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SOUNDTRACK CDs for June 2001
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 Bride of the Wind, Man Who Cried  
 

GLADIATOR - More Music from the Motion Picture (Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard) - Decca Enhanced CD 440 015 192-2: Most film composers would love to be in the position of Zimmer and Gerrard - having the film they scored be so popular on both DVD and on the first soundtrack CD that a second volume of music is issued almost immediately! The first was one of the most interesting scores of today - not attempting to do musical archeology nor to cater to contemporary pop sensibilities- but to place the viewer emotionally in the time of ancient Rome using some of the musical language of today.

The second CD is mostly alternate versions and even scratch tracks for some of the now-familiar cues on the first CD. Most didn't actually make it to the motion picture soundtrack. Different versions of the lovely "Earth" theme are presented, some as vocals titled Now We Are Free. There is an over-five-minute version of the cue employing the ancient Armenian wind instrument the Duduk, with its far away, lonely sound. The Gladiator Waltz is heard in its rough original version on the synthesizer. As with the original volume, portions of dialog from the film are combined with the appropriate music, which helps greatly in placing the cues in the film - at least on first hearing. Perhaps this would get annoying on repeated playing, I don't know. Anyway, the first volume was excellent and it you liked it you'll probably also want this one.

After noting the Enhanced CD designation on the jewel box I struggled for some time trying to find out if a trailer for the film or some other extras tied in with the soundtrack were included for computer display. Finally I discovered that there was only a single enhancement provided - a Gladiator screen darkener. I installed it as directed and its control panel was defaulted to display after three minutes inactivity. Yet nothing happened except that everything froze up later . The next day it appeared when I booted up - it's an interesting collage of scenes from the movie that goes on quite a while - it takes up over 7 MB space! And it's a control panel. No wonder everything soon froze up again. I trashed it.

- John Sunier

THE MUMMY RETURNS - (Alan Silvestri) - Decca 440 013 983-2: I suppose this could also be considered a Volume Two too, since it's the soundtrack from the sequel to the original Mummy movie of 1999. This time Alan Silvestri provided the super-dramatic score for this tongue-in cheek super adventure. There's plenty of exciting cue music here that practically jumps out of the speakers to threaten you, but just as the reviews of the sequel are comparing it poorly against the original effort, Silvestri isn't up to the higher standards of Jerry Goldsmith who did the first film. The end title tune is another of those dumb pop vocals, this one titled Forever May Not Be Long Enough. But it's long enough to ruin whatever mood the instrumental score had set up for the listener.

- John Sunier

 

BRIDE OF THE WIND - Music of Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler and Stephen Endelman - Renee Fleming, soprano/Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano/Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orch./Frantisek Preisler; Vienna Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado & Pierre Boulez; Roby Lakatos & Ensemble - DGG 289 469 584-2: This new film from Bruce Beresford - the director of Driving Miss Daisy and Paradise Road - concerns the relationship of Mahler and his wife Alma. Several of the songs composed by Alma before their marriage are heard on the soundtrack. Mahler asked her to give up composing when they married. The death of their daughter and Alma's affair are also part of the story. Excerpts from some of Mahler's symphonies are heard of course, and Endelman's contributions included creating other music cues in the style of Mahler plus arranging some of Alma's songs in instrumental versions. The connections between the music and the filmic story were very close, with Endelman involved from the first script meetings rather than being called on only after the film was shot and edited. There is a good deal of on-camera music performed in the film. Hopefully the film will prompt Mahler-less viewers to purchase some of his complete symphonies too, but picking up this interesting soundtrack album could be a first step on that route.

- John Sunier

THE MAN WHO CRIED - Various performers - Sony Classical Sony Music Soundtrax SK 61870: Sally Potter's previous film idea came from a dance: The Tango Lesson. Her new one comes from music. The characters in the film are all in a way immigrants, and she feels their music has a strong emotional and spiritual hold on immigrants. Some of the main characters are Suzie (Christine Ricci), who is searching for her long-lost father; Lola, a Russian dancer (Cate Blanchett); Dante, an Italian opera singer and Mussolini-follower; and Cesar, a gypsy horseman. Thus the music genres of some of the tracks will already be known. The time is 1939 in Paris. Original cues composed by Osvaldo Golijov tie the arias, gypsy music and folk songs together. Among the performers are tenor Salvatore Licitra, the gypsy ensemble Taraf de Haidouks, the Kronos Quartet and the Labeque Sisters duo-piano team. On the strength of this varied and compelling soundtrack CD, the film should be a real treat.

- John Sunier

 

THE MEXICAN (Alan Silvestri) - Decca 440 013 757-2: A sorta Western, sorta-thriller with Brad Pitt and Julie Roberts plus James Gandolfini from Sopranos. The clever opening track combines banjo, harmonica and whistling to immediately set the Western scene,and a later similar track is even titled tongue-in-cheek "10% Clint." There are also pop songs from Nancy Sinatra, War, Dean Martin, Men Without Hats and even lounge-music star Esquivel. Follow all 23 cues and it's almost as if you've seen the movie. Great fun all 'round.

