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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 (1980).

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 voice.

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.
Brad Green

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TITLE: The Red Violin
(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

ID: SK 63010
Sony Classical

COMPOSER: John Corigliano

PRODUCER: Matthias Gohl

FEATURED ARTISTS: Joshua Bell (solo violin)


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