Classical Music Review: New Releases

Alan Silvestri- The Mummy Returns.  The Legend of the Scorpion King; Scorpion Shoes; Imhotep Unearthed; Just an Oasis; Bracelet Awakens; Evy Kidnapped; Rick's Tattoo; Imhotep Reborn; My First Bus Ride; The Mushy Part; A Gift and a Curse; Medjai Commanders; Evy Remembers; Sandcastles; We're in Trouble; Pygmy Attack; Come Back Evy; The Mummy Returns; Forever May Not Be Long Enough ( Glen Ballard, Ed Kowalczyk, performed by LIVE). Sinfonia of London Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Alan Silvestri. Decca 440 013 983-2 . ( 73'36).

Big pictures usually need big scores and Alan Silvestri's for The Mummy Returns is one of the biggest and longest in recent years. And though there's music in virtually every scene his soundtrack doesn't have the anonymous through-composed character of some of the scores from Hollywood's Golden Age. It also manages to match and strengthen the visual thrust of Stephen Sommers' dynamically edited film. Broadly conceived and often darkly colored it also surpasses John Williams' work on Spielberg's Indiana Jones pix, especially the busy and overly complex one he wrote for The Last Crusade (1989). Though Silvestri, who was born in 1950 and studied at Boston's Berklee School of Music, has written scores for many genres -- Bette Midler comedies to Robert Zemeckis films, this one somewhat resembles his music for James Cameron's 1989 The Abyss which is also firmly triadic and uses a large mixed chorus.

Silvestri's score is generally broader and less detailed than Jerry Goldsmith's for The Mummy (1999, also on Decca) which also uses a chorus but more sparingly ( its orchesrator Alexander Courage (of Star Trek fame) told me the picture was re-cut during scoring, which exhausted everyone). Silvestri's music has a thundering, operatic character but this suits this old-fashioned cliffhanger serial with comic book heroes and villains. And so brass heavy textures with generous helpings of trombones work, and the loud relentless march of the opening cue is a fitting accompaniment to the cosmic battle between Anubis and the Scorpion King (the much hyped The Rock). Still most of the composer's orientalisms are standard issue Hollywood exotica. Goldsmith scores higher points in that department, and also supplies a lovely delicate tune with Middle Eastern-sounding turns. Silvestri's ideas are usually simpler and sometimes derivative -- blustery John Williams fanfares, echoes of Holst, even some discreetly used Penderecki string effects. But one doesn't ask for striking originality in a big screen effects-driven summer blockbuster (they're annoyingly obvious) where Egyptologist Rachel Weisz gets re-incarnated as one tough Mama, her husband Brendan Fraser tosses off ironic asides, and their son  Freddie Boath acts plucky as all get out. This is entertaining and tremendously effective music and the orchestra gives it their all.

Michael McDonagh
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