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Magnificent western music from a master
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1998 Hallmark Entertainment, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
One of the greatest television miniseries ever made, Lonesome Dove actually breathed new life into the whole format, which was not in a good shape at the time. Based on Larry McMurtry's novel, the sprawling series chronicles a cattle-drive undertaken by a pair of cantankerous old friends, played beautifully by Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. With strong support from Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Chris Cooper and others, it really is television at its finest, using the long-form nature of a miniseries to maximum effect, giving real depth to the characters.
It is a series full of spirit, and so much of that spirit comes through its magnificent, Emmy-winning score by the great Basil Poledouris. It's one of the composer's most deeply personal scores, beautifully capturing the essence of the show. As usual, Poledouris paints with a broad brush, writing music which is as open and free as the great plains across which the characters are making their grand journey, but equally intricately descriptive of the travails they face along the way.
In a score as long as this (there's nearly four hours of music in the show), it is of course important to somehow keep the music focused, not become too sprawling, and Poledouris binds the whole thing together with a strong, memorable main theme, which forms the basis of so much of the music. Its roots are in folk music, but the composer expands it into grand style, often favouring a grand orchestral arrangement. It gets one such performance in the opening five-minute piece, which presents and develops the theme beautifully - that one piece could capture the spirit of a whole eight-hour series is remarkable, and testament to the powers of this composer.
Of course, there's music of all sorts here - thrilling adventure music in "Night Mares", pained sorrow in "Deets Dies", a heartfelt sense of longing in "The Leaving" - and Poledouris pulls it all off with aplomb. Television music is often made up of a series of extremely short cues which can leave it feeling very bitty but the composer gets a rare chance to write extended pieces here, with several running longer than five minutes, and it gives the music real breathing space, real room to develop - "On the Trail" is arguably the score's finest piece, with Poledouris providing a calm, assuring musical portrait of the characters' love for one another; and a beautiful look back at the happier aspects of life at the time. "Captain Call's Journey" is slightly darker perhaps, but another compelling musical portrait all the same.
The score ends with a rousing finale in "Farewell Ladies", which brings Poledouris's finest and most rewarding score to an end. This album was released by Sonic Images in 1998, an expansion of the previous release, and is recommended to all. Brilliant.