardt – RCA Red Seal

A look back at some sumptuous films scores by top Hollywood composers - with matrix surround to boot.

Published on November 13, 2010

Reissue of Six Titles from Charles Gerhardt’s Classic Film Scores Series = Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Lost Horizon, Captain from Castile, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk – Nat. Philharmonic Orch./Charles Gerhardt – RCA Red Seal

In mid-October RCA Red reissued six titles from the Classic Film Scores series of 14 LPs which Charles Gerhardt had recorded with the National Philharmonic Orchestra back in 1972 thru 1978. Here they are, and they retain the original matrix Dolby surround sound which was encoded into the CD series, but is not mentioned in the reissues (evidently because RCA/Sony wanted to avoid confusion with Dolby Digital Surround). They sound identical to the 1970s CDs and decode beautifully via ProLogic II or Circle Surround:

CASABLANCA –- Classic Film Scores for Humphrey Bogart  –
Includes selections from Casablanca / Passage to Marseille / The Treasure of Sierra Madre / The Big Sleep / The Caine Mutiny / To Have and Have Not / The Two Mrs. Carrolls / Sabrina / The Left Hand of God / Sahara / Virginia City / Key Largo

GONE WITH THE WIND  (Suite from the Score) —
Includes all the unforgettable musical episodes from Max Steiner’s epic score.

LOST HORIZON – The Classic Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin  –
Includes selections from Lost Horizon / The Guns of Navarone / The Big Sky / The Fourposter / Friendly Persuasion / Search for Paradise

CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE – The Classic Film Scores of Alfred Newman  –
Includes selections from How to Marry a Millionaire / Captain from Castile / Wuthering Heights / Down to the Sea in Ships / The Song of Bernadette / The Bravados / Anastasia / The Best of Everything / Airport / The Robe

CAPTAIN BLOOD  – Classic Film Scores for Errol Flynn  –
Includes selections from The Adventures of Don Juan / The Sea Hawk / They Died with Their Boots On Dodge City / Objective, Burma! / The Sun Also Rises / The Adventures of Robin Hood

THE SEA HAWK – The Classic Film Scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold  –  
Includes selections from The Sea Hawk / Of Human Bondage / Between Two Worlds / The Sea Wolf / The Constant Nymph / Kings Row / Anthony Adverse / Deception / Devotion / Escape Me Never

The original Classic Film Scores series was a very successful and prestigious project for Charles Gerhardt (who lived until 1999). He had begun his career as a clerk at a NYC record store, and then worked on the technical side of RCA Victor. He was involved in the first stereo recordings by Stokowski and the NBC Symphony of music of Menotti and Prokofiev (for open reel tape release). He became RCA’s liaison with Arturo Toscanini, who encouraged Gerhardt to study conducting.

In 1960 he began to produce records for RCA and Reader’s Digest, partnered with recording engineer Kenneth Wilkinson.  They collaborated on 4000 recording sessions over 30 years. He did a “Treasury of Great Music” for Reader’s Digest, and a “Broadway Hit Parade” set. He founded the National Philharmonic Orchestra – using top London freelance and orchestral musicians – in 1964. His work was entirely for recording – he never appeared as a conductor in public.

The Classic Film Scores series was one of the first of many collections of film scores which went back to the original Hollywood scores and carefully prepared and arranged them for performance by a larger and finer symphony orchestra, with improved sonics over the earlier original film soundtrack-derived LPs. Erich Korngold’s son George was the producer of the series and the first release was The Sea Hawk – The Classic Film Scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Among the top film composers represented on the 14 LP releases were Max Steiner, Miklos Rozsa, Franz Waxman, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Bernard Herrmann and John Williams. The LPs and CDs have been audiophile standards for many years now.

The orchestral sound is sumptuous in the six reissues, with a richness more compelling than most soundtrack albums, and just as excellent a surround field using ProLogic IIx as many classical multichannel SACDs. Readers should note that only the Gone With the Wind CD is devoted entirely to that film’s score.  The other five only tie in with their album’s title in the case of the first track – the other tracks are usually shorter themes from various films – but work of the same featured composer. For example, the Bogart/Casablanca CD opens with the Casablanca Suite, but then has 11 more tracks devoted to music from Passage to Marseille, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Big Sleep, The Cain Mutiny, To Have and Have Not, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Sabrina, The Left Hand of God, Sahara, Virginia City & Key Largo.

The reissues were remastered from the original analog masters, though I didn’t hear any major enhancement over the original CD I had of Lost Horizon. They include the original liner notes from the LPs, and should expose a whole new generation of listeners to these legendary Hollywood scores, which are presented at such a high level.  The covers have been redesigned, and they are at mid-price too. They may even stimulate some listeners to rent DVDs of some of these classic films. And perhaps if the series sells well, RCA/BMG/Sony will see fit to reissue the other eight albums in the original series – which includes Citizen Kane, Spellbound, Sunset Boulevard, and Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis.

 — John Sunier

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