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Artwork copyright (c) 1987 Taliafilm II Ltd.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Passionate, lyrical mediaeval score


The legendary collaboration between composer Jerry Goldsmith and director Franklin J. Schaffner unfortunately did not end on the most glorious note, at least in terms of film.  Lionheart was barely even released in cinemas, and quickly sank without trace.  It tells the story of a young knight who is determined to set them free from slavery if he can get them to King Richard the Lionheart.  It's the kind of thing that often ignites audiences, but clearly not in this case - for whatever reason.  The movie is very elusive to find, and consequently many of even the biggest fans of the composer and the director haven't seen it.  It clearly hit a chord with Goldsmith though, who wrote a typically colourful and exciting score.

There are many themes.  The main theme is introduced in "The Ceremony" but it's only a very subtle presentation - the piece isn't presented in all its glory until the very end of the final track, "King Richard".  The main action theme comes in "Failed Knight", a malleable and exciting piece for the brass.  "Robert and Blanche" introduces the beautiful love theme, a piece shimmering with love and full of the colour and passion of the mediaeval times.  "Children in Bondage" is a first-rate action cue, continually building and building over its five-minute length in Goldsmith's unmistakable style.  "The Road from Paris", which presents a full version of the traveling theme, showcases the score's most controversial feature, the synths.  Of course, Goldsmith was going through a phase in the mid-1980s of including more synths than he had done before (or since), which in most cases was the right and appropriate thing to do - but for a film set in the 14th century?  At first it does seem odd, but after a few listens it is easy to appreciate how in this case it fits into Goldsmith's oft-stated objective as using electronic instruments to extend and augment the orchestra, not to replace it - the sounds aren't jarring or grating, they're quite natural and are integrated into the orchestra very well.

"The Banner" is an impressive track, featuring a warm and inspiring version of the main theme and some truly lovely passages for solo winds.  It then develops into a rip-roaring piece of action music, but this is not the bang-bang style you may expect, it's more of a noble and impassioned piece than that.  After the brief action piece "The Castle" comes another gorgeous cue, "Mathilda".  Here, Goldsmith uses all sorts of devices from a brass chorale to high strings to produce some strained emotions before embarking on some more first-rate action music, here of an especially thrilling nature, big, boisterous and colourful.  From there, the score barely sets a foot wrong to its rousing conclusion - the slightly darker action of "The Wrong Flag", the epic "Forest Hunt", action-packed "Final Fight" and finally noble, heart-warming "King Richard".

Lionheart was a very early CD release from producer Robert Townson, and began his lengthy association with Goldsmith.  His label Masters Film Music released, through Varese Sarabande, a 2-CD set of Goldsmith's score.  Years later, highlights were combined into one CD, called "The Epic Symphonic Score", though in retrospect - sadly - the missing 14 minutes of music could easily have been included on the CD as well.  A curious problem afflicts the European pressing, because only half a page of the liner notes are included - I'd love to comment on the rest, but can't!  Sadly, the Budapest orchestra's performance frequently leaves something to be desired (the brass section is left particularly wanting, and the performance of the finale, which should be rousing and impassioned, is instead rather flat).  These slight problems cannot, however, detract from the quality of this score, which is full of emotion, passion, beauty and excitement.  The final masterpiece that Goldsmith delivered for Schaffner.

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  1. The Ceremony (2:42)
  2. Failed Knight (3:18)
  3. The Circus (3:07)
  4. Robert and Blanche (3:49)
  5. Children in Bondage (5:02)
  6. The Road from Paris (2:04)
  7. The Lake (3:37)
  8. The Banner (5:58)
  9. The Castle (1:26)
  10. Mathilda (5:57)
  11. The Wrong Flag (3:16)
  12. The Dress (2:23)
  13. Forest Hunt (7:45)
  14. Final Fight (3:13)
  15. King Richard (8:34)