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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Lion of the Desert/The Message
Music by Maurice Jarre
Tadlow Music TADLOW08 (UK)
Disc 1 - 71:14 mins Disc 2 - 63:42 mins

Tadlow Music are of course known for their award-winning re-recordings of classic film scores Like Exodus, El Cid and The Guns of Navarone, but on 22nd March they release their first double album of original scores, both by Maurice Jarre who, after his huge success with Lawrence of Arabia, returned to the desert with 1976's The Message and, for the same director, Moustapha Akkad, 1981's Lion of the Desert.
Both scores have of course been available before, but here are given the deluxe treatment by Tadlow's James Fitzpatrick, as a fitting memorial to his friend. The Message, presented on Disc 2, was remastered from the original album master tapes, whilst Lion of the Desert was remixed and remastered from the original 24 track tapes, and so is complete, with alternative versions, on Disc 1; with previously unreleased source tracks included on Disc 2. As a special bonus, Disc 2, also features the world premiere recording of Jarre's concert piece Giubileo - Cantata for Orchestra and Chorus, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, under the baton of Fitzpatrick.
The music for both films finds Jarre at the height of his powers, before his disappointing electronic phase. The Message does however feature the Ondes Martenot, the composer's overuse of which in scores of this time (and those by Elmer Bernstein too) used to drive me to distraction.
Both scores are full of fine thematic material, commencing with Lion of the Desert which, like The Message starred Anthony Quinn, this time as Omar Muhktar, struggling against Italian invaders in 1920s Libya, with the music performed by no less than the London Symphony Orchestra. The first track, "Omar the Teacher," opens with a fine horn solo and develops into a typically sweeping and noble desert theme in finest Jarre traditions, before closing on the horn again. This theme is reprised in more upbeat, exciting fashion in "Prelude: Libya 1929;" with the dramatic "The Execution of Hamid/I Became Old" following. There's tense and savage conflict in "Desert Ambush," with the main theme returning in "Omar Enters Camp," entering quietly, before assuming inspirational proportions. Whilst every subsequent track has something to offer, I would pick out the marching material of "March to Decimation," "I Must Go," "Graziani's Triumph," and "General Graziani," (Jarre always could write a good march theme); the mournful choral "The Concentration Camp;" the windswept piano of "The Italian Invasion;" "the plaintive "Omar's Wife;" and of course the main theme gets plenty more varied outings, as in "Reunited," "Entr'acte," "Charge - Lion of the Desert," "The Death of Omar," and the concluding "March of Freedom."
As previously mentioned, Disc 1 closes with interesting alternate versions of five of the score tracks, including the album version of "March of Freedom."
The Message, relates the story of the birth of Islam, and features Quinn as the Prophet Mohammad's warrior uncle, Hamza. Jarre's music, performed by the composer's orchestra of choice, The Royal Philharmonic, was nominated for an Academy Award, and was the result of much research into Arabic music and instrumentation. The title track starts off quietly, with the dreaded Ondes Martenot adding a mysterious, otherworldly quality, but soon develops into another rousing Jarre theme. The plaintive flute of "Hegira" follows, before developing into yet another rousing orchestral treatment. Other highlights include the drum-driven "Building the First Mosque;" the big and impressive processional "Entry to Mecca;" the weighty "The Declaration," which reprises the rousing main theme; and the beefy actioner "Fight," with its dance-like opening and close. The increasingly inspirational "The Faith of Islam" closes the 12 selections. Along the way, the Ondes Martenot continues to provide an otherworldly quality and thankfully is not too irritating on this occasion.
Giubileo was commissioned for a performance commemorating the Jubilee Celebrations of the Vatican in 2000, and is based upon themes written for Lion of the Desert, Jarre's rejected music for River Wild and Solar Crisis. The first movement, "Heri - Yesterday," is based upon "The "Concentration Camp" from Lion of the Desert. Opening powerfully it then proceeds on its mournful way. "Hodie - Today" is a pastoral piece, rooted in Americana, and sung in English by the choir. The closing "Semper - Always" finds the choir singing the word "Peace," to an inspirational theme, in no less than 33 different languages. All-in-all, this is a very impressive piece, and all the more welcome for its use of lesser known Jarre themes. Bravo, Tadlow, for letting us hear it.
The accompanying 16-page booklet features colour and black-and-white stills from both in front and behind the camera, together with notes from various sources, on the films, their music and composer. All that's missing really, is a cue-by-cue guide.
Limited to just 2000 copies, get along to to listen to samples and to order your copy of this very fine release.


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