Home > 100 Greatest Scores, Reviews > THE SEA HAWK – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

THE SEA HAWK – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

December 7, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Captain Blood (1935) was such a stunning box office success that Warner Brothers Studios decided to follow-up with a second sea faring adventure, which would again feature their dashing swashbuckling hero Errol Flynn. Production delays and script rewrites delayed the film until 1940, however the time was well spent, as the final product was just brilliant, perhaps the greatest swashbuckling film of all time. Korngold was the natural choice for composer and his classic European romantic style was perfectly suited for the film. He always viewed films as an opera libretto for orchestra and sought to create a complex, ornate, and thematically rich contrapuntal soundscape. For The Sea Hawk he created an amazing eleven leitmotifs that fully captured the sea faring, adventure, heroism and pageantry of the Spanish and Elizabethan courts.

What elevates this score to a masterpiece was Korngold’s ability to perfectly capture and emote the persona of Errol Flynn’s complex character, Geoffrey Thorpe – a privateer who asserts patriotism as justification of his actions in combating Spanish tyranny. The horn rich fanfare of the main title brilliantly presents Thorpe’s heroic theme, a theme that has passed unto legend. The Love Theme is also one of the finest Korngold ever created, fully demonstrating his compositional genius. The harmonics of this haunting and sumptuous melody is breath-taking in its beauty, and most remarkable is the fact that he changes key with every phrase! In terms of battle music, the cue “Battle”, which features Thorpe’s Albatross engaging Captain Lopez’s galleon, which carries the Spanish ambassador and the beautiful Dona Maria offers an astounding 17-minute tour de force, which features inspiring interplay of Korngold’s primary themes. His inspired writing reveals how music elevates a film.

Also notable are the amazing cues “Thorpe Enters The Castle” and “Duel” where we bear witness to some of the greatest swordplay music ever written! Observe how Korngold attenuates his music to the choreography of the swordplay! Lastly, just as he did in The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938), Korngold‘s renowned fanfares are again on full display with a robust assembly of four French horns, seven trumpets – (four primary and three contrapuntal), four trombones and a tuba! This score represents the zenith of Korngold’s career, and regretfully, his final score for a swashbuckling film. It is for me, one of the finest legacies of the Golden Age, one that earns Korngold immortality.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSkA-Ntst5w

Buy the Sea Hawk soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:07)
  • Spain: King and Alvarez/Dona Maria/Alvarez/Lopez/The Slaves (2:02)
  • The Big Drum (4:29)
  • The Albatross/Battle/Duel/Thanks for Convincing the Trumpeter (8:59)
  • Slaves Release (7:06)
  • Night Banquet (2:13)
  • Love Scene on the Boat/The Throne Room (7:57)
  • The Sea Hawks/The Monkey/Captain Thorpe’s Entrance/Exit/Elizabeth and Thorpe (6:25)
  • Map of Panama (2:03)
  • Rose Garden (4:34)
  • Albatross/Kroner/Chart Maker/Astronomer (3:20)
  • The Chess Game/Farewell/Panama Montage/The Orchid (7:00)
  • Thorpe’s Men Hiding/Gold Caravan (2:30)
  • Attack/You Know My Name/March/The Fight/In the Jungle/Relax/Thorpe Cuts Through Jungle/Ocean/The Hanging Man/The Trial/The Galley (13:29)
  • Maria’s Song/After Maria’s Song/Maria Faints/Elizabeth Against Philip (3:49)
  • After the Council/Maria’s Bedroom/Spanish Boat/I Am Abbott/Rebellion/Cadiz (9:22)
  • The Slaves Liberate Themselves/The Murder (3:01)
  • The Fight With The Guard (2:37)
  • Knife Fight (0:42)
  • Happy Sailing (1:26)
  • The Arrival (1:18)
  • Reunion/New Difficulties (5:18)
  • Thorpe Enters Into Castle/Duel (5:04)
  • Finale/End Cast (3:38)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (4:01)
  • Tracks 12-25 on this album include music from the film Deception, also written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Running Time: 144 minutes 55 seconds

Naxos 8-570110-11 (1940/2007)

Music composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Conducted by William Stromberg. Performed by The Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Ray Heindorf and Milan Roder. Recorded and mixed by Gennady Papin. Score produced by Leo F. Forbstein and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Album produced by William Stromberg, John Morgan and Anna Bonn.

  1. Richard
    March 14, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Craig, when will this list resume?
    I’m eager to see how it compares to my own.

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