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Sunday, October 18, 2009


Red Cliff
Music by Taro Iwashiro
Silva Screen Records SILCD1296 (UK)
15 Tracks 64:29 mins

Though the album will not be released until 23rd November, I just couldn't wait to tell you about Silva Screen's recording of Taro Iwashiro's music for John Woo's epic historical adventure Red Cliff, the score that won the Best Original Film Score Award at the 2009 Hong Kong Film Awards.
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you will know I have been enthusing about the quality of some video game scores in recent years, but I have been negligent in recognising the work of many fine Far Eastern film composers, who consistently produce great work, often fully symphonic and usually melodic, which is more than can be said of many Hollywood film scores these days.
Whilst composers like Tan Dun, Shigeru Umebayashi, Joe Hisaishi and Ryuichi Sakamoto are well known to western audiences, there are many more from Japan, China and Korea whose work deserves attention. One such composer is Taro Iwashiro, who has written a wonderful symphonic score for Red Cliff, performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.
The opening track on the album, though titled "The Battle of Red Cliff," actually features the main theme, a spirited, optimistic piece, which soars adventurously. It's not until the next track, "On the Battlefield," that we get down to the nitty gritty. Opening proudly, it soon erupts into flowing, drums-driven action scoring, which include variations on the aforementioned main theme. After all this, "Light of the Evanescence" comes as a peaceful departure, with its warm string writing. The following "Shadow of the Evanescence" is more of an elegiac piece, a really heartfelt piece of writing. "Shooooot!" is a drums-heavy variation on the main theme, leading into the weighty, trumpets heavy "Decision for Justice." The scherzo-like "Secret Strategem" follows, the tone becoming more serious in the relentless progress of "Closing in Upon the Enemy."
"Unseen Locus" opens with a fast-flowing variation on the main theme, but takes on something of an air of tragedy as it continues. The mood lightens considerably with "Precious One," with some delicate flute and woodwinds, and sweet string work. "Sound of Heartstrings" is the most identifiably eastern sounding track, initially quite alien to western ears, before a pounding conclusion. This is followed by "In Loneliness," which does a good job in capturing that emotion.
"Beyond the River" opens expectantly, before trumpets herald another flowing variation on the main theme.
"Red Cliff (End Roll Version)/Theme Song of Part I (Asia version)" features a Chinese-language ballad by J-Pop Star Alan (who is female, in case you didn't know, despite the misleading name), which is followed by another passionate instrumental version of the "Evanescence" theme in "Outdruction of Legend," with some lovely flute work; the album closing with Alan's more leisurely version of the main theme, entitled "River of No Return" (again in Chinese, of course).
I believe there is a volume two available as an import, and we can but hope that this album is successful enough for Silva Screen to go after that one too.
Keep an eye on for ordering instructions.


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