Track Listing

1. Sweeney Todd: Main Title 3:19
2. Sweeney Todd: No Place Like London 1:29
3. Sweeney Todd: A Little Priest 2:45
4. Sweeney Todd: Johanna 2:25
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas: Chirstmas Eve Montage 4:28
6. The Corpse Bride: The Piano Duet / Victor's Piano Solo 3:06
7. Sleepy Hollow: End Credits 3:11
8. Batman: Suite 12:38
9. Batman Returns: End Credits 4:49
10. Edward Scissorhands: Main Title / Ice Dance 5:05
11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Finale 3:36
12. Beetlejuice: Main Title 2:03
13. Pee Wee's Big Adventure: Breakfast Machine 2:18
14. Ed Wood: Main Title 5:12
15. Mars Attacks!: Introduction & Main Titles 4:10
  Total Album Time: 60:34

Review

by Andrew Granade
on August 2nd, 2008
[3.5 / 5]

It's all about style.

Although I am an avid attendee of orchestral concerts, I am an equally avid avoider of pops concerts. The purpose of these concerts is to draw in people who otherwise scoff that orchestras present boring elitist music by playing in an open air setting, dressing more casually, and performing music the artistic director believes they will enjoy. As a result, listeners are treated to awkward arrangements of popular songs, themes from the latest popular movie, and an occasional patriotic march or medley of popular opera melodies. While these concerts are certainly engaging for families who want to expose young children to the sound of live music, they ironically often come off as more elitist than a typical concert. It is as if the orchestra is saying "you won't understand our music so we'll come down to your level." Unfortunately, the musicians forget one important factor in these ventures.

It's all about style.

Classically-trained musicians often have a difficult time playing jazz or rock or pop because the style is drastically different from their usual music. Their attempts come off as stilted and artificial, too calculating and precise, lacking the freedom of those in whom the style is engrained. This is why all those albums of the Beatles' songs played by noteworthy orchestras belong on an elevator. But there are a few orchestras that are able to cross the divide, who recognize what music will fit their style and personality and even specialize in bridging that gap. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, a group drawn from several Czech orchestras, is one such organization that deals exclusively with this gap, largely through film music. Their sound has been turning up increasingly over the past few years accompanying films and pop stars from around the world, and they have now been hired to put together a compilation of music written for Tim Burton's films.

It's all about style.

Burton is a director with keen visual flair, and his striking visuals demand music with an equally strong voice. That is why he returns time and again to Danny Elfman, a composer whose career shot skyward with the director's. In fact, it is no stretch to argue that each owes part of their incredibly successful career to the other. Both made their big screen debut with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and together they have created a remarkably consistent aesthetic that leans heavily on a perceived common style. Burton is pften quoted as saying that with Elfman, "We don't even have to talk about the music. We don't even have to intellectualize - which is good for both of us, we're both similar that way. We're very lucky to connect." With this connection, it should come as no surprise that on Music from the Films of Tim Burton, 10 of the 15 tracks and over two thirds of the run time is given over to Elfman's music. It should come as a surprise, though, that these tracks are among the least convincing on the disc. The producers seem to believe these themes are too familiar and so often go to unknown parts of the movies' scores to find music to play. Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are all represented by their end titles, when their lush opening numbers are more compositionally taught and melodically memorable. Still, those are small concerns when compared with the over twelve minute excerpt from Batman. Quite possibly Elfman's most known and well-regarded score, Batman is presented with a sampling from the movie's entire span. As a result, instead of almost thirteen minutes of music you cannot turn away from, there are large spans of music that drags. Judicious arranging could have made this the climax instead of the disc's dead zone.

It's all about style.

Still, the music's style comes through loud and clear. The orchestra performs with a chorus when necessary and as a result, Edward Scissorhands and the "Christmas Eve Montage" from Nightmare Before Christmas are standouts for their beauty and clarity. Even stronger are the works from the two Tim Burton films to use different composers, Sweeney Todd and Ed Wood. Stephen Sondheim's new opening credits for the movie, based on "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" is a striking opening to the disc and reveals Sondheim's great gift for making complex musical ideas sound simple and straightforward. Howard Shore's "Main Theme" from Ed Wood is perhaps the most generic track on the disc, but is marked by the style of Celia Sheen's control of tone and pitch on the Theremin. She makes the instrument sound as close to the human voice as possible and the results are spine-tingling because she understands that

It's all about style.

The only missteps on this recording are those not performed by the orchestra. The piano solos from Corpse Bride are played as though the performers cannot decide if they should replicate the character-driven haltingness of the movie's performance. As a result their playing, which is hindered by a recording process that makes them sound as though they are in a well, is half-hearted and unconvincing. Similarly, the "Breakfast Machine" from Pee-Wee lacks the panache of Elfman's 1985 recording and sounds strangely dated while the original is still fresh after 20 years.

It's all about style.

Those four words are the bottom line in this recording. For the most part, the orchestra gets the style and presents an appealing collection of films but with some strange choices of music from those films. Still, as a greatest hits recording goes, you can't get much better for Burton or for Elfman, two men who understand how powerfully style speaks today.


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