Interview with Mr Bill Wrobel (5/5/2001)

Q. Mr Wrobel , tell me about your colloaboration in research in film music
of E.W.Korngold ?

My research of Korngold's scores at the Warner Brothers Archives
at USC began in the spring or summer of 1989. That was the period when
the CBS Collection at UCLA was first available. So I was particularly
busy that year researching Bernard Herrmann scores he composed for CBS,
and shortly later with research at USC when Leith Adams was in charge
of the W/B Archives. Leith is a terrific, accomodating gentleman, and
he now works as a Corporate Archivist at Warner Brothers. He would pull
the fully orchestrated scores I requested, sometimes several at one
week's sitting.
My first research involved Max Steiner scores such as "The Boy From
Oklahoma" and "Lion and the Horse." Over the years I researched at
least 30 Steiner scores(and scores by other composers such as Kaper's
"Them," Waxman's "Silver Chalice," etc). Within that period, I also
managed to study several Korngold scores.
The first research into a Korngold score was actually quite
accidental. I was busy hand-copying portions of a Steiner score in the
Special Collections Reading Room on an upper floor of the Doheny Library
in the center of USC campus. You see, all W/B Archive materials can only
be studied at the on-site USC library facilities, specifically the
Cinema-Television Library. I happened to see Korngold's SEA HAWK full
score resting on a nearby shelf behind the room monitor(usually a
student employed part-time by the Library). Someone else had pulled it,
and I asked Leith if it was okay to study the score since it was due to
be returned to storage. I was immediately captivated by the virtuosic
intracies of the written score. So the next time I visited, I took along
my Walkman audio cassette player, and listened to the tape of the movie
as I read the score. I had already received written permissen from Al
Kohn at Warner Bros Music(licensing chief at the time)which gave Leith
permission to xerox from the Archives at my expense(usually 50 cents per
11X17 page, or $1 per full page, so it can get pretty expensive to
xerox, especially if you wanted to xerox the complete SEA HAWK score of
nearly 640 pages!). So I wrote down which pages I wanted(totaling about
80-90 pages)and marked them on the official Order/Request form, and
placing long white strips of paper within the pages I wanted so as to
easily signal the person xeroxing later on. I would also hand-copy
select cues or portions of cues which were not quite so heavily
congested or busy with notes! Such hand-copying is an excellent method
of learning how these Hollywood composers wrote, becoming deeply
embedded in one's subconscious. I also hand-copied extensively(almost
exclusively)the Bernard Herrmann scores at UC Santa Barbara and also at
UCLA(when xeroxing was no longer allowed after the first year or less of
availibility due to policy changes). But hand-copying takes a great deal
of time and patience which most people do not have, I've discovered!
It's too much work, but I think it's worth it.
SEA HAWK is perhaps my favorite Korngold film score(and I think most
fans' favorite). Truly a classic score for a classic Errol Flynn movie.
I could imagine Max Steiner scoring that film, but I really think
Korngold was a perfect match for that pic. The orchestrated pages were
about 13 X 18 inches in size(usually 24-33 staves, depending on the
blank sheets used), so in order to xerox the complete page, one would
have to xerox first the top page then the bottom half with 11 X 17
sheets. Some studios however have special large xerox machines which can
xerox a complete, long orchestrated page.
Korngold's ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD was also truly inspired work,
and so I had that score pulled next. After that, I researched(to a far
lesser extent than the other two scores)THE PRINCE & THE PAUPER, then
briefly worked on KING's ROW, SEA WOLF, and CONSTANT NYMPH.
I also did work on CAPTAIN BLOOD, Korngold's "first" major score for
Warner Brothers(in terms of a score completely his, not adapted by
another source as he did from Mendelssohn for A MIDSUMMER NIGHT's
DREAM). In fact, John Morgan requested my services sometime in 1993/4 to
hand-copy the Main Title sequence for his then upcoming Marco Polo
release which included a fabulous suite of CAPTAIN BLOOD music. He knew
of my work at USC, and since no fully orchestrated pages existed of the
Main Title(and the immediately following "horseman" cue), he wondered if
I could help him by hand-copying from the orchestral parts into a
composite whole. It was pleasure doing this, but unfortunately USC at
the time only allowed me to use large index cards(rather than standard
blank music sheets)which I stenciled/xeroxed staves unto. So it was
quite a task under the limiting circumstances! But John is a
professional with a keen eye as a music score reconstructionist. . He
later spotted some copying errors I made on a clarinet line, I believe,
which I later corrected on a return trip. By the way, he is also an
excellent composer in his own right, his style somewhat a mixture of
Steiner & Herrmann(although the whole is greater than the sum of the
parts!). I later worked(for my own)on other parts of the score which
interested me, but very sparsely. For instance, I was interested in cue
#27, "Isle of Virgen Magra," a very beautiful, effective, rather calming
cue which begins with the strings playing the D maj 2nd
inversion(A/D/F#)half note chord to the Bb min half note chord to the D
maj root full note chord in the next bar. The vibe sounds softly with
the flutes and clarinet(harp is arpeggiando). I also liked the Slave
Market cue(cue 5)and "Slaves At The Wheel"(cue 8), etc. Hugo Friedhofer
orchestrated the music. usually HWF was the principal orchestrator, but
also Milan Roder's orchestrating services were used a lot. In fact, I
preferred Roder's work because his writing was far more readable than
Friedhofer's! Larger and clearly notated, and rather pretty to look
at(his almost calligraphy-oriented style of writing). But Friedhofer was
a master. John Morgan pointed out to me in a recent post that, according
to Friedhofer, Korngold's sketches to CAPATIN BLOOD were not complete,
and that Korngold would play on the piano and shout out specific
instructions when needed. Apparently his sketches were basically
unreadable, so a German friend of Korngold's would step in and recopy
the sketches(in a more readable version)for Friedhofer and Roder. But it
is important to understand that ALL of Captain Blood is pure Korngold.
Friedhofer did not ghost write part of the Main Title, for instance. He
simply was invaluable as the orchestrator, translating Korngold's music
into the final Hollywood version, so to speak(since Korngold at the time
was new at the Hollywood game). This is not unusual for an orchestator
to help out. Powell helped out Alfred Newman, for instance.

