Home > Reviews > THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studio executives saw the commercial success of Maxwell Anderson’s 1930 New York stage production of “Elizabeth The Queen,” which ran for an impressive 147 performances, and decided to purchase the film rights. Hal B. Wallis would produce the film, Michael Curtiz was tasked with directing, and Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas MacKenzie were hired to write the screenplay. A stellar cast was assembled with Bette Davis starring as Queen Elizabeth I, Errol Flynn as Robert Devereux the Earl of Essex, Olivia de Havilland as Lady Penelope Gray, Donald Crisp as Francis Bacon, Alan Hale Sr. as Earl of Tyrone and Vincent Price as Sir Walter Raleigh. Drama arose immediately as Davis and Flynn did not like each other, something which was exacerbated by his insistence that his character be included in the film title led. This did not sit well with Davis; in a dress rehearsal scene, she purposely slapped Flynn’s face hard in front of the entire production crew instead of feigning it. Flynn did not retaliate and luckily, she did not reprise the slap during live filming. as he related in his memoirs that he would have slapped her back!

The story is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in the latter half of the 16th century, and explores the conflicted, complicated. and volatile relationship between Elizabeth and her prized general, the Earl of Essex. They are both in love, but she loves her throne more than him; he is ambitious and, although he also loves her, he covets her throne. Jealousy and treachery at court serves to divide their love and pit one against the other, with Essex eventually being outsmarted and sent to the chopping block. The film was a modest commercial success for Warner Brothers earning $1.6 million or $500,000 more than its production cost of $1.07 million. The critical reviews were mixed with most stating that Davis dominated and dwarfed Flynn’s performance. Never the less it did secure five Academy Award nominations including; Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Effects and Best Film Score.

Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold had an exclusive contract with Warner Brothers, which gave him first choice rights to their films. When The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex went into production he advised studio executives of his desire to score the film. He saw its story as “an ideal opera without singing”, which suited his talents perfectly. Korngold understood that the screen play was not historically accurate, offered a romantic fantasy set in an English court stewing with intrigue and competing self-serving agendas. In relating his feeling of eschewing the use of archaic instruments of the Elizabethan era and instead opting to use the modern orchestra to create his soundscape, he stated:

“The loves and hates of the two main characters, the ideas expressed by the playwright generally, while taken from history, are symbolical. It is a playoff eternally two principles and motives of love and ambition, as recurrent today as 300 years ago. The characters speak the English spoken today. Why then should the composer use “thou” and “thee” and “thine” if the dialogue doesn’t?”

To realize his soundscape Korngold augmented his orchestra with three saxophones, two harps, a piano, an organ, a spinet, a vibraphone and a harmonium. His soundscape is supported by three primary themes, foremost of which is the Love Theme, one of Korngold’s finest, and one which capture’s the story’s emotional core. When rendered in its extended form it offers an eloquent ABACA construct, one of the most ornate and finest themes in cinematic history. The A Phrase melody is bright, major modal and romantically declarative, born by sumptuous strings romantico, the B Phrase is born by florid aching strings, which speak unabashedly of heart’s longing and is exquisite in its yearning, while the ardent C Phrase’s ascending line is rapturous, eliciting a quiver and a tear. The film is essentially a love story and this iconic theme dominates the score. Their relationship is mercurial, and how Korngold shifts the theme’s articulation across the full spectrum of human emotions is masterful. Elizabeth’s Theme serves as her identity as Queen of England, but also as a woman. When in public acting in her official capacity the theme offers a proud, regal, and majestic construct empowered by martial snare drums and fanfare reale. Yet when she is out of public sight and interacting in more intimate settings, the majesty, pomp and circumstance is softened, warmer, and more tender. Essex’s Theme offers a proud masculine and classic ABA construct empowered by horns bravura. It emotes as a marcia pomposo, which perfectly captures his brashness, boldness and charisma. The A Phrase is proud, forthright and boldly confident in its articulation, while the fanfare driven B Phrase regal in bearing, alluding to his ambition to rule as king. Like Elizabeth’s Theme, its articulation in private, intimate settings, softens, warms and is romantic. Korngold also provides one secondary theme Margaret’s Theme, by interpolating the song “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (1599) by Christopher Marlowe. It offers the score’s second Love Theme, supremely romantic, yet aching as it speaks of unrequited love. Also, Korngold is peerless in providing his period piece scores with royal fanfares, and this score is rich with them. Lastly, the creative team chose to structure the album of six discreet suites, which I believe actually worked well and provided a wonderful listening experience.

