Film Fest Gent is a long-running Film Festival taking place in Ghent in Belgium. It has a particularly strong focus on film music and runs the annual World Soundtrack Awards. The festival includes a number of live concerts, and many film composers are involved in the concerts and other events. The concerts are usually performed by the Brussels Philharmonic under the conductor Dirk Brossé and the last few years has also seen the release of associated albums (many of these being single composer albums under the title "Music for Film") and featuring composers such as Alan Silvestri, Carter Burwell and Terence Blanchard. In 2019 Marco Beltrami was the featured composer, and his film music was included in live performances and recordings. This review is about the resulting album called "Music for Film" featuring tracks from the various film scores of Marco Beltrami, and released by Silva Screen Records.
The album showcases music from the films of Marco Beltrami in chronological order, with most of his best-known scores represented by suites rather than single cues. Whether he created the suites specifically for the album or associated concert is not clear, but this is certainly a good way to present the variety of his film music by featuring incidental music in addition to the more usual title themes. The album kicks off with music from "Scream", the score that put Beltrami on the radar for many film music fans. The suite starts with minimal piano but soon launches into a busy orchestral texture, the harsh orchestral scoring includes some avant garde laughing brass sounds and woodwind runs, until the closing moments which bring relief with a quiet tension and eerie wordless voice. This is followed by a Suite for Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of "Hellboy". This off-beat comic-book creation demands something special, which Beltrami delivers with a bouncy piano/percussion, leading to a horn theme over martial snare-drum, finally leading to broad yet dark themes on strings and horns.
The first of two tracks for "World War Z" begins with some unsettling orchestral sound fx introducing a relentless chase theme on strings with lots of hard-hitting percussion. After the power of percussion and brass, we hear something more intimate yet atmospheric and growing. The "Chasing the Tail" cue features raspy and other unusual brass sounds over busy strings/woodwind, leading to plenty of ostinato patterns, the various orchestral sections seemingly moving independently sometimes resulting in a cacophony but at other times an unexpected unison. One of the stand-out tracks on the album is the suite for "Snowpiercer", a post-apocalyptic tale by the Korean writer/director Bong Joon Ho who won Oscars for his more recent film "Parasite". The Snowpiercer suite seems to have a lot crammed into its 11 minute duration with many sections heralded by warnings from the tubular bells. The enchanting solo voice feels very Morricone-esque and the steady pulse of its initial accompaniment soon picks up speed and the voice becomes more urgent. A plaintive string solo with orchestral accompaniment and little flourishes gives very much the feel of a 20th-century Violin Concerto before the voice returns over a martial beat, closing on an enigmatic return of the tubular bells.
The "Homesman" suite and "The Drop End Cue" provide a change of pace. The former starts with a homely folk theme and features a manolin and plenty of strings, while slow strings also give an elegaic completion to the character-driven movie that is "The Drop". The "Gods of Egypt" suite has plenty of attitude with varied percussion cutting through the mix for a swaggering Arabian-sounding version of the Pirates of the Caribbean. The usual ethnic clichés are present but not overbearing with cor anglais and low flute in the slower middle section, leading to another female voice rising above the strings and horns with descending woodwind. This leads to melodies based on ethnic scales sounding very Lawrence of Arabia with loads of bombastic trumpet and drums, ending surprisingly on a set of ominous descending chords. "A Quiet Life" is another more intimate character-driven drama, with only the final slide betraying something out of the ordinary. The "Free Solo" track seems to present two viewpoints, one is the expansive majesty of the landscape as alternating high and low chords on brass and woodwind accompany a horn theme, before strings join in. The other is the minimalist scoring for the climber's intense concentration before a return to the grandiose sound on the climb's completion.
Beltrami's scores are always interesting. He can do simple melodic music, but seems to be more at home with an avant-garde approach. His orchestration and more generally his use of sound is superb and this album highlights these qualities and leaves you wanting more. The album's cover may be black and white, but the musical contents are full of colour. This is a great recording of film music without the constraints of a traditional single film soundtrack. Recommended! The album (and individual tracks) can be found as MP3 downloads and also on CD at the following links: Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Various external links related to this recording are: