Max Steiner is most beloved for his evergreen score for Gone With the Wind (1939); and though he was active in Hollywood for many years before and after that success, writing memorable music for great classics from King Kong (1933) and Casablanca (1943) to Key Largo (1948) and The Caine Mutiny (1954), none of his other film scores equaled it in popularity. His buoyant and vibrantly colorful music for Warner Brothers' The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944) obviously lacks the fame of Gone With the Wind and the other movies mentioned above. Though it has a naïve Americana style comparable at times to the early orchestral works of Charles Ives, a sweeping, picturesque quality similar to the tone paintings of Erich Korngold and Franz Waxman, and an orchestral lushness as seductive as anything in the late Romantic concert repertoire, the music for this quickly forgotten biopic never captured the public's imagination. Like other titles in Naxos' Film Music Classics, this album brings to light a worthwhile artifact of Hollywood's golden age, without pretending it is an unjustly neglected masterwork or deserving of anything more than a fair reassessment. The score for The Adventures of Mark Twain is far from Steiner's best work, but that does not mean it is his poorest, either. There are delightful miniatures among the merely functional transition sections, and some of the more substantial episodes, such as The River Pilot, Toy Shop, and Typesetter, to name just three, stand out as acutely perceptive character pieces. This CD presents Steiner's music in a careful restoration by composer John Morgan, and it is played with radiant warmth and good humor by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by William Stromberg. Naxos provides its best sound quality, so the music sounds clear and resonant, with an almost palpable presence.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|The Adventures of Mark Twain, film score|