Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


October 1998

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John WILLIAMS Saving Private Ryan  Music from the film members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus; Tim Morrison and Thomas Rolfs (trumpets) and Gus Sebring (horn).  


Crotchet (UK)
Soundstone (USA)


EDITOR'S CHOICE - CD OF THE MONTH (New Score) Oct/Nov 1998


Saving Private Ryan comes to the screen in a blaze of controversy surrounding the harrowing realism of its scenes recreating the D-Day Normandy landings on Omaha Beach.

This is the 16th collaboration between composer John Williams and director Stephen Spielberg. Quoting Spielberg, "Saving Private Ryan probably contains the least amount of score [of all of their collaborations]. Restraint was John Williams' primary objective. He did not want to sentimentalise or create emotion from what already existed in raw form. Saving Private Ryan is furious and relentless as are all wars, but where there is music, it is exactly where John Williams intends for us the chance to breathe and remember." So it is that this score is more an elegy - not a battle hymn of glory. Williams responds with a score of great refinement and sensitivity. His "Hymn to the Fallen" underscores the closing credits for the film - and it opens and closes this album. With its glowing brass cadences and affecting choral writing, it is one of his most moving creations. It would take a hard heart to resist its direct emotional appeal and I am not at all ashamed to admit that tears stood in my eyes as I listened. Beautiful in its mournful splendour, John Williams' "Hymn to the Fallen" is surely destined to be played regularly from now on, on Remembrance Days.

Remembrance and solace inform most of the music on the tracks on the album: music for remembrances on "Revisiting Normandy" for the fallen on "Omaha Beach" or for the life left back home in "High School Teacher". A subtle reference to the hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers" is made in a principal theme. As so often on John Williams's soundtrack recordings, the trumpet playing of Tim Morrison (joined by Thomas Folfs) is eloquent and affecting. When battle is evoked, the music for the horror of warfare is muted and kept at a distance as in "Approaching the Enemy" - no overt Gung-Ho heroics, instead it is left to effects like an occasional isolated bass drum explosion - the music speaks quietly of trepidation and it offers prayers for delivery. In "Defence Preparations" the pace does quicken somewhat to show a certain edginess and nervous energy but even here the beast is kept at bay. "High School Teacher" is by far the longest cue at just over eleven minutes and it contains music of compassionate beauty and poignancy as one imagines the soldiers reflecting on the homely virtues for which they are fighting. Another significant cue "The Last Battle" is a very moving summation of all that has gone before in a most moving sunset brass eulogy. With some justification, criticism could be levelled at the album in that there is too much similarity between the cues but Williams's rich harmonies and colourful orchestrations strongly compensate and the album is worth the investment for the glorious Hymn to the Fallen

Ian Lace

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