Film Soundtrack CDs
Published on June 5, 2008
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL – Music composed and conducted by John WILLIAMSON – Concord Records CRE-30825-02, 60:12: This is the soundtrack for the latest installment of the Indiana Jones adventures, using many of the iconic themes that made the character played by Harrison Ford so popular with fans around the world. Just as Williams did with the different themes in his Star Wars scores, the Indiana Jones themes have been refurbished and reevaluated in this new epic score by the composer with five Oscars under his belt. In fact some of the themes sound similar to those of Star Wars. A dab o’ Holst, a dab o’ Walton, and a bit of that English light orchestral music they play at the Proms in London = instant John Williams. All the years which have passed don’t seem to make much difference with Jones’ character. Yes, he has aged gracefully (and actually gets married at the end) but he can still crack that whip and toss that hat. There are 19 cues that pretty much tell the story by their titles. There’s no particular orchestral credits, but there is one for the Hollywood Film Chorale.
PATHOLOGY – Motion Picture Score by Johannes Kobilke & Robert Williamson – Lakeshore Records Dolby ProLogic II encoded: I’m doing this soundtrack CD early because it’s the first one in many years to use Dolby Surround on a standard CD. Actually, it’s encoded for the latest ProLogic II to give exciting surround effects in keeping with this thriller about a young hospital intern who stumbles on a psychopathic group of colleagues playing a vile game of committing the “perfect” murder. German-born composer Kobilke has done the scores for more than 25 TV movies and industrial films but this is his first Hollywood film score. The Pathology soundtrack is also available for purchase thru iTunes using Minnetonka Audio’s SurCode software version of ProLogic II, so this provides a way to bring surround effects to both those with only standard CD players (and receivers/preamps with ProLogic II) and also to computer music downloaders.
RATATOUILLE – Music by Michael Giacchino – Walt Disney Record/Pixar Soundtrack D000050102: What a wonderful all-ages family film! Pixar just can’t seem to lose. Even those of us who might have some reservations about making light of rats loose in the kitchen of a French restaurant were rolling in the aisles. Giacchino put together a perfect score, alternating between intimate sounds and all-out full orchestral statements. Some of it mickey-mouses the screen action, but most of it just keeps up the proper mood of the action taking place in the restaurant in Paris. The main theme – Le festin – is very catchy and it returns often in this fun score.
THE KITE RUNNER – Original Soundtrack by Alberto Iglesias – Edge Music/DGG B0010046-02, 62:47: A powerful score for a powerful movie about Afghanistan of old and Afghanistan of today. It contains a variety of orchestral music as well as ethnic music involving a host of performers on such instruments as santur, oud, lyre, rubab, Turkish clarinet, duduk, tabla, bansuri and ney. Plus some male and female vocalists. Probably most appropriate for those who have seen this very moving movie, and everyone should.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Original Music by Jonny Greenwood – Emperor String Quartet/BBC Concert Orchestra/Robert Ziegler – Nonesuch STCD400025: Eleven chamber and orchestral compositions by Greenwood comprise the film’s soundtrack. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his amazing portrayal of the ambitious oil man. The sound effects which I found annoying in the film are not on the CD, but some romantic-period orchestral music, in the style of Dvorak, is here and I also found it disturbing during the film. However, on the CD it doesn’t seem jarring in the least.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Original Soundtrack Music by John Powell – Decca B0009488-02, 54:54: Nine instrumental cues plus the usual dumb song (written by Moby) under the closing titles at the end. There was a sizeable studio orchestra. Powell not only composed the music but arranged it, produced the recording sessions and did the programming on sections requiring it. It’s the expected action movie accompaniment, but with a bit of originality which made it very effective with the screen images.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN – Music composed by Harry Gregson-Williams – Walt Disney Records Soundtrack D000074202: This is a sweeping and impressive orchestral score, in keeping with the feature of the same. The last four of the 16 cues feature various folk and rock singers. As with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series, the composer drew on the main themes for characters used in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – varying and embellishing them to fit the sequel’s story line. He also introduced new themes for Prince Caspian, threading them all together to create the new score. This is an Enhanced CD with bonus content in your computer and when you connect to the Internet. There is even a photo gallery and movie trailer.
IN BRUGES – Music by Carter Burwell – Focus Features LKS 33982: 24 cues here from the quirky thriller – composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced by composer Burwell. There is a Schubert lied in the middle of it, surprisingly. There’s plenty of opportunity for sightseeing music to accompany the two crooks who are cooling their heels in Bruges waiting for order from their boss in London. But later there is also opportunity for some shoot-em-up music as things heat up plot wise. Again, not sure it would skate for those who haven’t seen the film.
