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ANASTASIA – Alfred Newman

October 25, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1955 three Hollywood studios, Warner Brothers, MGM, and 20th Century Fox, entered into a bidding war to secure the film rights to the popular 1952 Broadway play Anastasia by Marcelle Maurette. They all believed that the tragedy that befell the Russian Romanov dynasty and the mystery of Anastasia would resonate with the public. In the end 20th Century Fox prevailed and paid Maurette £20,000. Buddy Adler was assigned production with a $3.5 million budget, Arthur Laurents was hired to write the screenplay, and Anatole Litvak was tasked with directing. A stellar cast was hired with Ingrid Bergman making her Hollywood return after seven years of being black-listed for her romance and marriage with director Roberto Rossellini. She would play Anna Koreff/Anastasia, and joining her would be Yul Brynner as General Bounine, Helen Hayes as Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, Matitia Hunt as Baroness Elena von Livenbaum, Ivan Desny as Prince Paul von Haraldberg, and Akim Tamiroff as Boris Andreivich Chernov.

The movie is set in the Russian aristocratic émigré community of Paris 1928 and explores the story of Anna Anderson who asserts that she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of the last Tsar Nicholas II. Anastasia is thought to have been murdered with her family at Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918, yet the Russian loyalist community continued to nurture hope that she survived the tragedy. Anna is an amnesiac released from a mental asylum who bears a striking resemblance to the grand duchess. The profiteering and unscrupulous General Bounine has raised funds from speculators based on his claim (which he knows to be false), that he has found Grand Duchess Anastasia. They all seek to cash in on her £10 million fortune, which is held in an English bank. Bounine has Anna rigorously trained for the rouse and after much intrigue manages to obtain a personal interview with Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, Anastasia’s grandmother. In the end Bounine and Anna manage to convince the Dowager, but fall in love and elope just before the announcement was to be made, much to the chagrin of the Dowager. The film was a modest commercial success earning a profit of $800,000, and earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Film Score, winning one for Best Actress.

As director of music at 20th Century Fox Alfred Newman reviewed all studio projects and assigned composers. This story fascinated him and he personally took the helm. Upon viewing the film Newman saw that at its heart it was a story of a slow blossoming romance between Bounine and Anna that he would need to speak to romantically. He also understood that the backdrop of the story was the Russian royal and aristocratic émigré community and that he would have to infuse his soundscape with the requisite Russian cultural auras, anthems, as well as “old-world music of the court including; The Wildfleuer Polka (1866) Opus 313 by Johannes Strauss, a recurring waltz using the Suite for Two Pianos No. 1 in F (1888), Opus 15 by Anton Arensky, Marche de Bataille by Carl Christian Møller, Riberhus March by Johannes Frederik Frøhlich, Kulawiak Mazurka by Henryk Wieniawski, Polonaise from “Eugene Onegin” and Waltz from the Sleeping Beauty Ballet by Pyotyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: Serenade No. 13 for Strings in G Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Tsar’s Anthem “God Save The Tsar” (1833) by Alexei Lvov and Vasily Zhukovsky, and the Russian Easter Overture by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Newman, as was his usual practice, chose to support the film with leitmotifs, in this case, two for Ingrid Bergman character; one for Anna Koreff , and one for her transformed into the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Foremost is the minor modal Anastasia’s Theme, which is composed with a classic ABA construct filled with old world charm, and draped with Russian auras. There is both sadness and wistfulness in the notes, a pining for a grand romantic age now lost to a brutal, socialist new order. Both phrases employ a repeating pattern of declarative and answering statements with horn counters by the A Phrase, and woodwind counters by the B Phrase. The sweeping, yet wistful A Phrase is borne by sumptuous strings romantico, while the string borne B Phrase offers the aching yearning of two heart’s seeking fulfilment in love. I believe this quintessential Golden Age love theme to be one of Newman’s finest. Anna’s Theme supports her true identity as Anna Koreff, a pitiful, lost and wounded soul. Newman speaks to the pathos of suffering of her life, offering a forlorn statement by woodwinds affanato, or strings sofferenti full of despair. The album is not sequenced to film chronology, as such my review will follow the film chronological order, not the album sequence. Scenes coded (*) contain music not found on the album.