Suite One – Elizabeth and Essex

“Main Title” opens grandly with resounding fanfare reale declaring the majestic Elizabeth’s Theme as we view first the Warner Brothers Studio logo and then the film credits for Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. At 0:16 a sumptuous rendering of the Love Theme unfolds as the film title displays and the roll of the opening credits proceeds. We close as we began with the majesty of Elizabeth’s Theme that supports the composer and director credits, which concludes in a glorious flourish. At 1:29 we segue into “Narrative” atop snare drum percussion and bold fanfare reale declarations, which supports script that informs us of Essex’s naval victory over the Spanish fleet at Cadiz and his triumphant arrival at the queen’s residence Whitehall Palace. At 1:43 we segue into “March” a grand score highlight, which showcases Korngold’s capacity for composing glorious fanfares and marches. We see a proud Essex leading a victory parade that takes him into the palace complex. Exuberant crowds cheer their hero and Korngold supports his progress with resounding trumpets trionfali declaring Robert’s Theme rendered as grand marcia pomposo. A diminuendo at 2:46 supports dialogue on a palace balcony by members of Elizabeth’s Privy Council who voice their contempt and conspire to tarnish the queen’s affection for him. At 4:06 we segue into “Shadow and Parade” where Francis Bacon attempts to dissuade queen Elizabeth from publicly humiliating Essex in court. An oboe doloroso pines the Love Theme as we see a conflicted Elizabeth torn between her role a monarch and a woman in love. A noble ascent of her theme informs us that the queen of the realm prevails over the woman in love.

At 4:53 we segue into “The Throne Room” where we see Robert arriving at the palace entrance carried boldly by his theme. Grand fanfare reale announce his arrival, and we see him savor the moment as he happily waves to the crowds empowered by his theme. At 5:18 we see the royal crest above the throne room entrance, which is supported by a majestic rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme. At 5:40 the court Herald announces the arrival of Robert, Earl of Essex and we see him walk in proud but dignified. Korngold supports his entry with a grand statement of the Love Theme as we see a lustful Lady Penelope gazing at him, and a conflicted Elizabeth awaiting his return to her. As he kneels a majestic rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme resounds to end musical accompaniment for the scene. As Robert kneels Elizabeth bursts his bubble when she asks if he kneels in homage or out of shame. She publicly rebukes him for putting his interest over England’s and allowing the Spanish to scuttle their treasure fleet. She rubs salt in his wounds by elevating Sir Walter Raleigh to Commander of the Royal Guard, and Lord Howard as Commander of all British military forces. At 6:32 we segue into “After Elizabeth Slaps Essex” as we see Robert protest, angrily turn his back on Elizabeth and storm out. She commands him to stop approaches him, reproaches him and then slaps his face. He declares his outrage, and storms out supported by a soured rendering of the Love Theme, which is supplanted by an angry rendering of his theme as he indignantly departs. Weeks later we conclude at 7:03 with “Elizabeth and Essex” as Sir Robert Cecil reads to Elizabeth a letter from Robert. A warm and hopeful rendering of Love Theme unfolds, which blossoms with romantic interplay of Robert’s Theme as Elizabeth believes Robert will be returning to her. Yet when Cecil reads the closing paragraph, which reveal a defiant Robert, she becomes enraged and orders Cecil to leave. As she sits distraught under Robert’s portrait so too is the Love Theme transformed, now full of heartache.

