EASTERN PROMISEs (2007)
Music composed, orchestrated, conducted by Howard Shore
14 Tracks (Playing Time = 36:57)
Album produced by Howard Shore. Featuring Nicola Benedetti, violin. Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Also includes “Slavery and Suffering” arranged by Dimitri Oleg Yachinov and performed the Red Army Choir conducted by B. Alexandrov. Score recorded and mixed by Simon Rhodes at Abbey Road Studios, London. Mastered by Jonathan Shultz and Lawrence Manchester at HowE Building, NY. Music edited by Jennifer Dunnington. Art direction by Roxanne Slimak. Graphic design by Elisabeth Ladwig.
Sony Classical 88697-16687-2
In some respects David Cronenberg’s latest film, EASTERN PROMISES, seems like a continuation of themes explored in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005). The present film deals with one of London’s notorious Eastern European organized crime families. The Russian mafia undertones definitely inform the music which in many places has a Russian musical sensibility implied in its balalaika solos and inclusion of other folk instruments. This is the 12 th Shore collaboration with the director who seems to pull out some of the composer’s more interesting music. Here Shore uses a less experimental harmonic palette and a more traditional orchestral approach lending a darker classicism to the music as a whole.
Shore has chosen violinist, Nicola Benedetti, to be the voice of this new work. Her playing is exquisite and her performance here will be worth the price of the disc for many fans. In the opening title track, a gently undulating accompaniment lends a sense of melancholy to the highly expressive solo violin line. Shore moves this idea into lower strings for a sound that he used most recently for THE LAST MIMZY—a kind of dark arpeggiated line that in scores like MIMZY or THE AVIATOR had a tendency to burst into a more joyous major tonality. Here it stays firmly rooted in grayer colors.
The score feels like it would lend itself as a larger symphonic work. The musical gestures definitely have a larger arching quality to them as the first ten minutes of the disc play out.
“ Tatiana” is like a wonderful andante movement for a contemporary violin concerto that further spins out the beautifully lyric theme. A new idea appears in “Vory v Zakone” that has a subdued brass line playing a 4-note idea that represents the Russian Mafia, and upon repeated listening will be discernible in subtle ways in other tracks as a shadow underlining the dramatic drive of the music. This track is dialed down to segue into the traditional Russian Folk song here titled “Slavery and Suffering.” The final tracks tend to grow darker as the film itself would suggest. In “Nine Elms,” the violin voice takes on a more pleading sound as celli and basses play what sounds like a variation on the 4-note motif assigned to the brass earlier.
As with any Shore score, the more you listen to it, the more you discover about its intricateness. Even when Shore’s music communicates on a purely surface level, as EASTERN PROMISES definitely can, there is so much more beneath that surface musically.
The bottom line in EASTERN PROMISES will be if you find the Tatiana thematic idea fascinating or not. There is a lot of gorgeous music in much of this score which plays as a theme and variations. Along the way are many standard Shore fingerprints that fans of his music will appreciate. The music is overall a far more engaging and satisfying listen than THE LAST MIMZY which kind of overstays its welcome rather quickly.
This is not the kind of music Shore wrote for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but an interesting blend that grows out of his superb score for THE DEPARTED. EASTERN PROMISES will likely grab your attention and will reveal more to you on repeated hearings.
Incidentally, if you download this score you can get an “extra track.” I have to admit that here there is no reason why that track should not have appeared here.
--Steven A. Kennedy , 11 October 2007
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