At the time of the original release of this CD in 1998, the only worthwhile substantial music available from these two major Max Steiner scores was a less than eight minute Suite from The Treasure of Sierra Madre in the RCA Classic Film Score Series. That concise arrangement has great sound and amazing conducting by Charles Gerhardt, but there was clearly room for more of these lengthy orchestral scores. Subsequently, excellent complete versions of The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Charge of the Light Brigade appeared on Marco Polo and Tribute Film Classics respectively conducted by William Stromberg. All of this recording activity attests to the quality and popularity of two of Steiner’s most famous action scores
These are both extended suites containing over 30 minutes of music. They are obviously longer than Gerhardt’s short Suite, but contain less than half of the complete scores. Conductor Barry Kolman is described in the program notes as the principal editor of the two arrangements, and he has done a good job. All of the most important music is included. Kolman conducts Steiner’s relentless action underscore with plenty of fire. He has the trumpet fanfares, massed brass, and percussion under control but on the edge in “The Charge” sequence from The Charge of the Light Brigade. The Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra is adequate, but is clearly not in the same class as Stromberg’s Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Gerhardt’s National Philharmonic Orchestra. Those latter two orchestras also capture Steiner’s personal sound better. The brass here is leaner and somewhat generic in its tone. With Gerhardt and Stromberg, there can be no mistake that it is Steiner. The sound probably contributes to this. There is good analytic clarity in the orchestral maelstrom on Centaur, but not as much harmonic richness as with Gerhardt and Stromberg.
There is definitely a place in the catalog for this well conducted and produced recording. Gerhard’s short Suite certainly does not give a complete picture of The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and the complete scores may well be too much of a good thing for some listeners. These two suites occupy a perfect place in the middle for selected Steiner fans. Arthur Lintgen
This article originally appeared in Issue 37:4 (Mar/Apr 2014) of Fanfare Magazine