April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Gabriel Yared – Film Music Vol. 2: 1988 - Camille Claudel  
Music composed and orchestrated by Gabriel Yared
Conducted by Harry Rabinowitz
Additional orchestrations by Maurice Coignard
Performed by unnamed ensemble
  Available on Cinefonia/Yad Records (CFY-002)
Running Time: 49:39
To purchase this release direct from Cinefonia’s website, go to the ‘Cinefonia Records’ tab, place the mouse over ‘Catalogue – CFR’ tab and select ‘Yared Collection’ here.

See also:

  • Sylvia
  • Possession
  • The Talented Mr Ripley
  • With Gabriel Yared’s apparent withdrawal from the American film scoring scene following the distasteful rejection of his score for Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy and too many years scoring melodramas (City of Angels, Message in a Bottle, Possession, Autumn in New York), it seems a prudent time to reassess his formative work in French cinema in the 1980s. So a recent six CD collection of his 1980s scores issued by French label Cinefonia is particularly timely – the re-released scores including some reviewed elsewhere in this edition of Film Music on the Web: The Moon in the Gutter, Hanna K, Les Petite Guerres, Invitation au Voyage (the latter three collected on the release Les Orientales) and the Isabelle Adjani-Gerard Depardieu starring 1988 film Camille Claudel.

    In an interview, Yared once counted Camille Claudel as one of his three greatest achievements, grouping it with his Oscar winning score for Minghella’s The English Patient and the rejected score for Troy. The Bruno Nuytten film plotted the descent into madness of the passionate sculptor who was the artistic equal and romantic partner of the celebrated Auguste Rodin, taking a strongly sympathetic view towards Camille the paranoia she experienced after their separation. In the album’s liner notes (printed in both French and English thankfully), Yared relates how he came to the film as it was editing, and was put in a ‘delicate situation’ by a temp track heavily referencing Benjamin Britten and Anton Bruckner. He drew on his own influences – Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg – for his string-dominated score:

    “Given the short amount of time available, I decided to compose three themes, and to explore and develop them in the forms of three orchestral suites for a large string orchestra, a string sextet and quartet, harp and percussion. The choice not to use woodwind or brass was deliberate: only strings could express the nuances and the complexity of that passion, both amorous and creative, that existed between these two extraordinary artists.”

    The distinction with which Yared writes for strings here explains the regard with which he holds this work. We’ve heard string-dominated scores from Yared before – Possession comes to mind – but Camille seems to have the right mix of aural bleed between sections and individual distinction. While Possession leans a little on emphasizing the ‘body’, here the divisi, the counterpoint – the distinctly written parts – move together, but are individually discernible.

    The main theme emerges from a processional rhythm in the first of the suites, ‘Camille’. The theme starts stern in the celli, before the violins grasp phrases from the depths, the higher end of the string growing in counterpoint to the deeper end before a melancholy climax with percussion. A faster rhythm rises in the celli with agitato readings of Camille’s theme. (The particulars of the orchestration here are a nice contrast to the sextet reading of the same piece in ‘1st sextuor’.) Much darker is the ‘Rodin’ material – Yared scores him as a brilliant man who drives Camille too far to extremes of passion, the violins reaching out of the depths of the piece are as intensely erotic as anything in Goldsmith’s Basic Instinct, but with more classical underpinnings.

    You wouldn’t say there’s a light-hearted piece of music on this album – all the same, the theme of ‘Danaide’ leans more to the romantic than the paranoid. ‘Folie Neuborg’ is a rich setpiece, featuring a hopeful theme with some of the glorious light of George Delerue’s best work. The emotional turmoil of passion returns in ‘Portrait’, continuing in the violin-dominated small ensemble piece ‘Lettre’. ‘Camille and Rodin’ is another gorgeous setpiece – it opens with the Rodin theme in celli and basses, before another theme comes in the high strings in counterpoint with the Rodin theme. The overpowering climax of this piece is the highpoint of the album’s narrative of passion – Camille’s story is all downhill from here, as signaled in an ominous percussion roll that precedes and accompanies the climax. Violent strokes of the violins and unstable harmonic writing make the passion almost unbearable, and though it resolves to a gentle call-and-answer pattern for violin and the body of strings, trouble is on the way.

    Unsettling harmonic textures continue in ‘Banquet’, an unstable waltz with unusual percussion effects and col legno punctuating the merry-go-round string dance. It’s like the John Williams of Dracula and The Fury, but a little more unhinged. (The instability here also recalls Yared’s choral piece ‘Priam’s Fugue’ from the rejected Troy score.) ‘Seule’ opens rich in pathos, but the contrapuntal writing in the lower end of the strings pushes the balance to angry passion again. Rodin’s theme has grown darker by the opening of ‘Enterrement’, and processional celli strokes accompany ‘Camille’s’ theme as the film end in madness. In the distance an unfamiliar texture, it’s hard to tell if it’s a synthesized horn or an organ, signals the end with subtlely.

    Overall, it’s fantastic to hear the score again, though it is a sobering thought that even a score as recent as this was nearly lost due to missing masters. Had Yared not be a diligent keeper of his own work, this masterpiece might have never been available for purchase again. (Yared accordingly warns of minor background noise, though the music is so good and the fault small enough to escape my ears.)

    As the original soundtrack release (Virgin Records 30673) went out of print long ago, and only two tracks are sampled on Yared’s promo (‘Camille and Rodin’ and ‘Banquet’ on Virgin France 8394832), the re-release of this score is timely. The digipak release feels a little too perishable for comfort, but the liner notes by Yared and the addition of two unreleased six minute cues recorded for sextet (demos for smaller ensemble, including most of the opening ‘Camille’), make this an improvement over its predecessor, and a worthy release from Cinefonia. You’ll be hungry for more from this passionate composer

    Michael McLennan

    Rating: 5

    Gary Dalkin adds:-

    When you agree with someone wholeheartedly on a particular matter there is often little to say without simply repeating what they have just said. This is such a case.

    I have never been a particular fan of Gabriel Yared’s music, though his work for Betty Blue (1986) added immensely to that film’s unique drama and his music for Message in a Bottle (1999) was certainly far superior to the film itself. Yet often his string dominated scoring has left me cold with a sense of too much of a muchness, in a way not dissimilar to the John Barry of the last quarter century. That said Yared appears to be a fine judge of his own work, picking Camille Claudel as one of the three scores of which he is most proud. This lush, darkly romantic work (in the classical sense), certainly well deserves its rescue from the archives and is one of the most enjoyable discs I have heard recently. Highly recommended indeed.

    Gary Dalkin


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