OCEANS THIRTEEN – Music by David Holmes – Warner Bros. 147964-2, 44:34: If you’re a fan of the Oceans series of movies you’ve probably already seen this latest one and the soundtrack will be right up your casino aisle. In addition to the properly showy Las Vegas-type orchestral background cues, you get Frank Sinatra singing This Town, Motherhood doing Soul Town, and Puccio Roelens’ version of Ellington’s Caravan. There’s also a surprising cut of Tomita’s electronic version of Debussy’s Claire de Lune. (I’d be curious where that’s used in the film but not enough to bother seeing it to find out.)
RESERVATION ROAD – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack composed and produced by Mark Isham – Orchestra cond. by James Shearman. – Focus Features: Mark Isham is one of the finest composers of film scores active today. His early work was often based on his solo instrument, the trumpet, sometimes with various electronic effects. This new score doesn’t even have any trumpet solos, though the composer is heard on piano in some cues. Isham always uses a subtle approach which never seems obvious or overblown as with many soundtrack scores. His use of reverberation is extensive in this score – perhaps excessive for the music-only experience, but it could be right on with the film, which I haven’t seen.
CASSANDRA’S DREAM – Original Motion Picture Score by Philip Glass, conducted by Michael Riesman – Orange Mountain Music OMM 0038, 31 min.: Woody Allen’s latest film is a good but not great one. Glass’s scores have grown in emotional content and variety and often are extremely effective in creating a particular mood on-screen. Cassandra’s Dream is the name of a sailboat two brothers have purchased. They are hired by a relative to bump off someone and do so for the money, but things quickly go awry. The dozen cues here take one thru the important parts of the film’s plot, but many seem to fall in the area of being perfect for the screen but a bit of a bore as music only. And only 31 minutes of music?
JUMPER – Original Motion Picture Score – Lakeshore Records: No information was provided on this – no cover, no notes – not even the composer’s name. I haven’t reviewed the Blu-ray DVD as yet so can’t pass on anything about the sci-fi film except that it must be a wild comic book-type adventure from the obvious, noisy and mickey-mousing 21 short cues provided on this CD.
RIVER QUEEN – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Composed, orchestrated and conducted by Karl Jenkins with the London Symphony Orchestra – EMI: This film directed by Vincent Ward won an award for best music at the Shanghai Film Festival. Jenkins is one of the best-selling classical composers today – he created the music for the De Beers diamond commercials and the Adiemus choral recordings and performances, as well as the oratorio The Armed Man, which we reviewed. The film’s story concerns the clash of two cultures in New Zealand: the British – mostly Irish settlers and soldiers – and the original Maori tribes. Jenkin’s main themes are a more universal native sound and a strong Celtic mood.
featuring Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano, and The English Chamber
Orchestra/Benjamin Wallfisch – Decca: The story is a sad one of
war (WWI) and longing. The main theme for the heroine emerges from a
single piano note which blossoms into a lovely melody underscored by
the percussive sounds of a manual typewriter – illustrating the letters
sent by the girl to her soldier lover. The final one of the 15 cues is
Debussy’s Clair de Lune again.
ELIZABETH, THE GOLDEN AGE – Music by Craig Armstrong and Ar Rahman – Decca: This historical drama starring Cate Blanchett had an East Indian director, who engaged both an Indian composer and another trained in classic western composition to collaborate on the score for the film. There is a chorus and soloists, plus solo string instruments and ethnic instruments. The results are unexpected and rather unusual. Whether or not they work with the film I can’t say since I didn’t see it. 20 cues are provide on the CD.
BEOWULF – Music from the Motion Picture composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri – Warner Bros. Records: This is a filmic adaptation of a graphic novel approach to the ancient Norse legend of Beowulf and the beast Grendel. Design-wise it is very successful and in its 3D version is probably the most technically successful of any 3D commercial film made to date – quite a step beyond those 3D movies of the 1950s. However, the acting is not great and the whole thing has a comic-bookish air about it. Same goes for the score, which is as coarse and blatant as the screen images.
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE – Music by Gustavo Santoalalla & Johan Soderqvist – Lakeshore Records: Another score collaboration, these are 30 cues from a very effective and compelling musical accompaniment to a sad but wonderfully-acted and filmed story. The cue’s titles tell the progress of the story well for those who have seen the film, and I heartily recommend it.
