Prometheus (PCD 158)
Release Date: 2005
Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith
The London Studio Symphony Orchestra
|1.||The World that Only Lovers See (Love Theme from The Chairman)||2:27|
|2.||Main Title - The Chairman||3:22|
|3.||Goodbye for Now||1:45|
|4.||A Late Visitor||2:45|
|7.||The Red Guard||3:14|
|12.||End Title - The Chairman||3:10|
|Total Album Time:||31:39|
|by Andrew Granade
September 2, 2005
Why is it that it takes a great composer's passing for the world to wake up and recognize that, yes, he or she was a great composer? It is a familiar story, told over and often, that artists are never appreciated until they're gone. Many even joke about the situation, offering vague proclamations on how much their work will be worth when they are gone. But that doesn't make the situation any better for those of us who appreciate the composer while they are alive.
Over the past two years, we have witnessed the passing of many great film composers, but perhaps none has been so lauded upon their death as Jerry Goldsmith. Yet before he died, little notice was paid to him outside the small cadre of devoted fans. People seemed to forget that he even existed and he scored few films. Well, true to fashion, now that he is gone and there is no new music, the floodgates have been opened as companies attempt to see exactly how much the great composer's works are now worth.
While I find this tendency disturbing, that doesn't mean I don't welcome the re-mastering and re-release of many of Goldsmith's older scores. I particularly welcome this release of The Chairman, a mostly-forgotten thriller from 1969 that found Gregory Peck playing a scientist sent into Mao's China to retrieve a plant enzyme to help end world hunger. The main reasons I looked forward to this score were mainly selfish; I've always thought Goldsmith was at his strongest when attempting to evoke a foreign locale, and I've always harbored a penchant for Chinese music.
Fortunately, The Chairman does not disappoint in the least. The recording opens with "The World That Only Lovers See," a piano rendition of the movie's love theme performed by Goldsmith himself accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. The style of this theme will be familiar to anyone who has seen a movie from the late-1960s. It is flowing, beautiful, and contains just enough touches of jazz harmonies to anchor it firmly in its time period. The next cue, however, is vintage Goldsmith and could come from any decade of his long career. The "Main Title" combines the two music aspects of the People's Republic of China that coexist to this day although they would seem to be opposed. First is the martial music of mass songs and state anthems. This music is loud, percussive, brassy. But presented in counterpoint to this sound is the plaintive Chinese zither, performing what appears to be a traditional Chinese melody. The juxtaposition of these opposed aspects, Western and Eastern, forceful and serene, modern and ancient, is found throughout China and gives this cue particular force. The "Main Title" is the standout cue in the score.
These two ideas that figure so prominently in the "Main Titles" can be said to define the entire score as it vacillates between moments of tenderness and locale, represented by the love theme and Chinese melodies, respectively, and scenes of tension and escape. The former is wonderfully captured in "Hathaway's Farewell," where the love theme is beautifully orchestrated, veering between melancholy and compassion. The latter can be seen in the two cues immediately following, "Escape" and "Fire Fight." The pounding percussion (made of gongs and woodblocks to provide propulsion) slowly increases its speed throughout these cues as the strings play relentless figuration and the brass interjects with striking chords. These cues represent Goldsmith's action scoring at his best.
Earlier I boldly stated that The Chairman does not disappoint on any level. That was a slight overstatement. This album is a scant thirty minutes, barely enough time to spend with Goldsmith's enchanting music. From what I can tell, this release was lifted straight from the original LP release, which means there is much more music to be had. So, whet your appetite with this appetizer, and hopefully the studios will recognize at last Goldsmith's importance and give us more of The Chairman.
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