Latest reviews of new albums:
World Soundtrack Awards: Tribute to the Film Composer
  • Conducted by Dirk Brossé
  • Silva Screen / 63m

At the time of writing these words, the World Soundtrack Awards has just hosted its twentieth edition (it’s 2020, so it was of course online only). Formed as part of the Ghent Film Festival, alongside the awards it has hosted numerous film music concerts over the years celebrating a number of film composers – both established greats, and rising stars.

Ordinarily one of the concerts each year celebrates a composer receiving a lifetime achievement award and there is usually a studio-recorded album of the highlights released alongside it. These are often great – last year’s, featuring the music of Marco Beltrami, was one of my favourite film music albums of the year.

Dirk Brossé

2020 is not a normal year. While arguably not quite as significant as the spread of Covid-19, this year instead of the album focusing on one composer, the festival organisers have produced one celebrating all 13 recipients of the awards’ film composer of the year honour, focusing mostly on recordings of previously-unreleased tracks or concert arrangements, performed by the Brussels Philharmonic conducted by the redoubtable Dirk Brossé.

The first track is not by one of the 13 – instead it is the original fanfare composed for the awards ceremony in 2001 by the legendary Elmer Bernstein. His “World Soundtrack Awards Fanfare” is exactly the Coplandesque celebration you would expect it to be, and it’s great to hear it on the album. James Newton Howard’s elegant “Overture” from Red Sparrow with all its Russian classical pastiche is full of great drama; then comes something I’d never heard before, Carter Burwell’s main title music from Fear (a 1996 thriller directed by James Foley) which is agitated and slightly Herrmannesque, not your typical Burwell music at all.

Alberto Iglesias’s “Soy Marco” from Hable con Ella is highly beautiful, with an exquisite violin solo; then comes perhaps the album’s highlight, the sensational “The Homecoming” from Cobb by the great Elliot Goldenthal. It rumbles with such raw power, and is just so beautiful. Then we get the first official release of music from Gabriel Yared’s Troy, a five-minute suite which sounds like it could come from a 1950s biblical epic and is gloriously entertaining as a result.

I must admit I have no idea what “When at Last the Wind Lulled” by the late Johann Johannson is – it’s not from a film and googling reveals nothing – but it’s a calm, sparse piece at the more accessible end of his output. I do know what “The Face of Pan” by John Williams is – one of several great concert arrangements from Hook, it’s one of the most beautifully lilting thing he has ever written (and this is the first recording of the revised concert arrangement).

Nicholas Britell won Film Composer of the Year in 2019 but perhaps his most famous work is for television and it is that work – Succession – represented here. It’s a brilliantly dynamic suite that shows there is more to the show’s score than just that wonderful main theme, surely the most memorable tv theme in years. The colourful Monsoon Wedding represents Mychael Danna at his best – exotic, warm and beautiful, it’s a great piece. The Imitation Game by Alexandre Desplat is a great score, but in the album’s only real misfire, I’m not sure it’s all that well-represented by the suite here, half of which is somewhat disposable (the other half being the superb end titles in a surprisingly restrained rearrangement).

There’s a great arrangement of Patrick Doyle’s “Never Forget” song from Murder on the Orient Express for piano and cello (strings coming in later) – tender and so beautiful, I love it and there is such direct emotional power in this version. A suite of themes from Michael Giacchino’s three Star Trek scores is very entertaining: his memorable main theme, the soaring Yorktown theme from Beyond (with choir!) and Khan’s theme from Into Darkness. Angelo Badalamenti’s “The Voice of Love” from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a stunner – romantic, soaring, it’s just glorious.

The album closes with the piece after which it is named, John Williams’s “Tribute to the Film Composer” which he arranged for the year he was conducted the orchestra at the Oscars. He squeezes little bits of 23 different scores into four and a half minutes – it’s fun picking them out. As with all albums like this, the variety of styles can be a little jarring as you move from one track to the next, but it’s very capably-performed and features some great previously-unheard arrangements. Recommended.

Rating: **** | |

Tags: ,

  1. Yves (Reply) on Wednesday 28 October, 2020 at 11:46

    Nice short docu about 20 years of World Soundtrack Awards: