Jerry Goldsmith admits within the liner notes of Christus Apollo that the opening movement, "Music for Orchestra," was more an exercise in personal therapy than in creativity. And indeed the piece is full of dissonance and despair, presumably by-products of the talented composer's struggle with lifes adversities. In purging his demons, Goldsmith underscored the struggles we all have as humans, creating a nice bookend to the main body of Ray Bradburys Christus Apollo.
Originally a sonnet penned by Bradbury after the Apollo 8 lunar orbit, the Christus Apollo cantata contains themes that leverage Bradburys trademark mixture of fantasy and fact. Musically, Jerry Goldsmith uses devices that one may find familiar. Theres a bit of Carl Orffs Carmina Burana, a little bit of Swimming to Cambodia monology (though it isnt Spaulding Gray but Sir Anthony Hopkins at the mike) and -- not surprisingly -- a mood that is like that of Goldsmiths score to The Omen. Sir Anthony is the real star here. His voice introduces the pseudo-spiritual fabric of Christus Apollo with a commanding intonation, giving it a noble and captivating quality.
In Goldsmiths opening and concluding movements you will hear variations on harmonies and melodies hes used in his own film scores. In addition to The Omen there are echoes of Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Outland and Capricorn One. From a purely creative point of view "Fireworks" seems the more original of the two bookends. Though it is apparent that Goldsmith does owe much of the work's spirit to Aaron Copland, the concluding movement does have some nice moments, particularly in the last three minutes, where a beautiful horn-driven theme leads into a dramatic climax.
The production values of the Christus Apollo are pure Telarc: big, bold and very dynamic. Unlike Telarcs Top 40 Erich Kunzel efforts, Goldsmiths ample use of horns, strings and percussion never collapses into stridency. The performance moves along at a comfortable pace that rarely falls below allegro. Hopkins voice floats as if God is looking down on the proceedings. And like most "popular" classical orchestrations none of the tracks stretch beyond the ten-minute mark -- wouldnt want anyone falling asleep now, would we? The one glaring fault I found with the performance lay in the rather uneven transitions between Goldsmiths opening and closing movements and the main cantata.
Beyond its high aspirations, Christus Apollo is nothing more than well-done film music. Not that there is anything wrong with film music -- I personally find it an excellent introduction to the works of classical composers. Just dont expect the feeling you get listening to Christus Apollo to last beyond its concluding notes.
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