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Youth Without Youth - Original Soundtrack

Youth Without Youth (Score) / O.s.t.
Release Date: 12/11/2007 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001030902  
Composer:  Osvaldo Golijov
Performer:  Kayhan KalhorNello ManzattiIon VasilescuKalman Balogh,   ... 
Conductor:  Radu Popa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest Metropolitan Orchestra

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GOLIJOV Youth without Youth Radu Popa, cond; Nello Manzatti (voc); Ion Vasilescu (voc); Kalman Balogh (cimbalom); Kayhan Kalhor (kamancheh); Michael Ward Bergeman (acc); Bucharest Metropolitan O DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 001030902 (60:35)

Given the consistent accessibility and general critical acclaim of Osvaldo Golijov’s always-fascinating music, it was almost inevitable that the classical composer du jour would write a traditional, dramatic film score. He Read more thus enters what is often derisively termed the category of crossover music by many classical critics. These would be the same critics who might say in a pejorative tone that a piece of abstract classical music sounds like a film score when writing a negative review.

I will return to that subject later, but first, the music and the film need to be discussed. Golijov’s latest and most ambitious vehicle for entry into the film music arena is Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in the last 10 years. Coppola has stated that it represents his desire to produce small, personal, independent films. I will leave it to the reader and viewer to decide whether this reflects artistic rejuvenation or the quest for Oscar bait. Youth without Youth has received almost universally negative reviews. When is the last time you saw a director of Coppola’s stature receive a grade of F in an entertainment magazine review? So it hasn’t played everywhere, and where it has played, it didn’t last long. I have therefore not had the opportunity to see the film. Based on the Royal Brown rule that a critic must view a film to make a determination on the quality of its score, I will not say whether Golijov has written an effective score for Youth without Youth , but I can discuss its quality as a pure listening experience on a CD. Youth without Youth concerns itself with an aging language professor who regains his youth in a cataclysmic natural event, and then finds himself wandering through 1930s Europe and elsewhere. It is a mysterious, romantic thriller that may have been influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo , but apparently turns out to be a mystical mishmash. Nevertheless, this kind of material has frequently provided an opportunity for high quality romantic film music.

In his opera Ainadamar , Golijov successfully fuses a seeming hodgepodge of unrelated musical styles into a dramatically viable work. For Youth without Youth , he has composed emotionally involving and strikingly beautiful music that sets a more consistent stylistic tone. There is little doubt in my mind that it effectively supports the dramatic events in the film. The signature sound of the score is the cimbalom, and there are also solos for the kamancheh and accordian that add a certain ethnic flavoring (the cynic would decry the fact that this amounts to little more than a variant on the ubiquitous ethnic wail). Much of Golijov’s sonic palette is provided by a standard string orchestra. The musical centerpiece (for me) is the “Love Lost: Laura” cue. This is a searing adagio with Mahlerian overtones (think the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, and passages in his 10th Symphony). The string music is also stylistically similar to Bernard Herrmann’s Fahrenheit 451 in places. Golijov is certainly reflecting his influences, which is fine. The whole thing has the aura of a Golden Age film score. The prevailing mood is only broken by a couple of source songs that probably did not need to be included. They can be easily programmed out. The score is excellent, but there is nothing particularly new here.The sound is typical of soundtrack recordings. There is an up front, almost in-your-face aural perspective with little dynamic range and large instrumental images in a somewhat artificially reverberant acoustic environment. This is not designed to reproduce a true concert hall experience.

To get back to my opening remarks, Golijov’s score will undoubtedly be well received, as it should be. This is great stuff. The composer again clearly demonstrates his adaptability and versatility. This should serve him well in the world of film music. Youth without Youth is a fascinating and worthwhile listening experience when played on its own divorced from the screen images. The fact that it has all been done before by other prominent film composers leads to the observation that when an acclaimed classical composer writes good film music, it is usually critically accepted as still another aspect of his or her art. When a film composer does the exact same thing, the music is more often than not grudgingly accepted, if at all, on purely artistic grounds. There are numerous examples in both areas. I recently read a review of a John Williams concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Williams conducted his own music to the cheers of an enthusiastic packed house. The reviewer painfully acknowledged Williams’s technical expertise, but went on to say that his music had no business being played in the concert hall, and that this “soundtrack crowd” needed to learn more about the real music usually played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I would venture to say that the audience for that concert contained people who indeed respond to real music, and orchestras need to find a way to get those people more consistenly into the concert hall. Good film music is an excellent place to start. Critics need to acknowledge that film scoring is an art form in its own right, and may well be the art form of our time. The constraints on a film composer are surely different, but in some ways may be greater than those encountered by the classical composer writing abstract music in sonata form. Composers like Vaughan Williams, Prokofiev, Korngold, Copland, and Leonard Bernstein were not slumming or dumbing down when they wrote great film music. Now, Golijov appears to be interested in joining that elite group.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Youth Without Youth by Osvaldo Golijov
Performer:  Kayhan Kalhor (Kamancha), Nello Manzatti (Voice), Ion Vasilescu (Voice),
Kalman Balogh (Cimbalom), Ward Bergeman (Accordion)
Conductor:  Radu Popa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest Metropolitan Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 

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