Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger



Collection: Famous Classical Chinese Film Themes 1   City of Prague Philharmonic   SILVA/GUTS SS21065 [57:12]



Although the SILVA SCREEN logo appears on the artwork of this album it is not an actual SILVA release. It was recorded by SILVA SCREEN in a specific commission for Rock Records of Taiwan - hence the featuring of Taiwanese film music. (Rock licenses products from SILVA for distribution in the Far East.) Rock Records chose all the material for all the tracks. The album ventures into a musical world which is, despite the title, from a Western perspective, largely unfamiliar. Of the 12 films featured, only two Farewell to my Concubine, and A Chinese Ghost Story received any notable UK distribution, while one or two of the other titles have appeared on late night television. The album is therefore most welcome, presenting as it does some most attractive music which many listeners would doubtless otherwise miss.

I happen by rare chance to have the soundtrack album for A City of Sadness, so I can confirm that the version on this new album is very much an arrangement of the theme. The piece has been extended and orchestrated in rich and lavish colours, and wonderfully attractive it is too, with a long, arching melody, something along the lines of The Last Emperor. I can only therefore assume that the other pieces featured here have been similarly re-arranged. I say assume, because unhappily there is no English language information about the music other than a list of the titles and the films they come from. [I understand that Rock Records brief to SILVA SCREEN was to have the songs arranged for full symphony orchestra in a combination of "John Barry meets Classic Rock" style, whilst still retaining the characteristics of the original songs - editor].

The jewel-case comes inside a cardboard slipcase, with an oversize booklet akin to those found with some upmarket classical releases. The booklet contains a lot of writing, in both Chinese and English. As well as a long introduction not translated into English, the Chinese text includes separate notes about the films and/or the composers. However, the English notes say nothing about either. Nowhere on the entire package are the composer's names even given in English. There are detailed biographies (complete with colour photographs) of the album's producer and two conductors (whose names change between the cover and the booklet) but there are no details about the Chinese/Taiwanese composers. [The booklet was prepared by Rock Records and we understand that SILVA SCREEN did not participate at all in this process, not even proof checking which would have caught the hilarious miss-spellings of Nic Raine! The exclusion of details about the composers but inclusion of details about the SILVA production team was determined by Rock Records - editor]

The surprise in the second track, the 'Main Title' from C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie, is that it sounds entirely Western, both in composition and orchestration. It is a gorgeous saxophone-led waltz, almost the sort of thing John Barry might written had he scored Murder on the Orient Express. If this is faithful to the original it demonstrates how Western musical forms have been assimilated into Oriental music, while, rather oddly, the melody re-appears in the track 'Bygone Love' from Farewell to my Concubine. Several other tracks have no especial 'Chinese' sound, while 'Blue Sea Laughter' from Swordsman is perhaps more expectedly 'oriental', offering lyrically pastoral harps and wooden flute, and 'Actress' from Burial of Heart movingly combines East and West.

Throughout, this album has a luxurious, sumptuous sound, with every track distinctly melodic (sometimes melodramatically so) and enjoyable in its own right, offering an answer to those who argue that modern films no longer have memorable themes. Here is a whole disc full of memorable, rapturously romantic, haunting and uplifting 'big' film tunes. They may not be 'authentic', but they combine to make for an immensely enjoyable hour of listening. Roll on volume 2, this time with the composer's credited and some decent English language notes.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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