Music composed by James Horner.
Disc One: 14 Tracks (Playing Time = 75:08)
Disc Two: 13 Tracks (Playing Time = 72:35)
Album produced by James Fitzpatrick and Rick Clark. Featuring the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Bateman (TITANIC, ALIENS, WILLOW), James Fitzpatrick (THE KARATE KID, AVATAR, TROY, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, BRAVEHEART), Mario Klemens (STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK), Nic Raine (DEEP IMPACT, THE MASK OF ZORRO, TITANIC, RANSOM, APOLLO 13, BRAVEHEART, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, WE’RE BACK! A DINOSAUR’S STORY, PATRIOT GAMES, THE ROCKETEER, GLORY, THE LAND BEFORE TIME, COCOON, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS); and London Music Works (THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS).
Recording compiled and mastered by Rick Clark. Artwork and design by Stuart Ford.
Silva Screen Records 1351
Also available as a digital download.
Silva continues the process of transferring its vast film music catalog to digital download availability with this “update” to an earlier 1998 Horner compilation, The Essential James Horner. The present release is available as a 2-disc set with minimal information about the films (compared to past Silva releases) but with a nice essay by Michael Beek.
The set covers music from Horner’s “breakout” score, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), to THE KARATE KID (2010) and an additional 22 films. The discs are oddly arranged in descending chronological order which will more easily adjusted if you download the albums. What generally makes these releases interesting to the casual film music fan are the “lesser” known selections against familiar favorites. One could carp about what is missing from the set which could easily run to three discs, but what is here provides for a rather ample set of musical choices. Note that what often happens throughout the history of the orchestra’s recorded catalogue is that slower selections tended to drag, faster ones revealed ensemble issues (often in brass passages). These issues, with occasional intonation problems, are less noticeable on disc one, but tend to slightly increase on disc two. Still, taken as a whole there is a lot of fine music making on display here.
The music from the past decade is all under the baton of James Fitzpatrick as is a selection from BRAVEHEART (“For the Love of a Princess” one of the highlights of the set) which appeared on a recent Celtic compilation. These show the orchestra at the top of its game here with the opening “I Want to Go Home” from THE KARATE KID a most touching and gentle opening to Disc one followed by the powerful “War” from AVATAR. London Music Works performs the selection from THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, essentially a classically-shaped piano piece with strings (sampled/synth). “A Kaleidescope of Mathematics” from A BEAUTIFUL MIND is also well-done, though the soprano solo feels a bit too close in the overall sound picture.
The earliest recordings (which we must assume repeat here absent recording data) with Paul Bateman include Helena Blackman’s fine performance of “My Heart Will Go On” from TITANIC (again with a different acoustical feel than the orchestral backdrop), and selections from Aliens, and Willow. “Bird of Prey Decloaks” from STAR TREK III is conducted by Mario Klemens and has appeared on the STAR TREK compilations from the label. These are all fine selections from the label’s back catalogue.
That leaves the bulk of the album under the able baton of Nic Raine. Some of the selections are possibly newer re-recordings that improve upon selections previously recorded under William Motzing or Paul Bateman’s direction from the earlier days of the label. Highlights from Raine’s involvement (which makes disc two a great listen apart from the sometimes problematic performance in THE ROCKETEER) include the selections from DEEP IMPACT (“The Wedding”), TITANIC (“Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch”), LEGENDS OF THE FALL (end titles?), THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE (“Lookout Point/End Titles”), and WE’RE BACK! A DINOSAUR’S STORY (“A Special Story”—the most active of the selections and a great example of Horner’s comic scoring).
All but one of the tracks are performed by the label’s “house” orchestra, the City of Prague Philharmonic. Since no recording date information is included for any of the tracks here, nor are there conductors credited in the accompanying booklet. But the information received suggests that this is an expanded version of their 1998 release minus the selections from the following scores: FIELD OF DREAMS, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, COMMANDO, and RED HEAT. With two tracks from TITANIC, BRAVEHEART, and GLORY (especially the unnecessary “Charging Fort Wagner” cribbed from Orff’s Carmina Burana), one wonders if one of these could not have been excised to include what was instead removed.
So, acquiring this set will not completely replace the old one and this will need to be weighed. However, if you missed that release, this is a fine compilation overview of Horner’s work. What is unintentional are the various thematic threads that bare resemblance to one another across a variety of scores where the composer’s personal style and self-borrowing give much meat to his detractors. A great example of this happens in the selection from PATRIOT GAMES (“Electronic Battlefield”) which borrows from ALIENS (and even Goldsmith’s ALIEN) thematically and parts of THE ROCKETEER that borrow from Horner’s own STAR TREK and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS scores. Overall, the selections are less of the action music and more of the beautiful, easy-listening thematic variety. If you missed the earlier release this will be of interest to Horner enthusiasts.
-- Steven A. Kennedy, 20 July 2011
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