July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Maurice JARRE

MILAN 73138 35902 [36:05]
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Maurice Jarre is not one of my favorite composers. He plagiarizes. He often drags his themes out as far as he can and shoves them beyond. He depends on orchestrators too heavily for my tastes. He cozens his listeners.

Yet, "Sunshine" makes me re-examine that. It is politically incorrect to say an artist is maturing, as that implies his past works are immature, but Jarre has certainly grown. "Sunshine" bears similarities to past works, such as his own "Ghost" apparent in an airy leitmotif, but the familiarity is hardly the distraction less talented composers proffer, or that troubled his younger career. He continues to milk his themes for all they are worth, but they seem worth more in our increasingly unsentimental culture (when we bother to hear them). According to associates, and confirmed by the consistency of Jarre's style, his symphonic ear is keener than it was in his "Doctor Zhivago" days. And as for the wheedling, we know the tricks now and are nevertheless moved, so there is a gap in the complaint.

"Sunshine" is beautiful music. The context is "an epic period piece spanning three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family trying to gain acceptance in their turbulent homeland..." says the media release. Strong scores defy an attendant condition, because they are dramatically assured enough to attract our own condition. The resulting soundtrack albums often seem too short for the imposing compositions. That feels true here, and conjecture adds to the notion: I am told "Sunshine" is a few hours long and that the album hardly touches on the full majesty of the score... True or not, the soundtrack as a publicity tool serves its purpose, as I look forward to seeing and hearing the feature.

The soundtrack as an entertaining accompaniment is a nobler state of being. Its central, culturally orientated theme does joins the various motifs together. A first-rate example is the final track, 'The Sonnenschiens,' in which a theatrical piano solo from Holger Groschopp ties to a very cinematic choral from the Metro Voices to the "Ghost"-like charm and massive orchestral coda from the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (a version without choir, and with a very ugly crossfade, opens the disc). Let the trumpets sound, and may the singers shout, "He left his synthesizers elsewhere!" Through the recording's short running time Jarre touches on many facets of Hungarian music, from folk simplicity to military stridency to classical complexity. Even a saxophone nudges in on the action.

The work is epic regardless of whether there is a presentation to match. This is a gorgeous stand-alone, and for those who question the use of filmusic independently I respond that music, "the organization of sounds with some degree of rhythm, melody, and harmony," can be shaped by, but not defined by, unspooling celluloid. Maurice Jarre *composed* this, and its success or failure in theater or CD player forever depends on its degree of rhythm, melody, and harmony.

Here. Right now. It succeeds.


Jeffrey Wheeler


Jeffrey Wheeler

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