UNTRACEABLE – Original Motion Picture Sound Music by Christopher Young – Lakeshore Records: Another serial killer thriller, starring Diane Lane and set in Portland, Oregon. Didn’t get great reviews. 11 cues. Forgettable music.
NO RESERVATIONS – Music from the Soundtrack – Decca: The score for this romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart is a surprise since it features a bunch of Italian opera arias sung by Pavarotti, Tebaldi, Sutherland, Bergonzi and Joseph Calleja as well as contemporary songs from Michael Buble, Liz Phair, Paolo Conte, and Ray Gelato. There are even two cues of actual instrumental soundtrack music penned by Philip Glass. The film takes place mostly in a Manhattan eatery – would be a good double-feature with Ratatouille. The arias are great, but if you haven’t heard that Italian stallion Paolo Conte before, you’ve got to latch onto this CD just for his cut, Via Con Me. Not to be missed!
Other Films and Documentaries
ANIMALS IN LOVE – Original Motion Picture Score by Philip Glass – Orange Mountain Music 0040: No date is listed for this documentary. It sounds like a perfect vehicle for PBS, with its exploration of displays of love among dozens of species in the animal kingdom. I don’t know, perhaps it was deemed a bit too explicit for public TV. It looks like it was another of those exceptional French nature films, like the March of the Penguins. Glass’ music is probably better with the screen images than standing by itself. There are 15 cues, starting and ending with music for the swans.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack composed and conducted by Philip Sheppard – Lakeshore Records LKS 339612, 55:47: Ron Howard’s documentary on the Apollo project was a fascinating real-life look at the Moon shot. He used actuality films which had been carefully preserved in cold stage by NASA. Now we can thrill to them in excellent resolution on our large screens, when before we had only seen them as fuzzy TV images. The musical score ranges from solo piano and solo cello to full symphony , choir and electronics. Since Sheppard felt the documentary was about the pioneering astronauts, he was influenced in some of the score by traditional early American string music. There are two dozen short cues.
JENIPAPO – From the PHILIP GLASS Recording Archives Vol. III – Orchestra cond. by Michael Riesman – Orange Mountain Music 0048: Jenipapo is a sort of political thriller of 1995. An American journalist is writing for a Brazilian newspaper and reporting on a charismatic priest who is fighting the ruthless landowners in the Bahia region of Brazil. It’s theme of social transformation appealed to Glass since it was similar to that of Koyaanisqatsi and other films that Glass has scored. There are 17 cues total.
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES – Original Motion Picture Score by James Horner – Lakeshore Records: Another fantasy adventure epic for the whole family. Busy film score composer Horner came up with an epic-sounding orchestral score from which 15 cues are heard on this CD. Sounds like pretty obvious stuff to me but I’m sure the CD will be a must-have for kids captivated by the sword & sorcery stuff.
YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH – Original Motion Picture Sound Music by Osvalo Golijov for the Francis Ford Coppola Film – Bucharest Metropolitan Orchestra/Radu Popa – DGG B0010309-02: This film of last year starred Tim Roth as an aging linguistics professor in the 1930s who survives a cataclysmic event to find his youth restored miraculously. He is forced into exile by Nazi scientists interested in his work, and in exile he reunites with his lost love, Laura. This is the Argentine composer’s second film score after The Man Who Cried, and mixes folk music of his country with Jewish cantorial music, gypsy music and scoring in the tradition of Bernard Herrmann. Vocalists are heard on two of the tracks, and there are soloists on cimbalom and accordion. There are 21 cues total. A fascinating score.
SLEEPWALKING – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Christopher Young – Lakeshore Records: Young has scored nearly 100 features, including Hellraiser, The Shipping News and Spiderman 3. The drama concerns a deep bond between a man and his young niece after the girl’s mother suddenly leaves. Young is known for creating entirely different scores for the various films he does. The pop band A Fine Frenzy contributes the opening song, Come On, Come Out. There are 16 other cues on the CD. Again, this is one I think would primarily appeal to those who had seen the film.
