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Goldenthal: String Quartet No.1 The Stone Cutters
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Zarathustra Music presents the world premiere recording of Oscar-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal's String Quartet No.1, subtitled The Stone Cutters. Goldenthal is best known for his Hollywood film scores that include two Batman movies and Interview with a Vampire. However, he began his career writing classical music and studied with two giants of the 20th Century, Aaron Copland and John Corigliano. This album also includes world premiere recordings of Goldenthal's Sonata for Bass and Piano, Three Pieces for Solo Piano and the Brass Quintet No.2.
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Though film is a great medium for any composer to flex their musical muscles, I am always interested when those practitioners primarily associated with the field venture outside of the film industry and into concert venues. In fact, some of my favorites have done this with outstanding results including Danny Elfman with SERENADA SCHIZOPHRANA and Jerry Goldsmith with CHRISTUS APOLLO, as well as Bernard Herrmann and John Williams with their various concert pieces (and apparently James Horner has a few as well and I hope there will be recordings made available of them in the future). Another one of my favorites who has divided his time between both worlds is Elliot Goldenthal. Having written for ballet, theatre, and concert halls in addition to film, he's definitely run the gamut of writing music for various artistic settings. Seeing as how all but the titular piece (which appears last on the album) were written years before he became associated with the film industry makes listening to these works even more intriguing for a fan like me.
The first excerpt is "Sonata for Double Bass & Piano", written in 1977. The first of the movements conveys a brooding atmosphere before it picks up in the second one, where there seems to be a tango going on between the instruments that reminds me of the more darkly playful moments of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and even a little bit of Brahms. The next three tracks are from the "Brass Quintet No. 2" written in 1978 and performed by the Extension Ensemble (which was previously released on the group's album NEW YORK PRESCENCE). What's interesting about this piece is that each movement has it's own personality, with a chaotic first movement, a film noir-sounding second movement and a third movement which is wild in a way that wouldn't be out of place in his score for TITUS. The sixth track entitled "Three Pieces for Piano" which was written in 1974 is probably the most tender piece on here. That tenderness is interrupted by his most recent composition, the lengthy 2013 piece "String Quartet No. 1 `The Stone Cutters'". It opens in a jarring way before ending on a somber finale that reminds me of his scores for both PET SEMETARY and IN DREAMS. Since this piece was inspired by a poem, I like that there is musical storytelling going on and that is someting I gravitate to aurally.
I'll admit that it was hard for me to review this album because it is not something I often critique. This was in part due to the fact that I'm not musically-savvy with either terminology or technique and I only have my knowledge of Goldenthal and a few basic musical terms to go on (which is why I think those more well-versed in it will appreciate both the album and the detailed liner notes more than someone who isn't). That being said, I'm glad I did review it as it made me appreciate his compositional style that much more. It's a pretty short album that makes for a satisfying listening experience (though I wish the pieces had appeared in the order in when they were written) and I think fans should give it a listen. It not only shows an evolution in Goldenthal's style and indicate what a great composer he would become, but it also shows why he's perfectly suited for the medium of film.