February 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Carmine COPPOLA / Georges DELERUE
The Black Stallion / The Black Stallion Returns  
  The Black Stallion score partly composed by Shirley Walker, Nyle Steiner, Bill Douglass, Dick Rosmini, Kenneth Nash and George Marsh * The Zoetrope Film Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carmine Coppola / The London Session Orchestra conducted by Georges Delerue * reissue album produced by Ford A Thaxton
  Prometheus Records PCD 151   [65: 43 - The Black Stallion: 34: 22 The Black Stallion Returns: 30:21]

The Black Stallion

The Black Stallion didn't make much impact at the UK box-office - playing on a brief run with The Secret of NIMH - but was enough of a hit in America to justify a sequel. The scores to both films are compiled on this good value album, that for the original film being penned by Carmine Coppola, the music for the sequel by Georges Delerue.

Carmine Coppola was never primarily a film composer, being a flautist until called in by his son Francis to provide additional music for The Godfather. In-fact he made his film debut scoring Francis' swept-under-the-carpet 1961 soft-core porn Western, Tonight For Sure, and in later worked almost exclusively on film projects in which Francis had some hand. The Black Stallion was one of these, and the lyrical score he composed could hardly be in greater contrast to the music he provided for Francis' magnum opus that same year, Apocalypse Now. Inflected with Arabesque devices and scored for minimal forces such as cymbalon against strings, or simply flute and harp, Coppola's music is folk-inflected and filled with a gentle joy and delight in nature which gives it the timeless quality of the finest Americana. Something of this wide-open-spaces quality likewise emerges from Thomas Newman's The Horse Whisperer, though here melodic understatement is occasionally counterbalanced by the noble grandeur of "The Ride", a majestic set-piece co-written with Shirley Walker anticipating the heroic qualities of James Horner's Krull. It should be noted that of the score as presented, Coppola composed 10 of the 16 cues, co-wrote two, and left the remainder to Walker, Nyle Steiner, Bill Douglass and Dick Rosmini. Nevertheless there is a uniformity of style which makes this very much a film score entire unto itself. Other highlights include the "Chase Through Town" with piano by film composer Shirley Walker and the Plantaginate flute melody of "Dad's Glove and Watch", music one might more likely imagine coming from the pen of Georges Delerue.

Indeed, as can probably already be guessed, Delerue's sequel score is even better. The introductory "Alex and The Black Stallion" opens with gentle solo flute, keeping continuity with the earlier work, the melody blossoming into one of the composer's trademark soaring yet bittersweet melodies so familiar from his work with Francois Truffaut. Often achingly lovely with its fusion of French melodic qualities meeting stirring Americana this is a simply beguiling score which can not fail to delight true romantics everywhere. There are many notable selections, from the "Stowaway on the Clipper", its tender string writing making a home for plaintive woodwinds to the richly emotional "Together Again" on to the triumphal yet valedictory 8-minute finale, "The Black Stallion Returns".

The Black Stallion score alone would make this disc worth including in any collection but to have the superior sequel score included for the same price makes this a particularly desirable release. Anyone enchanted by the lyrical beauty of George Delerue should try to acquire this album as soon as they can. The booklet contains worthwhile notes and black and white stills and the sound is very good through both scores.

Gary S Dalkin

The Black Stallion - ***(*);
The Black Stallion Returns - ****(*)

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