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A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH
Attractive period music from Delerue, but it doesn't quite reach his usual heights
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
One of the greatest and most-lauded filmmakers of all time, John Huston's career is littered with classics... and also a few which barely anyone can remember! Such is the case with A Walk with Love and Death, a 1969 movie set in France during the Hundred Years War. Huston gave his daughter Anjelica her first major role, and the film's marketing attempted to cash in on the success of Zefirelli's Romeo and Juliet (released to much acclaim the year before) - but it didn't attract particularly good reviews, and few people went to see it.
However, we live in an age now whereby soundtracks to 40-year-old films which nobody saw can be released on CD - especially if the music is by someone of the caliber of Georges Delerue, who worked with Huston for the only time on the film. He was gradually beginning to break away from just scoring fantastic French movies at the time (this was composed in the same year as Women in Love and Anne of the Thousand Days) . He apparently considered A Walk with Love and Death to be one of his own favourite scores - and now the wider public has a chance to see what they think, with Intrada's limited edition CD.
The score is typical of the composer's period scores, with bare orchestration and elements of ancient folk music appearing throughout. Listeners familiar with Delerue only through his latter-day lush, romantic seas of strings might wonder what they're letting themselves in for when the disc opens with its main theme, played by solo recorder. It's a lovely piece (and its appearances on this album are always welcome), but is not as memorable as the composer's strongest melodies. He creates a fine, believable ancient atmosphere, but I'm not sure the emotional connection with the listener is quite so strong here as it is in his finest works.
The plaintive action music is direct and to-the-point, with brass and percussion pounding out a rather oppressive sound which is extremely effective but, again, not the most pleasant aural experience. Perhaps the most accessible part of the disc is the spellbinding "Heron's Remorse", an unbelievably sad piece of music - nobody but Delerue was capable of writing anything quite so affecting, and to hear it here in the middle of a score which is very different from that only serves to add to is sublime effect.
There is Delerue's typical grace and elegance running throughout this album, but despite this, it is hard to describe it as top-drawer Delerue. For sure there are flashes of the exquisite brilliance with which the composer dazzled listeners throughout his career, but at other times there seems to be an unusual level of distance. At 43 minutes the album certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, and any release of a comparatively rare Delerue score must be welcomed, but I doubt many listeners will be returning to this one quite so often as some of the other scores from this wonderful composer.