Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


John ADDISON A Bridge Too Far OST enhanced CD-ROM RYKO RCD 10746 [38:38]





David Attenborough's film of Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far was based on the doomed allied airborne operation, Market Garden. The film did not lack big names but despite the grand line-up it did not enjoy critical acclaim when first released although it has always made a favourable impact when shown on TV. The initial reception may perhaps have awoken too many memories amongst those still living and who participated in some way in what is seen as a glorious failure.

The music is by John Addison. He died on 7 December 1998 and this album is dedicated to his memory. As a young tank commander in the 23rd Hussars he pulled a friend from their burning Sherman tank during WW2. He clearly brought a special sense of engagement to an assignment that he pursued the moment he heard that the commission was available.

This is an enhanced CD-ROM which plays on most modern PCs. It contains the cinema trailer for the film

The original soundtrack, now 22 years old, has produced a rather forward and on some occasions treble-orientated sound. When the strings are under pressure they sound marginally undernourished. Certainly when I compare my cassette of the CBSO conducted by Marcus Dods in the A Bridge Too Far march I can hear a significant difference in sound quality to the advantage of the EMI/HMV recording. In favour of the Ryko this CD gives the full recorded score, not one brief fragment and the performances are utterly convincing. Does anyone know which orchestra was used for the soundtrack?

The overture (and indeed much of the score) is centred on the cracking march theme. It is ushered in by the whispered clatter of the side-drum (surely a reference to Shostakovich 7) and is soon deep in brash defiance and tragic grandeur at times reminding me of Josef Suk's march Legend of Dead Victors. There is no getting away from it: this march is splendidly laid out with all swashes swaggeringly buckled and pennants taut in the brisk breeze of 'certain victory'.

The Air Lift [5] is suggestive of some massive military undertaking: jingling, momentous and steeped in sashes and banners. This is an excuse for some great brass playing! Arnhem's [7] initial hesitancy rapidly blossoms into the cracklingly memorable main theme, throwing sparks in all directions. A glorious stick-brandishing swagger hangs over track 8 [Nijmegen Bridge]. The March Of The Paratroopers [9] has ionispheric trumpet playing but the low-brow march elements echoing some of the worst aspects of Coates strike a false note - at least to my ears. The Bailey Bridge track [10] snorts and snarls as if to say:

'I mean business!' The final track [16] has the march returning in brief glory.

The softer edge of Dutch Rhapsody is very close in mood and sound to Ravel's Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte. The Pavane's gentle atmosphere is troubled by some unwelcome rumblings of a holocaust to come. This returns in Arnhem Destroyed [14], all desolate sadness. The troubled atmosphere pervades Underground

Resistance [4] with the rustling restlessness of the strings and wind instruments serenading without the unclouded optimism of Dvorák. In its place we get a whistling against the intimations of a hurricane to come. A quiet desperation harries The Hospital Tent. In Human Roadblock [11] tragedy returns in a Shostakovichian landscape using variants of the main march theme and elements of the pavane. Retreat

[15] has rustling lighter strings pestered by deeper malevolent noises from the woodwind. Futile Mission [12] is all overcast tension. Some of that tension carries over into Waal River [13] with some deeply minatory Herrmann-like noises from the brass (perhaps a cross-reference to the Talos music!)

The notes run to 16 pp. After criticising Ryko in recent years for using the mini-poster format for leaflets I can now praise the company for producing the notes in well designed legible booklet form. Criticisms: no timings given for each track. No total time given anywhere let alone on the back of the jewel case insert.

A rousing vote of thanks to Ryko for a very fine job overall.

Strongly recommended as an example of the best in British film music.


Rob Barnett

Ian Lace adds:

There is little I would add to Rob's impressions. I agree entirely with what he says. It is clear that Addison was greatly moved by the events and the concept of this film and he was obviously greatly moved while writing this score. (After all he had served in the tank corps in World War II). His Overture was for me the stand-out track on the EMI LP to which Rob prefers. This swaggering march must surely be one of the most memorable tunes in all British film music? One small note I beg to differ on the RYKO booklet vs fold-out format controversy - I found the original RYKO format a refreshing change and I regret that they have changed policy and decided to follow the herd.


Ian Lace

Rob Barnett

Ian Lace

Return to Index