In “Fox Fanfare”, as the 20th Century Fox Studio logo displays, it is supported by Alfred Newman’s iconic heraldic fanfare. At 0:14 we flow dramatically into “Anastasia”, an exquisite score highlight where Newman in a masterstroke captures the film’s emotional core. It supports the roll of the opening credits, which present in bold red script against a grey brick wall, on which displays the shadow of the imperial dual headed eagle crest of the Romanov dynasty. We are graced with a sublime exposition of the sumptuously romantic and wistful Love Theme. Yellow script informs us of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the murder of the Tsar and his family in 1918, and flight of the nobility abroad. The narrative goes on relating rumors that one of the Tsar’s daughters, Grand Duchess Anastasia had escaped. At 2:25 we segue into “Paris 1928”, which reveals a panorama of the Parisian skyline, which Newman supports with a wondrous paean of joy by celebratory horns. At 2:40 we segue into “Russian Easter” atop reverential strings solenne as Newman beautiful interpolates and enriches Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, replete with tolling church bells as the émigré community prepares to celebrate Christianity’s most sacred holiday. At 2:52 we behold religioso solemnity as mixed chorus sings a Russian liturgical hymn as the camera takes us past the cathedral down a busy Paris street. We stop at a window of a Russian grocery store where a woman pauses to gaze at a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. She gently touches the window pane and then walks across the street to the cathedral. General Bounine’s servant Stepan follows the woman and hires a cab to bring the general at once.

“Count Beresoff’s Message” (*) reveals him receiving an urgent message from Count Beresoff and excusing himself from a conversation. Newman supports the ambiance of a Russian restaurant with floor dancers with the festive energy of a traditional folk tune. We return to the cathedral with a reprise of the Russian Orthodox liturgical hymn as the bishop and his retinue exit past the candle holding believers. Bounine arrives, and Boresoff directs him to the woman. He greets her as Anna Koreff, and alludes to her stay at the asylum at St. Cloud, and assertion that she is Grand Duchess Anastasia. She deflects the assertion and walks away with Bounine and Boresoff trailing. “The Wildfeuer Polka” reveals Anna walking down dimly lite Paris streets with Bounine and Beresoff in pursuit. As she passes a local bar we hear an accordion led Wildfleuer Polka by Johannes Strauss. The film truncates the two-minute album version.

“Self-Destruction” offers a score highlight where Newman masterfully evokes the loneliness, suffering and despair of Anna. It reveals Anna becoming increasingly more anxious as she tries to evade Bounine and Beresoff. She walks down the dimly lit streets supported by woodwinds tristi, which express a nascent, unformed rendering of Anastasia’s Theme. She appears lost and nervous as dark strings pensosi join at 0:35 a forlorn solo oboe in distress, which offer Anna’s Theme full of despair. A sad descent carries her down the stairs to the riverbank where the aching pathos of Anastasia’s Theme takes her into the shadows, so afraid. Her theme shifts at 1:13 to a molto tragico rendering as she finds herself among drunk and destitute street people. She walks to the water’s edge carried by a crescendo of pain, stairs at her reflection, and steps forward to fall in, only to be rescued by Bounine and Beresoff.

“The Report” (*) reveals Bounine meeting with speculators Chernov and Petrovin in the cellar of his restaurant. Newman supports they scene with faint festive Russian folk music heard above. They discuss the status on the monies they have accumulated to fund their scheme, and client demands to see the fruits of what they invested within eight days – Anna Koreff. Bounine is quite frank that she is not Anastasia, asserting that with proper training, she would assume her identity as a facsimile. He introduces Anna in “Who Am I / The Troika”, which offers sad, woodwind rich exposition of Anna’s Theme as she is plagued by her past. At 0:35 we segue into “The Troika” where we are graced by a delightful free-spirited valzer gentile, heard from the bar above, which just carries one away. (*) “Bounine Makes his Case” reveals asking them to scrutinize Anna to see her resemblance, and bullet scares. She pleads not to be part of this scheme but eventually accedes to Bounine’s demands. Newman supports with a yearning statement of Anastasia’s Theme when he promises to help her find out who she is, and to find the family to which she belongs. As Bounine shows her portraits and photos, solemn horns reale declare the Imperial Russian Anthem to support his commentary. We close on a proud rendering of her theme as she commits with tears to playing the role, they would have her play.

“Rehersals and the Introduction” (*) reveals Bounine rigorously training her in all the minutiae needed to convince the world that she is Anastasia. Bounine is forced to present her to six members of the committee earlier than he would like to assuage their fears that they are being swindled. She calls for an old lady to come to her and yearning violins tenero support her reaching out, touching her face. She struggles, but recalls her name as Nini, much to the woman’s amazement as she declares her as Anastasia, weeps, and kisses her hand. “More Training” (*) Bounine reviews her piano playing and plays a guitar song she was taught to play, but hated. As Bounine plays we see a nascent stirring of affection in her eyes, but also his. Later come the dance lessons, which Newman supports with interpolating the Kulawiak Mazurka by Henryk Wieniawski, then the Polonaise from “Eugene Onegin” by Pyotyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and lastly a waltz using the Suite for Two Pianos No. 1 in F by Anton Arensky. “Nightmare” (*) reveals Anna having a nightmare, which Newman supports with an eerie, impressionist dissonance featuring a frantic piano ascent, which crashes on a violent chord as she wakes up screaming. A horrific, dissonant piano cadenza erupts as she runs from her bed and slams the piano keyboard, which silences the cacophony. She has a breakdown, which Bounine manages to calm, with firm reassure. Anna’s aching theme, so full of sadness supports her return to the bedroom, yet it culminates bearing a kernel of hope as Anna asks “Who am I”, to which Bounine replies, “I don’t know.”

