In the initial two tracks of Hidalgo's soundtrack, composer James Newton Howard sets both the scene and the tone for this film. The Copland-esque style which Howard had previously employed on the film "Wyatt Earp" immediately tells us that we are in an idealised version of the Wild West and that we are in for some action and excitement. In track 3 "Arriving in the Desert" we are transported far across the Atlantic into the Wild East for a horse race across the Deserts of Arabia. The ensuing adventure allows Howard the opportunity to inject Middle Eastern sounds into the music, and there are many opportunities for the composer to juxtapose different soundscapes which remind us of the cultural mix.
The music is not all excitement however. The main character Frank Hopkins (played by Viggo Mortensen allowing the film's promoters to refer to "returning kings") has emotional scars arising from his witnessing the Indian massacre at Wounded Knee. He must come to terms with these memories while fighting off those who are determined to scupper his chances of winning the race, and avoiding the hidden agendas of characters encountered in his travels. His constant companion is "Hidalgo" his horse. The varying tensions and plot developments give Howard scope to alter the underlying mood and utilise a variety of ethnic sounds and instruments, without straying too far from a simple traditional tale. By the closing tracks "The Final Three" and "Let 'er Buck" we are back into more Western music and a recapitulation of the main theme, expertly integrated with hints of both Middle Eastern and Native American Indian music. This is a welcome soundtrack from a versatile composer and the CD is available from: Amazon.co.uk in the UK, and Amazon.com in the US.