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Whether it is for the family fare of Bicentennial Man, the ultimate blockbuster Titanic, the childrenís fable The Grinch, or this intense war drama, James Hornerís scores carry an instantly recognisable imprimatur. The lush, lyrical sound that he educes from an orchestra is probably unmatched in Hollywood, and while he has strayed in recent times to excessive repetitionóboth between and within scoresóHorner also has an uncanny knack of tweaking his technique to serve any genre.

A historical wartime scenario is the most powerful brief Horner has tackled for sometime, though scores such as Braveheart and Courage Under Fire are among his most admired work. Itís intriguing to note that itís been a mere six years since Braveheart, and there have been some 24 Horner soundtracks in the meantime, with four more due besides this one in the next twelve months.

You have to admire his prolificacy if not a studio system that spawns comprises and inconsistency even from so great a talent.

It doesnít sound like there were too many compromises here though. Russia-at-war is such a rich terrain for composersóa fierce landscape and a fiercer national pride. The 1812 bout with Napoleon did not for mine inspire Tchaikovskyís best work, but Iíll permit, perhaps, his most passionate.

No canons here. The passion in Hornerís superb soundtrack is channelled into tension. Of course thereís the signature Horner menace-motiff and the expected romantic theme. As always the latter is memorable and built on simple intervalsóin this instance oscillating major thirds. While it doesnít grab me as one of Hornerís finest, he uses is it as a link to a far more detailed and emotionally complex score than, say, The Perfect Storm.

Possibly it has been a help that it hasnít been contrived for a song spin-off, which seems to have been obligatory for every Horner soundtrack since Titanic. And never anywhere near as successfully, either commercially or artistically.

This is a purely orchestral work, true to the harrowing milieu of the siege of Stalingrad and cannily overlapping militaristic brass and marching phrases, dramatic choral arrangements and intimate string passages that vibrate with the intensity of human desperation. The individual tales of heroism and tragedy that are microcosms of the larger absurdity of war.

A layered work that rewards multiple listening, this soundtrack marks a welcome return to top form by one of film scoringís modern luminaries.
Brad Green

Published July 19, 2001

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INTERVIEW with Jude Law

Track 7 - The Tractor Factory
Track 12 - Tania

TITLE: Enemy At The Gates

ID: SK 89522

Sony Classical


ALBUM PRODUCER: Simon Rhodes and James Horner


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