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THE SEA HAWK – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

December 7, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studios was very much interested in remakes of author Rafael Sabatini’s two seafaring novels The Sea Hawk (1915) and Captain Blood (1922). After acquiring the Vitagraph company, which produced the earlier Silent Era films, the studio set in motion its plan. Captain Blood (1935) was a stunning success, which propelled Errol Flynn to stardom, however the studio shelved The Sea Hawk in favor of starring Flynn in The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) and The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex (1939). Upon completion of filming the Studio assigned Henry Blanke and Hal Wallis to produce The Sea Hawk and Michael Curtiz to direct. Howard Koch and Seton Miller were tasked with writing a swashbuckling epic to showcase Flynn’s charisma and talent. Supporting Erroll Flynn as Geoffrey Thorpe would be Henry Daniell as Lord Wolfingham, Brenda Marshall as Doña María, Claude Rains as Don José Álvarez de Córdoba, Donald Crisp as Sir John Burleson, Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth I, Alan Hale as Carl Pitt and Una O’Connor as Miss Latham.

World War II had just broken out in Europe and the film purposely took allegorical liberty in portraying King Philip II of Spain as the Adolf Hitler of his day, bent on destroying England and conquering the world, while Queen Elizabeth’s initial reluctance to build a fleet mirrored Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. The story finds King Philip II building a grand armada in preparation to invading and conquering England. He sends his ambassador Don José Álvarez de Córdoba and his niece Doña María to England to duplicitously offer Spain’s goodwill and desire for peaceful relations. On route their ship is captured by Captain Thorpe of the Albatross, one of the Sea Hawks, English privateers who have been plundering Spanish galleons. Don José is outraged, but a romance is kindled and eventually blossoms between the charismatic Thorpe and Doña María. What follows is court intrigue, traitorous collusion between Don José and Lord Wolfingham, which leads to Thorpe’s capture by Spanish troops and sentence to the galleys. Yet Thorpe manages to escape and obtain plans of Philip’s invasion. He sails back to England, gains access to the palace with Doña María assistance and in a duel for the ages kills the traitorous Wolfingham to save Queen and country. The film was a huge commercial success earning $2.68 million or $1 million more than its production cost of $1.7 million. The film was also a critical success praised by critics as an enjoyable swashbuckling adventure, and earning four Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Recording, Best Special Effects and Best Film Score.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was under contract at Warner Brothers and was always envisioned as the composer given his success with Captain Blood and several other Flynn movies. He always viewed films as an opera libretto for orchestra and sought to create a complex, ornate, and thematically rich contrapuntal soundscapes. 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 including themes for the principle actors, a love theme for Geoffrey and Doña María, sailing ships, geographic locations and battles. His primary themes include; Geoffrey’s Theme, which serves as his personal identity as hero, but also transpersonally the Sea Hawks. This is a bold and confident major modal theme empowered by horn declarations by trumpets eroico, which was brilliantly conceived. In a masterstroke of conception Korngold captured the film’s swashbuckling emotional core. Doña María’s Theme graces us with harp, piccolo and kindred woodwinds delicato joined with strings gentile to provide a soft, feminine and fragile construct, which belies her willfulness and passionate heart. The Love Theme is perhaps the finest Korngold ever created, fully demonstrating his compositional genius. Born my sumptuous strings romantico this melody is breath-taking in its beauty, and most remarkable in its construct given that it changes key with every phrase!

The score’s secondary themes include the following; Queen Elizabeth’s Theme serves as the identity of her royal personage, emoting authoritatively atop noble horns maestoso, which clearly speak to her royalty, dominion and supreme power. Yet Korngold sheds it regality and softens it for intimate settings. For our villains we have Don José’s/Spanish Theme, which serves as his personal identity but also transpersonally the Spaniards. One feels a sense of oppression given that it phrasing descends darkly. Strings sinistre empowered by horns bellicose, timpani and tambourine accents perfectly speak to the arrogance and menace of the Spaniards. The Albatross Theme represents Geoffrey’s ship, his pride and joy. Trumpet’s bravura resounds for this dynamic nautical construct, which carries her forthrightly, exuding confidence and swagger. Tertiary themes include the Monkey Theme, which serves as its identity and is emoted by xylophone animato that Korngold cleverly synchronizes to the primate’s movements. The Galley Slaves Theme is a truly oppressive construct empowered by horns brutale with piccolo counters. It provides a cadence of toil and pain, which informs us of the slave’s tortured existence. Korngold interpolates a grim, dark, descending cadence of dread from his opera “Die Tote Stadt” (1920) as a Death Motif to support the men’s suffering, whether it be them succumbing to heat prostration, or the lash as men condemned to the galley. The Spanish Gold Theme offers an exotic contrast to the other thematic identities. Korngold infused it with the requisite Castilian auras, yet also those of the exotic Panamanian jungle.

