This is a brilliant, affecting, even quietly dazzling collection, and its impact is even more astounding when one considers that it is built on smaller, lesser-known moments in music from Hollywood. The opening piece, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's "Rapture" from the 1944 Warner Bros. production Between Two Worlds, is worth the price of the disc by itself, a touching and yet darkly ominous solo piano piece that could have easily found a berth in the recital hall without a lot of effort. Albert Dominguez's performance brings out all of the richness of expression and subtle shadings in the work. The vocal piece "Love for Love" from Escape Me Never is rather less memorable in its writing and soprano Maria Martino's performance, but the Sonnet for Vienna for cello and piano from the same movie is a ravishingly lovely work. The four Korngold songs from Give Us This Night -- written in conjuntion with Oscar Hammerstein II -- hold up much better and show what a potential contributor to the musical stage Korngold might have been under other circumstances, but the piano/cello instrumentals from Devotion and Deception tend to overshadow them. The Max Steiner vocal material is somewhat more familiar, as well as overtly sentimental, especially "It Can't Be Wrong" from Now, Voyager, if only because the latter song was once vamped by Bugs Bunny in a Warner Bros. cartoon. Given that background, Martino does come off a bit like Margaret Dumont at a Marx Brothers party, almost comically formal though her operatic style is obviously the way Steiner felt the song should be remembered. From a decade earlier comes the beautiful solo piano Unfinished Sonata from A Bill of Divorcement, with its question/answer pattern and lush arpeggios. The songs from Saratoga Trunk and So Big (oddly enough two films that are no longer in distribution) based on novels by Edna Ferber, fill some holes in Steiner's output, but much more interesting is the duo piano version of The Rhapsody from City for Conquest -- one does rather wish that the makers could have secured a recording of the orchestral version of the piece, which figures in the film's wrenching emotional climax. The album ends with the free-flowing sentimentality of "All My Life" from They Died With Their Boots On. The sound throughout, as one would expect from a contemporary recording, is excellent, and the annotation is reasonably informative despite some slight inaccuracies in plot descriptions.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder