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MAURICE JARRE: A TRIBUTE TO DAVID LEAN

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Maurice Jarre, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Director: L.A. Johnson
Audio: 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English
Video: Color, full-frame 1.33:1
Studio: Milan Entertainment
Features: Maurice Jarre commentary, interview, trailers, bonus CD
Length: 55 minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2007

"David Lean taught me perfectionism."

Concert ***

Throughout the history of cinema, there have been few director-composer collaborations as remarkable as that between David Lean and Maurice Jarre.  Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann owned the thriller genre, while contemporary sci-fi has George Lucas and John Williams.  However, the epic film genre belonged exclusively to David Lean and Maurice Jarre, for seldom has there been as perfect a marriage of sight and sound as in Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago.  Today, one simply cannot watch either film without hearing the unforgettable music by Maurice Jarre for these cinematic masterpieces.  In fact, Jarre's four collaborations with David Lean resulted in three Academy Awards for Best Original Score.

In the early 1990's, Lean and Jarre were preparing a fifth film together.  Regrettably, Lean's sudden death ended such plans.  In honor of his long-time friend, an emotional Maurice Jarre shortly thereafter conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London's Barbican Centre in a special concert of music from their four films together.  That tribute concert is presented here.

This Milan disc wastes no time with introductions but leaps immediately into the action with Remembrance, a four-minute prelude that opens the concert and sets the proper mood.  Remembrance is followed by musical suites especially arranged for this concert from the scores for Ryan's Daughter, A Passage to India, Doctor Zhivago, and Lawrence of Arabia.  Each suite ranges from nine to fourteen minutes in length.

As with the typical concert recording, the footage centers squarely on conductor Maurice Jarre and the orchestral musicians playing their various instruments.  However, there are a few reaction shots from the audience as well as excerpts from the respective David Lean films, pages from the movie scores, and occasional behind-the-scenes production footage of David Lean himself.

There are a couple of special sequences within the concert, too.  First, in the middle of the concert, Jarre inserts Offering, a three-minute piece written just for David Lean's wedding; this short piece is accompanied by photographs of David Lean and his wife, Sandra.  Secondly, music from the pivotal "Garden of Statues" sequence in A Passage to India is performed while corresponding film images are displayed on an overhead screen (akin to a typical recording session for a movie score).

This one-time special concert is not to be missed for admirers of truly great film music.  Even casual listeners can probably recognize the very famous Lara's Theme from Doctor Zhivago.  For such an audience, this concert offers a wonderful introduction to Jarre's famous music scores and may hopefully encourage such listeners to discover and experience for the first time the David Lean masterpieces from where the music originates.

Video **

This 1992 concert was originally captured on videotape, so some inherent degree of low image resolution must be tolerated.  And as might be expected, the archival footage sequences and film clips have a faded appearance with a diminished detail level.  Overall, this disc is nothing special visually, but then again, concerts are meant more to be heard than seen.

Audio ***

There is essentially no spoken dialogue, so the music can be enjoyed purely on its own merit.  Audio is in 2.0 stereo with a decent acoustic quality, considering that  the concert was recorded live before a large theater audience.

Features ***

Maurice Jarre offers a full audio commentary in French with English subtitles.  The commentary is very sparse and generally focuses on the concert orchestration as well as the filming and sound engineering for the concert itself.  Jarre also comments on the creation of this DVD.

Jarre re-appears in an interview (35 min.) in which he discusses his experiences and experimentations on the four David Lean films for which he composed scores.  Jarre describes in particular detail the frantic process of scoring Lawrence of Arabia and his creative struggles with Lara's Theme from Doctor Zhivago.  Jarre also reveals his personal philosophy about film music and its potential for creating mood or illustrating a character's inner thoughts.  This interview is presented in French with English subtitles.

Elsewhere on the disc are trailers for various Milan DVDs of international music and arts performances and live concerts.  These selections include The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho, Moro No Brasil, Lisa Gerrard: Sanctuary, Screaming Masterpiece, and Shaolin Legend.  There are also samples from various movie score soundtracks, including those for Ghost, Pan's Labyrinth, and A Walk in the Clouds.

The DVD's package insert offers general filmography and biography information.  Any viewer uninitiated in the films of David Lean or the music of Maurice Jarre are encouraged to read through these notes before watching the tribute concert.

Lastly, a bonus CD is included for listeners on the go.  Most of the music from the concert is repeated on this CD, save for the "Garden of Stones" sequence.

Summary:

This tribute concert presents a rare compilation of suites of composer Maurice Jarre's most celebrated movie scores, performed live.  The bonus CD makes a wonderful traveling companion, too.

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