CD Review: Revolution

In December 2007, I came across a copy of John Corigliano‘s score for REVOLUTION. The 1985 film starring Al Pacino and Nastassja Kinski during the Revolutionary War was one of the most notorious flops in film history. But I had never seen the movie nor heard a note of Corigliano’s score. What I heard was eye opening.

This was not your typical score for that period in history. Gone were the traditional patriotic fife and drums. Instead, Corigliano created a haunting and memorable musical indictment against war. This was a serious score, rich and haunting in its melodic and harmonic structure that deserved to be heard. Now that dream has now become a reality.

In my interview with Corigliano for my Film Score Monthly Online article, “War Is Hell: John Corigliano and the Battle Over Revolution,” the composer detailed the turbulent backstory behind the film and the score. I won’t repeat those details here. Instead, I will focus on the CD itself.

Revolution soundtrack
“Daisy’s Theme/Embarkation”

When I first did my interview with Corigliano two years ago, he told me that discussions were underway with an independent label to release the original album which he had recorded digitally in London. Earlier this year I heard through the film music grapevine (yes, there really is one) that plans had stalled because Corigliano wanted to release the album and Warner Bros. wanted to release the original tracks from the film. Now thanks to Robert Townson at Varese Sarabande, one of my holy grails has been released. And the result is nothing short of astonishing.

Every musical color of Corigliano’s rich score comes to the fore. The instrumental colors of the “Forest Search” convey the wildness of our young country. James Galway’s flute and pennywhistle solos are more heartbreaking, especially in cues such as “Daisy’s Theme,” which also serves as the love theme, and “Children’s Theme.”

The brass in particular are more menacing. From the opening French horn octave to the belching chord clusters and unique use of percussion, every note of Corigliano’s music conveys the pain and horror of war. Probably the most stunning cue is the “Foxhunt” in which Corigliano’s “jaunty” scherzo later ironically underscores the haunting war threnody as Pacino’s American soldier is attacked by British soldiers and their dogs.

When REVOLUTION was released on DVD earlier this year, director Hugh Hudson went back and recut the film to conform to his original vision. I haven’t watched the new version yet, but viewers familiar with the original film will notice a new ending. As such, the final track on the album reflects this new ending. The beginning part of the finale is taken up with Corigliano’s original tone cluster crescendo that leads into a full-blown statement of the love theme, which was the first thing he composed for the score. Now the track ends with a restatement of the “Children’s Theme” to reflect the new ending.

The detailed liner notes by Nick Redman also include reminiscences by Hudson and Corigliano himself. Kudos to Corigliano, Townson and Erick Labson’s mastering for a superbly produced album.

How could a score by one of the premier composers of our day, a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner, have been left for dead for so long on the field of battle? No matter. Now, 24 years after the film’s notorious premiere, the score has been resurrected and film score fans have emerged victorious. Whether you order through the Varese CD Club now or wait for it to appear in stores later in 2010, this is an essential CD for any serious film music fan.

REVOLUTION is one, ahem, revolutionary film score you won’t soon forget.

  1. Thanks for suggesting this one. I had never heard of the score or the movie. The cue samples sound promising and I enjoy this particular genre of film score. I will probably wait for the CD to come to stores due to budgetary constraints (just too many good scores out there to purchase).

  2. Absolutely brilliant score in every respect. It has aged beautifully, like a fine wine.

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