Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for those who like the orchestral arrangements with fairly stereotypical French instrumentations, 3 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Hugo (Audio CD)
Howard Shore is best known for his scores for the Lord of the Rings films, and I believe these are some of the finest ever written in the film score genre. Hugo shows off a very different side for Shore - 1930s Paris rather than Middle Earth. This is a style which he seems very comfortable with, and the orchestrations are good, but I cannot help but feel this album will appeal to a fairly niche listener. The album consists largely of accordion performances with additional orchestral arrangements, particularly from the string section and piano.

There are several different themes, although I have to confess I didn't find any of them particularly catchy or memorable. The quality of the orchestrations and arrangements of the music is easily 5*s though. I should confess that I am not a massive fan of the accordion, and although it is by no means present throughout the whole duration of the album, it is more common than not. The music never sounds or feels particularly heavy - I would call it whimsical but that would be a disservice.

I particularly liked track 14 "Trains", which had slightly less influence from the French instrumentation allowing the rest of the orchestra to shine - there is some great string writing during the end of the opening half, and the more uptempo second portion made a welcome change of pace. It is difficult to do a track by track analysis, because often there would be some orchestral gems (minus the accordion) interspersed in the majority of the tracks but they are rarely long enough to deserve specific mention.

The running time is just under the 70 minute mark and this is fairly good value for money. On a production note, the size of the orchestra sounds fairly small (or this is because it has a fairly dry mix) - and this produces a less epic feel compared to LOTR for example, although I appreciate the differences in scale of the film would contribute to this.

Overall, this is a score which is saturated with French mannerisms, particularly in the form of the accordion. This isn't surprising given the time period and location for the film (1930s Paris) - and the music does fit this setting remarkably well. However, the style does not vary greatly across the album, despite the consistently high quality. For those that despise stereotypical French sounding accordion music, even if it is well mixed well with an orchestra, will not like this release. I personally think it shows an interesting and different side to Shore's writing, but I would be lying if I said it was a classic, or an album that I would be likely to play regularly. However, I do appreciate that it would be very appropriate for the film, and I can't help but like the orchestrations. However, I don't think this is the easiest album to listen to all the way through unless you loved the soundtrack within the film, or if you like that specific style of French music. The purely orchestral portions (that I was personally more interested in) were up to Shore's usual quality although they rarely appear in any extended form. That said, I do think that there are enough decent cues to justify the purchase even if you find the accordion and other stereotypical French instrumentation hard to stomach.
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L. Hubbard
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Location: Cardiff

Top Reviewer Ranking: 499