by Frank Strobel


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This CD by Frank Strobel and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra may be the most important commercial soundtrack release of the last 70 years (which is about as long as soundtrack albums have existed). The music was composed by Gottfried Huppertz (1897-1937) in 1926 for Fritz Lang's fantasy/polemic epic Metropolis, and comprised one of the most ambitious film scores of the silent era; it also influenced a whole generation of composers who followed in Huppertz's footsteps in sound films, even as most of those who were from Germany trudged their way to Hollywood after Hitler's rise. Across the decades that followed, the movie Metropolis -- though heavily edited soon after its original release and later degraded from unauthorized printings and showings -- built a reputation as one of the grandest science fiction/fantasy movies of all time. Huppertz's music was mostly forgotten, except by scholars, and manipulating the movie's musical accompaniment became almost a game by producers -- Giorgio Moroder revived interest in the movie in the '80s among the MTV generation by grafting a rock soundtrack onto the film and issuing it as a first-run movie. But Huppertz's original work survived and played an essential role in the restoration of the movie to full-length, which was issued in 2010. The same method of working -- which, in contrast to the usual method for film composers, had Huppertz present for much of the actual shooting of the movie -- which allowed his notes to guide the film's restorers, also gave him an opportunity to write a magnificently deep, full body of music. He was formulating his work as he watched the shoot, and composing even before the film was edited, so that his score very much plunged inside of the film's action, the meaning, and the underlying content. It's no surprise that it wowed audiences in 1927, who felt they were getting far more than just "accompaniment" as they watched the movie unspool. And it's just as impressive in 2011, especially as presented here, in state-of-the-art audio by Strobel and company. Huppertz's work is very Wagnerian at times, but he also is clearly influenced by Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Bruckner, and he incorporates jazz rhythms into appropriate places (mostly depicting the decadent Yoshiwara district). And while there are lush passages intended for 70-plus players, there are also small-scale chamber-like sections as well, and parts for solo organ. This is very much a product of Weimar Germany, as was the movie itself -- experimental and daring, and drawing freely from a multitude of creative streams. And apart from the other virtues of this CD, there is precious little music of that era available, much less with the depth and richness of an opera or a symphony. And one need not even know the movie to love the music, though hearing the music properly for the first time (a version of this score was promised in 2001 and never appeared), it may reintroduce the movie to yet another generation.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/28/2011
Label: Capriccio
UPC: 0845221050669
catalogNumber: 5066
Rank: 60319

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Metropolis 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
KlingonOpera More than 1 year ago
The 1927 film Metropolis recently underwent complete restoration, due in part to the discovery of 22 minutes of footage in 2008 from a copy of the film in Argentina. The music itself was originally scored for 153 minutes (per the excellent liner notes!), whereas the film was 120 minutes after the 2001 restoration. This additional footage allowed for most of the remaining music to accompany the even more recently restored film, which is significant as editing out any of this wonderful music had to be a daunting challenge, even given the detailed meter markings in the score. Add to that a stellar performance by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and what we have here is a real treat! Gottfried Huppertz music is filled with themes that interweave throughout the score for Maria, Freder, the Workers, and the Machines, as well as sections of descriptive music that bring the various sequences in the film to life. Listening to this recording without seeing the film, it is striking how much of the ¿groundwork¿ seems to be laid for the more modern film music that we take for granted today. Frank Strobel proves that he is indeed a fine interpreter of film music, breathing life into the music of Metropolis in such a way that it jumps out of the speakers and brings forth images of the film as you listen. It is just simply fantastic. If you liked the soundtrack to Metropolis, or simply adore well done film music, get this recording. You won¿t be disappointed.
Ted_Wilks More than 1 year ago
It has become fashionable to rerecord, using the latest stereo equipment, scores of old films which were originally made either in the "silent era" or when sound recording techniques ranged from poor to miserable. Many of those films, ground-breakers in their day, have largely been forgotten. A few, however, stand out above the rest and are remembered, such as Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky" and Edmund Meisel's score for Eisenstein's "Potemkin". To the growing list may now be added this beautiful score by an almost-forgotten composer, Gottfried Huppertz, who composed orchestral works, songs, and scores for several films. Alas, apart from his film scores, Huppertz still remains forgotten; Grove Music cites his score for "Metropolis" in an article on film music but has no entry for him as a composer. Having seen the original film "Metropolis" (1927), which is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and makes use of this context to explore the social crisis between workers and owners inherent in capitalism, I enjoyed the visual aspect but I cringed at the poor quality of the sound track. It is, therefore, a joy to review this Capriccio CD, which contains the original film score (32 tracks, 77 mins.); the sound is spectacular, and the score's beauty and originality can now be enjoyed by all film buffs who long for good-quality recordings of film scores. In his score, Huppertz incorporates not only quotations of the Gregorian plainchant "Dies irae" and "Marseillaise" (French national anthem) but leitmotivs (an idea copied from Wagner), impressionism, expressionism, and jazz (all the rage in 1927). Frank Strobel, a world-renowned film-music conductor, directs the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. If you like film-score music in glorious sound, don't miss this one! Ted Wilks
DanClarino More than 1 year ago
I might be one of the few people who have never actually heard the film score to Fritz Lang's classic "Metropolis" apart from the movie. In fact, I only saw the film once and many years ago. This new release of the score to "Metropolis" is a revelation. The music by German Gottfried Huppertz is a gem of a period piece. This wonderful recording includes the sounds from what was a lost twenty two minutes. Huppertz is known for just a small number of film scores and was also a popular singer in both the opera courts as well as well as the popular scene in the 1920s and into the '30's. Clearly, his style was a reflection of the late German Romantic tradition with echoes of Wagner and hints of his contemporary Mahler. However, his music is also reflective of some of the cabaret jazz and music of the "roaring twenties" that he no doubt heard around him. The score is both episodic as well as built on themes that relate to particular characters and elements of plot. The very helpful booklet notes by Peter Moorman point out that Huppertz's music seems to have clearly influenced other later, better known film composers including Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner. It is also historically important to note that most film scores from the silent era and beyond were from German and German-American composers. The United States had yet to produce a big film composer until, perhaps, Bernard Herrmann, he too of German descent. This recording is much more than a curiosity. The style is, of course, both dated and nostalgic but of both historical and musical importance. Composers such as Huppertz and others from that time clearly had a large scale symphonic vision. The music, while thematic, plays out over long periods of time and contains expanded treatment of the core elements. Much of today's film music - with some exception - is essentially two or three rather short melodies that recur many times and with just minor variations. Huppertz truly does sound like "the past" but in a positive, important way. The performance here by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester of Berlin specializes in repertory like this and conductor Frank Strobel is himself a dedicated specialist in historic film scores. The sound engineering from Capriccio, Austria, is top notch and this is completely worth hearing. I am motivated to go see the film again with renewed eyes and ears!