Year In Review: Discoveries (Film Score)

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Jerry Goldsmith

In this section I list my three greatest discoveries in the world of orchestral film scores.

These are defined as three outstanding scores that I’ve come across for the first time in 2012. Each of this year’s discoveries showcase the very best of their respective composers – emotional, moving and memorable works that demonstrate the best film music has to offer.

The Russia House

The Russia House (Jerry Goldsmith, 1990)

Jerry Goldsmith oft bemoaned the lack of adult dramas that came his way – hardly surprising given he was the finest composer of action and sci-fi movies in the business. But The Russia House afforded Goldsmith a rare opportunity to express himself in a way that was truly personal. For the adaptation of the John Le Carre novel, Goldsmith composed one of his most outstanding scores. Deploying a jazz trio comprising Branford Marsalis on sax, Michael Lang on piano and John Patitucci on bass, as well as a string/electronic ensemble, Goldsmith crafted a seductively stylish affair that hearkens back to his masterpiece Chinatown, wonderfully evocative of smoky rooms in a bygone era. Goldsmith’s relish at working with such an intimate ensemble is palpable and The Russia House is one of his great, overlooked masterpieces. Fun fact: the central theme was originally written for the 80s movie Alien Nation!

The Luzhin Defence

The Luzhin Defence (Alexandre Desplat, 2000)

In a relatively short amount of time, Alexandre Desplat has shot to the top of the film scoring tree, proving adept at scoring practically every genre from drama to thriller to animation. But The Luzhin Defence is surely one of his greatest works, composed just prior to his Hollywood breakthrough with Girl with the Pearl Earring. A frequent criticism of Desplat’s work is that it’s chilly and somewhat aloof; but not here. Resplendent in a sense of rich, classical beauty that evokes the Russian background of John Turturro’s character, it’s an intoxicating, beautiful work, nowhere more so than in the central Love Theme, surely one of the most gorgeous pieces Desplat has ever composed for the movies. Ethnically precise, characteristic of its composer and yet emotionally accessible, it’s one of Desplat’s greatest scores.

Something The Lord Made

Something the Lord Made (Christopher Young, 2004)

It’s always a joy when a composer demonstrates another facet to their musical personality. Christopher Young is acclaimed as one of the finest horror composers in Hollywood (Hellraiser; Drag Me to Hell et al) – but he has a sensitive side that has reared its head through his career. One of the most noteworthy occasions was for this 2004 TV drama about the relationship between pioneering heart surgeons Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas (played by Alan Rickman and Mos Def respectively). Young delves into his emotional playbook, coming up with a deeply moving and heartfelt score that calls to mind his outstanding work on 1995 drama Murder in the First (there are also overtones of Britain’s Debbie Wiseman). It’s a beautiful, deeply felt score that proves Young needn’t simply be bracketed as a ‘horror guy’.