Review: Quentin Durward
4 / 5 Stars
A light-hearted, swashbuckling romp from 1955, Quentin Durward was based on a novel by Sir Walter Scott and takes place in the 15th century. It was to have been scored by Miklos Rosza, who scored previous period epics for MGM producer Pandro S. Berman, but he was otherwise committed to picture Diane and this project fell to Kaper, who brought his own immense talent and style.
The story follows a noble yet bankrupt Scottish knight on a mission into France which surprisingly blossoms in importance, his nobility heralded first by a grand fanfare in the "Main Title / Lord Crawford", followed by a sprightly jig version of the same theme to represent his heritage. There is also a sweeping love theme contained in this opening track, but then the woodwinds dance around the main, jig-flavored theme for the remainder. Warm string sonorities begin "My Uncle / Your Grace / Poor Nation / Waiters", then moving briefly into a subdued heraldic fanfare, which seems to hint at grand things to come in the story and score. The main Scottish theme returns again in a playful manner, the woodwinds this time enhanced by xylophones. The next track, "Vanished / Honorable House / Fight at Bridge", introduces some action based on the main theme, with arcing strings, brass and muted trumpets all surging forth before the tone becomes quietly ominous, then advancing back into the bracing action music. The brass is particularly both strong and agile here, as they should be for a swashbuckling score from cinema’s Golden Age.
The woodwinds dance again with the jig in "Quentin Arrives at Castle / Quentin Cases Castle", but this track moves into some lovely, flowing material for the strings and then on into surging action to close. Pounding timpani and brass briefly sound forth in "De Creville / He Is a Paragon / What Are You?" followed shortly by a subdued appearance of the love theme in strings and woodwinds. The subsequent track, " France / Plot / Departure / Away / More Wine" is the lengthiest on the album, obviously covering a lot of ground story-wise. It moves from more ominous low tones balanced against the optimistic main theme on oboe in the first few minutes to swirling strings and big brass exclamations signifying danger, then into a passionate, sweeping version of the love theme midway through.
The love theme also gets a workout in "Stop / It\'s Useless / Take The Gypsy", while frenzied yet spirited material dominates "I Feel Better / Do Something / Whip / Jewel Box / Gypsy Dance", the next lengthiest track. The main theme calls forth from the trumpets like a beacon amidst the pulse-pounding action. Darkly hued, bubbling motion opens "Crossroads / Liege / Distant Fanfare / Royal Fanfare" while later a pipe organ is interestingly featured. "Louis\'s Gold / Am I Absurd? / King\'s Visit" is highlighted by wonderful, understated renditions of the both the main and love themes, traveling among the strings, flute, oboe and solo horn. The action returns with a vengeance partway through "I Must Go / Get Him", all furious roiling brass, strings and timpani, also featured prominently in the climactic "It\'s The Room", where the main theme is briefly heard charging into the fray.
"Arrest / End and Cast" wraps up the story and score through the main theme moving from muted brass, then flute and chimes before the love theme receives its final, bold statement. This then explodes into a rousing restatement of the main Scottish theme and a brief flourish. Even though I am not the expert on Kaper\'s complete output as a composer, I think this is a solid offering from him, steeped in the full-blooded orchestral stylisms and energy of Korngold, Waxman and Rozsa from the same period and before, brimming with well developed melodies. It is all that you expect and love from the Golden Age of film scoring.
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