Suite Two – The Queen

“The Courier” reveals a military courier vigorously riding to the palace. Korngold supports his progress with martial galloping music replete with horns bravura. At 0:27 we segue into “The Chess Game” where we see the queen and Lady Penelope playing chess, supported by a softer and more intimate rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme. They banter about knights – an allusion to Robert, whom they both love. A playful variant of Robert’s Theme entwines with the Love Theme as they continue to banter. After Penelope takes the Queen’s knight and gains a decisive advantage Elizabeth sweeps the pieces off the board in a rage at 1:35, and in the aftermath the Love Theme, now full of heartache supports her longing for her estranged knight. She commands Margaret and Penelope to sing a song to raise her spirits, yet instead Penelope chooses to taunt the queen by singing “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (1599) by Christopher Marlowe, a song about an old woman who loves a younger man. The song is not found on the album.

At 2:24 we segue into “Mirror Scene” and we see in Elizabeth’s eyes that she slowly perceives and feels the potency of Marlowe’s lyrics as she gazes into a mirror. Korngold supports the song with harpsichord accompiament, strings, and a solo cello doloroso. Anger builds to rage and at 3:23 Elizabeth smashes the mirror and then takes Penelope to task in a torrent of orchestral fury. As she smashes every mirror in the room and orders everyone to leave, we flow into “The Queen”, a wonderful score highlight. The Love Theme emerges full of heartache as Elizabeth contemplates that she may be too old for a man to love her. Yet she notices Margaret weeping by the window and calls to her. She confides that she weeps for the queen, and like her knows the heartache of being separated from the one they love. She states that her lover is Sir Peter Finchley who is on active duty fighting in Ireland. Elizabeth comforts her and then informs that she will recall her beau, which brings Margaret great joy. As these two women share their deepest feelings Korngold offers Margaret’s Theme with exquisite romanticism, with interplay of the Love Theme achieving a perfect confluence of music and film narrative. As Elizabeth relates her loneliness and isolation as a queen a plaintive rendering of the Love Theme expresses her heartache and regrets. She orders Margaret to fetch as Sir Francis Bacon, and while left alone, gazes into a piece of broken mirror and turns away unable to bear her image, supported powerfully by a now impassioned statement of the Love Theme. A diminuendo supports the arrival of Bacon and we have only dialogue as Elizabeth seeks counsel on how to bring Robert back to her.

At 9:29 we segue into “Messenger” as a courier enters to deliver news to the queen, supported by a subdued statement of her theme as well as the Love Theme. As he collapses from exhaustion Elizabeth and Bacon come to the man’s aid. At 10:22 elegiac trumpets sound as he informs her that the army has been annihilated and suffered a devastating defeat. As she pines at the loss of life the courier collapses and she summons help carried by her now dispirited theme. At 11:37 as he is assisted out, she queries him of the fate of Sir Peter Finchley. She is devastated when he informs her that he saw him fall in battle and grieving strings carry her heartache. We close with “Poor Child” and a hopeful sounding of Robert’s Theme as Bacon counsels that she can use this defeat as a pre-text to summon Robert back to court. As Bacon departs at 12:47, she commands him to summon Margaret, and a grieving rendering of Margaret’s Theme informs us that she will be giving her the news of her lover’s death.

