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ANGELA'S ASHES: SOUNDTRACK

"Scarcely a trace of Hibernian hilarity in southwest Ireland of the 1940s: dismal rain damping dismal lanes; the poverty stricken slums of Limerick devoid of rhyme and reason, wit and laughter. There is little work and little hope – save that distilled from ceaseless rounds of drinking; a meagre consolation for the families of men who wet their throats while their homes become sodden with tragedy and tempests. But you don’t need to see the film or even read Frank McCourt’s acclaimed autobiographical novel to visualise the grim milieu; master composer Williams paints it in sound in all its gloomy glory. Resisting the temptation to wave his magic baton and summon traditional folk tunes from the fields of old Erin – none of Horner’s titanic Uilleann pipes, or reprisals of Williams' own Far and Away flirtations with Irish Bagpipes to be found here – the Maestro of modern cinematic scoring instead renders a solemn statement of grim and joyless travails that transcends time and place.

A solo piano introduces the main theme – a restrained, and strikingly simple, six-note ostinato – that soon evolves into a sweeping score of symphonic strings rich in melancholy modulations. Indeed, most tracks commence with a stark, understated solo figure before ushering forth the grand, elegiac strings, which never dance in ecstasy, nor writhe in agony, but sway and dip as if bowed by the hand of a Fate that is not so much fickle as relentless.

In this mode, Williams eschews the use of big bathetic themes to evoke the bleakly brooding sentiment, sacrificing his flair for flagrantly startling melodies to capitalise on the harmonic depth and lyrical subtlety gleaned from the oboe, piano and harp solos, and piquant pizzicato patterns, that weave among his grand orchestrations.

But underlying the solemn grandeur is a bittersweet nostalgia, a glimmer of optimism. This is most obviously realised in the ironic, swirling rhapsodies of Plenty of Fish and Chips in Heaven and Back to America (the only track with significant use of brass) and the two popular, period performances – particularly Billie Holiday’s inimitable rendition of Pennies to Heaven – that punctuate the score."
Brad Green

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TITLE: Angela’s Ashes

ID: 2
Decca/Universal

COMPOSER/CONDUCTOR: John Williams

PRODUCER: John Williams, Alan Parker, Scott Rudin

MUSIC EDITOR: Ken Wannberg

FEATURED ARTISTS: Nat Gonella & His Georgians, Billie Holiday

TRACKS: 18







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