Soundtracks for Classic Films of the Past
QUO VADIS & BEN HUR – Scores by Miklos Rozsa – The composer conducting The Royal Philharmonic Orch. & Chorus; The National Philharmonic Orch. & Chorus – Vocalion/Dutton CDLK 4332 (2 CDs), 87:34 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]: Can’t get much more classic than this pair of film scores for Roman period epics from one of the greats of the past – Hungarian composer Rozsa. He was a stickler for avoiding any anachronistic references in the music for historical films. He carefully researched what was known of Roman music and since none has survived he created an archaic sound with modern instruments – but no bowed strings since that didn’t come on the scene for a thousand years or so. His lavish score for the 1950 film received more praise than the actual film. In 1978 Rozsa conducted the Royal Philharmonic forces in an improved fidelity recording of some of the score. Skilled remastering engineer Michael Dutton has restored the original tapes for this double-disc set of 12 cues from each of these pivotal Hollywood epics.
Ben Hur, which had been a Hollywood blockbuster back in the silent era, was set for a re-do in 1957, again with a score by Rozsa. He added to the Roman sound he had developed for Quo Vadis key elements of Christian hymns and Greek music. His scoring is rich and full, and often surprisingly contrapuntal. The acoustically-prized Walthamstow Town Hall was the site of this 1977 recording with Rozsa conducting the music, and as with Quo Vadis is a tremendous improvement over the actual soundtracks of the original films.
The Film Music of Constant Lambert & Lord Berners – Suites and Selections from MERCHANT SEAMAN, ANNA KARENINA, CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE, NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, THE HALFWAY HOUSE – Mary Carewe, soprano/Joyful Company of Sings/BBC Concert Orchestra/Rumon Gamba – Chandos Movies CHAN 10459, 79:35 [Distr. by Naxos]: Chandos has been offering some interesting scores in the Movies series, but this differs in their having had to combine two composers on one CD since neither one scored enough films to have an album entirely to himself. Lambert and Berners were close friends, and William Walton was part of their circle as well. All three of them tried to separate their music from the strictly English style and to be more cosmopolitan. Lambert even called music of the English pastoral tradition “cow pat.”
The first of Lambert’s scores was for a documentary about the Merchant Navy – which, being made in 1940, had a scene of a ship being torpedoed. Lambert was considered something of a Russian specialist in music and got the job for the Russian drama on Anna Karenina, released in 1948. His work with Sadler’s Wells Ballet put him in good stead for the dance scenes in this film, although he also dropped in some of Glinka’s music for good measure. Berners’ ten-minute suite from Nicholas Nickleby is thru-composed, with themes for the various Dickens characters. The film suffered because it came out too close to David Lean’s Great Expectations. Halfway House involves a group of travelers running into ghosts at a hotel in rural Wales; they are the former owner and his daughter who had been killed in a bombing of the hotel a year earlier. An interesting cue in the 18-minute suite is the Seance Waltz.
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD and other Mark Twain films – Music by William Perry – Slovak Philharmonic Orch. & Choir/Rome Philharmonic Orch./ Vienna Symphony Orch. and Vienna Boys Choir/William Perry – Naxos Film Music Classics 8.570200, 70:16: I had no idea there were so many Mark Twain films, all made in the early 1980s. I tried to find them on DVD but was unsuccessful. The other film “suites” on this CD are from ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, PUDD’NHEAD WILSON, LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, THE PRIVATE HISTORY OF A CAMPAIGN THAT FILED, and THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER. That last one has some elements of dreams and mystical doings for a story set in medieval Austria. Innocents Abroad follows Twain’s travels in Europe in the 19th century, with his witty comments on the various places – each one calling for its own characteristic musical style. Pudd’nhead Wilson is only a two-minute cue and Life on the Mississippi concerns Twain’s time on the riverboats. The recordings were made about the same time as the films and were previously released on a Premier Recordings LP and then CD.
THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO; 5 FINGERS – Film Scores by Bernard Herrmann – Moscow Symphony Orch. cond. by William Stromberg – Naxos Film Music Classics 8.570186, 66:27: Both these important Herrmann scores from films released in 1952 were restored for this recording by John Morgan, who has been responsible for a number of the Naxos Film Music series. The African-based epic was a Darryl Zanuck production, with adventure, showmanship and sex. It starred Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner. Herrmann had a solid place in the music department at 20th Century Fox, where his previous film project was the score to The Day the Earth Stood Still. He was also working on the premiere of his opera Wuthering Heights in New York City. There plenty of rich and evocative music in the 20 cues here; made me want to see the film again (that is if I remember correctly having seen it at all). 5 Fingers gets 37 cues for its tale of spies and intrigues in exotic Turkey; the film starred James Mason and Danielle Darrieux. Herrmann’s music is very dark, presaging his later work for Alfred Hitchcock’s films. The cues – such as The Safe, Romance, Escape – tell the espionage story well enough.
