CD: Symphonic Celtic Album, The (2011)

May 24, 2011 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: Silva Screen/ Released: April 18, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: 14 tracks / (65:35)


Special Notes: 6-page colour foldout booklet / Also available as a digital album.


Composer: various




Silva Screen’s latest theme collection is this elegantly produced narrative of Celtic-styled themes, some based on folk melodies, others more contemporary evocations, but each of the 14 works is performed by the relatively same orchestral makeup by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Flutes, pipes, and percussion are centre stage, particularly in Carter Burwell’s Miller’s Crossing, and lengthy suites from Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings series. Their languidly drawn melodies are complimented by Burwell’s underrated Rob Roy love theme, as well as John Williams’ Far and Away “End Credits” music, punctuating a score that almost managed tp temper Tom Cruise’s ‘Lucky Charms’ cartoon performance.

Silva’s album isn’t exactly easy listening, but the overall tone is to soothe, calm, and provoke contemplation, and each theme glides gently into another, minus any unwanted shock as the music of Howard Shore (LOTR) glides into Thomas Newman (Shawshank Redemption) or even Victor Young (the lively “Donnybrook” theme from The Quiet Man).

In spite of the careful orchestrations to maintain a homogenous mood, Michael Kamen’s Highlander music (“Training Montage”) reminds the listener of the composer’s striking style and brilliance (and a need to release the full score legitimately on CD), and Sean O Rada’s “Women of Ireland” piece from Barry Lyndon remains a fine example of instrumental and thematic simplicity, capable of conjuring strong emotions.

There is a slight stylistic change around the album’s midpoint, largely due to the more contemporary themes written by James Horner, Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard. After the gentle love theme from Horner’s Braveheart, there’s his massively popular Titanic theme, although neither the sinking ship movie nor its theme have aged particularly well – perhaps the direct result of hype, and Celine Dion’s vocal version receiving an inhumane level of air play, eclipsing any personal meaning Horner’s instrumental renditions once evoked.

The orchestral-synth fusion style of Last of the Mohicans is rendered by sticking to Trevor Jones’ thick droning tones and steady harmonics, whereas the synth-pop styling of Gladiator is so innately New Agey with its upbeat tempo and Zimmer and Gerrard’s feel-good melody that it’s the most jarring cue in the album. (One also can’t help notice a ‘slight’ stylistic similarity to “My Name is Lincoln,” the finale music in The Island, composed by Zimmer protege Steve Jablonsky.)

Bill Whelan’s Riverdance theme closes the aplbum with full chorus, a large jingling, rumbling orchestra for the final half, and a fast-fiddling duet with rhythmic patterns rather reminiscent of Dave Brubeck!



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


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