Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > DEVOTION – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

DEVOTION – Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1942 Warner Brothers decided to embark upon opulent period piece involving a fictionalized biopic of the renown Brontë sisters. Robert Buckner was assigned production with Keith Winter and Edward Chodorov hired to write the screenplay. Curtis Bernhardt was tasked with directing a lavish and opulent tale and a stellar cast was assembled, including Olivia de Havilland as Charlotte Brontë, Ida Lupino as Emily Brontë, Nancy Coleman as Anne Brontë, Paul Henreid as Reverend Arthur Nicholls and Sydney Greenstreet as the renowned publisher William Makepeace Thackeray.

The film is set in England during the early 1800s during the reign of King George III. Brontë sisters Anne and Charlotte have decided to leave home and take governess positions in other families, and hope to use some of their salaries to fund their brother Branwell’s art school education. With the arrival of Reverend Arthur Nichols, Charlotte and Emily come to compete for his affections. They end up chasing him away as he does not wish to be a source of conflict between the two. Sadly, Branwell comes to die from alcoholism and Emily also takes ill, and eventually dies. Yet there is a silver lining as Arthur upon hearing news of Emily’s passing returns to court Charlotte. The film was delayed three years due to a law suit by Olivia de Havilland against the studio, in which in a landmark case she prevailed and broke her contract. When it finally premiered it was a commercial failure and although critics praised its production value and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score, it received harsh criticism due to a poor screenplay and inept secondary actors. It did not secure any Academy Award nominations.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who was renowned for his swashbuckling and period piece scores, was the natural choice to score the film. Unfortunately, the film, despite its classic tale, turned out to be a creative disaster. It was poorly cast, had an uninspired screenplay, and was deemed unsuitable for the war years. These factors and de Havilland’s law suit caused the studio to postpone its release until 1946. Upon viewing the film, it was quite apparent to Korngold that he had to speak to its setting in the Yorkshire moors, the persona of the three sisters, and the menacing knight of Emily’s dream. Additionally, the emotional dynamics of Emily and Charlotte competing for Arthur’s affections, and their brother’s tortured psyche that sought escape in alcohol, called for an approach, which embraced a tragic romanticism.

To support his soundscape, Korngold, as was his practice, embraced leitmotifs, ultimately composing nine including the heraldic Devotion Fanfare, which offers a repeating four-note declaration by horns dramatico. It is used to empower crucial dramatic scenes in the film, but is also often employed as a prelude, which ushers in the Main Theme. The Devotion Theme serves as the score’s primary theme, which is pervasive, permeating the film, and providing a unifying thread for its narrative. It embodies the Brontë family, and is exquisitely borne by strings romantico. It offers an ABA construction with a forthright declarative A Phrase, and an effusive, lyrical B Phrase. Each of the three sisters have a theme; Emily’s Theme offers a romantic ABA construct drapes in auras of sadness as she is never able to consummate her love for Arthur. The A Phrase is declarative and speaks of unfulfillment, while the B Phrase expresses unrequited yearning. Korngold’s conception perfectly embodies her character and demeanor. Charlotte’s Theme however is unabashedly romantic and provides the score’s finest theme. It offers a long-lined, string borne ABA construct, with a yearning A Phrase, and passionate B Phrase. It also functions as a Love Theme for her and Arthur, where it finds its most ardent expression. Anne is the youngest, and most immature of the sisters. Her theme offers an idealized, dreamlike romance for strings with harp adornment. Branwell’s Theme supports this tortured soul, an unappreciated son and artist who is a drunkard. Korngold fashions a lilting danza umbriaca, which perfectly captures his persona. Arthur’s Theme embodies his formality and reserve, offering solemnity and a subtle religiosity as befitting a member of the clergy. In his romantic scenes with Emily and Charlotte, it is the sister’s themes, which express romantic desire, not his. William Thackeray’s Theme supports this congenial, rotund and affable gentleman. Korngold fashions a minuet-like danza gentile to support his good nature. Lastly, we have the Knight Theme, which empowers a frightening faceless, silhouetted mounted knight who appears in Emily’s recurring dreams. Muted dire trumpets herald his arrival at the moors and join with strings minacciosi to propel his ride to her atop a crescendo orribile.

