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MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN
Large-scale undertaking is very fine effort by Rosenthal
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
THOMAS DE HARTMANN
Arranged and orchestrated by
* * * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1979 Renar Productions, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A very interesting-sounding film (which sadly I've never seen) based on the autobiography of Armenian spiritualist Georges Invanovich Gurdjieff, Peter Brook's film Meetings with Remarkable Men details his long search for the meaning of life in the Middle East and Central Asia. It met with widespread acclaim upon its release in 1979, but could not attract widespread distribution and so is little-known today. Brook turned to Laurence Rosenthal for the music - but the approach was novel and challenging indeed.
Gurdjieff whistled a few tunes which were turned into pieces of music by his pupil Thomas de Hartmann, and the idea was for Rosenthal to orchestrate de Hartmann's piano music for full orchestra and choir whenever possible, and to compose original music along similar lines when not. The result is a rich and powerful musical work which is rewarding indeed. The main title opens with a plaintive melody for small ensemble but it isn't long before the full orchestra is taking over, and the colour Rosenthal is able to bring (in part due to the augmentation of the orchestra with various ethnic/folk instruments from all over the world) is wonderful.
There are some remarkable pieces here, not least "Boyhood in Kars", the first half of which is a sweeping statement of a powerful theme, the second half of which is a beautiful choral piece. "Prince Lubovedsky" is a stunningly beautiful piece with Eastern European folk music at its core, tugging at the heartstrings at every opportunity. There is no shortage of large-scale music though - the grandiose "The Gobi Desert" is a prime example, positively sweating with energy and power. Some of the sections, particularly when dissonance is used for the spiritual sequences, remind me of Ennio Morricone's masterpiece Secret of the Sahara (one of his finest scores) - which is no bad thing.
This is an unusual film score, but a very impressive one - Rosenthal did a wonderful job of orchestrating the music and turning it into a dramatic film score. It was released on CD in 1999 by Citadel Records and I would recommend it highly - copies are still relatively easy to come by. If you fancy trying something a little different (well, very different) from most other film music - but which packs the same punch as the finest film music - then you should seek it out.