November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Collection: Cinema Century 2000   A Four CD anthology with The City of Prague Philharmonic,The Westminster Philharmonic & The Crouch End Festival Chorus, conducted by Paul Bateman and Nic Raine.   SILVA SCREEN - FILMXCD318 Disc One: [62:55], Disc Two: [56:18], Disc Three: [62:48], Disc Four [62:00]. Total time [244:01]

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Complete track listing

In 1996, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Cinema in Britain, Silva Screen released Cinema Century, an excellent triple CD anthology selling for the price of a single full-price disc. Now we have the sequel, and as is the way with sequels, it is bigger and even more spectacular than the original, offering 4 CDs and 4 hours and 4 minutes of music for a suggested selling price of only £16.95.

The recordings come from previous Silva releases, the four discs sequenced in strict chronological order to present a portrait of 7 decades of film music. The spread of music over the years is not even, reflecting the fact that Silva have concentrated their efforts in recording music from the last 30 years, rather than the so-called "Golden Age" of film music. In total there are 56 tracks, with music from 55 films (there are two selections from The Godfather), though only four of the films where not made in English, such that this is the cinema century mainly from the Hollywood perspective. Some obvious classics are missing here, such as Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars, but it should be remembered that this is a follow-up collection, and those and many other titles were featured on the original Cinema Century.

Disc one covers the period 1933-58, opening as any collection pretending to be definitive must, with music from the first great score of the synchronised sound era, King Kong, by Max Steiner. Here we have the 'Prelude', fittingly opening with the very of the history of recorded film music. A stirring interpretation it is too, getting the set off to a fine start. The 'Love Theme' from Korngold's The Adventures of Robin Hood follows, and lacks some of the lush romanticism the best re-recordings have brought to this marvellous music. On much better form is a thrilling version of the 'Entry into Pskov' from Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky, based on his score for the film of the same name. I saw this 1938 film recently as part of the Purbeck Film Festival, and even after a modern restoration the recording on the soundtrack is of dreadful quality. Any purists who condemn re-recordings are welcome to the original, but the version recorded here has all the thrilling dynamism and visceral power the technology of the time denied the filmmakers. The following tracks are all of a high standard, with the Alfred Newman / Hugo Friedhofer Overture from The Mark of Zorro being exceptional, as well as nicely contrasting with the very last track in the anthology, more of which later. This first disc concludes with the 'Finale' from The Vikings by Mario Nascimbene, which is fine as far as it goes, but may well leave you wanting more, and indeed, is extracted from a much longer suite found on the very fine Silva set, Warriors of the Silver Screen. Before that, comes a suite from Hitchcock's first movie of 1955, To Catch A Thief. This was the film the Master of Suspense made directly before starting his long collaboration with Bernard Herrmann, and as such Lyn Murray's music has tended to be over shadowed. Have no doubt, this is appealing music and it is good to have something different, rather than the obvious choice of more Herrmann.

