This disc presents Jerry Goldsmith conducting three
of his rare forays into concert music on a no-expenses spared release
with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Voices and Anthony Hopkins.
Music for Orchestra dates from 1970 and was
a commission from Leonard Slatkin for a short piece for the St. Louis
SO. As Goldsmith notes, "While I was thrilled with the commission, the
year was not a good one for me. I was going through a divorce and my
mother was seriously ill with cancer. All my personal turmoil - pain,
anger and sorrow - went into writing Music for Orchestra." A
12-tone work, Goldsmith continues: "I do think the style is almost anachronistic.
But for me thirty years ago, it was a liberating way to express my deepest
feelings." The eight-minute piece is certainly stark and violent, though
to a follower of the composer's film music it evokes nothing so much
as a condensation of the sensibilities which drove his brilliant score
for Planet of the Apes (1968). As such, while not likely to have
been heard before by most people who will buy this disc, the music is
The disc ends with a much more recent piece, Fireworks,
written in 1999 for the finale of the composer's first series of concerts
with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Goldsmith, who has lived
in LA all his life, says, "I decided to make the piece a grand celebration
of my childhood, growing years, years of maturity, and all the events
which climaxed with my appearance at the Hollywood Bowl." In this way
the music moves from the darkness of the album's opening work to a grand
extrovert carnival much more in keeping with Goldsmith's heroic film
scores. Again eight minutes long, it balances the disc with elegance.
Between these two bookends is the centrepiece of the
disc. The cantata Christus Apollo, a work in four movements in
this recording playing for 34 minutes. The work is scored for orchestra,
choir, mezzo-soprano - here Eirian James - and narrator - Anthony Hopkins.
Again a 12-tone work, the music dates from a 1969 commission by the
California Chamber Symphony to set a text by Ray Bradbury. Goldsmith
records that his working relationship with the author dated back to
1950s radio; and 1969 was not only the year of the first Apollo landing
on the moon, but of the film of Bradbury's Illustrated Man, for
which Goldsmith wrote the score.
The Apollo programme of course took its name from Greek
mythology, and here Bradbury uses Apollo in both its ancient and modern
meanings, drawing also upon a humanist interpretation of Christianity
to cast a fable of Man assuming the fire of the gods (or God) and becoming
akin to Christ. This was highly fashionable in New Age California in
both the 1960s and today. The lengthy text - over four pages in the
booklet - shows some of the poetic flair of the writer's fine short
stories, though ultimately degenerates into pretentiousness, and depending
on point of view, blasphemy, heresy or romantic wish-fulfilment nonsense.
Hopkins delivers the spoken passages with his expected gravitas while
James presents the cosmic text with a committed intense seriousness.
This is music filled with the ambition of a year in
which America placed a man on the moon, but rather than the heroic tonalities
of modern post-Star Wars space adventure, Goldsmith adopts a tone of
mystery, of vast cosmological forces infinitely beyond the reach of
humankind. If it is the year of Apollo it is also the year after 2001:
A Space Odyssey, and it must be noted Goldsmith's friend and mentor
Alex North originally scored that movie, before Kubrick replaced the
composer's music with selections from the classics. Indeed, in the 1990s
Goldsmith finally brought North's score to disc for the first time.
As such there is irony in the fact that Goldsmith's Christus Apollo
sounds much less influenced by North than it does by the choral
music of Ligeti which featured in 2001. In the richly orchestrated,
yet distant, alien textures there is also something of the poetry of
Scriabin. How else could one score such a space opera?
The recorded sound is excellent. It should be, having
been recorded for SACD and mixed down for this CD version. Goldsmith
obtains explosive and intense performances from the LSO. It is so different
to his recent tired disc of film themes (Goldsmith Conducts Goldsmith)
from the Philharmonia and the London Voices are sharply honed. It has
taken 30 years for this music to come to disc. Some of us have been
waiting for it since reading an interview with the composer in the late
lamented 'Films and Filming' back in the 1970s when he talked about
it at some length. It has probably only been realised now due to the
increasing popularity of film music and the prospect of crossover fertilisation
between the film music and classical markets. Of course the album was
actually recorded in 2001, and might yet be dubbed, '2002: A Space Oddity'
as arriving now in the new millennium it sounds oddly dated. As the
composer remarks, the form is almost anachronistic. The text is perhaps
more so. As a document of a specific time when America really did look
about to boldly go where no man had gone before it is a notable piece
of work. The atmospheres summoned by the music are still powerful and
should find favour with followers of Goldsmith's more demanding film
scores. Just listen to the work as a totality and try to ignore the
implications of the text. It works much better that way.
Gary S. Dalkin