Suite Three – Reconciliation

We open boldly with resounding hunting fanfare in “The Hunting” as we see Robert on horseback falcon hunting with a large retinue. At 0:20 Bacon joins Robert in conversation and informs him that the queen has commanded him to return to court. Robert refuses, but is persuaded when Bacon appeals to his pride and vanity stating the queen’s army was defeated in Ireland and that Raleigh is slowly worming his way into Elizabeth’s heart. Korngold softly supports with a pastorale under the dialogue with references to both Elizabeth’s and the Love Themes. Fanfare resounds at 1:33 as Roberts orders a return to his castle and immediate departure for London. At 1:40 we segue into “Raleigh and Essex” on aggressive strings as Robert and Raleigh meet at the palace. Korngold provides a comic interlude as Robert baits Raleigh with faux praise regarding his pretentious silver armor. At 1:57 we segue atop sardonic horns into “Silver Armor” as Roberts tweaks Raleigh’s pride by revealing that he has outfitted the queen’s personal guards in silver, which Korngold supports comically, replete with faux fanfare as Bacon forestalls a duel from an outraged Raleigh. At 2:35 we segue into “Lady Penelope” where she tries to delay his meeting with the queen, determined to win his love. The music is flighty, fanciful and feminine as Penelope tries to dissuade Robert from Elizabeth’s mercurial love, and instead opting for hers. At 3:30 the Love Theme blossoms as he states that he loves the queen, much to Penelope’s dismay who shamelessly offers her. At 4:15 the music darkens as Elizabeth enters unannounced and witnesses Penelope’s uninvited kiss of Robert. A diminuendo carries Penelope’s departure, which is awkward and clearly uncomfortable. In the movie most of the scene of Elizabeth’s and Robert’s reunion is unscored so as to not intrude into the feisty banter and flares of tempers.

At 4:44 we segue into “Darling” where we see that try as she does, she cannot bear for her and Robert to be apart. She calls to him, and they have a kissing embrace supported by a tender exposition of the Love Theme, which swells so full of yearning as they both acknowledge the struggles of their love. At 6:38 we segue into “Card Game” as Robert challenges her to a card game. Korngold supports the game with a more intimate and playful rendering of Elizabeth’s Theme with interplay of the Love Theme, as she is clearly enjoying Robert’s company. We begin a crescendo on the Love Theme as their banter becomes personal, ending harshly at 8:02 when she throws her cards at him after he faults her inability to make decisions like a man. Yet Robert diffuses the situation with humor and we flow at 8:10 into “Love Scene” a supreme score highlight with some of the most evocative romanticism in Korngold’s canon. We are carried by the romantic yearning of the Love Theme as we see them spending time together in love. At 9:10 we build to a rapturous climax as Elizabeth beseeches Robert to not be manipulated by the council to take up a military command, which would separate them. This offends him and his theme joins as he declares he cannot be outsmarted by the likes of Raleigh. Yet, she now diffuses him with an attestation of love born sumptuously by the Love Theme, which blossoms for what I believe to be its most beautiful and stirring statements in the score. We end on a diminuendo of uncertainty as he departs as an important meeting of the Privy Council awaits in the morning.

Suite Four – Ireland

During the privy council meeting, Robert’s pride is repeatedly and cunningly baited by his adversaries. To save face he impetuously offers to assume the role of Lord Protector of the Realm and led an army to defeat the Earl of Tyrone’s Irish rebellion. In “Council Dismissed” Elizabeth is furious that Robert allowed himself to be baited into volunteering for the command and tells him to go to the devil as she angrily dismisses the council. This anger spills into the Love Theme as they face each other alone in the chamber. Yet once again Robert diffuses her anger with an affirmation of his love and plea for her to have faith in his military prowess. Korngold supports the moment with an exquisite exposition of the Love Theme in all its glory. We flow seamlessly at 1:23 into “Love and the Ring” carried by the aching romantic yearning of the Love Theme as Elizabeth gives Robert one of her rings, saying that his return of it would end any anger she held for him. He accepts the gift with a kiss and empowered by a final celebratory statement of the Love Theme. At 2:27 we segue into “Ireland” atop resounding martial fanfare and snare drums of war. Script reveals the British struggling with the terrain, Tyrone’s hit and run tactics, and the lack of support from the queen. As his men march through the bogs his theme rendered as a stately marcia militare replete with trumpets di guerra carries their progress.

