November 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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  Members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by the composer
  Decca 467 864-2   [56:59 - includes three source cues totalling 8:06]


John Barry's first film score of the 21st Century finds him back in the genre in which he made his cinematic name: espionage. Ironically the director is Michael Apted, whose previous film was the James Bond adventure The World Is Not Enough (1999), which Barry did not score but which featured his famous Bond themes as reworked by David Arnold. Based on the Robert Harris novel set at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, Enigma is a more romantic and rather less action packed affair than any Bond adventure, and Barry has scored the picture in his characteristic late style of simple string lines and wistful piano melody. There are 19 score cues, around half of which are essentially versions of the main theme, a gentle melancholy piece governed by the piano. Only later, in "London 1946" and the end credits do the strings take over completely for somewhat more impassioned readings. Between these various arrangements are a selection of suspense and atmosphere cues, with a brief "Police Chase" managing some propulsive excitement and the five-minute plus "The Convoy" generating some low-key suspense. In the main though this could be mistaken for a drama rather than thriller score, and anyone looking for espionage action and adventure will be disappointed. The main theme is attractive though it is hardly one of Barry's best, and the rest of the score is functional rather than attention grabbing. Even so, it is considerably more enjoyable than the composer's other new release, Eternal Echoes, which I also review this month.

Included at the end of the disc are three source cues. "The Black Bottom" is a wartime jazz number performed by Bunny Berigan and his Orchestra, and has more excitement than anything in the score. "You'll Never Know" is a classic ballad delivered by Anne Shelton with Ambrose and his Orchestra, while an extract from Vaughan Williams' "Five Variants on "Dives and Lazarus"" offers English string writing of the highest distinction. The orchestra is the New Queen's Hall, the conductor Barry Wordsworth. Unfortunately what appears here is only an extract, but it does Barry's score no favours to be followed by such fine music. Anyone who enjoys this would be well served to explore VW's marvellous legacy of romantic English orchestral writing, much of which has a lyrical, pastoral quality which will appeal immensely to fans of John Barry's modern style.

Gary S. Dalkin


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