A 1996 Academy Award nominee for Best Dramatic Score, Braveheart is one of composer James (Titanic) Horner's most accomplished works. Utilizing the full range of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, and a small ensemble of traditional folk instrumentalists, Horner largely eschews the bombast typical of the genre and cuts a more emotionally complex–and satisfying–musical course through this 14th-century tale of betrayal and rebellion. This album presents ample evidence of why Horner is currently at the peak of his profession.
Ice Station Zebra (1968) is a Cold War thriller following a U.S. submarine and its mysterious British passenger on a top-secret mission to the North Pole. Based on a novel by Alistair MacLean, the film features fine performances by Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine and an all-male supporting cast. The combination of realistic military protocol and high-adventure espionage—as well as groundbreaking special effects and production design—won the film many admirers, among them the late Howard Hughes. Michel Legrand was best-known for pop-based scores like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Thomas Crown Affair, but was no less creative and dynamic in the symphonic Hollywood idiom (The Three Musketeers). His score for Ice Station Zebra is at once epic yet also offbeat, with powerful main themes dressed in an intricate web of mystery and suspense. The film is first and foremost a military story, but in Legrand's hands it becomes almost like a Cold War ballet, with a polished, artistic sheen to its danger. Legrand himself provided the terrific orchestrations and conducted the 75-piece orchestra in a five-channel stereo recording.
From the fanfare of the opening crawl to the abrupt cutaway zing of the closing credits, John Williams' soundtrack to The Force Awakens does not disappoint. Williams has always been an integral part of the Star Wars experience, as familiar as the movies themselves, comforting and nostalgic. The fan anticipation and legacy baggage that came with the seventh film in this iconic series was overwhelming, being the first new film since 2005's Revenge of the Sith and the direct sequel to 1983's Return of the Jedi, yet the results are not crushed by outlandish pressure. For The Force Awakens, Williams began work in late 2014, before recording began in Los Angeles in June 2015 (the first time a Star Wars film score was not recorded at Abbey Road). He enlisted a freelance orchestra and, with the help of William Ross and Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, produced a 23-song journey connecting the past and the future of the Star Wars universe. Here, Williams combines the old and the new with expert subtlety, creating a lush experience that rewards repeat listens. Those familiar with his work on other big-budget sagas (Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones) will instantly recognize the blaring horns that propel the action, the stirring strings that intensify the tension, and the bombast that contribute to the excitement as much as the scenes portrayed on the screen.