Review: Cast A Giant Shadow
3.5 / 5 Stars
A turbulent, dark, mournful and evocative score for a film set at the founding of the state of Israel, itself a turbulent, dark and evocative topic. It had a stellar cast in the guise of Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra and a searing score by Elmer Bernstein. The "Prologue" start us off with a lonely trumpet solo against snares, building to a striking fanfare and then a relentlessly propulsive sturm & drang portion, the main theme sung on high strings above it all. The fanfare returns as the pace quickens towards the end of the track, ending in a surprisingly grand orchestral exclamation.
The album quickly moves into brighter territory in "Land Of Hope", a rhythmic, folk-type cue with broad orchestral statements of the main theme, then quiets down for the melancholy "Fading Dreams", underlining a failing marriage. This track has sad, delicate woodwind lines and troubled strings lead into a hesitatingly positive piano solo then into a more hopeful, flourishing orchestral finish. "War in the Desert" brings in the Arabic flavor in its caravan-style tempo and melodic turns. It has much melodic invention, very catchy string, horn and percussion ostinatos, a winning track all around.
"Magda" brings back the melancholy material, yet tinged with more optimism, highlighted by poignant flute and strings. The turbulent aspects of the score make a powerful return in "The Gathering of Forces" and "Victory On The Beach", where the sturm & drang rhythm also reappears, the low brass sound violent and there is kinetic energy to spare, as in much of Bernstein's work. For some reason, there is an ostinato in the latter cue which reminds of something Goldsmith would have composed, but perhaps that is because I have simply heard more Goldsmith than Bernstein in my time as a film music fan. The "Prologue" fanfare also returns here for added color and depth. Next, "The Garden at Abu Gosh" presents the mournful qualities again, but revisits the optimism from "Magda" to offset this briefly before the music turns completely tragic and flute, oboe and harp all receive effective solos.
The Zemel Choir add wonderful color to the "Finale", in the folk tune from "Land Of Hope" and bolstered by brass, ably bringing the score to a more positive, rousing conclusion. Even for its short running time, Bernstein's composition contains great variety, not only melodic, but in instrumentation and texture, moving from dark marches to soaring folk tunes to heart-breaking moments of lost love and nostalgia. Definitely a winner.
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