- John Sunier

 

For Your Ears Only - (Music by John Barry, Burt Bacharach, Anthony DiLorenzo, Bill Conti, Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin, Irving Szathmary & others) - Proteus 7 - Dorian xCD-90258: The brass septet Proteus 7 makes each of their Dorian releases a concept album, and they're not above adding a bunch of attention-getting sound effects to the musical brew. This one almost puts the listener in the middle of a James Bond, Secret Agent, Pink Panther or Mission Impossible movie. Three suites bring together similar themes - one using seven different Bond themes, another with five cues from Bacharach music to Casino Royale (minus Dusty Springfield thank God) and a third which appears to be something created just for this album by DiLorenzo. Great playing, amazing arrangements that often sound lots larger than the seven pieces, highly dynamic gunshot and explosion sound effect gimmicks, excellent cardboard fold-out design with lots of notes, and Dorian's usual crystal clear sonics - all in all a smart package for both your eyes and ears!

- John Sunier

 

DAVID COPPERFIELD; THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN (Sir Malcolm Arnold) - Moscow Symphony/William Stromberg - Marco Polo 8.225167: Two of the finest scores from one of the finest 20th Century composers still with us. Film music maven John Morgan is again responsible for restoring these scores to today's listeners. Roots is about one man's crusade to save African elephants from extinction by hunters. Director John Houston left things up to Arnold and he responded with some memorable themes, including one for the elephants which was derived from an actual native song taped on the spot during the filming in Africa. A couple of them didn't make it on the final cut are heard on this CD for the first time. A couple other cues among the 20 total were assembled by Alfred Newman using original Arnold themes, to fit certain sections that Houston decided needed more music after the basic editing was completed.

The David Copperfield music is of course quite different in both time period and locale, and Arnold met the challenge that came up when the original choice, John Williams, was unable to do the score. (What a shame...NOT.) Delbert Mann, the film's director, reported that never in his experience has the music ever served a film so well. It is highly original, tuneful, but not imitation 19th-Century schmalz. It stands alone beautifully as an instrumental suite. But on the other hand if the film is anywhere near this high quality, it makes one hanker to see the l970's period film as well. The Moscow players have now done so many film music projects that they are probably among the most experienced players on earth for this genre of music, and Marco Polo's sonics captures their subtleties very well.

- John Sunier

The Film Music of Sir Arthur Bliss: THINGS TO COME, CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, THE ROYAL PALACES, WELCOME THE QUEEN, WAR IN THE AIR - BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba - Chandos 9896: Everything on this CD (with the exception of a short march for some pomp and circumstantial occasion with Queen Elizabeth) is a premiere recording. Bernard Hermann's conducting of a short suite from the l935 British sci-fi classic Things to Come has been available for some time, but this major half-hour suite of 11 movements was recently reconstructed by Philip Lane from several sources, including recordings made under the composer's baton. The original film score is described as having been "dismembered in the late 1930s." Some of its themes were later used by Bliss in his ballet Checkmate. Perhaps the time is ripe to put this suite to a restored version of the film on a DVD. The next longest section on the CD is the suite from the film Caesar and Cleopatra of 1944. Bliss followed author George Bernard Shaw's dictum "for heaven's sake, no Egyptian music!" but the final film employed music by Georges Auric instead. The Royal Palaces music was created for a 1966 BBC-TV documentary. This is a valuable addition to the film music library on disc.

- John Sunier

 

THE SON OF KONG; THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (Max Steiner) - Moscow Symphony/William T. Stromberg - Marco Polo 8.225166: Two more reconstructions of film music from John Morgan. The note booklet has an unexpected forward by special-effect wizard Ray Harryhausen, who turns out to be a great aficionado of film music. While Son of Kong, one of several sequels to King Kong, wasn't much as a movie, the Steiner score is one of his best and abounds in exciting short cues - 17 of them in total. Steiner was notorious for his "mickey-mousing" I.e.: Syncing up his musical effects exactly to actions on the screen - and that is heard in the music even without benefit of seeing the film it goes with.

The Most Dangerous Game cues run over a half hour and include a somber motif for the villain - Count Zaroff. Steiner's occasional uses of dissonance, bi-tonality and humor add musical interest to the score. Of course the soundtrack fidelity of these early 1930s films was pretty awful, and the studio orchestra was quite small. So it's a thrill to be able to hear the music for the first time now with all the orchestral detail and wide dynamic and frequency range intended by the composer from the start.
- John Sunier

THE TIME MACHINE (Russell Garcia) - GNP/Crescendo GNPD 8008: The 1960 sci-fi film based on H.G. Wells' story starred Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimeux and was directed by George Pal, another animation genius of the period. This is the first release of the soundtrack. Garcia tried to come up with instrumentation that was really different for this film score. The result is really musique concrete - Garcia collected taped sounds of unusual percussion, hitting a saw with a mallet, blowing a straw through gelatin, etc. Then he ran the sounds at different speeds and backwards with different EQ and scored them as normal instruments in an orchestra. It was really a sort of animated music and animator Pal was pleased with the result. The themes for the awful Morlocks are suitably threatening-sounding, and that for lovely Weena suitably lovely. Great stuff - made me want to see the movie again. There is also a 9-minute suite of music from another George Pal fantasy scored by Garcia: Atlantis, The Lost Continent.

