I don't know if I'm pointing out the obvious, but Robert Israel didn't write the score in 1926. (He was born in 1963). He doesn't have a website, but I've seen quite a few films with his scores. He often works with David Shepherd of Blackhawk Films and Film Preservation Associates.
Mr. Israel is a music historian, and in quoting Tchaikovsky he would be following cinema practices of the era in which scores were compiled from pre-existing classical works or from library music written by the likes of Gaston Borch or Adolf Minot. Mr Israel's approach to scoring silent films is not to write completely new music (like the Alloy Orchestra, for example) but to approach it from a historical practices perspective, much like Gillian Armstrong would (Library of Congress one, not the X-Files one).
Obviously a quotation from Harry Potter doesn't fit into this practice historically but it does inter-contextually, if you know what I mean -- if Harry Potter had been around in 1926 theater music directors probably would have used that music for a film about a magician. I'm not saying that's what Israel did in this case since I haven't seen the film, but it would certainly be in character (albeit anachronistic). Of course JW is not in the public domain so he would presumably have to license it.
I caught some of that movie the other night. Looked perhaps to be a groundbreaking film. Wondering if it was one of the first to depict a mad scientist in a castle with an Igor-like assistant as it was made long before the first Frankenstein movie.
If memory serves, I believe "Afternoon of a Faun" was also used extensively in the hypnosis scene.
I came upon this thread today (albeit more than a year after the fact), but it interested me for the simple reason that anyone would be taking a bit of their time to discuss some of the work I have done with music for pre-1929 film.
Actually, my method of scoring is not too far away from what was described by JMDNYC, but more accurately, I do compose a good deal of new music for the scores which I create–at least in more recent years of my practice. It is not so much that the historical aspects mandate my thinking, but rather that the stylistic language (from my point of view) suits these classic films with much more appropriate effect.
With regards to Rex Ingram's THE MAGICIAN (1926), I was mindful of the wonderful scoring techniques used in the early 1930s for the Universal horror films. If James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN (1931) is considered one of the fathers of the genre, then the Ingram is the granddaddy of them all. (This is not to discount earlier explorations into horrific cinema, such as Murnau's poetic NOSFERATU or Barrymore's thrilling portrayal of Mr. Hyde). The opening title music is from Piotr Tchaikovsky's ballet masterpiece SWAN LAKE. It is, however, my orchestration based upon the original. Throughout the score are quotes of popular classics by composers such as Franz Liszt, Modest Mussorgsky, Frederic Chopin, and Claude Debussy (not "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" as suggested by someone else), just to name a few. And in every case, it was necessary to adapt and orchestrate the selections I incorporated into the music score. This is far and away from being a compiled effort.
When I do prepare for a project, my choices are anything but arbitrary. Particularly in the case of THE MAGICIAN, I was very careful as I constructed the score. There are psychological connections in the film which came to my mind as needing musical support to help clarify or even strengthen these passages. For example, when Margaret is playing the piano, I chose Chopin's Nocturne in F minor for a specific reason. Apart from the fact that her character could possibly play this level of music (and its popularity still ranks high among piano students to this day), it was another way to enforce the relationship she and Haddo would embark upon, as well as the building tension of the sequence. Haddo plays the piano for Margaret and I chose Chopin's Ballade in G minor. It is a diabolical work, seductive and tragic. In Maughm's novel, Haddo completely dominates Margaret: if she does something, Haddo will take it to another level beyond. (Besides, when Haddo finishes playing the piano, Chopin's ending seems to have chords that match Haddo's movements). She plays a work accessible by most students, he plays the same composer at a highly advanced level. But, when she goes to see Haddo (after this encounter) against her will, it is the Chopin Ballade and the Haddo theme (Liszt Sonata quote) that are intertwined to reflect her helplessness against his hypnotic powers. The music also suggests the previous meeting between them in which she was hypnotized by him, both at the piano, and with his drug induced vision of Hell.
There is so much more I could say on this subject but I will stop here as I have already taken too much space on this thread.
Thank you for your interest in these films and for taking a moment to discuss some of the details from my score.