Review: American Rhapsody, An
3 / 5 Stars
Now that Chris Young is finally beginning to get the major Hollywood attention he so richly deserves, I would like to humbly submit to the powers that be a truly worthy successor to the position of "most underrated composer working today": Cliff Eidelman. His career sure started with a bang, with gigs like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and his utterly magnificent Columbus: The Discovery arriving almost immediately out of the gate. Untamed Heart was another fan favorite, and put together that impressive hat trick of scores showed the world that Eidelman could do it all. Since then, though, he's been at the outer edge of the radar and he deserves much better. From Steve Martin's dour A Simple Twist Of Fate to the Fran Drescher vehicle The Beautician And The Beast, poor Cliff keeps imbuing tremendous class and artistry to vehicles that don't remotely deserve his skills.
So it's nice to hear him get some meatier material with the Paramount Classics release of An American Rhapsody, a historically sprawling yet quietly intimate semi-fictionalization of Hungarian-born writer / director Eva Gardos immigration and integration into the United States. Eidelman's score, represented here by roughly forty minutes of Milan's nearly hour-long disc, is a respectfully elegiac affair steeped in sad Old World melodies.
The "Main Title" gives the listener a good taste of what's to come, with a long-form principal theme as powerful as it is melancholy. It's surely heavy on lush sweeping strings (as is the rest of the score), but to Eidelman's credit it never becomes cloying or terribly sappy. His sense of drama and knack for keeping things tastefully understated greatly remind me of Thomas Newman's work on The Green Mile and to a lesser extent The Shawshank Redemption, as evidenced by cues such as "Heartfelt Goodbye" and, later on, "Journey Back Home".
"Hungarian Child" has a light Gypsy throb underneath it, recalling the epic "Schindler's Workforce" cue from John Williams' 1993 masterpiece, while "The Escape" and "There Was An Iron Fist" augment the orchestra with snare drum and thundering timpani to create a sense of militaristic urgency. "Eyes Set Toward America" sees the score swing into a more optimistic major mode for a spell, and it's a breath of fresh air from all the heavy stuff preceding it. The same goes for the sonata-like "Vienna", featuring a dignified piano rolling out over the rest of the players.
Some of the albums major highlights arrive later, though, in the form of "Baby Left Behind", a heartbreaking dirge with unsettling orchestral rumblings beneath it, and "Suzanne Arrives In America", a haunting slow build to what ultimately becomes an achingly beautiful principal melody. "An American Rhapsody" rounds out the score section much the way it started, featuring various ethnic touches such as plucked Gypsy strings over the now-fully-developed main theme.
The disc also features three source cues, the first of which is from the voice of The English Patient herself, Marta Sebestyen. Though certainly on the lighter side of gray, her "Sino Moi" ably keeps the mood of the score alive. It's hard to say the same for Ando Drom's subsequent two songs, the latter of which ("Jaj Istenen") sounds like a Gypsy rendition of the "Theme From Gilligan's Island". It's hardly a reason to dismiss everything else here, though.
To be sure, this is quite a sad and lonely album. Some may find it on the slow side, especially if you like your scores with rollicking action and lots of brass (none of that here). But for fans of such works as the aforementioned Thomas Newman scores and even Mark Isham's Oscar-nominated A River Runs Through It, Eidelman's pensive and well-crafted An American Rhapsody will no doubt be a welcome addition to your collection.
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