The contribution that a soundtrack makes to the synergy of
sound, vision and drama that is the cinematic experience varies,
of course, from film to film. But it is hard to imagine a film
with a premise that more urgently demanded an extraordinary
contribution from the music than that of The Red Violin.
With the filmís titular instrument serving as the
storyís central thread, the pressure was on to produce a
string-laden score of pure sonic poetry. Enter maestro composer
John Corigliano and virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell.
It is a rare treat for cinema audiences to be privileged with
a Corigliano score; The Red Violin is only his third composition
for the silver screen, and his first after an hiatus of 14 years
Ė he previously scored Revolution (1985) and Altered States
Here, he divides the soundtrack into five sections,
representing each segment of the violinís five-nation,
three-century odyssey. Each section gently evokes the cultural
milieu of its location, while rarely straying too far from the
central motif, Annaís Theme, a lyrical melody introduced at
the start of the score by a whimsical soprano voice that
gracefully segues to Bellís solo violin.
From this theme, Corigliano derives a seven-chord chaconne
(musical form comprising variations based on a repeating chord
sequence) that underscores the inexorable fatalism of the
narrative and also provides the basis for the etudes of the
Vienna and Oxford sequences, in which Bellís technical
mastery, his effortless phrasing and tonal expressiveness take us
on a journey of their own. If Corigliano has scripted the
rhetoric for the filmís eponymous protagonist, it is
Bellís bravura performance that realises its melodious
This is a beautiful and sophisticated score, richly deserving
of its Oscar triumph. But the piece de resistance is the
17-minute independent concert piece that Corigliano derived from
the central motifs and embellished with voluptuous orchestrations
that bring an even greater depth to the music.
There is an infinite sweep of subtle emotional nuance in this
soundtrack. Every dynamic, every juxtaposition of dissonance and
consonance seems to echo the vicissitudes of life that are common
across the frontiers of history and geography. It is a wonderful
reminder that music is truly the universal language.