- John Sunier

 

LA SYMPHONIE PASTORALE; MACAO, L'ENFER DU JEU; RIFIFI; LE SALAIRE DE LA PEUR (Georges Auric Film Music Vol. 4) - Slovak Radio Symphony/Adriano - Marco Polo 8.225136: Auric was one of the most prolific film music composers in France from the beginning of sound films to his death in l983. The recent DVD restoration of the classic crime film Rififi ties in well with the 19-minute suite of music from that film on this CD - it's the longest of the soundtrack excerpts. Jules Dassin's film noir follows the burglary in detail from its planning through its execution. A major portion of the film is a 20-minute sequence with neither music nor dialog, showing the criminals slowly breaking into a jeweler's shop from the room above it.

The 1946 film La Symphonie Pastorale tells the story of a blind orphan girl adopted by a pastor and his wife in Switzerland. She grows into a beautiful young woman and both the pastor and his son are in love with her while the wife becomes jealous. Then her sight is restored by an operation and the real drama of the four relationships ensues. The title music and four cues are presented in this suite of music that was regarded at the time as equally masterful to Auric's Beauty and the Beast score for Jean Cocteau. There is a beautiful love theme in his music to this psychological drama, but Auric didn't use a bunch of leitmotifs as was the fashion with most film composers at the time. A short Waltz and Tango from the same film is also included, but played by a typical small dance band ensemble rather than the full symphony orchestra of the other selections.

- John Sunier

Music from the Films of Marcel Carne - LE QUAI DES BRUMES, LE JOUR SE LEVE (Maurice Jaubert); LES PORTES DE LA NUIT, LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (Joseph Kosma) - Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse/Michel Plasson - EMI Classics CDC 754764 2: These were two of the favorite film music creators for director Carne, and like most French directors of the '30s he liked to weave music naturally into the fabric of his films. Jaubert was a sort of Count Basie of French film music - he used just a few well-chosen notes here and there to help present some of the characters and action, but not long enough to impede the flow of the film. Le Quai, of 1938, has to do with waterfront characters, and the composer's portrayals of wind and sun on the sea are just effective in their own way as Debussy's well-known tone paintings. Kosma's music generally provides more melody and standard orchestration vs. Jaubert's. Carne's Children of Paradise is surely one of the ten greatest films ever made, and Kosma's music for the Pierrot-like character Baptiste is the source for the quarter-hour-length ballet from the film score heard on his CD. This recording session dates from l992 and provides a great pleasure in hearing these scores with a full symphony and in excellent fidelity vs. the horrendous sonics of the originals on the film soundtracks.

- John Sunier

 

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (Max Steiner) - Moscow Symphony/William T. Stromberg - Marco Polo 8.225149: The 1948 classic on the evils of the greed for gold starred Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. Steiner came up with a full-blown Romantic, cohesive and dramatic symphonic score for the grittily realistic drama. And this was under tremendous time constraints typical of the plight of film composers - this was just one of a dozen film scores he had to create that year! The CD presents 19 basic cues, some as short as 22 seconds. Spanish and Mexican influences are found in the music. There are three bonus tracks: an alternate main title, alternate finale, and a specially-composed 2 1/2 track for the theatrical trailer. Turns out Warner Bros. often had special music created just for their trailers. John Morgan was again responsible for the restoration of Steiner's original score for the film. Some critics have felt there's too much of a big-time Hollywood score here and that it detracts from the film. Not having viewed the film for decades, I can only say this CD is a terrific stand-alone film music experience.

- John Sunier

A Maurice Jarre Trilogy: THE DAMNED; A SEASON IN HELL; FOR THOSE I LOVE - Original soundtracks - DRG Movies 32906 (2 CDs): Jarre came to fame with this Oscar in l962 for Lawrence of Arabia. With the lavish new DVD restoration of that film just out, the timing is perfect for this trio of Jarre scores for Italian films. The best-known of the three is probably The Damned, which starred Dirk Bogarde, Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger in a startling account of the rise and fall of a German upperclass industrial family. A Season in Hell is on the rocky relationship between poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Both it and The Damned have about ten cues each, but the entire score to For Those I Loved is included on the second CD - 24 cues. This one documents the Holocaust through the eyes of a Polish immigrant played by Michael York. The mono sound is serviceable, though after the other newly-recorded symphonic sessions found on most of the other CDs reviewed this month it is a bit of a comedown.

- John Sunier

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