Kurt Vieten/Capriccio Records
Even after the painstaking 2001 restoration of director Fritz Lang's 1927 legendary Metropolis, film buffs had to settle for a version without the 22 minutes believed to be irretrievably lost. But in 2008 the missing footage showed up in the vaults of an Argentine film company. And it was the existing, meticulously annotated manuscripts and printed parts of German composer Gottfried Huppertz's complete score that made it possible to properly integrate the footage back into the movie.
In the process, all these tidbits were reconstituted under the supervision of film guru Frank Strobel. He's also the conductor in this immaculately laid out, world premiere recording of an extended suite distilled from Huppertz's original score.
Unlike most film scores, this music can stand on its own. The brilliant orchestration and the use of leitmotifs (a la Wagner) hold the listener's attention, precluding the music's need for any visual sustenance. Huppertz incorporates impressionistic, expressionistic and even jazz elements. The richness of the score undoubtedly served as an example to such European expatriate Hollywood composers as Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Waxman.
Presented in the same order as they appear on screen, all of the cues are individually banded and grouped into three tableaus corresponding to the film's tripartite structure. Highlights include an ecstatic Metropolis main title, some machine music reminiscent of Mosolov's The Iron Foundry, composed at about the same time, and a terrific 1920s dance number.
There's also a spooky laboratory cue presaging Waxman's 1935 score for The Bride of Frankenstein. Additionally, the "Dance" and "Death" sequences at the end of the second tableau are made all the more sinister by the presence of a skeletal xylophone and funereal organ.
Perceptive listeners will also detect references to the old familiar "Dies Irae" tune which surfaces at various fateful points and "La Marseillaise," signifying the revolutionary activities of workers in the movie.
Superior in content to anything previously available, Strobel and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra perform this music with a spontaneity and emotional fervor that breathe new life into Huppertz's inspired score.
Bob McQuiston revels in under-the-radar repertoire at his web site Classical Lost and Found.