“Valse” reveals a lavish party for the cream of Russian émigré society, hosted by Madame Irina Lissemskaia for the purpose of introducing Anastasia. Newman interpolates a valzer gentile using the Suite for Two Pianos No. 1 in F by Anton Arensky. The film version is truncated but this album rendering offers a full exposition and Newman’s embellishments grace us with a beautiful exposition. Anna’s portrayal of Anastasia is convincing and eighteen of the thirty-one guests sign testimonials declaring their belief that Anna is Anastasia. Bounine decides that this is insufficient, and to accomplish acceptance of Anna as Anastasia he has to gain the support of the Dowager Tsarista Marie Feodorovna. In “The Beginning” offers a score highlight where Bounine informs Anna of his plan to arrange a meeting with the Dowager Tsarista. Anna frets and a solo oboe triste emotes Anastasia’s Theme as he reassures her that he can succeed in arranging a meeting. After he promises that he will succeed for her sake, Anastasia’s Theme shifts to strings tristi as she rebukes him saying he never did anything for anybody but yourself. We see her words wound him, but he reassures her that they share the same goal, her anger subsides, and we are graced by a warm, sumptuous rendering of Anastasia’s Theme. The scene ends with his first act of affection, when he gently takes her hand, bows, and kisses it.

“Riberhaus Marsch” reveals Bounine and Anastasia arriving in Copenhagen and we are presented with the King’s marching band, which Newman supports with the royal pomp of the Riberhaus March by Johannes Frederik Frøhlich. At the hotel Bounine is informed that the Dowager refuses to see him, but is advised by Chernov that a liaison with Baroness von Livenbaum, her lady in waiting who is infatuated with him, may provide an opening if he can exploit it. He agrees and at 1:10 we segue into “Marche de Bataille” a classic marcia reale by Carl Christian Møller, which supports the pomp of another royal marching band at the famous Tivoli Gardens. He meets with the baroness and she agrees to help him, advising that the Dowager will be taking in a Tchaikovsky ballet at the Royal theater Thursday night. “The Ballet” (*) reveals Bounine and Anastasia attending the Royal Ballet, with strategic seating lying directly across, that will allow the Dowager to observe them. Newman supports by interpolating Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty waltz. Later during intermission when Bounine introduces Anna to Prince Paul von Haraldberg, he interpolates Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: Serenade No. 13 for Strings in G Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to support the scene. Bounine manages to gain entry to the Dowager’s suite and makes a concerted effort to convince her to meet with Miss. Anderson, only to be rebuffed. The second half of the concert is supported by the Tchaikovsky’s ballet and reveals the Dowager examining Miss Anderson closely through her opera glasses.

“The Tivoli” reveals a despondent Anastasia arriving home. Bounine admits that the Dowager refused to see her, but his backup plan is for her to dine with the prince tomorrow evening. A solo violin triste emotes her theme as she despairs and goes to bed. At 0:19 festive music supports fireworks over Tivoli Gardens, yielding to the a delightful valzer gentile as we see the prince and Anastasia dining. She is tipsy from champagne, solicits a kiss from the prince, and is ‘rescued’ by Bounine who takes her home. At 2:17 we segue into “The Sleeping Princess” where Bounine finds Anastasia passed out on her bed, turns off the light, and departs. A sad rendering of Anastasia’s Theme, with a beautiful aching cello solo supports the moment. At 2:47 we shift to the Dowager off on a carriage ride on the Danish King’s palace grounds supported by an embellished, solemn rendering of the Russian Imperial anthem “God Save The Tsar” by Alexei Lvov and Vasily Zhukovsky. As she enters the palace a processionale reale carries her progress. After a meeting with Paul, she at last relents and agrees to meet with the woman.

“The Meeting” offers an exquisite score highlight and these next two scenes reveal why Bergman won the Best Actress Oscar. The Dowager shows up unannounced and demands an audience. A tentative, struggling Anastasia’s Theme emerges as Bounine greets her and goes to retrieve Anastasia. At 0:57 horns solenne usher in her entrance joined at 1:27 by a yearning Anastasia’s Theme, perhaps the score’s most emotional presentation, which supports her fervent effort to gain the Dowager’s recognition. “Recognition” opens with bleak strings of despair emoting Anna’s Theme, which slowly gains refulgence as we can see the Dowager’s resistance weakening as Anastasia makes an impassioned speech. At 1:10 Anastasia’s Theme commences a struggle to gain voice, as the melody shifts at 1:32 to a yearning solo violin. At 1:50 we bear witness to one of the score’s most precious moments as the Dowager’s resistance falls away and she embraces her beloved grandchild Anastasia with her theme blossoming with cherished familial warmth. “After The Meeting” reveals Chernov and Petrovin dining at Bounine’s Russian restaurant supported by festive Russian folk music. Bounine joins the band with his guitar and relates to Chernov that the meeting was a success.