In addition, Korngold wrote several set pieces for crucial scenes including The Sea Battle, The Duel, The Chart Maker, The Astronomer, and The Night Banquet. He also infused his soundscape as was customary for any period piece, with his amazing trademark fanfares, as well as folk songs to create ambiance of cultural authenticity. What is so remarkable is that a score of such complexity was composed under time duress as Korngold received the completed reels late. As such he was forced to use the assistance of four orchestrators, including Hugo Friedhofer, Milan Roder, Simon Bucharoff and Ray Heindorf. He was given a orchestra of fifty-four players, which featured an impressive horn section of four French horns, seven trumpets – (four primary and three contrapuntal), four trombones and a tuba!

“Main Title” offers a glorious score highlight, which supports the roll of the opening credits. Korngold boldly launches the film atop horns brilliante declarations of the heroic Sea Hawk Theme, which abounds with the spirit of adventure. At 0:43 we segue into a sumptuous rendering by strings romantico of the Love Theme, perhaps Korngold’s finest. We return for a reprise of the Sea Hawk Fanfare, which transitions darkly with Spanish auras to a grand map of Spain 1585 and narration attesting to her greatness. “Spain: King and Alvarez” reveals an imperious Philip II commanding Don José Álvarez to journey to England as his ambassador to reaffirm to Queen Elizabeth of his continued affection and commitment to peace. As he raves of world conquest Korngold supports with an eerie, formless dissonance. At 0:20 a bravado rendering of the Spanish Theme supports a scene change to the Spanish galleon carrying Don José Álvarez to England. At 0:51 we segue delicately into “Doña Maria” atop her playful theme as we see her playing shuttlecock with her maid on deck. At 1:24 we segue into “Alvarez-Lopez/The Slaves” carried by a jaunty nautical motif as he orders another scout aloft as he is wary of the Sea Hawks.

In “The Big Drum” Captain Lopez and Don Álvarez discuss the Sea Hawks, which Korngold supports with woodwinds subtly emoting Don José’s Theme as he dismisses the danger secure in the belief that no one would attack the ship of the Spanish ambassador. An accelerando takes us below to the rowers as Captain Lopez orders a faster rowing speed. At 1:01 the Slave’s Theme’s toiling cadence of pain commences born by oppressive horns brutale with piccolo counters as the men are forced to row faster. The Spanish Theme joins in unholy communion as the men are cruelly lashed. At 2:34 Korngold sows a mounting tension as the English rowers determine they are in the English channel and that an attack is imminent. When an English ship is sighted the men are ordered to row faster, which Korngold supports with an ascending accelerando, while above the crew take up battle stations. We conclude grimly as the men slow down their rowing and are lashed mercilessly.

“The Albatross” reveals the Spanish identifying the English ship as Thorpe’s the Albatross. Korngold supports her approach with bold trumpet declarations of the Albatross Theme, that are soon joined by the playful xylophone of the Monkey Theme as Geoffrey’s pet scurries to safety. At 0:30 we launch into “Battle” a tour de force score highlight, which features sterling interplay of the Sea Hawk, Albatross and Spanish Themes, as well as a battle motif, which Korngold interpolated from the film Green Pastures. The Albatross Theme resounds as Geoffrey commences his attack. As the ship’s engage with canons Thorpe outmaneuvers Lopez and pummels his ship carried by heroic horn declarations of the Sea Hawk anthem. At 2:40 after the galleon begins to list Thorpe brings the Albatross around and moves in to board her carried by his theme. Stepped ascent phrasing supports gaveling hooks pulling the ships together and Thorpe’s order to board is propelled boldly by a heroic rendering of his theme. Korngold whips his orchestra into frenzy as the two crews fight ferociously in tight quarters. A trumpet call at 4:11 launches ferocious battle music, which swirls in a torrent of close quarter swordplay. At 6:28 the Sea Hawk Theme resounds as we see the tide of battle shifting to the English. At 7:51 we segue atop strings animato into “Duel” as Thorpe and Lopez duel. Thorpe orders Pitt to seek out the Spanish trumpeter as a ferocious orchestra torrent supports the duel. We segue at 8:32 into “Thanks for Convincing the Trumpeter” as Pitt forces the trumpeter to sound surrender at sword point, which Korngold supports diegetically on the screen. The Spanish surrender and we close with a playful piccolo as Thorpe thanks Pitt for ‘convincing’ the trumpeter.