“Main Title” opens a tertiary cue and wonderful score highlight, where Korngold perfectly sets the tone of the film. It reveals the Warner Brothers studio logo and opens with a grand declaration of the Devotion fanfare by horns dramatico, which launches the roll of the opening credits set against a picture of the English countryside. At 0:15 horns reale usher in a sweeping romantic statement of the Devotion Theme as the film title displays. At 1:00 we flow seamlessly atop strings gentile into “Foreword” where script establishes the setting in the Yorkshire moors, where reside the renown Brontë sisters. At 1:22 we segue into “The Village” atop a resplendent musical narrative borne by spritely strings as we see a village with bustling street life. At 2:03 a diminuendo supports Aunt Elizabeth Branwell picking up linen in town. Playful strings support her shopping, joined by a fleeting Main Theme as she confirms to the storekeeper the imminent departure of Anne and Charlotte. The spritely and vibrant musical narrative takes Aunt Branwell home, where she becomes flustered upon arrival to find all the girls missing.

“The Moors” reveals Branwell and Anne frolicking in the moors supported by Anne’s Theme, a dreamlike romance for strings with harp adornment. At 0:55 Branwell carries Anne in his arms and the music becomes mischievous and playful as he threatens to drop her into the waterfall pool. At 1:05 we flow into “Charlotte” atop violins romantico emoting her theme as she comes to Anne’s rescue. He takes her command to drop Anne literally, and drops her into the pool, which elicits her outrage as she chases after him propelled by playful-comic strings. A wondrous idyllic musical narrative replete with harp glissandi unfolds as Brad paints the sisters, who express their desire to see the world, so they may write about it. At 3:02 we segue into “Emily” atop her warm, string borne theme as she arrives and lays next to Branwell. They agree that they are content to remain at home rather than travel the world, yet the music sours when Charlotte criticizes Branwell’s inability to complete whatever task he begins, which elicits his fury. He departs and the sisters discuss his mercurial nature, with Emily asserting that she knows him best. The gentile musical narrative carries the conversation, and is sustained at home where their father, the Parrish Reverend, says grace before they sit down to dine. At 4:03 a bubbling flute pastorale usher in the Devotion Theme as she, Charlotte and Anne discuss their future plans.

“Bedroom” offers a beautiful score highlight. The sisters discuss helping Branwell, their themes entwining and joined by the Devotion Theme. Emily opposes taking him to London, believing he is not ready and that the trip would kill him. At 1:19 we segue into “Inn” carried by Branwell’s Theme as we see him drinking and sketching at the Inn. Korngold emotes his theme with strings as a danza umbriaca to inform us of his inebriation. The music shifts to woodwinds sardonica as Branwell hands Hoggs his sketch of him, which offers a protrusive nose, much to his surprise. As he staggers to find a new patron, the now exaggerated danza ubriaca supports his search. In “Nicholls” he draws a three-stroke sketch of a man and insists he buy him a brandy. The man refuses and Branwell throws his mug out through the inn window where it startles the carriage horses of Reverend Arthur who has just arrived. A cacophonous torrent supports the mug induced chaos. Branwell introduces himself as the Vicar’s son, the ‘fool’ who threw the mug, and Arthur Nicholls introduces himself as the new curate, the Reverend Arthur. Korngold entwines his solemn theme with Branwell’s as Arthur heads upstairs to turn in for the night. Yet Branwell stumbles and as Arthur escorts him to the door, a comic musical narrative featuring Branwell’s danza umbriaca supports.

At 1:42 we segue into “Bedroom” a heartfelt, sentimental score highlight. It reveals Emily writing, but disturbed by Charlotte’s crying. Emily comes to her carried by a warm, comforting rendering of her theme. At 2:29 Charlotte expresses concern for Branwell and pleads that he must go with her empowered by an extended heartfelt rendering of the familial Devotion Theme. Although Emily believes that in London, he would suffer dissolution, she relents and counsels Charlotte to watch over Branwell. At 3:39 we segue atop woodwinds comici and a staggering Branwell’s Theme into “Outside” as we see Arthur escorting the drunken Branwell home. At the door Branwell falls into Emily’s arms, and she rebuffs Arthur, who she believes is a drinking accomplice, and slams close the door. Arthur is chagrined and departs carried by his theme. Branwell’s now playful theme joins with Emily’s Theme as she dutifully tucks him into bed. At 5:08 it is dawn, and Emily opens the bedroom curtains to let in the day supported by a sunny statement of the Devotion Theme. She brings up coffee from downstairs, yet at 5:55 the music sours with Branwell awaking with a hangover and saying that he does not expect to live much longer. We end with a reprise of a solemn Devotion Theme as she exhorts him to be a better man.