“Frustration” supports the aftermath of the disastrous press conference where a fellow inmate from a Bucharest asylum declares that “Anna Koreff” was released to him when discharged. Bounine ends the conference as discordant horns sound. A forlorn flute emotes Anastasia’s Theme with chimes adornment as Bounine and Anastasia share a private moment. At 0:48 the melody shifts to yearning strings as we see in Bounine an obvious frustration that she intends to marry the prince – the first visible evidence that he is in love with her. We end darkly as the band strikes up the Arensky waltz. “The Reception” (*) reveals the prince and Anastasia dancing in the palace’s grand ballroom supported by the Arensky waltz, which supports this extended scene, providing a sumptuous and elegant ambiance. Anastasia and the prince are having a spirited discussion over her identity as she probes whether he would marry her without her inheritance. He sidesteps with his answer and we see in her eyes recognition that he intends to marry only for her fortune. Later Bounine meets with the Dowager and it becomes obvious to her that he loves Anastasia. She commands him to wait as she departs to prepare for her grand entry.

In “Anastasia Waltz” The dowager meets privately with Anastasia in another room. She astutely reveals to Anastasia the truth that she does not love the prince, and that she should instead pursue true happiness. After a tearful, loving embrace she directs her to tidy up in the adjoining green room, where she knows Bounine is waiting. Newman supports with a wonderful exposition of Anastasia’s Theme as a sumptuous valze elegante. “Finale” (*) reveals the disappearance of Anastasia and Bounine, to which the Dowager expresses no surprise, explaining to the prince that this was not unexpected. Chernov and Petrovin are besides themselves, the prince perplexed, but the Dowager poised as she takes the prince’s arm declaring that she will make an announcement. As she departs the Russian Imperial anthem supports her royal walk to the assembly below. We close with her advising the prince that she will declare that the play is over, and for everyone to go home, ending with a grand statement of the Imperial Anthem. “End Title” supports the roll of the closing credits supported by a sumptuous molto romantico exposition of Anastasia’s Theme. “Anastasia” is not part of the score, but offers a beautiful rendering of the Anastasia Theme on solo piano by Alfred Newman.

I would like to thank George Korngold and Varese Sarabande for the premier stereo release of Alfred Newman’s masterpiece, “Anastasia”. The two-channel mix down from the original six-channel 35 mm magnetic film by Len Engel offers excellent audio quality and a wonderful listening experience. Alfred Newman understood that the titular character played by Ingrid Bergman had a dichotomous role, which needed to be supported musically. Anna Koreff was the pitiful, lost and wounded soul searching desperately for love and acceptance, which Newman supported with a theme emoted by forlorn woodwinds tristi or strings sofferenti. Anastasia also yearned for love, family and recognition, yet given her royal bearing, Newman provides a sumptuous, forthright old-world romanticism, creating one of the most iconic themes in cinematic history. Both themes are kindred in that they share a sadness, and yearning for love and acceptance. Masterful however is how Newman musically supports the film narrative’s Russian émigré backdrop by infusing his soundscape with the requisite Russian old-world auras and cultural sensibilities. His embellished interpolations of liturgical hymns, waltzes, dances, anthems and classical pieces woven into the film’s tapestry were well-conceived and brilliantly executed. In scene after scene a masterful confluence of music and film narrative was achieved, which I believe ensured Anatole Litvak’s vision was achieved. Folks, this score offers additional evidence of why Alfred Newman earned nine Academy Award wins and forty-three nominations. I believe this score offers a testament to his compositional skill and an enduring gem of the Golden Age. I highly recommend you add this masterpiece to your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the wonderful Main Title: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIgiLE87-vc

Buy the Anastasia soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Fox Fanfare / Paris / Russian Easter (5:28)
  • Valse (3:53)
  • Self-Destruction (2:46)
  • Who Am I/The Troika (2:15)
  • The Beginning (1:56)
  • The Tivoli/The Sleeping Princes (3:34)
  • Anastasia Waltz (4:12)
  • The Meeting (3:41)
  • The Wildfeuer Polka (2:06)
  • Recognition (2:57)
  • Riberhaus Marsch/Marche de Bataille (2:25)
  • Frustration (2:34)
  • End Title – Anastasia (2:18)
  • Anastasia (Piano Version) (1:43)

Running Time: 41 minutes 48 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5422 (1956/1993)

Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman. Orchestrations by Edward Powell. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Score produced by Alfred Newman. Album produced by George Korngold.

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