Despite being one of the most highly regarded "serious" composers in the world, Philip Glass has, perhaps surprising, almost fifty film credits to his name. Kundun (1997) won Glass various award nominations, including one for the Oscar, but no awards. Now The Hours has put him in the front rank of film composers, with a second Oscar nomination, this time for a film tipped to find great favour with the Academy and serious box-office success among mature audiences. I am not surprised that Glass has made the mainstream breakthrough with this score, as while it retains his familiar cyclic minimalism, a style some find boring and repetitive, others, hypnotic and compelling, that sensibility is combined with a lyrical romanticism which has been rare in the composer's film work thus far.
Strings are to the fore throughout, with the central melodies being given to piano. It is not so much a score with individual stand-out tracks - by soundtrack album standards the cues are quiet lengthy and flow seamlessly together - as one with an overall lushly appealing, somewhat homogenous sheen. The melodies themselves are attractive, though there are strong echoes of such previous Glass works as Satyagraha, Island, and Metamorphois No.2, while delicate percussion brings a magical glitter to "Something She Has to Do" and augments the powerfully yearning and propulsive "Morning Passages".
A rich and romantic score, if one which at an hour of essentially nothing bar alternately intense and lugubrious string and piano will either enrapture or drive to distraction. Fans of Angela's Ashes, A.I. and Catch Me If You Can may wish to explore to see more of where John Williams current style has developed from, while devotees of action and adventure are advised to while away the hours elsewhere. For those who enjoy Glass' distinctive style this is a rewarding, beautifully performed and recorded album.
Gary S. Dalkin