At 3:07 chattering woodwinds join with resolute blaring fanfare of Robert’s Theme to support Irish archers stealthily picking off British soldiers one by one. As the British toil on a beleaguered Robert’s March supports their travel. As Robert arrives at his camp at 4:32, his fanfare resounds with news that a courier has arrived. A diminuendo on his theme supports dialogue in his tent, which erupts in rage at 5:13 when the letter commands him to disband his army and return to London and give himself up. At 5:20 a trumpet resounds the call to arms as Robert rejects the letter’s command and he instead orders a decisive attack to crush Tyrone. At 5:22 we segue into “Shadow of Penelope” where she speaks with Raleigh and Cecil and realizes that she will be made the fall person should the queen discover that her and Essex’s letters were intercepted. Bacon happens upon them and is challenged to declare his intentions. He cleverly deflects their suspicions and his intention to not disclose the plot. Korngold supports the intrigue texturally, sowing unease with eerie shifting string figures, vibraphone and forlorn woodwinds. The music sours and darkens as Bacon appears to side with Raleigh and Cecil. At 6:32 we flow into “Elizabeth Weeps” as the music warms as she commands Bacon to enter her chambers. The queen is distraught and informs Bacon that she believes Robert has ignored her letters and betrayed her. A sad rendering of the Love Theme speaks to her breaking heart.

At 7:02 we segue into “The Battle” atop resounding martial fanfare and snare drums of war as Robert launches an attack propelled by a ferocious orchestral tempest. He appears to be routing Tyrone’s forces when he receives news at 8:15 that a truce party is requested in “The Truce”. The battle torrent dissipates and Robert ‘s Theme rises as he orders a cease fire at 8:26 with trumpet calls. A stately rendering of Robert’s March supports the Irish truce party’s approach. At 8:56 trumpets resound as the Irish request Robert join them for talks submission. Robert accepts and as he rides to Tyrone’s camp a dignified rendering of his march with martial trumpet calls carries his progress. Proud trumpets resound at 9:12 with snare drums, joined by strings dramatico as Robert dismounts and meets Tyrone face to face. Robert is shocked when Tyrone demands his submission, and he rejects the demand until Tyrone points his eyes to the horizon, where he sees his camp aflame. Robert realizes that he has no ordinance, supplies or food, that the queen has cut-off support, and that further fighting would be futile, so he surrenders and accepts Tyrone’s terms to be escorted to the coast so they can return to London.

Suite Five – Essex Returns

“The Palace” reveals a resolute Robert leading an army towards the palace intent on seizing the throne. The Privy Council of conspirators resolve that to save their necks they must keep Essex and the queen apart at all costs. Korngold speaks to their anxiety by sowing unease with an agitato. At 0:33 we segue into “Queen Elizabeth” who unexpectedly announces she will hold court. Heraldic fanfare resounds as energetic strings rise in anticipation. At 0:58 fanfare reale declarations announce the arrival of the queen. As she proudly walks to her throne a majestic rendering of the Love Theme carries her progress until she reaches her throne and turns to face the gallery, empowered by a proud rendering of her theme. She commands that no guards be posted and that Lord Essex be allowed to enter without resistance. The Privy Council is rightfully alarmed, yet she orders their silence. At 1:53 we segue into “Essex Returns” with trepidation as news that he has entered the palace raises the alarm. We build dramatically until 2:09 when he bursts through the throne room doors propelled by an angry and defiant rendering of his theme, which carries him to her. Yet we also discern within the notes a tinge of sadness that it has come to this. They converse respectfully, and when it becomes apparent that their letters to each other had been intercepted, she erupts is outrage, threatening to lop off many heads. She commands that court cleared so she may speak to Essex alone and we end on a diminuendo of uncertainty.

