Dozens of contemporary film scores are formed from a collection of forgettable cues that have the sole purpose of jump-starting a mediocre movie. Little attention is paid to character or the classics -- except to rip off a catchy melody once penned by a master.
These three recordings of scores by French composers are examples of how consummate artists firmly planted in the classical discipline can create unique themes for each cinematic character and mood. Though each film listed above is known for superb cinematography, the music is so rich that you can sense the emotions of each character without the visuals. Georges Aurics musical characterizations for Beauty and the Beast are presented in a series of colorful variations, and you can vividly hear the respective plights of Macbeth, Don Quichotte and Jean Valjean expressed in sweeping melodies from the respective pens of Jaques Ibert and Arthur Honegger.
As to sound, only Beauty and the Beast falls prey to an overabundance of digital compression, apparent as the orchestra swells on the "In the Forest" cue. The CD of Ibert scores has the best balance of dynamics and harmonic color, and an extremely low noise floor enhances the dramatic build-up of tracks like "The Ghost of Banquo" and "Le crucifixion." This is the way that timpani are meant to be heard -- the impact of mallet followed by waves of rippling, clear sound. You will be in for a very exhilarating experience, provided your audio system has the power and grace to handle broad dynamic swings.
Swiss-born musician Adriano conducts each of these marvelous releases, He was responsible for getting Naxos CEO Klaus Heymann to fund a film-score series, convincing him that there are some film scores that rise above mediocrity and even those worthy of being grouped with the classics. These discs were once welcomed on the Marco Polo label at full price; they are now a steal at the new Naxos prices.
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