In “Slaves Release” Thorpe orders his men to free the slaves trapped below. A bravado rendering of the Albatross Theme carries the rescue and joins with declarations of the Sea Hawk Theme as the men are freed. At 0:51 Thorpe breaks into the ambassador’s cabin and locks eyes with Doña Maria. Korngold supports the moment by modulating his theme into a stirring romantic exposition, thus informing us of his attraction. At 2:47 the Albatross Theme resounds with Thorpe’s command to help the weakened slaves to safety aboard the Albatross. At 3:20 Thorpe turns and comes upon an old crewmate Tuttle who he greets, supported by a warm and comforting rendering of his theme. We see the men returning to the Albatross carried by its theme as Thorpe issues the command to abandon ship. A beleaguered woodwind interlude at 3:42 supports Lopez’s decision to go down with his ship. Thorpe grants the request and returns to the Albatross triumphantly carried by his theme. As the ships disengage the action is supported by an extended exposition of the Sea Hawk Theme. A comic bassoon interlude at 5:26 supports Lopez’s change of heart as he jumps on to the Albatross. We close with strings animato, which supports the Albatross moving off as a dramatic orchestral descent motif carries the galleon to her watery grave. A final celebratory reprise of the Sea Hawk Theme crowns their triumph and Thorpe’s graciousness in victory. We conclude with subtle yet sinister strains of the Spanish Theme as Don Alvarez demands to know his fate.

“Night Banquet” reveals Geoffrey graciously providing dinner to his guests at the Captain’s table. He playfully tweaks Don Alvarez’s nose with a display of his fine dining ware and silver, courtesy of the Spanish viceroy. Korngold supports the dinning ambiance with a dance-like sensibility brimming with classic English gentility. As Geoffrey proposes a toast, Doña Maria storms out, refusing to drink with pirates, yet she is coached back carried by a nascent rendering of the Love Theme at 1:34 when Geoffrey toasts the Queen of England. A scene change interlude to Queen Elizabeth’s throne room is unscored and carries her debate with her privy council as to the need to build an English fleet. We return to the Albatross in “Love Scene on the Boat” for one of the score’s finest moments. Korngold uses his orchestra to create the ebb and flow of the ocean waves as we see the Albatross sailing. Geoffrey begins to converse with Doña Maria at 0:30 the Albatross Theme sounds on warm French horns, which usher in at 1:33 a heartfelt, yet tentative rendering of the Love Theme, as he awkwardly attempts small talk. Yet the theme slowly unfolds and blossoms, achieving a stirring culmination as she finds in her cabin that he has returned her jewels. This gesture has unlocked her heart and we see in her eyes a growing affection. At 5:29 horns bravura resounds with the Love Theme as Tuttle sees the welcome shores of England. At 5:57 we conclude with “The Throne Room” carried by Korngold’s magnificent fanfare. We see the pomp and circumstance of Queen Elizabeth leading a procession of her royal court into her throne room to receive Don Alvarez and Doña Maria. Resplendent horns reale empower the grand spectacle creating a wondrous pageantry. We conclude at 6:52 with Doña Maria’s Theme as Don Alvarez presents her to Queen Elizabeth.

In “The Sea Hawks” Don Alvarez offers grievance over the repeated piratical plundering of Spanish ships by the Sea Hawks. Elizabeth commands that the Sea Hawks present themselves in court. As they approach the throne a marica reale rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme carries their progress. At 0:35 we segue into “The Monkey” carried by the prancing silliness and buffoonery of the Monkey’s Theme as he first scares and then confounds with great amusement, the royal court. At 1:11 we segue into “Captain Thorpe’s Entrance” as he arrives and is ordered to present himself to the queen. French horns nobile declare his theme and carry his progress with sterling interplay of Doña Maria’s and the Love Theme as we see in her eyes romantic longing. Thorpe is ordered to her private chamber and at 2:19 the Queen departs in “Exit” carried warmly by a romantic rendering of her theme, which informs us of her affections towards Geoffrey. At 2:35 we segue into “Elizabeth and Thorpe” as she enters her chambers. The Monkey Theme playfully dances to and fro as he entertains the her, with interplay of her stately theme. As the monkey is put aside her theme gains prominence, exuding a warm and affectionate bearing as Geoffrey presents her with a beautiful radiant pearl and entreats her to adopt his plan to capture the Spanish gold shipment In “Map of Panama” Thorpe pitches his audacious plan to plunder the Spanish gold shipment in Panama. Elizabeth is wary, yet intrigued as she grants her consent. The Allure of the Spanish Gold Theme joins with her theme as they discuss and agree to the enterprise. We conclude with silliness as the monkey powders his face at her boudoir table supported by his theme.

