CD Review: Notre Dame de Paris – The Music of Maurice Jarre
Film music concerts are more prevalent than ever. That’s good news for film composers who want to show the “serious” side of their concert work. It also gives them opportunities to arrange some of their film music beyond the expected war horses. Notre Dame de Paris—The Music of Maurice Jarre is an engaging new compilation 2-CD set on the Tadlow label. It features suites from two of Jarre’s concert works plus world premiere suites 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.
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. The suite closes back in China with the lush end credits from the 1987 French film THE PALANQUIN OF TEARS.
In 1977 Jarre went back to the desert for MOHAMMAD, MESSENGER OF GOD (aka THE MESSAGE). The epic film tells the story of the birth of Islam and the prophet Mohammad. The suite contains all the sweep and majesty of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but with more Arabic flavor.
The first disc concludes with a medley from the rarely seen THE BLACK MARBLE (1980). Lucie Svehlova’s lovely violin solo for the gypsy tune “Dark Eyes” complements the finale’s typically sweeping Jarre waltz.
The first world premiere is an eight-minute suite from Jarre’s 1965 score for THE COLLECTOR, his first film 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. 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. Conductor Nic Raine arranged a fine suite for Jarre’s final score. The suite, which uses simple folk tunes as its basis, captures the drama of the Jewish revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. It begins with a haunting flute solo followed by a plaintive English horn theme. The suite concludes quietly and poignantly with the opening theme on piano and sustained woodwinds chords that, contrary to the cue’s 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.
The rest of the second disc contains 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. The orchestra performs the rousing mariachi “Harvest” cue from A WALK IN THE CLOUDS with gusto. The waltz from THE NIGHT OF THE GENERALS has a lilting Viennese grace, and the lovely main theme from THE BRIDE has the 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.
Fitzpatrick, Raine, and Russ all worked with Jarre. So it’s no surprise that the composer’s spirit haunts every note of this recording. The sound is crisp and clear thanks to engineer Jan Holzner and Fitzpatrick, who also supplies the informative liner notes. Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus prove again their affinity for Jarre’s music. The performances are sweeping in their scope, perfectly capturing Jarre’s inimitable voice.
If all you know of Maurice Jarre is LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, look again. NOTRE DAME DE PARIS makes for an enjoyable exploration into Jarre’s work beyond those two standards. Jarre-heads like me will be swinging from the rafters.