At 6:32 we segue atop strings felice of Charlotte’s Theme into “Packing Montage”, a wonderful score highlight, as they pack the carriage and then depart for London. Her theme supports the carriage’s travel across the countryside for a beautiful passage. At 7:27 we segue atop the Devotion Theme abounding with familial love into “Farewell” as Emily bids Charlotte, Anne and Branwell farewell at the country bridge outside of town. We close with a aching Emily’s Theme as she tearfully waves goodbye as the carriage departs. In an unscored scene, Arthur calls on the Vicar who makes it very clear that he neither needs or desires Nichol’s assistance. Yet Nichol’s manages to charm him, and he invites him to stay for lunch. Emily enters and the moment is awkward as she realizes she was impolite to the Reverend Arthur last night, not knowing who he was at the time.

At “Lunch” Korngold sows and undercurrent of discomfort as Emily remains visibly uncomfortable as they eat. When he states that he escorted a drunk ‘parishioner’ in need home, Emily realizes her error, feels shame, and politely thanks Arthur, who graciously accepts. Korngold weaves together Emily’s Themes with Branwell’s to support the conversation. At 0:44 we segue atop woodwinds tenero into “Poorhouse” as Emily and Arthur spend time together by her favorite stream. A warm and comforting Devotion Theme joins as she coaxes him to join her in picking berries. It soon becomes clear that both have feelings for each other and an ascent by strings d’amore usher in at 1:39 a romantic rendering of the Devotion Theme in “Love Scene”, a romantic score highlight, as he tenderly takes her arm and promises to remain at the Parrish as long as she too remains. At 2:58 a spritely musical narrative full of happiness supports Aunt Branwell intimating that Emily has affection for Mr. Arthur.

We segue dramatically at 3:12 into “The Moors” as we see Emily and Arthur walking the dog in the moors. She says that this is her favorite part of the moors and the Devotion Theme joins for a romantic rendering as he again makes romantic overtures to her as he gifts her flowers. At 4:02 we segue atop a crescendo dramatico into “Wuthering Heights” a powerful score highlight, as Emily leads him up atop a hill where they view a large estate in the distance. She tells him ghosts live there, and at times, a faceless rider on a black horse rides towards her. Korngold incorporates the Devotion Theme and weaves a multi-faceted and sophisticated musical narrative. It blends a misterioso, other-worldliness, and the terror of the Knight Theme at 5:20 into one of the score’s finest passages. At 5:49 she asks if they should be on their way, and he takes her arm and depart supported by a romantic statement of the Devotion Theme. When he asks what is the name of the estate, she answers, “I call it Wuthering Heights”. At 6:10 strings felice voice Emily’s Theme as she arrives home. Inside the music sours at 6:33 when she is startled by Branwell saying “How happy you look Emily”.

In (*) “Aunt Branwell is Harsh” Branwell rages against her for sending him to a loveless London, whose patronage culture is anathema. Yet he pauses, supported by strings of regret after realizes he was too harsh, apologizes, and then heads to his room. A sad rendering of the Devotion Theme supports her father asking what he should do? Before she can respond, Aunt Branwell rebukes Emily for only thinking of herself, and then advising that Charlotte will better assist when she soon returns home. “The Girls” reveals the sisters all home supported by a sparkling musical narrative expressed as a danza felice as they dress for the dance tonight. The moment is shattered by anger at 1:12 when Charlotte reads one of Emily’s poems aloud and is castigated. At 1:17 we segue into “Nicholls Outside” atop his theme, joined by Emily’s and then Charlotte as Emily introduces her sisters. Arthur and Charlotte lock eyes, and we see an immediate attraction. A happy go lucking traveling motif supports the carriage ride into town. At 2:19 “Branwell & Horses” they pick up Branwell, who swaggers out of the inn drunk and takes the carriage reins from Arthur, his inebriation again voiced by his theme. Arthur grabs the reins back and Branwell leaps from the seat onto the horse’s back at 2:41 causing it to rear up, fling him to the ground, and then bolt with the carriage. Korngold supports dynamically with a kinetic torrent that gradually dissipates as Arthur finally regains control over the horse.