“Rose Garden” offers a score highlight with fine thematic interplay. It reveals Doña Maria and Martha picking roses in the rose garden. Korngold graces us with an exquisite idyllic rendering of her theme, which perfectly establishes the ambiance. At 2:39 Geoffrey’s Theme carries his entry into the garden, joining with her theme in exquisite romantic interplay. She is clearly in love with him, yet refuses to declare her feeling to him directly. As he advises that he is going on a long trip and bids here farewell, a sad rendering of the Love Theme carries his departure and informs us of her regrets. “Albatross-Kroner” reveals the Albatross being provisioned for her secret voyage. Kroner, a minion in the service of Lord Wolfingham seeks to discover the Albatross’ destination. We open proudly with the Albatross Theme as we see the ship in port. The music becomes sinister as Kroner queries one of the sailors as to the ship’s destination. As men signup for the voyager an intimate rendering of the Albatross Theme with woodwind gentile and warm French horns returns. At 0:57 we segue into “Chart Maker” as Geoffrey commissions navigational maps for the western Caribbean, which Korngold supports texturally with foreboding shifting string chords and twinkling metallic accents. Don Alvarez and Lord Wolfingham visit the shop and cunningly trick the chart maker into revealing astronomical information, which will allow them to determine Thorpe’s destination. At 1:55 we segue into “Astronomer” another textural ambiance cue, where the astronomer deduces that the map’s Sagittarius constellation emblem and the display of an isthmus suggests Panama as they Albatross’ destination. Shimmering violin chords with piano and metallic percussive adornment support the astronomer’s rotation of a large globe, with foreboding horn declarations supporting his Panama revelation.

In “The Chess Game” Don Alvarez and Doña Maria engage in a chess game where he discloses that Captain Lopez has set sail for Panama to set an ambush for Captain Thorpe. Dark, lurking bassoons portend Don Alvarez’s treachery and Doña Maria fears. Later that night we segue at 1:37 atop the tolling bells of midnight into “Farewell” as a distraught Doña Maria realizes that she loves Geoffrey and so orders a carriage to make a desperate ride to the port to warn him. Her theme rises with love and determination, and is transformed into a propulsive galloping exposition, which carries her desperate attempt to reach Dover and warn Geoffrey. Yet she arrives too late, and as she sees the Albatross disappear into the mists Korngold weaves a supremely romantic moment, one of the score’s finest. We close at 3:58 with a distraught Doña Maria gazing out at the Albatross as Geoffrey gazes back at shore, sad that he could not see Doña Maria before departing. The Love Theme so full of sadness entwines with a plaintive rendering of the Albatross Theme to mark the parting and portend doom. We segue into “Panama Montage” at 5:11 atop a confident declaration of the Albatross Theme empowered by horns bravura phrases, which carries her progress over a map as she heads to Panama. We close ominously at 5:49 with “The Orchid” as a native sees the Albatross enter an inlet and races to alert his Spanish overlords carried by flight music propelled by chattering xylophone and trilling woodwinds. We close ominously atop horns sinistre as General Aguerra sets his diabolical ambush into motion. “Thorpe’s Men Hiding” reveals him ordering lookouts deployed as they setup camp and prepare for the morning ambush of the caravan. Korngold sows a jungle mysterioso ambiance with woodwinds and xylophone to support the scene. At 0:43 we segue into “Gold Caravan” as the we see the caravan trek through the jungle supported by an extended plodding rendering of the exotic Spanish Gold Theme by low register woodwinds replete with tambourine accents. As the caravan nears ambient textures join the theme to raise tension.

