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Farewell my Concubine:  Great Film Themes from Modern Chinese Cinema

Tracksounds Rating = 7/10

Farewell my Concubine: Film Music Anthology

 Conducted by Nic Raine
Produced by James Fitzpatrick
Released by Silva Screen Records, February 2000

Track Title Time Rating East Does West
by Christopher Coleman

The premise of the western character in an eastern setting is nothing new to Hollywood.  Some of the better scores in recent memory have accompanied such films.  While the western film score composers have, many times, done an exceptional job, at the same time, composers from the Far East have also labored to produce many noteworthy scores of both eastern and western styles.  

The skyrocket rise in popularity of Anime has cause some westerners to raise an overdue eyebrow at the music being produced, not only in Japan, but in China and Taiwan as well.  Westerners are so bombarded with film and film scores produced in the West that there are volumes of scores being overlooked by composers from, among other places, the Far East.   To the rescue comes Silva America with there release of Farewell My Concubine:  Great Film Themes from Modern Chinese Cinema; bringing us the likes of Wong Fei-hung,  Kachikawa Naoki,  Feng Ye,  Yuen Ling Yuk-  not household names when it comes to film music composers. Are they?  Be that as it may, Silva America's recent release gives movie music fans the opportunity to experience some very deserving works. 

One might just be surprised at how much they come to enjoy this release.  While incorporating traditional elements of Western music, if not being Western pieces in their entirety, these composers produce a unique listen.  Once Upon a Time In China and A Moment of Romance offer an Eastern score with Western tones…the Old West tones to be precise.  The Main Title from A City of Sadness delivers beautiful strings and piano, along with rain sticks, and other native instruments.  Halt the Sunrise from A Chinese Ghost Story is one of the best of bunch.  As it is filled with character and depth and as communicated in similar fashion to portions of Joe Hisaishi’s Princess Mononoke. The Puppet MasterGoat Hongs Song entertains with violins crying out in the manner of a John Williams – Itzhak Perlman collaboration- giving us some truly sorrow filled moments before transforming into an up-tempo polka.  Not to be forgotten is the tango, as it is adequately represented by The Fragrance of Roses from Red Rose, White Rose.  Lastly, the western-born musical genre of jazz makes its way into Bygone Love from Farewell My Concubine with its jazzy love theme.

The traditional music of the Far East, while peeking its face in some of the previously mentioned tracks, finds full representation in Blue Sea Laughter from Swordsman. The CD concludes with this wonderful traditional piece featuring the oriental sounds of the koto, shamisen, and flute and is a wonderful finale.  Interestingly, according to the album's producer, James Fitzpatrick, a cimbalom was employed to produce the effect of the koto, because these instruments are not prevalent in Prague!  This was a trick he picked up from composer Maurice Jarre when they were recording Red Sun.

After establishing the fact that the East can do West, this CD leaves the listener with a reminder that it still can do East like nobody’s business.  It is only a shame there is not more traditional music like this piece on the disc.

Hollywood has long enjoyed the premise of the East-meets-West in film.  In recent memory, there are a number of such films and many of them produced some of the best film music of the last ten years.   Shining among this list is Williams’ Seven Years in Tibet, Zimmer’s Beyond Rangoon, and most recently George Fenton’s Anna and the King.  Each displayed their unique ability to mix western musical elements with those from the Orient.  On the other hand, some western attempts at forging a tasty Oriental music experience could be considered Cup-O-Noodles in light of some of these cues!  While less publicized, directors and composers from the East have produced their gripping films and quality scores.  Silva America has done the film music world a favor in releasing, Farewell My Concubine: Great Themes from Modern Chinese Cinema.  For those who want to hear something that is somewhat familiar but with a slightly different edge on it, this release may be what you’re craving.

1 Once Upon a Time in China - Main Theme 4:07 ***
2 A City of Sadness - Main Title 5:12 ****
3 Farewell My Concubine - Bygone Love 4:29 ***
4 A Chinese Ghost Story - Halt the Sunrise 4:40 ***
5 The Puppet Master - Goat Hongs Song 4:23 ****
6 The Osmanthus Alley - Main Title 6:21 ***
7 Temptress Moon - Take for Granted 3:57 ****
8 Eat Drink Man Woman - You Make Me Happy and Sad 4:40 ***
9 Red Rose, White Rose - The Fragrance of Roses 3:44 ***
10 A Moment of Romance  - Main Title 3:45 ***
11 The Actress - Burial of Heart 4:50 ***
12 My Best Love - Main Title 5:01 ***
13 Red Dust - Until the End of the World 2:46 ***
14 Swordsman - Blue Sea Laughter 6:49 ****
  Total Playing Time 65:34    



 Originality 8  

Music Selection


Themes/ Composition


CD Length


Track Order




Final Score

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Farewell my Concubine:  Great Film Themes from Modern Chinese Cinema

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What is a "shamisen?"  What is a "koto?"  Find out these answers and more!



All artwork from Farewell My Concubine: Great Film Themes from Modern Chinese Cinema is exclusive property of Geffen Records (c) 1993.  Its appearance is for informational purposes only.


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