Jerry Goldsmith: 40 Years of Film Music
Music composed by
Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, Nic Raine, and James Fitzpatrick
Performed by The City of PraguePhilharmonic Orchestra, Crouch End Festival Chorus, the Philharmonia Orchestra, & National Philharmonic Orchestra
Available on Silva Screen (SILCD 1183)
Running Time: 283:41 (Total)
(Disc 1): 73:09
(Disc 2): 72:47
(Disc 3): 69:52
(Disc 4): 68:33
The Blue Max, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Doctor Kildare, Room 222, The Waltons, Barnaby Jones, In Harm's Way, The Sandpebbles, Chinatown, A Patch of Blue, Poltergeist, Papillon, The Wind and the Lion, MacArthur, Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Wild Rovers, Pursuit, QB VII, Police Story, The Omen, Capricorn One, The Swarm, The Boys from Brazil, The (First) Great Train Robbery, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Masada, First Blood, Rambo II, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Under Fire, Gremlins, Baby-Secret of the Lost Legend, Legend, Lionheart, Rambo III, Total Recall, Star Trek: Voyager, Basic Instinct, The Russia House, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Medicine Man, The Shadow, Forever Young, First Knight, Powder, Airforce One, L.A. Confidential, The Mummy, The Haunting, Star Trek: Nemesis, The Sum of all Fears.
The Incredible Film Music Box
Almost a year after the passing of Jerry Goldsmith, Silva Screen releases their tribute to a legendary composer. Four discs, 16-paged liner notes commenting on every listed film, and nearly five hours worth of music (rounding up), 40 Years of Film Music should be a great find for beginning Goldsmith enthusiasts and the odd connoisseur... well, for various reasons. If unfamiliar with his enormous repertoire, this album is proof positive that the maestro was as skillfully versatile in genre compositions as he was a pioneer of unique orchestral and synthesized music blends. But if all is known, and past tribute collections are typical, you’ll understand that the best parts of the label’s albums are the occasional great performances.
Nevertheless, the usual Silva Screen favorites feature Nic Raine and James Fitzpatrick conducting The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra with or without the Crouch End Festival Chorus. Still unresolved recording hitches are in certain tracks along with problematic technical executions by the said favorites. However, considering my take on the label’s previous set (The Incredible Film Music Box), why would I pick up this one? Very simple, Goldsmith conducts his own pieces. Despite his use of alternative orchestras, e.g., The Philharmonia Orchestra and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, many more factors contribute to the makings of a great performance. The choices made by the maestro to alter, enhance, or rearrange the music were done without the accompaniment of onscreen visuals. Therefore, those very choices produce one-of-a-kind nuances derived from pure intuition. Film scores in situ tend to sound first-rate due to time pressures and general in-studio meticulousness. But when a composer is asked to direct his own material as standalone compositions—with non-Hollywood orchestras, listeners are assured interesting interpretations... good or shoddy.
This 40 Years of Film Music package also contains several television scores; arranged in single tracks, a medley format, and suite, they range from 1961 (Doctor Kildare) to Goldsmith’s most recent, 1995 (Star Trek: Voyager). Other prominent inclusions are the semi-lethargic The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Waltons—which appears once in the medley and strangely again as a single, a suite for QB VII, and Masada. The renowned QB VII suite, being a rarity in Goldsmith compilations, has its five movements handled nicely by Fitzpatrick with negligible flaws.
The diverse assemblage of film works is mostly in suite or single track form. There is a second medley on the album for films; Goldsmith’s tempo of choice for the opening pieces The Sandpebbles and Chinatown is a tad slow, but it seems understandable once the delicate solo violin emerges for A Patch of Blue. The remaining pieces, Papillon, The Wind and the Lion, and Poltergeist, have duplicate tracks or suites elsewhere.
Of the three multi-movement-separate-track film suites, the best overall performance is The Blue Max; conducted by Goldsmith himself, it is awe-inspiring, and just as thrilling as it is in the original. The Philharmonia Orchestra seems to handle the majority of the difficult passages with ease and panache. It is somewhat impressive considering the number of rehearsals it would take the City of Prague Philharmonic just to perform it semi-accurately. Technically sound performances notwithstanding, listeners can also expect to enjoy the following with minimal cringing: Rambo III: ‘Questions’, Lionheart, Powder, Basic Instinct: ‘Main Theme’, Gremlins, The Boys from Brazil suite, Forever Young, Legend: ‘Faerie Dance/Reunited’, The Russia House ‘Love Theme’—with a gossamer oboe solo, The Generals suite, and Police Story.
Another rarity in the Goldsmith collection is the music from Under Fire; of the four individual cues, the best is perhaps ‘Baja Fuego’ with its well-oiled strings and scintillating percussion, the accompanying pieces augment a subtle, yet sizzlingly, sensual guitar. As mentioned in the eponymous title, the modern flamenco solo is urgent, searing, and pleasing to experience. In comparison, the rest of the Under Fire movements fare well except for intermittent high register disasters in the violins.
If it is not the conductor, orchestra fumbling through passages, unsuitable piece arrangement, or exotic audio recording, the Crouch Festival Chorus is probably to blame. Fortunately for them, it is difficult to discern what they are singing anyway; but end results of their performances are often frightfully abrasive to the ears. Mostly tolerable when the volume is set on low, tracks such as The Omen and the First Knight suite can be misconstrued as aural torture sessions. (Outstanding tracks that abuse synthesized effects will not be mentioned.)
As in all Silva Screen major compilations, the choice of film scores is always puzzling to some degree. If esoteric works such as Baby-Secret of the Lost Legend are picked, why not Logan’s Run, Mulan, Leviathan, Night Crossing, King Solomons Mines, Supergirl, or even The Explorers? Silva Screen does Goldsmith’s Star Trek anthology injustice; leaving behind sublimely poignant themes from Insurrection, First Contact, or more importantly, The Final Frontier in favor of Nemesis, a scratchy Voyager, and repeat tracks.
If neophytes are looking for something more comprehensive, there is always the Varèse Sarabande release entitled Jerry Goldsmith at 20th Century Fox; it is a six-disc collection specially assembled for Goldsmith’s 75th birthday. While there are only a few scores from the 40 Years tribute not included in the Varèse release, there is a significant disparity between the two in orchestral presentation. The maestro’s work was meant to be performed straight away by highly professional orchestras capable of learning any genre, style, and tempo, and playing to/near perfection. But when the pieces are arranged for common ensembles, the music tends to stretch them in unimaginable ways… resulting in somewhat gauche executions.
Regardless of what works were left in, left out, butchered, paraded, or decently arranged, there is no doubting that this album is indeed an eclectic mix of Goldsmith’s works. If listeners feel that this posthumous tribute is good enough, here is just some advice: glean what can be gleaned.