UNE PETITE FILLE PARTICULIERE (A Particular Young Woman); LE PRINCE DES IMPOSTEURS (Prince of the Imposters) – Original Scores by Serge Franklin – F.H.S. Orchestra of Prague/Mario Klemens – Disques CineMusique DCM 101, 61:00 [Distr. by Albany]: These are scores for two French TV movies. The first concerns a French student in Montreal learning that her mother has died in a plane crash, leaving her a winning lottery ticket. The girl hesitates to cash the money. A child with Down’s syndrome is involved. The Imposters is about a French mathematician who collects autograph letter but is tricked by an unscrupulous forger – yet continues a friendship with the imprisoned criminal. Frankliin’s music is important to the first film, contributing a warm tone to the touching story. A more lush score is heard for Prince of the Imposters, with some dissonant passages and plenty of dramatic tension. Franklin always did his own orchestrations, and they are very complex.
PROMISE AT DAWN – Original Soundtrack Music composed and conducted by Georges Delerue – Disques CineMusique DCM 103, 35:15 [Distr. by Albany]: This 1970 French film was directed by Jules Dassin and starred Melina Mercouri as a Russian film actress who moves to the southern coast of France and founds a fashion house. Her young son joins the French liberation forces in England and they are separated. After Never on Sunday and Topkapi, this independent Mercouri film disappeared, along with its major Delerue score. In a French neo-classic style plus several different folk elements representing different ethnic groups in the film, Delerue has created a distinctive blend. He also in one portion leans towards Offenbach’s Gaite Parisienne music as well as some imitations of both Mozart and Vivaldi. A fun score to hear without any knowledge of the film itself.
THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT – Original Soundtrack by Michel Legrand, Lyrics by Jacques Demy – Sung in French – French Mercury/DRG Movies 19074 (2 CDs), 50:42 & 60:06: This was Jacques Demy’s second musical film, following on the heels of his success The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in 1966. However, in spite of its several stars, jazzy Legrand score and much bigger production than Umbrellas, it is almost unknown in the U.S. Catherine Deneuve played one of the two young girls and the other was her sister Francoise Dorleac. Also onscreen were George Chakiris, Gene Kelly (both singing and speaking fine French) and Danielle Darrieux. Demy strove to honor the Hollywood musical by creating “a world of dreams and weightlessness…” It is a colorful, bouncy and optimistic world where everyone dances to bossa nova and jazz. The setting is during a visit by a traveling carnaval to the little town of Rochefort. A continuing Demy character – Maxence the sailor – is part of the mix, singing of his one love who he has yet to meet (but will after the movie is over). The second CD features seven instrumental versions of music from the film with top French soloists, some soundtrack excerpts and new Legrand arrangements; it was released later, in 1967. It even includes an English-language version of the story-song A Pair of Twins. The film itself is a sunny, tuneful delight – I suggest renting it on DVD (we reviewed it here); then enjoy this fine double CD anywhere, which presents much more than the original Philips LP which I nearly wore out, plus with much improved sonics.
Max Deutsch: DER SCHATZ (THE TREASURE) – A Film Symphony in 5 Acts – State Philharmonic of Rheinland-Pfalz/Frank Strobel – CPO 999 925-2, 74:04 [Distr. by Naxos]: I’ll end with this unique film score. It is regarded as the first symphony for a film. It was premiered in Dresden in l923 for G. W. Pabst’s first big silent film, The Treasure. Its sets are in a typical German Expressionistic style but other visual elements seem to conflict with that. This is one of the few extant original scores created to accompany a silent film, although that was not such an unusual thing in the silent era. Rather than just mickey-mousing what was happening onscreen with various corny musical cues available to accompanists for silent films, Max Deutsch wanted to create a symphony of independent art music that could be enjoyed apart from the film. The music uses the leitmotiv technique lifted from Wagner, sometimes linking many of them together to create complex symphonic statements. It comments on the visuals and enhances them. The story is about a group living in a disused Slovenian bell foundry. There is a treasure hidden there by the Turks when they attacked the city. The greedy characters do themselves in trying to find it, while an honorable young goldsmith and his love escape with it. The film itself is divided into five separate acts with inter titles, so the symphony follows the same construction in this concert performance version. Deutsch was a close friend of fellow composer Busoni, who was involved in the conceptual development of this unique score. There are five pages of stills from the film in the note booklet, but it would be nice to view a restored DVD of the film with this fascinating music in stereo – Criterion Collection?
-- All reviews – John Sunier