The Last Valley
Silva Screen Records, Ltd. (FILMCD 355)
Release Date: 2001
Conducted by Nic Raine
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
|1.||The Last Valley - Main Titles (Part 1)||3:07|
|2.||The Rape of Khutal||0:52|
|3.||The Plague Pit||2:10|
|4.||Entry into The Last Valley||3:00|
|5.||"Why not Winter in the Valley?" / The Death of Eskesen||4:37|
|6.||An Evening Song||2:07|
|7.||Captain Meets Erica / Winning Erica||2:18|
|8.||The Villagers Fight for the Shrine||2:59|
|9.||The Priests Prays for Guidance / The Shrine||3:13|
|10.||Vogel's Dream - The Last Valley||2:45|
|11.||The Giving Away of the Women - An Offertory Chant||2:36|
|12.||Hansen Tries to Murder Captain||1:19|
|13.||A Children's Song||1:46|
|14.||Graf Returns / Mountain Skirmish - The Village Attack||3:16|
|15.||Departure for Rhinefelden||2:55|
|16.||A Christmas Song||2:51|
|17.||Witchcraft / Erica is Burned at the Stake||3:44|
|18.||Vogel Leaves the Valley||1:44|
|19.||Night Battle at Rhinefelden||1:13|
|20.||Death of Captain / End Title||5:02|
|21.||The Last Valley - Main Titles (Part 2)||3:29|
|Total Album Time:||57:03|
|by Matt Barry
on March 6th, 2004
Make no mistake: illustrious composer John Barry has never been anything less than a class act. But before Hollywood producers had pigeonholed him into the comfy, cozy groove of creating the bittersweet, halcyon musical wallpaper of recent films like The Scarlet Letter and My Life, this cat really used to take some chances. And no label seems to know this better than Silva Screen. To put it bluntly, Silva's re-recordings used to stink. But their recent releases of such old-school Barry fare as The Lion In Winter and Walkabout have done wonders to elevate the once-tarnished reputation of Nic Raine and the City Of Prague Philharmonic. Well, now you can happily add The Last Valley to the pile, Barry's stark and haunting score to the 1970 James Clavell-directed period piece.
Running just under an hour, Silva's disc presents the complete score to the epic tale of war and peace in 17th century Germany, ever-so-slightly re-sequenced to improve the listening experience. And while I don't know who to blame for this (or if I should blame anyone at all), for once Silva's use of the HDCD format's extreme dynamic range tends to hurt rather than help the cause. In short, most of this music is low key, low level stuff that could be a lot hotter and present in the recording. Moreover, even if you crank things up, there are quite a few passages that'll have you diving for the volume knob again. I know: pretty lame gripe. But I listen to a lot of things in my car, and a lot of this disc tended to get lost amid the freeway hum, no matter what I did.
But that's a tiny problem, and this package has a hell of a lot going for it otherwise. The "Main Titles (Part 1)" firmly establishes the two divergent but coexisting musical worlds of the film: an ethereal, pastoral choir for the untouched innocence of the valley counterpointed by a thrusting militaristic undercurrent for the oncoming soldiers. It is a mysterious and uneasy march, a perfect prelude of things to come that continues through "The Rape Of Khutai". "The Plague Pit" features an ominous male chorus over sinister strings before giving way to the marching main title motif.
"Entry Into The Last Valley" is the first of several album highlights, offering a lovely, lilting theme for oboe and strings. Those familiar with the unsettling first twenty minutes of Dances With Wolves should understand the textures at play here. "Captain Meets Erica / Winning Erica" continues the latter motif's development into a tentatively sweet love theme, as does the standout cue "Vogel's Dream - The Last Valley". It is very sensitive work here, very thoughtfully understated, with nary a piece of wallpaper to be found. Several unaccompanied choral sources cues are also peppered throughout the running time, such as "An Evening Song" and the transcendently gorgeous "A Christmas Song".
There is a bit of action to be had, as well, with the shrill brass of "Villagers Fight For The Shrine" conjuring thoughts of Patrick Doyle's creepy brass on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. "Graf Returns / Mountain Skirmish - The Village Attack" is a pulsing, precarious cue with the patented James Bond "wall of brass" and a driving snare drum, as is the fiery "Night Battle at Rhinefelden". But the heart of the score emerges again in "Departure For Rhinefelden", building to a heartbreaking finale. "Death of Captain / End Title" concludes the score proper with a lengthy elegy that packs some real emotional power, with "Main Titles (Part 2)" energetically sending the disc off the way it started.
To be sure, Barry has written some sunny, happy scores in his day. The Last Valley isn't really one of them. It's much darker, brooding even. But it's good. It's very good. Hardcore Barry fans should need no such convincing, as this is a great companion album to Silva's excellent Lion In Winter rerecording. And with the informative liner notes and colorful layout being of their usual superlative nature, this package has quite a bit to offer even an armchair Barry fan looking for their maestro working a bit out of his usual box.
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Released: June 20, 2006