(*) “The Party” as they arrive at the party, Korngold interpolates Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat Major, Opus 20 (1799). Charlotte and Arthur are quarreling over his refusal to retrieve her drunk brother, and him joining the dance as their ‘chaperon”. Inside a valzer maestoso supports couples dancing on the ballroom. Both Anne and Emily agree to his solicitation to dance, while Charlotte refuses. A spirited Contra dance reveals Emily and Anne enjoying themselves as Charlotte frets with a middle-aged partner. A danza elegante follows with Charlotte finally dancing with Arthur, but they leave the ballroom as she has something to say. She is frank, forbidding him from interfering with her plans to take Emily to Brussels. He declines, and they agree to disagree. Yet she persists forbidding him to dance with Emily, and he shocks, and silences her by unexpectantly kissing her. Branwell arrives a staggering drunk, embarrasses his sisters, and is asked to leave at once by the hosts. Arthur escorts him out followed by his sisters. Branwell demands to drink, and a fight ensues with Arthur knocking him out, which earns Charlotte’s wrath. Korngold supports the scene by sustaining the valzer elegante.

In (*) “Arthur and Branwell” the Vicar fires Arthur, but then relents when Branwell confesses that he was the one at fault. Later, the two men begin to bond when Arthur asks to see some of Branwell’s paintings. As he looks a sailboat set in a raging sea, a sober, yet sad variant of Branwell’s Theme supports. (*) “Emily’s Admission” reveals her arriving and inform Arthur that Branwell sold one of his paintings (she does not know Arthur purchased the painting) and has gifted them money to go to Brussels to complete their education. He is happy for her, yet she is not and her sad theme supports her request that he tell her that she need not go. He declines and she departs, carried by her dejected theme. Emily and Charlotte pack, and then she heads off in a rainstorm to the Wuthering Heights panorama carried by a dramatic reprise of the Devotion Theme.

The following cue offers a wonderful score highlight abounding with happiness. “Brussels” reveals script saying “Brussels” against a panorama of the city. Korngold supports with a vibrant, sparkling and happy musical narrative as we see “School of Monsieur and Madame Heger”. Dozens of girls are seen at the campus and we see Charlotte and Emily strolling supported by a danza felice. At 1:07 Headmaster Monsieur Heger calls Charlotte over to compliment her on her writing, her theme joins on violin felice and flute delicato. At 1:59 the vibrant, sparkling and happy musical narrative resumes as we see the two sisters slowly realizing their dreams. An intervening non-album cue separates the album cue 7 – (*) “Chopin Prelude in A Major” reveals a fellow student playing the famous piece when Monsieur Heger visits their music class. We resume the album cue at 2:32 with “The Dream” where we see Emily in a dream sequence at her Wuthering Heights sanctuary. Korngold supports with the ethereal misterioso until 3:01 when the music darkens atop muted horns and a foreboding Devotion Fanfare and Theme. This ushers in the terror of the Knight Theme and Emily’s aggrieved theme as she sees the faceless horseman reappear in the distance. The music swells on a crescendo orribile as the black knight comes galloping upon her, cresting with terror at 4:05, which shatters her sleep as she awakes gasping.

(*) “Charlotte And Monsieur Heger” reveals the two walking together at a carnival, supported by carnivalesque music. She accepts his offer to take the Tunnel of Mystery ride and they board together. Afterwards, as they exit, her hair is messed, and he says; you asked me to treat you like an adult, I did, and now you understand the Tunnel of Mystery. In “Charlotte’s Romance”, Monsieur Heger, at her request, walks her home. She thanks him for a wonderful evening, and then impulsively kisses him, much to his pleasure, she then departs, with him pausing to enter discreetly. Korngold supports with Charlotte’s Theme rendered as a romance for strings. At 1:15 we segue into “Charlotte” as she enters the bedroom to find Emily packing. She advises that they have to return home as Branwell is gravely ill. Charlotte is distraught and her theme reflects this. She refuses to go and the musical narrative becomes frantic, buttressed by strings appassionato as we see that her romance with Heger has made an impression. She bolts from the room saying she needs to speak to Monsieur Heger. Strings of flight carry her to Heger’s office where she instead finds his wife. Forlorn woodwinds of despair support as she admits to her Heger’s love for her. Madame Heger is singularly unimpressed and when Monsieur Heger enters, he rebuffs her assertion, and she departs broken-hearted.

