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GEORGE WASHINGTON II:
THE FORGING OF A NATION
Unexpectedly bitty feel to this period score from Broughton
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and David Gerber; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Such is my amusement that somebody would call a miniseries George Washington II because it's a sequel to a miniseries called George Washington that I must admit, I find listening to this album with a straight face quite a struggle. Still, needs must. This is a tv miniseries from 1986 which starred Barry Bostwick as the first president, focusing on his time in office (its predecessor having looked at how he got there). The first miniseries had been scored by Lawrence Rosenthal - and Bruce Broughton stepped into his shoes for the sequel, fresh off the success of his two most famous and popular scores, Silverado and Young Sherlock Holmes.
A word to the wise: don't expect anything like them. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't expect it to sound like music from a western or a fantasy adventure - such advice would not be necessary for the intelligentsia who pass through this way. Perhaps more sage advice would be - don't expect much of it to sound like a film score! It doesn't. Broughton was encouraged to write the score in the style of the composers around at the time of Washington - and so we get hints of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, as well as some popular tunes of the time.
OK, so it was an exaggeration to say that it doesn't sound like a film score - some parts do. There is a fair amount of dramatic music, mostly of the low-key variety, rather drifting into the background compared with the pomp and circumstance of the "semi-source" music around it. There is one major piece of particular note - "Drag Washington Out / Staring Them Down" - in which Broughton uses all his skills to create a piece full of anguish and despair, with just a hint of light at the end of the tunnel in the final bars. He achieves a similar effect in "Washington's Burden / Randolph Accused".
The problem is that the album just doesn't play that well. While the "semi-source" music is an acquired taste, there is enough "pure" Broughton music here on this 56-minute album that it could be excellent - but it has a very fragmented feel and there doesn't seem to ever quite be time for the composer to indulge in his customary development of ideas, which is one of the things that usually sets him apart. There are 25 tracks on the album and most of them are made up of sticking shorter ones together - that age-old problem with a lot of television music - so the many great ideas Broughton has are never really given enough time to breathe. It's nice, pleasant music all the way through - but never quite makes that connection that this wonderful composer's best music makes so well.