In her private chambers we flow at 2:38 into “Love Scene” where a prelude of unease supports their mutual confessions of love, which turned to anger. They realize that they still deeply love each other, revelations affirmed with a sumptuous blossoming of the Love Theme at 3:39 carried by warm saxophones and yearning strings romantico. She offers to let him stand behind her throne and assist her make a greater England. Yet at 6:04 the music turns, replaced by his theme as he demurs stating that he is also driven by ambition. He declares that if they are equal in love, that they should be equal in power. When she resists, all pretenses are dropped and he declares that he controls the palace and that she is his prisoner, which provides clarity as we see in Elizabeth’s eyes that despite his declarations of love, it is ambition that drives him. Robert insists he does not want her to be his prisoner, but instead loves her and want them to rule together. Repeating refulgent phrases of hope support his words. When he offers to disband his army and return control of the palace to her guard if she agrees to share her throne, she states “the Queen agrees”. Robert is elated and at 6:52 a confident rendering of his theme carries him to the doors where he orders his army disbanded and the palace returned to Elizabeth’s guard, the camera however remains focused on Elizabeth steely countenance as the Love Theme sours, becoming dissonant, informing us of her planned betrayal. His theme carries him back to her where insists they forget about politics, as he embraces and kisses her supported by a hopeful and romantic rendering of his theme. As a testament of love, he affirms that the guards are hers to command. We see a steely reserve descend upon her face as she claps her hands to summon her guards. At 8:23 we conclude with “Arrest” as the guards enter the throne room supported by a romantic rendering of the Love Theme, clearly expressing Robert’s perspective, not hers. When the Captain of the Guards affirms that her guards control the palace, she declares that for a queen to rule she must be without friendship, without mercy and without love. She coldly and resolutely orders Robert’s arrest. A tragic rendering of the Love Theme supports her words, which cut him deeply when she states that she learned from him that no one can be trusted, most of all a lover. Robert is stunned at her betrayal and we hear the yearning of the Love Theme dissipate into first sadness and then, anger as his theme erupts to support his breaking of his sword of allegiance as he is arrested. We close sadly with the Love Theme rendered as an elegy for lost love.

Suite Six – The Tower of London

“The Tower” opens with the axe man sharpening his blade supported by dire portentous descending statements of doom. Horns funebre emote statements of Robert’s Theme as he sits in his cell and contemplates his fate. At 0:50 we shift to the queen’s throne room in the tower where we see her distraught, bathed by grieving strains of an elegiac rendering of Robert’s Theme joined with a grieving Love Theme, replete with tolling bells. At 1:43 hopeful French horns emote Robert’s Theme as we shift back to his cell and observe him contemplating his fate as he twists the ring of forgiveness Elizabeth gave him. At 1:55 the music becomes impassioned as Penelope admits he role in the plot and begs for Robert’s life. Strains of Robert’s Theme join with a grieving rendering of the Love Theme as both women confide their shared love for him. We conclude with an aching statement of the theme as Elizabeth asks why he does not offer her the ring. At 4:25 we segue into “Cecil” who enters carried by dire phrasing of the Love Theme. He advises deploying troops as hostile crowds are demanding Essex’s release. She rejects his advice, admonishes him as a snake in the grass, and orders him to bring Essex to her. Korngold sow’s anger to support her reproach and Cecil’s exit. As she shares time with Penelope the anger dissipates and tortured phrases of the Love Theme rage, finally finding calmer and more hopeful expression as she asks Penelope to leave before Robert arrives so her youthful beauty does not expose the loss of hers.

