As the year draws to a close we ask our reviewers to recall the film
music CDs that have delighted them the most this year.
Film Music Editor Ian Lace
First of all I would like to thank all our visitors for their support and
loyalty since we began operations in January this year. And a thank you,
too, to the many people who have been kind enough to send us messages of
encouragement. My selection below supports and expends my Editors Choice
List which appears elsewhere on this site.
Our first crop of reviews appeared on this site in February and I was immediately
impressed with Marco Polo's splendid release of Max Steiner's landmark complete
score for King Kong. Another major release that month was the collection
of Nino Rota scores - including The Leopard, 8½ and La Dolce
Vita conducted by Riccardo Muti no less. A magnificent Max Steiner album,
entitled The Flame and the Arrow from Scannán has visited my
CD tray a lot this year; so too did the Turner CD of the dialogue and Steiner's
music from the immortal Casablanca.
The Academy Award went, of course to James Horner's Titanic (Sony)
but I have to say I preferred John Williams's affecting nominated music for
Amistad (DreamWorks). I was also taken by Wiliams's music for Seven
Years in Tibet (Sony); but, my premiere Williams accolade must be awarded
to his most moving Hymn to the Fallen from DreamWorks' Saving Private
Of course, this was the year of the Gershwin Centenary and this site reviewed
many albums devoted to his music. Only those with Hollywood connections were
considered eligible for the Editors Choice otherwise that accolade would
have practically been devoted to Gershwin. But I was very impressed with
the Turner album, "George and Ira Gershwin in Hollywood" - beautifully
presented; and the ASV recording of Gershwin's film music played in George's
style by Jack Gibbons (piano).
Varèse Sarabande released some marvellous recordings of classic film
scores this year. Most memorable for me were: the collection: "20th Century
Fox - Music for films from the Golden Age"; David Raksin's colourful
score for the historic romp, Forever Amber, Elmer Bernstein's beautiful
evocation of the joys and terrors of childhood that is, To Kill A mocking
Bird, Bernard Herrmann's darkly witty The Trouble With Harry,
Jerry Goldsmith's orientally- coloured The Sand Pebbles and the fabulous
collection of his fantasy and sci- fi scores, "Frontiers"; plus Alex
North's exciting Viva Zapata. But the stand- out VS release for me
was Alex North's brilliant score for The Agony and the Ecstasy.
Silva Screen relased two excellent compilations: "Cinema's Classic Romances"
and best of all, "Cinema Café", a truly outstanding and
stimulating collection of continental European scores. I was also very glad
to catch up with their release of Jerry Goldsmith's enchanting score for
Ryko have released some excellent CDs this year with their distinctive format
that includes CD-ROM content, usually scenes from the films plus excellent
notes in their fold out booklets that have allowed large reproductions of
the films' posters. I have especially enjoyed: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad
World, Taras Bulba and The Thomas Crown Affair.
Nonesuch have released some very valuable compilations: the romantic music
of Georges Delerue, music for the James Dean classics by Leonard Rosenman
and an excellent album devoted to the varied music of Alex North. But my
favourite release from this label was Humoresque, Franz Waxman's
arrangements and music for this old Warner Bros film played by Nadja
Salerno-Sonenberg with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew
From RHINO came a sumptuously presented 4 CD tribute to Warner Bros celebrating
their 75th anniversary.
I have to say that the standard of new scores has, in my opinion, been
disappointing this year. Few have impressed me. Besides the James Horner
and John Williams releases mentioned above I would just add Alan Silvestri's
uplifting, almost beatific music for Contact (Warner), Randy Edelman's
light-hearted and very evocative music for Six Days, Seven Nights
and Thomas Newman's heart-warming music for The Horse Whisperer
As the year ends one of the last CDs to come my way and another outstanding
Marco Polo album, Moby Dick, score by a little known English composer,
the late Philip Sainton. The Collector's Edition of John Williams's Close
Encounters of the Third Kind was memorable too in adding close on 40
minutes of previously unreleased material.