Q.What was the reaction of people in Warner?

The reactions of the archivists at W/B Archives/USC are quite
helpful and professional. These musical treasures are there for the
asking, to be tapped for research! All you have to do is simply give
them enough time to pull the material(play it safe by giving them at
least a week to two weeks notice). Noelle R. Carter is the Acting
Director now, with Stuart Galbraith IV helping out as the Curator. I was
there just last year when I had a few scores pulled such as Steiner's
SPRINGFIELD RIFLE, and Buttolph's BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. Currently
the Doheny Library is being given an earthquake retrofit, so the
temporary location of the Reading Room/Cinema-TV Library is just north
of campus at University Village. Ned Comstock is the principal
archivist there. He is also a terrific, helpful person, who in the past
pulled many scores for me, including scores from the Dimitri Tiomkin
Collection there, and Herrmann's JOY IN THE MORNING copyist score, and
Alfred Newman scores such as HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

Q. What was the difficulties in your project ?

It is not difficult finding scores and legal papers and other
documents. Warner Bros Archives has perhaps the biggest collection of
studio documents(including full scores/parts/conductor scores/cue sheets
etc)held anywhere. They also can pull scores past 1968(when W/B was sold
to Screen gems), but generally I focus on the Golden Age or early
Silver Age scores. You might occasionally find a missing cue, or perhaps
the fully orchestrated cue may not be available, but generally it's
pretty complete. Most of the time, you do not have cue titles marked on
the fully orchestrated pages, so you might want to have the autograph
sketch score pulled(if available)or at least the W/B piano-conductor
sheets, and also the cue sheets. But I would not RELY solely on the p-c
music sheet version. The most complete version of the music is of
course the fully orchestrated pages. Still, you have to realize that
these are usually the FINAL version, and may not incorporate all the
originally intended score sketched by, say, Korngold. But sometimes you
also find little gems of discovery, such as short cues never used in the
final picture, or fragments of cues. This has happened many times
especially when I researched Steiner thoroughly. There was, for
instance, a long sequence at the end of HANGING TREE when Elizabeth
pleads for Frail's life that was never used.

