The Lion In Winter
Silva America (SSD 1131)
Release Date: 2001
Conducted by Nic Raine
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Best of 2001: Best Re-Recording
|1.||The Lion In Winter||2:28|
|2.||Allons Gai Gai Gai||1:41|
|3.||Richard's Joust / Geoffrey's Battle||1:20|
|4.||Chinon / Eleanor's Arrival||3:38|
|5.||Fanfare For Philip / The Great Hall Feast||1:22|
|6.||The Herb Garden||4:14|
|7.||To The Chapel||1:45|
|8.||Eya, Eya, Nova Gaudia||2:16|
|9.||How Beautiful You Made Me||3:00|
|10.||God Damn You||4:29|
|11.||The Christmas Wine||2:41|
|13.||Media Vita In Morte Sumus (In The Midst Of Life We Are In Death)||2:05|
|14.||We're All Jungle Creatures||2:55|
|15.||Mary, Queen Of Scots||2:32|
|17.||Vivre Et Mourir||2:12|
|18.||But Not Through My Realm||4:47|
|19.||Mary and Darnley||1:46|
|20.||This Way Mary||3:28|
|Total Album Time:||54:32|
|by Matt Barry
on March 6th, 2004
One of both the best and worst things I could ever say about legendary composer John Barry is that when he scores a film, musically you more or less know exactly what's in store for you. For filmmakers, he's no doubt a dream come true – Barry delivers the goods almost every time. And if a director doesn't like what Barry turns in, it's probably the director's fault for not knowing what a John Barry score sounds like in the first place. That isn't to say all of Barry's scores sound the same; anyone who's ever heard his jazzy hep-cat early work could never legitimately mistake it for the symphonic strains of other scores like Zulu or My Life.
But still, at the risk of sounding painfully obvious, there is absolutely no denying that the man's music has a distinctive sound. So to hear a score that is both freshly inventive and at the same time utterly vintage John Barry is a real treat indeed. Such is the disc in question here, Silva's dynamite new rerecording of Barry's score to The Lion In Winter, the searingly classic "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf"-in-medieval-times melodrama. At the time, most people knew Barry as the fella whose music made James Bond look so damned cool. So when Lion came along in 1968, chock full of exquisite choral work and resplendent orchestral underscore, it stunned the film community so much they gave Barry the Academy Award.
Well it's all here, slightly expanded from Sony's release of the original tracks, and it sounds better than ever. Nic Raine again shows a fine ear for Barry's work (his Raise The Titanic was another winner), and David Temple ekes a virtuoso performance out of the men and women of the Crouch End Festival Chorus. Beginning with the main title, "The Lion In Winter", Barry pulls out some stark Bond-styles brass licks over a marching ostinato that gives way to the first of many breathtaking choral passages, with exciting swirling strings running counterpoint. "Richard's Joust / Geoffrey's Battle" continues in this vein, creating the kind of dazzling fireworks comparable to Orff's Carmina Burana or Poledouris' Conan The Barbarian. I can't emphasize enough how singularly cool it is to hear John Barry give his distinctive touch to this genre. He truly earned that little gold statue here.
"Chinon / Eleanor's Arrival" begins with gorgeously pastoral but mysterious choral work, then gives way to the gloom of a tolling church bell, and finishes in what will become a frequent motif for the rest of the score – an intricate back and forth repartee between the men and women of the chorus (perfectly paralleling the thematic elements of the film) that appears again notably in "Eya, Eya, Nova Gaudia". "Fanfare For Philip / The Great Hall Feast" injects a dose of majesty to the proceedings, and "The Herb Garden" is a lovely but dramatically ambivalent evocation of period Gregorian vocals for both men and women. "To The Chapel" takes us back to Bond country, with urgent brass and hollow chimes as well as the ever-present choir.
"How Beautiful You Made Me" is another big album highlight, with Barry showing some real restraint in his use of the orchestra. If your notion of John Barry is more akin to the pretty musical wallpaper of The Scarlet Letter, this is some refreshingly brilliant evidence to the contrary. The score rolls to the finish line with "To Rome" and "Media Vita In Morte Sumus", two of-a-piece cues that, between menacing snatches of the main theme, perfectly display both the ethereal beauty of the chorus and the power of the orchestra. "We're All Jungle Creatures" ends Lion in a much more resolute and upbeat settling, drawing to a close nearly forty minutes of must-own music.
Also featured on this disc is a seventeen minute suite from Barry's Mary Queen Of Scots, a much more traditional work from the composer (comparatively speaking) that features perhaps the most achingly melancholy main theme the maestro has ever written. The main title just sings out, with the touch of a harpsichord to let us know the whens and the wheres of the film. "Elizabeth's Ride" and "But Not Through My Realm" are galloping and majestic with dancing pizzicato woodwinds, and "Vivre Et Mourir" uses both oboe and guitar to give off a gentle medieval minstrel vibe. "Mary And Darnley" presents a melancholy love theme for a doomed romance, with dark strings and a yearning low piano sounding like a death knell. "This Way Mary" tragically caps the disc with the main theme again, a devastating cue featuring solo violin, flute counterpoint and a harp plucked like so many teardrops.
Lyrical Mary is the perfect companion piece to The Lion In Winter's more challenging passages, and together they easily make one of the best albums of the year. Its spotty re-recording history growing dimmer with each new release, Silva has again showed they can do great things with great material. Even if you already own both of these scores separately, even if the only Barry CD you own is Dances With Wolves, it still behooves you to consider picking this one up. It's that good.
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Released: January 28, 2008
Released: September 24, 1992