At 3:04 we segue into “The Boat” atop a nautical motif as we see a boat carrying them across the English Channel. On deck Emily counsels Charlotte that she will recover from all this with great rapidity, which Korngold supports with a sympathetic musical narrative. At 3:18 we segue warmly into “England” as Emily reads a story of hers to the bedridden Branwell supported by her theme now borne with familial love. The moment is lost when he drops a bombshell – that she and Charlotte are in love with the same man. Emily is stunned at his perception and speechless. In “The Graves”, Emily looks out the window at the family graveyard supported by dark, foreboding chords, which usher in a grim statement of the Main Theme. Branwell once more stuns her by saying she is spending too much time looking at the graves, that she appears ill, and best work quickly to finish her novel. She departs defensively carried by an aggrieved statement of her theme, and echo of his. At 0:55 we segue brightly into “The Meeting” a beautiful romantic score highlight. Charlotte encounters Arthur in the square and asks that he escort her home. Korngold supports with a pleasant, strolling rendering of her theme as we see her struggling and hesitant to express her feelings for him. At 1:28, her theme assumes a romantic contour as she finally summons the will to ask him why he either laughs at her, or avoids her. At 3:00 her theme blossoms romantically as he admits to liking her too much and then walks first into the house. The music ends with Arthur visit to see Branwell, who purposely stirs the pot of the unspoken love triangle, which earns both Emily’s and Charlotte’s reproach. But he is not done yet, he discloses that it was Arthur who sent them to Brussels to complete their education, not him.

“Stairway” was intended for a deleted scene I believe between Arthur and Emily in the stairway. It features a beautiful romantic rendering of Emily’s Theme. We segue at 1:04 into “Bedroom” atop a twinkling musical narrative as Charlotte and Emily discuss paying Arthur back so as to not be beholden. Charlotte then asks Emily what she must do to get Arthur to express his love for her. Emily, is full of heartache and lays with her head turned away and silently weeps. Korngold supports with a romantic rendering of Charlotte’s Theme. At 2:37 we shift to Branwell’s room where he declines a glass of milk from Anne, and instead asks for brandy, which she refuses. A beleaguered rendering of his theme, which darkens, supports the scene when he pulls from under his pillow a bottle of brandy after she departs. At 3:50 we segue atop strings dramatico into “Library” a beautiful score highlight. Arthur joins Emily in the library to check out some books. The air is tense with unspoken emotions and a tête à tête of their two themes unfolds. At 4:09 her theme moves to the forefront and ascends for a powerful exposition as she declares her knowledge that he paid for her education, and her desire upon completing her book to secure employment as a governess. He argues that she best utilize her gift as a writer. The moment is shattered when Charlotte bursts in saying that Branwell has gone missing

“Branwell’s Death” reveals a frantic Emily bolting out of the house into the rain. Arthur is informed by Charlotte, and he too joins in the search. A desperate rendering of Branwell’s Theme supports. As Emily runs through town, a dramatic musical narrative propels her desperate search. At 1:01 the music’s force dissipates as Branwell calls to her from the gutter, his beleaguered theme weakening as his life ebbs. Her theme joins on aching strings as she makes a futile effort to lift him. At 1:25 his theme begins a descent unto death, expiring at 2:05. A bassoon triste emotes her grief as he lays dead in her arms, and we end on strings bearing ethereal refulgence as Charlotte and Arthur arrive and are informed that he is gone.

In “Jane Eyre” Arthur informs Charlotte and Emily that he will be departing the Parrish for a new assignment and not returning. Charlotte is confused and asks why? To which he replies, someday your will understand. Charlotte is grief stricken and her theme is heavy with sadness as she declares; “I know nothing. I understand nothing, and yet I have dared to write 200,000 words about life.” A crescendo of anger swells as she tosses her manuscript against the wall and we read; “Jane Eyre by Currer Bell”. At 0:39 we segue into “London Montage”, which reveals mechanized printing presses churning out copies of Jane Eyre. Korngold supports kinetically with a mechanized musical cadence. In the subsequent montage we see the novel selling like a wild fire with many readers, almost all women, greatly enjoying it. Korngold instills the requisite celebratory energy to propel the montage. At 1:44 we segue into “Thackeray” as the renowned publisher contemplates the popular success of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. In an exclusive men’s club, he argues with George Smith over, which novel is better, and the stature of the two male authors. Korngold supports the ambiance with the minuet-like formal gentility of Thackeray’s Theme. At 2:00 a promenade gentile supports Charlotte meeting the “great” Thackeray who is pleasantly surprised to learn from her, that she is Currer Bell. He offers pleasantries, his arm, and dinner, which she graciously accepts.

