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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





Youth Without Youth



Music composed, orchestrated and produced by Osvaldo Golijov

21 tracks (Playing Time = 60:31)


Additional orchestration by Lev Zhurbin. “Youth Without Youth” and “ Malta” composed with Arturo Castro. Featuring Budapest Metropolitan Orchestra conducted by Radu Popa. Score recorded at Auditorium Hall of Romanian National Art Museum, Budapest; George Enescu Museum Cantacuzino Palache Hall, and the Hall of Military Music Service, November/December 2006. Recording supervised by Petru Margineanu. Music edited by Michael Part and Attila Tozser. Mixed at American Zoetrope Studios, Rutherford, CA, by Pete Horner. Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studios. CD mastered by Lennart Jeschke. Art direction by Philipp Starke; fri DESIGN, and Karen Friedrichs.

Deutsche Grammophon B0010309-02

Rating: ***


YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in some ten years. It is based on a novella by the Romanian philospher Mircea Eliade that is set in WWII. The film opened this past October in Italy and appeared mid-December here in the US. The score is by the new classical media hyped composer, Osvaldo Golijov. Golijov created a bit of a stir with his opera Aindamar (2006) which mixed a variety of popular elements along with classical, Broadway, and Spanish-influenced music into an 80 minute opera of sorts. This particular work was heralded as a new way of moving opera into the 21 st century.

Golijov has a penchant for combining ethnic musics with the sounds of musical theater and film in many of his works and this somewhat crossover aspect of his music lends it perhaps to its appeal. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is actually his second film score. His first film score was for THE MAN WHO CRIED, portions of which appeared on a horrible compilation release. That score tended to play up some of the gypsy music with a blend of sound similar to Newtown Howard or Warbeck and was fairly underwhelming. Now comes this release that finds the composer expanding a bit on the Central European ethnic musics while melding Argentinian, Jewish cantorial sounds, and film music.

The first score cue, “Dominick’s Nightmare,” includes a variety of non-traditional sounds (like clocks and typewriter clicks) mixed with a sound design one hears in a horror film. This is followed by the glowingly lyrical “Love Lost: Laura” which is a richly-scored Rota-esque piece with some classical overtones. This is a fascinating track that soon turns a bit Herrmann-esque in its central portion with its darker sound cast against celeste (one might say that this is really nothing more than a European approach for dramatic underscoring commonly used by Banos and Iglesias). “Refugee” is a blend of Piazzola with cimbalom and gyspy music. The music that follows matches a more contemporary string sound with lots of ultra-romantic classical gestures that have a sound that matches that of Iglesias in Bad Education. This makes for a more interesting listen that adds an air of Herrmann-esque mystery whenever the unusual musical sounds and churning string come in, most effectively in “Powers.”

As the disc plays out, Golijov tends to continue to explore a variety of musical worlds without focusing much on thematic development. The unusual and unsettling design effects lend an air of mystery and bizarreness to the music that is offset by the blending of ethnic instrumental solos or the punctuation of the orchestral ideas. While all of this sounds interesting it does not feel like it is coming together much beyond the first half of the disc proper. One can hear Golijov’s penchant for writing nicely shaped romantic ideas in rich or densely orchestrated harmonies and these are the tracks most people will enjoy.

The more experimental tracks do work on their own and are spread throughout the disc to create some variety, but the disc suffers from an overall dramatic or musical shape as the seemingly unconnected tracks play out. There is still much to enjoy for those who like thicker and more interesting harmonic film music with that touch of artiness thrown in for good measure. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is a far more interesting work than Golijov’s previous film score and bodes well for future works.

The disc includes a couple of pieces co-written by the composer and Arturo Castro (including a lyrical, Morricone-esque title song) and two additional songs, in scratchy 78-sounding period recordings (with 10 seconds of sound of the needle hitting the label at the end), all of which are distributed in different parts of the disc. The recording features the Bucharest Metropolitan Orchestra.


--Steven A. Kennedy , 22 December 2007

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