We now move on to a massive 13-minute, multi-scenic cue. In “Attack” Korngold whips his orchestra into frenzy as Thorpe and his men ambush the Spaniards, who offer no resistance. At 0:17 we segue into “You Know My Name” as the Spanish commander calls Captain Thorpe by his name, which raises concern in Thorpe’s eyes. Korngold sows trepidation with an eerie mysterioso as we see Thorpe discern that something is not right. At 0:38 we segue into “March” once again carried by the Spanish Gold Theme as the Caravan sets out under Thorpe’s command. We segue at 0:57 strings furioso support the approach and dismount of Spanish cavalry, who march to meet the caravan. A languorous rendering of the Spanish Caravan Theme resumes as we see the caravan advancing unaware of what awaits it. Horns sinistre support the Spanish deploying off the path for ambush. We segue at 2:55 into “The Fight” where Thorpe is ambushed, outnumbered, out gunned and caught in Spanish pincers fore and aft. Korngold whips his orchestra into a ferocious torrent empowered by the Spanish Theme as Thorpe is overwhelmed and orders his men to a desperate escape into the swamp. We segue into “In the Jungle” at 5:05 as Thorpe and his men fight for survival wadding through the unforgiving and infested swamp. Korngold interpolates a grim, dark, descending cadence of dread, a Death Motif from his opera “Die Tote Stadt” (1920) to support the men’s suffering as we see them one by one succumbing to heat prostration.

We segue into “Relax” at 6:15, a calm, yet dire textural and formless interlude as Thorpe orders some rest. Their trek to life continues at 6:29 in “Thorpe Cuts Through Jungle” empowered by repeating phrases by strings energico and timpani, which propel the exhausted men forward, driven now by sheer force of will. At 6:20 we segue into “Ocean” as the men at last find a path out of the jungle to salvation. Korngold supports the moment with thankful exaltation born of the Love Theme for one of the score’s finest moments. Yet all is not well, as we segue at 7:58 atop dire strings into “The Hanging Man” as Geoffrey arrives to an apparently deserted ship only to discover once aboard his lookout hanging dead from the yardarm. Korngold supports the scene with an ominous mysterioso, once again portending doom with the Death Motif, with beleaguered efforts of the Albatross Theme to breakout. An orchestral surge at 11:20 supports Captain Lopez’s ambush of Thorpe who he coerces with musket armed soldiers to surrender. Thorpe yields to the inevitable and surrenders. We segue dramatically into “The Trial” at 11:30 supported with finality, by a grim sustain of doom as the judge details the charges and sentences the men to the galleys for the rest of their natural life. At 11:55 we conclude with “The Galley” as we see Thorpe and his men chained to their rowing stations on a Spanish galleon. Korngold uses horns bellicose to powerfully declare his Death Motif relentlessly with grim finality as Thorpe is whipped for his insolence to the captain and they begin the ceaseless toil of rowing, fully knowing that no one survives the galleys.

“Maria’s Song” is set in Elizabeth’s private chambers and reveals Doña Maria, dubbed by soprano Irina Romishevskaya, singing to her a traditional song of a girl full of longing for the return and embrace of her lover. We segue into “After Maria’s Song” at 1:02 atop a tender and intimate rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme, which supports their contrasting positions regarding the role of men in their lives. At 1:30 we segue into “Maria Faints” as disconcerting music accompanies Don Alvarez’s arrival. He declares with great satisfaction that Geoffrey Thorpe has been captured while raiding the Panama gold shipment and sentenced to life as a galley slave. Doña Maria faints, overcome by the news and her now resplendent theme informs all of her love for Geoffrey. By Elizabeth’s command Doña Maria and the ladies in waiting depart, carried by a sparkling gentile rendering of her theme. In “Elizabeth Against Philip” Elizabeth feigns concern over Thorpe’s fate but Don Alvarez will not be put off and insinuates that Elizabeth was complicit is Thorpe’s act of war and demands that she disband the Sea Hawks. Korngold speaks to Elizabeth’s outrage with a raging orchestral furioso as she resolutely rebuffs him, orders him to leave or face arrest. As Don Alvarez departs Elizabeth demands that Philip II portrait be removed from her presence. He is outraged and departs to a martial variant of the Spanish Theme, which informs us of the coming war.