Disc two begins with an orchestral arrangement of Henry Mancini's great 'Moon River' from Breakfast at Tiffany's. As often which such arrangements, it jars at first because it sounds that bit different to previous versions, but this is the sort of standard which can, and has, shone through hundreds of treatments, and this particular recording has a captivating romance of it's own. Still in 1961, Dimitri Tiomkin's 'The Legend of Navarone' from The Guns of Navarone is rousing and heroic, yet somehow just misses the fire of the original. Now come five tracks from 1962. A rhapsodic version of the 'Love Theme' from Miklos Rozsa's El Cid features particularly fine solo violin playing, and could not be more different to the 'James Bond theme', the most iconic of all film themes given a blistering orchestral treatment with heavy percussion. A full chorus offers the anthemic 'Prelude' from Alfred Newman's How the West Was Won, and the singing has the necessary commitment to make this piece of ripe bombast utterly convincing. Once a favourite of film theme and MOR compilations, but now virtually forgotten, 'The Shadow of Your Smile' by Johnny Mandel, from the 1965 movie The Sandpiper is perfectly evocative both of the film, and of all those Mantovani albums now available at your local charity shop. A gorgeous slice of lyrical melancholy, it now sounds more from another time than the classic sounds of Korngold, Rozsa and Steiner. The romance continues with Michel Legrand's 'The Windmills of Your Mind' from the original (and infinitely superior) version of The Thomas Crown Affair. Capturing the atmosphere of the original almost perfectly, with the cascading piano and harpsichord spot on, this is an elegant gem. An extended suite from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet happily does much more than just present the famous love theme. If that is all you have heard from this wonderful score, the selection here may well make you rush to buy the complete soundtrack. So it wasn't written for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but such is the association between the opening of Richard Strauss' 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' and the best SF film ever made, that few will mind the inclusion of the powerful recording here. Ennio Morricone's music is particularly idiosyncratic, but good work has been done in encapsulating the flavour of 'Man with the Harmonica' from Once Upon A Time in the West. Disc two concludes in particularly fine form, with almost 9 minutes of music from one of the most shamefully under-rated films ever made. David Lean's Ryan's Daughter is nothing less than a masterpiece, it's disgraceful critical reception in 1969 denying us those films Lean might otherwise have made in the 70's. Maurice Jarre's score is one of his best, and is summarised here by immaculate readings of 'The Beach', 'March of the Rebels' and 'Rosy's Theme'.

The third CD opens in romantic mood with another fine melody by Michel Legrand, 'The Summer Knows' from The Summer of '42. Last Tango in Paris (Gato Barbieri), The Godfather (Nino Rota) and The Way We Were (Marvin Hamlish) are all lovingly evocative, leading to the first appearance of Jerry Goldsmith and one of his great scores, Papillon. 'Out to Sea' and the 'Main Theme' represent the score well, presenting both the melancholy and the indomitable spirit at the heart of this work. 1978 is covered by 'Cavatina', Stanley Meyer's eloquent guitar theme from The Deer Hunter, and it is now as the album moves into the post-Star Wars era of film scoring, that it becomes obvious there is a John Williams shaped hole in this anthology. Presumably this is to avoid overlap with Silva Screen's recent 2CD William's collection, but given that Williams has dominated film music like no one else during the last two decades, a couple of more obscure tracks would have helped balance the set before the late arrival of Saving Private Ryan. The post-Star Wars SF boom years are represented by Jerry Goldsmith and his brilliant 'Finale' from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, here in a splendid performance which really should please everyone. John Barry arrives definitively with his sinuous theme from Body Heat, an excellent choice given that this music was until recently very difficult to obtain, and is one of Barry's strongest 80's scores. 'O Fortuna' from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is well represented in the classical catalogue, and surely Excalibur would have been better served by a selection from Trevor Jones overlooked score? The disc concludes with by far the longest selection in the anthology, a 13-minute suite from Danny Elfman's Batman. Making for a strong finale, this is gothic film music on the grand scale. The only question is that there are other films which might better deserve such extended treatment. Nevertheless, at such bargain price it would be foolish to complain, especially given that the itself most accomplished.

Disc four is devoted entirely to the 90's, the opening Alex North's 'Unchained Melody' supports those who argue that there is no good film music being written today. For although the melody became the theme for 1990's Ghost, it was written decades before.. The version here is a full orchestral treatment, leading to a perfect recreation of Jerry Goldsmith's icy theme from Basic Instinct. Quite what James Newton Howard's pleasant but far from great theme from Prince of Tides is doing here is a mystery, but it gives way to a majestic rendering of one of the indisputably classic themes of the decade, Trevor Jones' Last of the Mohican's, music vastly superior to the film it supported. The album concludes with music from seven of the biggest hits of the last five years.

