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Thursday, May 18, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code
Music by Hans Zimmer
Decca 985-4041
14 Tracks 68:10 mins

Certainly the most hyped film at the moment is Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks, Sir Ian McKellen, Audrey Tautou and Paul Bettany in an atypical villainous role. But does the film live up to all the hype? Well, from the few reviews I have seen, the critics seem to like it, so hopefully it does.
As for the music, well word got around that the British censor asked for changes to the music in order that the film obtain a 12 certificate, as the music was apparently likely to frighten children. Well, stories differ as to whether it was Hans Zimmer's finished score that did the frightening or whether it was in fact a temp track. On the evidence of the soundtrack album, I would say the latter, as there is very little here to cause offence, and would be more likely to bore than frighten children. Most of the music is of a spiritual nature, with very few intense moments, save for the Psycho-like strings in "Fructus Gravis," more tense string action in "Beneath Alrischa" and "Chevaliers De Sangreal," which builds and builds, but in optimistic fashion, until it becomes quite passionate.
My first impressions of the CD as a whole were favourable, when heard as background for various tasks I was performing, but when I actually sat down to listen to it properly, I did find myself agreeing to a degree with other critics that the music does tend to drone on a little, in the fashion of Batman Begins, and there are also nods towards earlier Zimmer works, with Crimson Tide being universally singled out. Not that his scores were not effective in these films. In fact, on viewing Batman Begins, the album took on a whole new life for me, having left me pretty cold initially.
What I can say is that there are some very good moments within the largely lengthy tracks, with the choral work and performances by soprano Hila Plitmann often quite gorgeous. Beside the performers, I think credit here must go to Zimmer's associates Nick Glennie-Smith, who conducted the choir, Graham Preskett, who was responsible for the Latin lyrics and choral arrangements, and Richard Harvey who not only conducted the orchestra, but played "historic stringed instruments" and wrote the album's concluding track "Kyrie for the Magdalene." Credit too must go to Martin Tillman and Hugh Marsh for their notable efforts on cello and violin in tracks like "Ad Arcana," "Daniel's 9th Cipher" and "Rose of Arimathea."
But, in conclusion, strangely enough, I have to say that my favourite track on the album is "Salvete Virgines," a very affecting chorale, which doesn't actually feature in the film. What this says, I'm not sure, but, for all its overall lack of genuine excitement, the fact remains that there is some quality music to be heard here, and Zimmer and co. obviously went to great pains to ensure this.


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