“After the Council” reveals Elizabeth meeting with her Privy Council to discuss options on how to respond to Spain’s demands. After a debate she orders the arrest of the Sea Hawks and dismisses the council. A serene rendering of her theme supports an intimate moment after the meeting when she informs her confidant Sir John Burleson that she must safeguard her people and avoid war. At 0:44 we segue into “Maria’s Bedroom” where we see her distraught and crying over Geoffrey’s fate. She admonishes Don Alvarez who tries unsuccessfully to sooth her. A plaintive minor modal rendering of her theme supports the pathos of the scene. At 2:16 we segue into “Spanish Boat” atop dire statements of the Spanish Theme as we see the Spanish Captain receiving orders to take a communique for Lord Wolfingham to a courier galleon at Cadiz. As the men are lashed savagely below decks the Spanish Theme and Death Motif join in unholy communion as we see Cross die at his oar. At 3:32 we segue into “I am Abbott” where Abbott, Cross’ replacement informs Thorpe of the secret communique advising of invasion so Wolfingham can prepare his coup d’état. Korngold supports the dialogue with ambient foreboding textures. At 3:43 we segue into “Rebellion” as Thorpe orders the men to stop rowing. Korngold unleashes orchestral mayhem as the men trip the guards and a fight ensues where they manage to steal a knife. Order is restored and the guards respond violently with a brutal rendering of the Death Motif as they lash the men without mercy. Thorpe orders the men to resume rowing propelled by grim and unrelenting Death Motif, hoping the theft will not be detected. We conclude at 8:19 “with Cadiz” as the Spanish Theme resounds as we see the ship entering the port of Cadiz intent on transferring the secret communique to a courier to take to the treasonous Lord Wolfingham.

The next three cues offer excellent textural-ambient cues where Korngold weaves a soundscape of tension, suspense and aggression. “The Slaves Liberate Themselves” reveals the slaves using the stolen knife to unchain themselves. Korngold sows tension and supports their efforts texturally with a series of shifting string ostinati and ambient woodwinds with tension interludes as the camera pans back and forth from the slaves efforts to escape and the sleeping hortator. We segue into “The Murder” atop an orchestral stinger, which supports Pitt’s strangulation of the hortator with a chain. As they move to escape the hortator wakes, only to be knocked out by Pitt supported at 2:30 by a woodwind trill. Strings animato support the men leaving their oars, but a dark bassoon and tremolo violins sow tension as a guard above hears noise and descends the stairs, causing the men to feign sleeping at their oars. Seeing nothing, the guard returns aloft. In “The Fight with the Guard” a spirited Geoffrey’s Theme carries him and his men aloft and one by one they ambush guards, slowly taking out the night watch. Strings bellicoso followed by tension interludes support the guard takedowns and ducking for cover to avoid detection. Horns bellicose and strings animato carry them on ropes as they all cross to the courier ship. The same aggressive ambush music with tension interludes is reprised as one by one they ambush the guards and seize control of the ship. We close with a dark descent as Thorpe descends into the captain’s cabin. “Knife Fight” reveals Thorpe and his men ambushing the captain and command staff. The captain manages to escape with the letter only to be knocked into the sea by Thorpe in hand to hand fighting as he loses the letter to Thorpe. Korngold propels the fight with classic vigorous action music.

“Happy Sailing” offers one of the score’s finest and most uplifting moments. Thorpe takes command of the galleon and orders his men to raise the canvass and set sail, hoping to warn the queen of the impending invasion and Wolfingham’s treason. Korngold supports the film’s turning of the tide with a joyous, resplendent choral rendering of the Sea Hawk Theme. I must say that the lyrics provided by Koch and Jack Scholl find a perfect synergy and dramatically empower this scene. Behold;

Pull on the oars freedom is yours, strike for the shores of Dover
Over the sea, hearty and free, troubles will soon be over
Sing as you row
Here we go
For we know that we row
For homes, sweet home…
Pull on the oars, freedom is yours, strike for the shores of Dover
Over the sea, hearty and free, troubles will soon be over
Here we go
For we know that we row for home!
Sailing for home!