So having asked the reviewers to select just six recordings that have delighted
them the most in 1998, my selection has to be:-
Thomas Newman: The Horse Whisperer
Collection: Cinema Café - Silva Screen
Alan Silvestri: Contact -
Alex North: The Agony and the
Ecstasy - Varese Sarabande
Collection: Nino Rota film music - Sony
Elmer Bernstein: To Kill A mocking
Bird - Varese Sarabande. Ian
Going by what I have heard this has not been a wonderful year for original
film music. Top of my list of new scores is The Horse Whisperer by
Thomas Newman which is a bouncing, poetic and winsome score - a fresh creation
out of a rather threadbare tradition. Mulan by Jerry Goldsmith includes
some treasurable material and I have fallen utterly for the theme song.
Although not reviewed by me I must mention John Williams' ‘Hymn to the Fallen'
from Saving Private Ryan - a great though harrowing film with a score
to match. The hymn will stand very happily, and with great nobility, as a
remembrance for those fallen in any conflict. I fully expect it to have a
concert life of its own.
I should also mention Mark Isham's darkly bellicose music for Blade.
In the field of new or reissued recordings of classic film music I am not
sure where to stop. There have been a large number of good and great releases.
At the top must go the OST of Herrmann's 1976 Taxi Driver moodily
neon-lit and totally immersed in the romance and loneliness of the big city.
I have also enjoyed the Varese Sarabande's Psycho, The Seventh Voyage
of Sinbad and The Trouble With Harry. I should also mention
Poledouris's Conan and Michel Legrand's The Thomas Crown Affair.
Silva Screen's three anthologies, the mixed composer Monster
Music (with a not-to-be-missed uproarious Flintstones track), "Cinema's
Classic Romances" and "Cinema Café" are the mark of a company
with courage and an unerring eye for a gap in the market. All of these are
worth having and hearing. Cinema Café has a very good shot
at representing Continental cinema so often neglected in the face of the
Hollywood machine. The Romances disc is not at all treacly and carries all
before it in Sarde's glowingly imagined music for Polanski's Tess.
Great playing from the City of Prague Orchestra on all three sets.
My selection is:-
Thomas Newman: The Horse
Whisperer - Sony
Mark Isham Blade
Herrmann - Taxi Driver
Monster Anthology - Silva Screen
Cinema Café - Silva Screen
Cinema's Classic Romances - Silva Screen
There is no getting away from the fact that the popularity of film music
right now is almost solely due to the success of Titanic. I have been
constantly amazed by the size of Sony's marketing campaign on the 2 volumes,
and also by the strange places I hear Horner's music.
I was taking a romantic stroll through a park with my fiancee, & an elderly
gentleman passed by on a near-miss Penny Farthing with a gas-powered wireless
poking out of a satchel bag. Sure enough it was the ‘oirish' pipes that breezed
us by. I was in a bookshop and a very small girl's walkman headphones leaked
‘Death of Titanic' at me as we stood in the Children's Section ( I was there
Even more interesting has been the appearance of the Titanic (Horner)
sound in film music since. I ought not to point fingers, but those Uillean
pipes sure are doing the rounds right now.
I don't think we're in for a glut of samey sounding music - certainly no
more than has been the case in the action genre this year anyway. The point
is that for all that may annoy about Ms Dion et al, the score has raised
film music to a respectable level by the public. That has to be a good start.
If the punters want it, the studios will back it, and hopefully that means
composers' opinions will be slightly more respected too.
So in the wake of what went down, what was there of worth ? My own highlights
of the year will undoubtedly differ from most since my criteria were established
long before stowing aboard Film Music on the
Web. So let it be said that my choices are based on having been
particularly captured enough that the repeat play quality of each has lasted
right up to the point of writing.
1) New film music recordings
Firelight - Christopher Gunning -
Silva Screen - FILMCD 198
Ronin - Emil Cmiral - Varese Sarabande
2) Classic film music recordings
Body Heat - John Barry - Varese Sarabane
The Agony & the Ecstasy- Alex North
- Varese Sarabande - VSD-5901
Cinema Choral Classics II - Silva Screen - SILKD 6017
Screen Extravaganza - MCI - MPMCD2 004