CD Review: Notre Dame de Paris – The Music of Maurice Jarre
As more and more film music concerts are being performed, there will be opportunities to showcase the concert music of film composers and the need for concert arrangements of film music that goes beyond the expected war horses. An engaging new compilation 2-CD set on the Tadlow label, Notre Dame de Paris—The Music of Maurice Jarre, features suites from two of Jarre’s concert works as well as world premieres of further symphonic suites culled from his film music and assorted selections from Jarre’s lesser known film scores.
The album begins with a six-movement suite of symphonic dances from Roland Petit’s 1965 ballet Notre Dame de Paris, with music that showcases many of Jarre’s musical trademarks. “Feast of Fools” features a smorgasbord of the composer’s penchant for percussion while “The King’s March” displays Jarre’s tart harmonies. “Entrance of Quasimodo” features ascending harmonic progressions and signature orchestrations such as the piccolo/tuba combination found in many of his film scores.
The high point of the suite is the haunting pas de deux for Quasimodo and Esmeralda, “Beauty and the Beast,” in which beautiful woodwind solos weave around unexpected interval jumps and harmonic progressions. As Quasimodo forgets his disability, the music becomes more free before returning to his sad theme and a tender final chord in the high violins.
Notre Dame de Paris – La Bellete et la Bete
Click Track: La Belle et la Bete; Pas de deux (Beauty and the Beast)
The Maurice Jarre and the Orient suite consists of cues from three of Jarre’s Asian-flavored film scores. The suite begins with the overture from TAI-PAN, showcasing the majestic main theme and lush love theme. Two cues from Jarre’s score for the 1980 TV miniseries SHOGUN feature a more arid Japanese musical landscape, and the suite closes back in China with the lush end credits from the 1987 French film THE PALANQUIN OF TEARS.
In 1977 Jarre was once again back in the desert and received an unexpected Oscar nomination for MOHAMMAD, MESSENGER OF GOD, more commonly known as THE MESSAGE. The epic film tells the story of the birth of Islam and the prophet Mohammad, who, in accordance with the tenants of the Islamic faith, is never shown. The five-movement suite contains all the sweep and majesty of his classic score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, while focusing more on Arabic melodic and harmonic elements.
The first disc concludes with a medley from the rarely seen THE BLACK MARBLE (1980), based on the book by Joseph Wambaugh. Lucie Svehlova provides a lovely violin solo for the gypsy tune “Dark Eyes,” and the medley concludes with a typically sweeping Jarre waltz.
The first of the world premieres on the second disc is an eight-minute suite from Jarre’s 1965 score for THE COLLECTOR, his first assignment in Hollywood. The adaptation of John Fowles’s bestselling novel about a lonely butterfly collector (Terence Stamp) who kidnaps a lovely college student (Samantha Eggar) is one of director William Wyler’s more unorthodox features and Jarre’s score plays against the underlying tension of the story. Combining light jazz and many of Jarre’s trademark rhythmic and harmonic progressions, the score is shown to great advantage in this delightful suite of three cues (including the wonderful end credits which were not included on the soundtrack album), arranged by one of Jarre’s longtime orchestrators, Patrick Russ.
The other major world premiere is another eight-minute concert suite from the 2001 TV mini-series UPRISING, about the Jewish revolt in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Jarre’s final score is showcased in a fine suite arranged by conductor Nic Raine, who also orchestrated the film. The suite, which uses simple folk tunes as its basis, begins with a haunting flute solo followed by a plaintive English horn theme underscored by oppressive snares and multiple pianos. The suite concludes quietly and poignantly with the opening theme on piano and sustained woodwinds chords that, contrary to the cues title (“I Am Lucky”), offer little hope. The final world premiere is an arrangement of the end credits for Jarre’s unused score for TWO BITS (1983). Patrick Russ’s delightful arrangement showcases Jarre’s music at its most joyous.
Notre Dame de Paris – Two Bits
Click Track: Two Bits
The rest of the second disc is rounded out by selections from some of Jarre’s lesser known, but no less worthy, compositions. Of particular note is MOIRAR À MADRID, featuring a haunting guitar duet, beautifully performed by Jara Novak and David Holy. In addition, the orchestra performs the rousing mariachi “Harvest” cue from A WALK IN THE CLOUDS with gusto and the lilting waltz from THE NIGHT OF THE GENERALS with Viennese grace, while providing Jarre’s lovely main theme from THE BRIDE with proper Gothic sweep.
The album concludes with Giubelio, a dramatic 14-minute cantata call for peace for orchestra and chorus. The three movements—”Heri (Yesterday),” “Hodie (Today),” and “Semper (Always)”—utilize themes from LION OF THE DESERT, Jarre’s unused score for THE RIVER WILD, and SOLAR CRISIS, respectively.
Given producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and fellow orchestrator Patrick Russ’s former working relationships with Jarre, it will come as no surprise that the spirit of Jarre haunts every note of this recording. The sound is crisp and clear thanks to engineer Jan Holzner and Fitzpatrick, who also supplies the informative and entertaining liner notes. Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus prove again their affinity for Jarre’s music, giving performances that are sweeping in their scope, perfectly capturing Jarre’s inimitable voice.
NOTRE DAME DE PARIS makes for an enjoyable exploration into Maurice Jarre’s concert and film music beyond LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Jarre-heads like me will be swinging from the rafters.