Independence Day was the finest slice of pure cinematic entertainment released in 1996, a film which benefited immeasurably from David Arnold's wonderful heroic score. Here the epic 'Finale' is presented with enormous drive and energy, though the complex orchestrations sometimes sound muddled, lacking the clarity of the soundtrack album. As different as can be comes the ludicrously plotted and infinitely tedious multi-Oscar winning celebration of treachery and adultery, The English Patient. Even Gabriel Yard's score was a shapeless bore, but here, to save you buying the soundtrack album, are the few minutes worth listening hearing, the genuinely mysterious and atmospheric 'As Far as Florence' and the haunting 'Rupert Bear'. The penultimate track is John Williams' 'Hymn to the Fallen', the showcase choral piece from the end titles of Saving Private Ryan. Much as Williams' score supported the film, Saving Private Ryan did find Williams at his most understated, providing little to enjoy away from the screen. 'Hymn to the Fallen' is the one moment where Williams pulled out all the stops, with a piece which is either unbearably moving, or nauseatingly sentimental, depending upon temperament. The version here is very good indeed. Now it is James Horner all the way, and with Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Mask of Zorro and Titanic to his name, it looks as if Horner is on the verge of claiming Williams crown as the king of the film music world. The 'End Titles' from Braveheart have a real cumulative power, and the 'Zorro' suite a swashbuckling zest which made the film such enormous fun (just don't mention El Cid!). Titanic seems to divide audiences like few other films, and the division extends to the music. Personally I object to the cod-Celtic approach on principle - in 1912 British music was riding the crest of a wave between Vaughan-Williams' Sea Symphony, Tintagel by Arnold Bax and Frank Bridge's The Sea suite. With such fine examples of British sea music appropriate to the period, it is surely obvious that Patrick Doyle should have been commissioned to craft something appropriately British and nautical. However, I also have to admit that if you allow yourself to surrender to the emotionalism of his score, Horner's approach works. Silva have avoided the obvious here, and rather than a version of 'Rose's Theme', offer 'Take Her to Sea, Mr Murdoch'. Such is the endless variation possible with electronic sound that any specific mixture of orchestra and electronics is virtually impossible to recreate, and certainly the version here would never be mistaken for the original. Nevertheless, it has an impact all its own, and surely everyone who likes this music has the soundtrack anyway.

So, we end with the old king of Hollywood passing the baton to the new (though I'm sure there is a lot more fine music to come from John Williams in the future) and are left to look forward to a new century of film music. Certainly it is possible to find faults with this collection, with the inclusion of certain tracks to the exclusion of others, or to point out that some succeed better than others. With so much music it would be strange if this were not the case. This though is a superb collection. The vast majority of the selections are really very good indeed, and for those with the appropriate decoders the CDs even have HDCD and Dolby Surround Sound. For around £16.95 Cinema Century 2000 offers phenomenal value, and would make a wonderful Christmas present as an introduction to the glories of film music. It also offers the opportunity to fill a considerable number of gaps in collections, especially if you would like a particular theme but don't want to buy the entire soundtrack album. Likewise, it makes a great sampler, and may lead to many more rewarding purchases. As such I can not praise this set too highly. I can't imagine anyone but the most unforgiving purist who demands only the originals regretting buying Cinema Century 2000.


Gary S. Dalkin

Rob Barnett adds:-

Silva Screen are good at this. They record new suites of film music all the time. Session after session must take place in Prague with faxes and e-mails ploughing backwards and forwards between London and the Czech Republic. New parts and arrangements seem to flood in and the logistics of such an exercise must be a constant challenge. Silva uses its catalogue in every conceivable way. A suite or segment might appear in a theme album (like the Monster album), a composer collection (say John Barry) or in a historical sweep such as the present collection.

Silva’s terms of reference are quite wide and they have surprised me with their excellent British and Continental film music albums as well as reviving and re-recording scores. What they have yet to do is to cover say Australian film music or a collection of Russian film music (a vast black hole once you get past the obvious Shostakovich, Khachaturyan and Prokofiev scores) or an anthology of Japanese or Chinese film music [just issued , see October reviews- editor.]