Q. Why he trusted the orchestration of film music to other composers?
Was the orchestration close enough to his idea and style ??

As for the orchestration of Korngold's films, I've already
discussed his in part. Korngold did not orchestrate his own music for
films. He relied on his orchestrators for that, which was the standard
practice for Hollywood. Bernard Herrmann was about the only composer
who orchestrated his own works. Sometimes a composer may step in and
orchestrate SOME of the cues, but usually they have complete faith in
their preferred orchestrators(eg., Murray Cutter for Max Steiner). I
think Friedhofer helped tremendously in this respect for Korngold, as
discussed earlier, since Korngold was rather new at the game in the
mid-Thirties. I think Tiomkin also was helped tremendously by his
principal orchestrators as well since Dimitri often wrote in a virtuosic
piano style that did not always translate very well orchestrally, so the
orchestrators would lend a hand, and at the recording sessions
adjustments would also have to be made in terms of balance and colour.
As to links to Korngold's classical works, I must defer that
question to qualified researchers who have specialized in his classical
works(I haven't). Perhaps Robert Glaser could be of assistance here!
Give him this question!

Q. What do you believe that today soundtrack listeners , owe to E.Korngold's
music and technique?

First-time listeners to Korngold usually are those watching the
swashbuckler Errol Flynn films he composed for. One has to remember that
Erich, born May 29, 1897, was a child prodigy who played his "Gold"
cantata at age nine to Gustav Mahler(who pronounced him a genius). At
age 11 he composed his ballet "Der Schneemann," and so forth. He
completed his opera "Die tote Stadt" when he was 23. Max Reinhardt
brought him to Hollywood where he pioneered the symphonic film score,
which had a tremendous effect(influencing Williams' score to STAR WARS).
The best term I can associate with Korngold is "virtuosic." His scores
are richly romantic, highly leitmotif-oriented, fully contrapuntal,
intricately textured. Of course he wrote phenomenal music in the
elaborate, late-Romantic framework or style which simply reinforced, in
a bigger or more virtuosic Hollywood sound, the Russian-Germantic
romantic idiom already established by the likes of Max Steiner and
Korngold had a restless part of his nature with a quick and active
mind, needing lots of variety and intellectual stimulation and
challenge. So I sense an impatience with that accelerated thinking
processs which could easily grasp the Big Picture, yet have some
difficulty with handling of minute details in relation to the overview.
So I can understand why his sketches were unreadable! He struggled with
trying to faithfully reproduce the great, restless creativity within,
inspiration which flashed through his mind like a lightning bolt. But I
feel that his individuality was slighted and he was deeply wounded
personally and artistically by the neglect he largely suffered in latter
I think, for those truly interested, one must research into
Korngold's music more fully to truly understand his exceptional
contributions. Reading the written music is a primary tool to fuller
understanding. It is one thing enjoying Mom's apple pie(eg., listening
to a Korngold cd), but it is another thing having a recipe to that apple
pie(eg., the written score). With the recipe, you begin to learn how the
master cook of music whipped up his delicious aural treat! That is why I
have a Film Score Rundowns site( that I
can help show, in small part, these many recipes. The laborious verbal
descriptions are inadequate because one look(of a written music page)is
worth a thousand words! However, I've already worked on a few Korngold
scores, the latest being PRINCE & THE PAUPER exclusively for this
Korngold site! Next may be a mini cue rundown of CAPTAIN BLOOD, perhaps,
or KING's ROW. But it will be a minor, cursory analysis since I did not
research these scores very adequately. Time, like my wallet's contents,
is quite limited! I enjoy to share with those who appreciate such
technical information. But I am not a musicologist, just a researcher
who has real fun devoting some of his spare time on film music as an
avocation. I happen to be living in the mecca of film music(southern
california)so it would be wise to take advantage of such good fortune,
studying the treasures of such Romantic composers as Korngold and

Bill Wrobel

Mr Bill Wrobel , is a researcher in film music scores