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Webb: Cat People. William T. Stromberg, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. Marco Polo 8.225125.

Webb: Cat People. William T. Stromberg, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. Marco Polo 8.225125.

Marco Polo continue their merry way with the reconstruction and recording of old film scores. They seem to be about the only ones interested in preserving this near-ancient musical art form, so we wish them well. Both discs reviewed here contain compositions that were re-orchestrated by John Morgan, a dedicated fellow, indeed. The first disc contains music soundtracks from the films The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Son of Dracula (1943), Black Friday (1940), and Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), composed by Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner. Frankly, none of the scores caught my fancy. Like the films they were written for, they are typical Hollywood bombast, with only moments of passing interest.

The second disc, though, containing music from Cat People (1942), Bedlam (1946), The Seventh Victim (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), and I Walked With a Zombie (1943), may be very much worth your interest. This was music composed by a much under-appreciated Roy Webb, who also did the scores for such notable flicks as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Notorious (1946), Murder, My Sweet (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1946), and Bringing Up Baby (1938). His music presented on this disc has genuine mystery, suspense, and tension about it, creating some wonderful background atmosphere for these memorable, low-key Val Lewton horror films. Cat People, in particular, is memorable background scoring, mysterious and eerie and not a little surreal.

The sound of both discs is the same as far as I could tell. They were recorded in May of 1999 in the Concert Hall of the Slovak Radio, Bratislava, under the direction of William T. Stromberg. The sonics are clean and well defined, well focused, with reasonably wide frequency and dynamic ranges, good left-to-right stereo spread, and acceptable depth. A natural hall resonance provides a touch of realism while slightly diminishing the recordings' overall transparency. It's quite an acceptable aural picture, nonetheless.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Puccio, John
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Previous Article:Salter and Skinner: Mystery and Horror. Marco Polo 8.225124.
Next Article:Schumann: Piano concerto; Piano Quintet. Maria Joao Pires, piano; Claudio Abbado, Chamber Orchestra of Europe. DG 289 463 179-2.

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