November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Clash of the Titan
 The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer
 PEG A28693 [47:30]

Clash of the Titans (MGM 1981) was another inspired epic from that master of monster special effects, Ray Harryhausen and it charted the adventures of the legendary Greek hero Perseus. Much of the story concerned the clash of interests amongst the Gods led by Zeus (Laurence Olivier) which prompts antagonisms down on earth.

Laurence Rosenthal was approached by the producer to write a score with the unequivocal instruction, "Richard Strauss!" And so he did for the main themes are very much akin to Richard Strauss's Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben music. As Rosenthal remarks in his notes for the booklet, "The film is a light-hearted melange of several of the most celebrated Greek myths and the music would have to feature all kinds of heroic hardware and ecstatic romanticism as well as tongue-in-cheek humor and scary stuff of gorgons, deep-sea monsters and horned lords of the underworld… There were clashes in the music as well - between magical lyre-sounds of ancient Greece, exotic aromas of the near-East, contemporary clustered dissonances and the full-blooded orchestral forces of 19th century Europe."

At once, Rosenthal projects a titanic image in 'Prologue and Main Title' with his powerfully strident opening chords for brass and timpani, soon followed by a statement of the Don Juan-like theme for the heroism of Perseus. Exciting stuff indeed. Tension relaxes with more tenderly romantic material for 'The Lovers' but turbulence intrudes with the music for the gigantic scaly sea monster, the Kraken, as it is summoned from its seabed lair to destroy the city of Argus with a huge tidal wave. This is a dramatically vivid evocation of the deluge from Rosenthal. 'The Boyhood of Perseus', too is dramatic and darkly portentous but romantic too and defiant as the Perseus's heroic music sounds out and is visually associated with him for the first time. 'Dreams and Omens' is disturbingly prophetic yet with pastoral touches painted by Greek pipes and tambourines. 'Andromeda' is dainty and feminine with pipes and tambourines for exultant dancing but one senses a creeping menace intruding for the music swirls ever more dangerously, ever more seductively. 'Pegasus' introduces more beautiful and heroic music for the white, winged horse. Celeste and xylophone celebrate his purity and beauty but stronger more heroic material signifies his strength and speed in flight and we are aware of the vistas over which he flies. 'Lord of the Marsh' is drear with seemingly giant weighty ploddings, accompanied by low woodwind and brass growlings. Similar music is heard in 'River Styx' but it is even more eerie and subterranean; a deadening sound with low brass moanings that remind one of Bernard Herrmann.

The monsters' music is impressive. Rosenthal's 'The Kraken' as mentioned earlier, sounds formidably vast and evil and seemingly invincible, while 'Medussa' is a multitude of serpentine writhings. On the other hand, Bubo the endearing little 'clockwork' owl is represented by a merry, chirpy music for piccolo, xylophone and celeste. 'The Constellation/End Title' is distinguished by the narration of Laurence Olivier as he promises that the characters - Perseus, Pegasus, Andromeda and Caliope shall be immortalised as starry constellations.

Great fun, good stirring stuff - recommended

Ian Lace


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