“Autograph” reveals Charlotte at a bookstore signing her novels, which Korngold supports with strings piacevoli and bubbly woodwinds of delight. At 0:22 we segue into Modiste” atop a free-flowing valzer gentile as Charlotte buys a bonnet at an expensive haberdasher. At 0:44 French horns sound as Charlotte and Thackeray exit the store and pass by the famous author Charles Dickens. At 0:58 we segue atop strings energico into “Banquet”. An invitation reveals a dinner hosted by Lord and Lady Palmerston for Miss Charlotte Bronte, which is empowered by a grand valzer elegante. The valzer romantico from 1:14 – 1:40, which supports the dinner was edited out of the film. At 1:41 we segue into “Opera”, where the billboard displays “The Ballet “La Esmeralda” by Signor Pugni”. Charlotte and Thackeray take in the ballet. We open in grand fashion, which ushers in a graceful balletic musical narrative perfectly attuned to the ballerinas dancing on stage. At 2:13 we segue darkly to Anne reading a letter from Charlotte to Emily. Anne is happy for her success, claiming she has accomplished everything. But Emily responds duplicitously saying – “Yes, everything, accept the one thing nearest her heart.” Korngold’s music emotes with sadness and regret from her perspective.

“In the Park” reveals Charlotte and Thackeray enjoying a carriage ride through the park. Korngold supports pleasantly with a carefree trotting promenade. She asks him to take her to the East End so she may visit her Parson friend, which he does against his better judgment. At 1:14 the music darkens atop grim horns as we see them driving through the East End, an impoverished and lower-class section of London. At 1:27 an oboe tenero supports her exit from the carriage with an aloof Thackeray remaining, his discomfort emoted by at 1:43 by sardonic woodwinds as poor kids gault at him. Her theme, embellished with harp glissandi carries her into see Arthur.

“The Truth” offers a supreme romantic score highlight. It reveals Charlotte gifting Arthur a first edition of her novel, which he graciously accepts, saying he will treasure it. He admits that he has read it, and that it is the beautiful piece he knew it would be. He adds, that it has all turned out exactly as you planned. She answers, not exactly, as she says she thought she would be happy. Music enters atop her yearning theme, so full of longing. She gets up to leave saying that he once said to her that one day you would understand. Well, she says, that day still has not dawned. At 0:36 a string borne crescendo romantico swells as he states that what she believed was true – “That I love you, I have always loved you”, which Korngold crowns with a climax d’Amore as he embraces and kisses her. Charlotte asks, what barrier has stood between them, and at 1:02 the music darkens and embraces both bitterness and sadness when Arthur states that Emily offered him a love he could not return. Charlotte then despairs as she finally realizes how Emily experienced the great and unrequitted love expressed in her novel Wuthering Heights. A tragic chord closes the scene as Charlotte utters; “Oh Emily.”