This minimally documented (you get a date, cast list and director) 4 CD set is produced in association with Halliwell’s and Pocket Films Film and Cinema guide. It is compiled from a rich back catalogue and (though I am not absolutely sure about this) seems to include tracks not previously issued. The whole runs over 4 hours. The grand plan is to provide at least once score from each of the years from 1933 to 1998.

The plums for me are King Kong, Prince Valiant, Last Tango, Deer-Hunter, Body Heat, Jean de Florette, Last of the Mohicans and Saving Private Ryan.

At a special price this is a most economical way of introducing yourself to a wide range of scores some of which are old friends others of which are kind strangers.

The blind spots are inevitable but I certainly puzzled why there was no Bernard Herrmann (contractual problems?) and of course there is no ‘deep-shelf’ Russian, Chinese or Japanese film music. Otherwise a most attractive compilation.


Rob Barnett


Complete track listing:  [Return to Head of review]

Disc One: King Kong (Prelude) Max Steiner, The Adventures of Robin Hood (Love Theme) Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alexander Nevsky (Entry into Pskov) Sergei Prokofiev, Wuthering Heights (Cathy's Theme) Alfred Newman, The Sea Hawk (Suite) Erich Wolfgang Korngold, The Thief of Bagdad (The Love of the Princess) Miklos Rozsa, The Mark of Zorro (Overture) Alfred Newman & Hugo Friedhofer, Laura David Raksin, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Max Steiner, The War of the Worlds (Main Title/Prelude) Leith Stevens, Prince Valiant (Prelude) Franz Waxman, The Caine Mutiny (March) Max Steiner, To Catch a Thief (Suite) Lyn Murray, The Vikings (Finale) Mario Nascimbene.

Disc Two: Breakfast at Tiffany's (Moon River) Henry Mancini, The Guns of Navarone (The Legend of Navarone) Dimitri Tiomkin, El Cid (Love Theme) Miklos Rozsa, Dr. No (The James Bond Theme - Symphonic Version) Monty Norman, How The West Was Won (Prelude) Alfred Newman, Dr. Strangelove (The Bomb Run) Laurie Johnson, The Longest Day (March) Paul Anka, Hatari Baby (Elephant Walk) Henry Mancini, The Sandpiper (The Shadow of Your Smile) Johnny Mandel, The Thomas Crown Affair (The Windmills of Your Mind) Michel Legrand, Romeo and Juliet (Suite) Nino Rota, 2001: A Space Odyssey (Also Sprach Zarathustra) Richard Strauss, Once Upon A Time in The West (Man With the Harmonica), Ryan's Daughter (Suite) Maurice Jarre.

Disc Three: The Summer of '42 (The Summer Knows) Michel Legrand, Last Tango in Paris Gato Barbieri, The Godfather (The Godfather Waltz / Speak Softly Love) Nino Rota, The Way We Were Marvin Hamlish, Papillon (Out to Sea / Main Theme) Jerry Goldsmith, The Deer Hunter (Cavatina) Stanley Myers, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Finale) Jerry Goldsmith, Body Heat John Barry, Excalibur (O Fortuna - from Carmina Burana) Carl Orff, The Right Stuff (Finale) Bill Conti, The Cotton Club (Main Theme) John Barry, Jean de Florette (Theme) Jean Claude-Petit, Lethal Weapon (Meet Martin Riggs) Michael Kamen, Batman (Suite) Danny Elfman.

Disc Four: Ghost (Unchained Melody) Alex North, Basic Instinct (Theme) Jerry Goldsmith, Prince of Tides (Main Title) James Newton Howard, Last of the Mohicans (Main Theme) Trevor Jones, The Bodyguard (Love Theme) Alan Silvestri, Il Postino (Theme / The Bicycle), Braveheart (End Titles), Apollo 13 (Main Title) James Horner, Independence Day (Finale) David Arnold, The English Patient (As Far as Florence / Rupert Bear) Titanic (Take Her to Sea, Mr Murdoch) James Horner, Saving Private Ryan (Hymn to the Fallen) John Williams, The Mask of Zorro (Suite) James Horner.


Gary S. Dalkin

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