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Sunday, April 26, 2009


Wuthering Heights
Music by Michel Legrand
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1087 (US)
17 Tracks 46:46 mins

Long before Alexandre Desplat, there were other Frenchmen conquering Hollywood; two at least, Maurice Jarre and Michel Legrand were very successful during the '60s and '70s especially. In 1970, Legrand was at the height of his powers, having written scores for the likes of The Thomas Crown Affair and Ice Station Zebra, so quality music was assured for American International's adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic tragi-romance Wuthering Heights. An unusual choice for the studio, who are mostly remembered for their low-budget exploitation fare, but I actually find their version of the story superior, made so by some excellent photography, a fine British cast, including a young Timothy (James Bond) Dalton and Ian (The Saint) Ogilvy, and of course the music of Michel Legrand; at the heart of which is his haunting (if you pardon the pun - the lovers finally reunite in death, if you didn't know) love theme, given lyrics by the great Marilyn and Alan Bergman, and performed on the soundtrack by the Mike Curb Congregation, "I Was Born in Love With You."
I have long treasured the rare American international LP and am delighted now that La-La Land, albeit in a very limited edition of 1200 units, has finally brought this great score to CD, and what's more there is a previously unreleased track to make the disc even more tasty.
The album gets underway with Legrand's instrumental version of the love theme, which features a delicate flute playing the melody, alternating with sweeping and dramatic strings and French horn. "Yorkshire Moors" initially speaks of the playfulness and innocence of childhood, before the love theme enters somewhat dirge-like to close. "Le Grand Holiday" alternates between light and gay and somber tones, before ending on a gloomy note. A tremendously furious scherzo features in "Castle Grounds," followed by the unhinged, waltz-like music that denotes the cruel "Hindley," which alternates with more dark tones and tragi-variations on the love theme, before briefly giving way to religious organ music. A scherzo of a much lighter, excitable nature features in "The Grange;" which is followed by the hugely dramatic "Rendezvous on the Moors."
The love theme returns in delightful, if somewhat poignant, variations as "Cathy's Theme," continuing in romantic vein for the previously unreleased track titled simply "Wuthering Heights." "Mystical Moors" is something of a mixed bag, being made up of short moments in the score, but is largely dramatic. "Reprise for Heathcliff" begins with the most passionate take on the love theme thus far, complete with rapturous strings and piano, underscoring Heathcliff's last moments with the dying Cathy, leading to a poignant climax. Fabulous stuff! The theme continues mournfully in "Cathy's Ghost, to be followed by the brooding "Wuthering Heights Dirge." "Isabella," the dramatic set-piece where Cathy's ghost returns to torment Heathcliff, features the love theme, suitably dramatic surges and frantic scherzos as he follows her across the moors to his own end, as delineated by the sudden climax to the cue. The love theme starts "Mourning for Cathy" in suitably otherworldly fashion, as she comes to Heathcliff at the moment of his death, but turns lighter to signify a return to the happy days of their childhood together. A peaceful version of the love theme plays over the final score track "Heathcliff and Cathy," giving way to the final vocal version of the theme.
Accompanying the disc is an excellent booklet, featuring stills from the film, plus Randall D. Larson's comprehensive notes on the film and its score, including a cue-by-cue guide, which is vital, as you will probably notice that the original LP track titles, reused here, make no sense. Hurry along to to secure your copy of this fine score.


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