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Final Cut: Film Music For Four Guitars
see end of review for track listing
Aquarelle Guitar Quartet (Michael Baker, Vasilis Bessas, James Jervis, Rory Russell)
rec. Liverpool University Recording Studio, Liverpool, Lancashire, UK, 16-20 December 2011
All première recordings except Sakamoto
CHANDOS CHAN10723 [61:15]

Experience Classicsonline


As two of this guitar quartet rightly state in the booklet “Without music, films would not be what they are”. How true. They further point out that from the earliest days films, even silent ones, were accompanied by music to heighten their dramatic effect. I heartily agree. The only exception I can think is the long sequence in Du Rififi chez les homes (1955), a French film directed by Jules Dassin, in which the centrepiece is a half hour heist scene played in virtual silence and without any music. Though film music sometimes stands up on its own away from the film more often than not I find that it doesn’t.
 
The first track here certainly does and sounds just as it should in the hands of this quartet. Since it was written by Django Reinhardt, the great gypsy guitarist, that comes as no surprise. In the film Chocolat it served to emphasise the Johnny Depp character’s gypsy origins. The theme from The Motorcycle Diaries about Ernesto - later to become renowned as ‘Che’ - Guevara’s motorbike trip with a friend throughout Argentina, an experience that transformed him into a revolutionary, is a lovely tune with a distinctly South American sound. It works well on guitars, as do the following three tracks from the film Frida about the great Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Although the original called for several versions of the guitar plus marimba and glass harmonica it sounds right here when played by these four guitarists. The evocative nature of the music is preserved. It’s when the rendition on guitars takes the tune far away from the original that I sometimes felt that it lacked the impetus of the original. This was the case for me with two of the themes from Titanic, a film that won 11 Oscars and made over $2 billion to become the highest grossing film of all time. This was a record it held for fourteen years until James Cameron’s other film Avatar beat that record. Even so it was a film with little artistic merit, despite Hollywood’s awards. The music that did the job was rather insipid all the same and its being reworked on guitars did nothing to change my opinion. That is the main problem with this disc. I find much that is on offer rather bland and after a while I found myself switching off. There’s a limit to how much music for four guitars I can take at a single sitting.
 
As I said to begin with some music for films can stand alone and some can’t. There are several examples of that on this disc where they are just tunes having no special impact. The cavatina from The Deer Hunter however, did work well but that’s mainly because the writing is so good in the first place. The same can be said for Carlos Gardel’s music used in Scent of a Woman which is why it was chosen, Gardel having died 57 years earlier. I was interested, though unsurprised to note that Anton Karas’s music for The Third Man was on the menu. I wondered how the use of guitars would change the impact of the original so evocatively created by the zither. The answer, for me at any rate, was that guitars do not embody the same air of mystery and intrigue the zither brought to the music. The original instrumentation made an indelible impression upon the memory so that when heard it instantly brings to mind a picture of the shadow of Orson Welles lurking among the ruins of Vienna. The brilliantly written theme from Zorba the Greek by Mikis Theodorakis does work to an extent. Some impact is lost in that the bouzouki has a more earthy signature by comparison with the rounded sound of guitars. That rawness perfectly encapsulated the character of Zorba as played so memorably by Anthony Quinn. Mike Oldfield’s music Tubular Bells, used in the film The Exorcist, I always found a bore - an early example of minimalism?. My opinion was not changed as a result of its by being played on four guitars I’m afraid. It’s the second longest piece on the disc; minimalists seem to believe that their short themes are best when heard over and over again which is why I can’t relate to the genre. The final work is by Argentinean composer Luis Bacalov. He won an Academy Award for it as well as a BAFTA. The music from the 1994 film Il Postino is very effective and works well on guitars.
 
This quartet, formed at The Royal Northern College of Music in 1998 certainly comprises four very talented performers. It has received many justified plaudits for its performances as well as its first two records. I just feel that their talent is somewhat wasted performing music for films, much of it that only really works best in the film’s context. Even when it does stand alone it doesn’t always translate sufficiently effectively. I’m not too sure who this disc is aimed at but I’m afraid it wasn’t much of a hit with me.
 
Steve Arloff 

Track listing
Django REINHARDT (1910-1953)
Minor Swing from Chocolat (2000) [2:22]
Gustavo SANTAOLALLA (b.1951)
De Usuahia a la Quiaca from The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) [2:50]
Elliot GOLDENTHAL (b.1954)
Themes from Frida (2002) [4:18]
Bryan ADAMS (b.1959); Michael Arnold KAMEN (1948-2003); Robert John ‘Mutt’ LANGE (b.1948)
Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? from Don Juan DeMarco (1994) [4:43]
James HORNER (b.1953)
Themes from Titanic (1997) [4:23]
Stanley MYERS (1930-1993)
Cavatina from The Deer Hunter (1978) [4:16]
John WILLIAMS (b.1932)
Theme from Schindler’s List (1993) [3:46]
Michael NYMAN (b.1944)
The Heart Asks Pleasure First from The Piano (1993) [3:54]
Max STEINER (1888-1971)
Theme from A Summer Place (1959) [2:41]
Carlos GARDEL (1890-1935)
Por una cabeza from Scent Of A Woman (1992) [2:30]
Francis LAI (b.1932)
Theme (Where Do I Begin?) from Love Story (1970) [4:26]
Anton KARAS (1906-1985)
Theme (Was It Rain) from The Third Man (1949) [2:28]
Mikis THEODORAKIS (b.1925)
The Fire Inside from Zorba the Greek (1964) [4:30]
Mike OLDFIELD (b.1953)
Tubular Bells from The Exorcist (1973) [5:20]
Ryuichi SAKAMOTO (b.1952)
Theme from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983)* [5:28]
Luis Enríquez BACALOV (b.1933)
Theme from Il Postino (1994) [3:10]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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