December 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Music composed by Alexandre Desplat
  Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
  Available On Silva Screen SILCD 1171
Running Time: 43.05
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US


I find it incredible that Alexandre Desplat's name (The Luzhin Defence and The Girl With The Pearl Earring plus countless Continental film scores) does not figure in the 2003 Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies. His new Birth score proves, once again, that he is one of the most exciting and most original new voices in film music today.

For Birth, the story of a woman who encounters a small boy who she believes is the reincarnation of her dead husband, Desplat has written a disturbing but arresting score using as his main instruments harp and celesta (alluding, one might deduce, to some heavenly reference). The 'Prologue' sets the mood with jaunty staccato flute figures joined by triangle and celesta before a more solemn note is struck by a mournful bass string ostinato. Bass drum thuds join, and a plaintive violin theme, then horn figures that seem to reflect the simple, almost childlike playful flute tune. Timps across the soundstage take over (these drum figures are amplified by multiple sets of timps and bass drum thuds across the sound stage in 'Timpani'). This most original and memorable opening track concludes with material strongly suggestive of heart beats.

Immediately afterwards, track 2, 'Engagement' is a piano solo, a Viennese-style waltz, disjointed, desolate almost; with something of a Ravelian sourness about it. This waltz will be given to the full orchestra in the final track 'Birth Waltz' the most overtly upbeat track, childlike and life-affirming.

'The Rendez-vous' has a pulsing bass ostinato that anchors high screeching string figures reminiscent of Herrmann's Psycho murder scene material. This gives way to material that blends celesta, harp, horns and lower strings in some sort grotesque chase or hunt. Unearthly horn calls counterpoint glittering harp and celesta figures in 'Under a Spell'- an extraordinary invention. 'Letter' has more of the playful child-like material stated on harp and celesta at the outset but with those alarming heart-beats and horn call imperatives and a desperately forlorn violin solo. 'The Wedding' is desolation, melancholy in extremis, unreal and trance-like. Despairing dragging bass figures figure prominently with celebratory bells (almost quoted directly from Oldfield's Tubular Bells) just audible in the background, and an eerily lisping trumpet figure in 'The Kiss' which at one point sounds like what I can only describe as a ringing in the ears sensation when one comes round from fainting or from surgery. I could go on analysing every track of this remarkable score but then this review would stretch too far. Save it to say Desplat conjures the most remarkable sounds from the orchestra with just a thin veil of telling synth material.

Another excellent score from the original voice of Alexandre Desplat. This must be in my list of 'best scores of 2004'.

Ian Lace

***** 5

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