“Charlotte’s Arrival” reveals Anne reading Charlotte’s letter to her father and aunt by the fireplace. Korngold supports with tension and unease using a repeating descending three-note figure as Anne is distressed and preoccupied with Dr. Barnes’ visit with Emily. The music brightens at 0:54 as Charlotte arrives home at last, warmly greeting by the three. At 1:30 the music darkens full of foreboding as Dr. Barnes asks to meet with the Reverend and Aunt Branwell. At 1:47 we segue into “Emily” atop strings of distress as Charlotte is angry that Anne did not inform her of Emily’s deterioration, but Anne pleads that Emily ordered her not to write. A desperate ascending motif carries Charlotte’s run upstairs. She enters to find Emily sitting in a chair by an open window taking in the night breeze. We segue into “Charlotte” at 2:17 carried by a plaintive rendering of Emily’s Theme as the sisters embrace. The music brightens with refulgent tenderness as she discloses Thackeray’s praise of Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and that George Smith awaits the day of her next book in his printing press. At 3:51 Charlotte’s yearning theme enters as Emily asks “Did you see him Charlotte”? She answers yes, saying that curiosity overcame her pride. She states that her feelings for him had long passed, but Emily sees through the deception. Emily then discloses that her time has come, and Korngold offers an exquisite aching musical narrative of familial love with an entwining of their themes to support the intimacy of Emily’s last moments with her beloved sister. She promises Charlotte that he will return, and happiness will at last be hers. At 5:56 an inescapable, portentous chord of death overtakes them in “The Death” as Emily faints. Grim phrases of the Devotion Theme evoke tears in Charlotte as she runs to fetch Dr. Barnes. At 6:11 we are draped by ethereal harp glissandi, and tolling bells, which usher in a stirring crescendo dramatico as we see Charlotte’s spirit leave her body, her ghost like figure walking amidst her beloved moors. At 7:02 we surge with dramatic power atop tremolo strings of alarm and the dire trumpet declarations of the Dark Knight Theme, which herald his arrival. He rides towards her propelled by the repeating four-note declarations of the Devotion fanfare, as she waits unflinching. He sweeps her up into his arms and rides off empowered by a grand crescendo dramatico. At 7:52 we segue into “The End” with a grand statement of the Devotion Theme replete with refulgent bells as we return to the bedroom to see a now dead Emily in her chair. We conclude with Charlotte standing in the moors atop Emily’s Wuthering Heights hill, where she says; “I have found the meaning, dear Emily. Goodbye my dear one.” She descends the hill with a final grandiose statement of the Devotion Theme, and joins Arthur who is waiting. They depart, arms locked as the film ends with a grand flourish.

I wish to commend William Stromberg and John W. Morgan for the wonderful re-recording of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s masterwork, “Devotion”. The score restoration by John Morgan was excellent, and the performance of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under William Stromberg’s baton, superb. The recording provides excellent audio quality and a wonderful album listening experience. Korngold faced what many composers have come to dread, being tasked with scoring a flawed film. Yet this did not deter him, and in my judgment, I believe his handiwork elevated the film, and mitigated many of its imperfections. The story offers a classic love triangle and Korngold responded with two wonderful love themes; a yearning and ardent one for Charlotte, and a sad, one full of unrequited longing for Emily. Cues such as “Love Scene” and “The Truth” offer romantic compositions of the highest order. The pervasive Devotion Fanfare and Theme masterfully set the tone of the film, and provided a unifying thread for the its narrative. While the Dark Knight’s Theme brought to life his menacing power, terror, and irresistibility, achieving an awesome grand crescendo dramatico in “The Death” cue. Folks, I believe Korngold masterfully brought this film to life with exceptionally conceived and executed compositions. The romantic writing was supremely persuasive, moving, and nearly saved the film. I highly recommend this album as an essential Korngold, and a Golden Age classic, which provides an exceptional listening experience both during the film, and album.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a seven-minute suite; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbjS0L8Co1k

Buy the Devotion soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title – Foreword – The Village (4:30)
  • The Moors – Charlotte – Emily (4:58)
  • Bedroom – Inn (2:59)
  • Nicholls – Bedroom – Outside – Packing Montage – Farewell (8:45)
  • Lunch – Poorhouse – Love Scene – The Moors – Wuthering Heights (6:41)
  • The Girls – Nicholls Outside – Branwell & Horses (3:20)
  • Brussels – The Dream (4:40)
  • Charlotte’s Romance – Charlotte – The Boat – England (4:28)
  • The Graves – The Meeting (3:24)
  • Stairway – Bedroom – Library (5:06)
  • Branwell’s Death (2:40)
  • Jane Eyre – London Montage – Thackeray (2:21)
  • Autograph – Modiste – Banquet – Opera (2:39)
  • In the Park (2:15)
  • The Truth (1:30)
  • Charlotte’s Arrival – Emily – Charlotte – The Death – The End (9:01)

Running Time: 69 minutes 17 seconds

Marco Polo 8.225038 (1946/1999)

Music composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Conducted by William Stromberg. Performed by Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Milan Roder, Simon Bucharoff, Leonid Raab, Bernhard Kaun and Ernst Toch . Recorded and mixed by Edvard Shakhanazarian and Vitaly Ivanov. Score produced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Leo F. Forbstein. Album produced by William Stromberg and John Morgan.

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