At 7:01 we segue into “Essex” atop dire horns, which usher in a grim rendering of his theme, which joins with a despairing Love Theme as Robert ascends the stairs to the throne room. At 7:31 we flow into “Love Scene” a powerful score highlight, where we see Elizabeth fervently express her love for him, as well as her desperation to save him. Interplay of a tragic Robert’s Theme joins with and exquisite rendering of the Love Theme, again longing, and full of yearning, which supports her soliloquy. Yet at 9:09 discord enters and Robert’s Theme rises romantically as he confides that although he does still love her, once freed his ambition would again lead him to seize her throne. His theme swells powerfully for a tragic statement as he states that he says this out of love and turns to depart and accept his fate, as a desperate Elizabeth begs him to stay and take her throne as she cannot bear to live without him. At 9:57 we segue atop drums of doom into “Executioner”. We see Robert walking to the block as Elizabeth sits above, alone and grieving in the throne room. Korngold supports the scene with the Love Theme emoted as a grim marcia funebre. At 10:37 he asks to be unbound, and the Love Theme softens, becoming bittersweet as he gazes up to the throne room, and kisses her ring of forgiveness one last time. As the theme dissipates on the breeze Robert declares himself ready and we conclude with snare drums of death and elegiac trumpets declaring Robert’s Theme as the camera zooms in on the tearful and distraught Elizabeth in her throne room. The drums stop with the beheading and we conclude with a final powerful statement of Elizabeth’s Theme. At 11:54 we conclude with “End Cast”, where the end credits roll, supported by the Love Theme and a coda of Elizabeth’s Theme, which ends the film with a flourish.

I would like to commend Paul Wing and Varese Sarabande for this long sought, wonderfully remastered release of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s masterpiece. The digital remastering by Mike Ross-Trevor is superb and offers an excellent and rich listening experience. Korngold understood that the film was at its core, a love story doomed to end in tragedy. He composed an exquisite multi-phrasic love theme for the ages, ardent, longing and so full of yearning. The theme’s articulation spanned the entire spectrum of emotions given the prideful and tempestuous natures of our lovers. Korngold’s music masterfully spoke to their overt powerfully expressed feelings towards each other, but also their unspoken feelings during times apart. We bear witness to Korngold’s genius during the film’s pivotal scene as we hear two versions of the Love Theme interplay, one with subtle discordance and sadness in the notes – her perspective as she resolves to betray him, and one full of yearning and happiness – his perspective as he believes he has gained both her love and the throne. Their individual public themes are well-conceived, both perfectly capturing their personas, with hers regal and majestic and his bold and prideful. Yet the transformation of their themes when together intimately wondrously warm, tender and romantic when she set’s down her crown, and he, his sword. The thematic interplay is inspired, exceptional, and in scene after scene both Davis’ and Flynn’s extraordinary acting are empowered by Korngold’s music, allowing Michael Curtiz to fully realize his vision. I consider this score to be one of the finest in Korngold’s canon, a masterpiece of the early Golden Age, and an essential film score for your collection. I highly recommend you purchase this fine album for an astounding listening experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film score, I have embedded a YouTube link to Suite One of the album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmBEyCj4cJQ

Buy the Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Suite One – Elizabeth and Essex (Main Title/Narrative/March/Shadow and Parade/The Throne Room/After Elizabeth Slaps Essex/Elizabeth and Essex) (8:14)
  • Suite Two – The Queen (The Courier/The Chess Game/Mirror Scene/The Queen/Messenger/Poor Child) (13:11)
  • Suite Three – Reconciliation (The Hunting/Raleigh and Essex/Silver Armor/Lady Penelope/Darling/Card Game/Love Scene) (11:55)
  • Suite Four – Ireland (Council Dismissed/Love and the Ring/Ireland/Shadow of Penelope/Elizabeth Weeps/The Battle/The Truce) (9:37)
  • Suite Five – Essex Returns (The Palace/Queen Elizabeth/Essex Returns/Love Scene/Arrest) (10:13)
  • Suite Six – The Tower of London (The Tower/Cecil/Essex/Love Scene/Executioner/End Cast) (12:25)

Running Time: 65 minutes 35 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5696 (1939/1998)

Music composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Conducted by Carl Davis. Performed by The Munich Symphony Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Milan Roder, Bernhard Kaun and Ray Heindorf. Recorded and mixed by Mike Ross-Trevor. Score produced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Leo Forbstein. Album produced by Paul Wing.

  1. June 1, 2020 at 10:21 am

    What an amazing comprehensive report, thank you very much, I found it really interesting.

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