“In The Arrival” Thorpe arrives at Dover as Don Alvarez and Doña Maria wait at dock side, unbeknownst that Thorpe has commandeered the galleon taking him home to Spain. We open with a plaintive rendering of Doña Maria’s Theme as she confides to Don Alvarez that she will remain in England in hope of reuniting with Geoffrey. A confident rendering of Geoffrey’s Theme carries him to the dock where he disembarks in hope of finding a way to London to warn the queen. As Doña Maria bids farewell to Don Alvarez we close on a romantic aspirational rendering of her theme. “Reunion” offers a testament to Korngold’s mastery of his craft as we are graced by a sumptuous rendering of the Love Theme, which many believe is Korngold’s finest cinematic love scene. As Doña Maria enters her coach she is startled by Geoffrey. She is thankful and all pretenses are dropped as we see her confess her undying love for him. He is overcome by her words, rendered speechless, yet a fervent embrace and kiss supported by a stirring rapturous climax of the theme at 2:38 reveals that his love is mutual. At 3:57 we segue into “New Difficulties” where Korngold sows tension as Thorpe escapes the coach to avoid capture, and we close tenderly on a reprise of the Love Theme.

In “Thorpe enters into Castle” we behold another of the score’s finest action cues. Thorpe manages to enter the castle and seeks refuge from the guards in Doña Maria’s chambers. Korngold creates suspense as Geoffrey moves stealthy towards the queen’s chambers. At 0:52 strings animato carry Doña Maria as she runs to warn the queen. As guards pound on the door, Miss Lantham directs Geoffrey to a secret corridor that will take him to the queen. Tension mounts as she refuses to open the door to buy him time. As we see Geoffrey moving through the castle simmering tension crests, unleashing a heroic trumpet declared rendering of his theme as he is discovered and fights with palace guards. Expert swordplay allows him to escape into Lord Wolfingham’s chamber. At 2:15 we segue into “Duel” where both men seek a reckoning. Korngold ratchets up both tension and menace atop horns sinistre and ominous strings as the men engage in repartee. At 2:58 Wolfingham has had enough, and thrusts at Thorpe, commencing a duel for the ages. Korngold whips his orchestra into some of the fiercest action writing of his career, with the music tempo perfectly synced to every thrust and parry. The tempo and ferocity music swells, mirroring the duel, which carries the men into the empty throne room. A fierce crescendo rises and climaxes at 3:33 as Thorpe slays Wolfingham. Flight music carries Thorpe as he seeks the queen only to find instead guards, which ushers in a fierce fight, with the music again mirroring very thrust and parry. We end abruptly as Queen Elizabeth enters and orders the men to stand down. Thorpe kneels and hands the Queen the communique, which exposes Wolfingham’s treason and the impending Spanish invasion.

“Finale” reveals the full pageantry of the English court as Queen Elizabeth honors Thorpe with knighthood in thanks for his service to her and the country. Horns reale, snare drums and bell chimes usher in a heartfelt rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme to support her words of thanks and knighting of Thorpe. A menacing variant of the Spanish Theme supports Elizabeth condemnation of Spanish efforts of hegemony, pledging her people a powerful fleet and robust defense of the motherland. At 1:43 we segue into an extended rendering of the Love Theme by strings romantico, which concludes with a celebratory choral rendering of the Sea Hawk Theme – “Hail to the Queen! And for England! Hail! Hail! Hail! The film concludes at 2:52 with a segue into the running of the “End Cast” credits atop a sumptuous rendering of the Love Theme, which closes triumphantly atop a coda of the Sea Hawk Theme! Film for the “Original Theatrical Trailer” has been lost, so all we have is this bonus cue of the music, which supported it. We open with a languorous rendering of the nautical Albatross Theme, which launches the bold horn declarations of the Sea Hawk Theme. At 0:40 we segue atop strings gentile into a new theme not heard in the film. We conclude with stirring interplay of the sumptuous Love Theme, and heroic Sea Hawk Theme, which concludes in a grand flourish.

I would like to commend John Morgan, William Stromberg and Naxos Records for this magnificent release of the complete score to Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s masterpiece, “The Sea Hawk”. The score’s restoration by John Morgan and inspired conducting by William Stromberg has provided one of the long sought Holy Grails to lovers of film score art. 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”, is a score highlight which supports Thorpe’s Albatross engaging Captain Lopez’s galleon that carries the Spanish ambassador and the beautiful Dona Maria. It offers an astounding 17-minute tour de force, which features inspiring interplay of Korngold’s primary themes. 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! Folks, this score reveals how music elevates a film and represents the zenith of Korngold’s short but amazing career. Tragically, this masterpiece serves as his final score for a swashbuckling film as he would never again be afforded an opportunity in the genre. “The Sea Hawk” stands for me as one of the finest legacies of the Golden Age, one that earns Korngold immortality. I highly recommend that you purchase this definitive recording for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a wonderful suite that features the Main Title, Reunion and Finale cues: 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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