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Beauty from Shore brimming with passion
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) Focus Features; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
David Cronenberg achieved some of the best reviews of his career with his last film, the excellent A History of Violence, and has seemingly got better ones still for Eastern Promises, which again stars Viggo Mortensen, this time playing a Russian Mafia man. 13 of Cronenberg's 15 films have been scored by his Canadian compatriate Howard Shore, mostly before the composer got very famous and, it has to be said, seemingly rather more austere in his approach to scoring. Most of the scores he has written since getting the Lord of the Rings gig have been excellent; but none has had any humour or particular cheer.
Eastern Promises certainly doesn't change that, but it does enforce that it is no bad thing - Shore has become a very emotionally-intense composer, and his music here is extremely passionate and impressive. The film may be set in London, but it is the Russian angle that permeates throughout, especially folk music. The glorious main theme introduces the opening track, featuring an impassioned and delicate performance by violin prodigy Nicola Benedetti. She is prominent throughout, and the sound she creates is a beautiful one.
Beautiful though the music is, the sense of tragedy running through everything is very deep, sometimes almost overwhelming - it might be facile to say this is "Shore's Schindler's List", but that gives you an idea of the sound. "Tatiana" introduces the secondary theme, which is very much more of the same - longing, full of regret, a slight sense of shame - but also of a life well-lived. There's so much feeling in this music - it's Shore's most intense and impressive since The Aviator - and perhaps it's actually summed up by the non-Shore piece, the traditional "Slavery and Suffering", which is powerful and moving.
This is an excellent score - slightly repetitive, but the album is short enough that it doesn't particularly matter - and it positively teems with life of all sorts. It's nice to actually be able to hear a Shore score properly for once, too - this one doesn't sound like it was recorded by a microphone sitting at the bottom of a fish tank. One of the year's best, and the type of album to which you could easily sit and listen over and over again.