Iris (Soundtrack) by James Horner



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Iris (Soundtrack) by James Horner

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Category  |   Score

Originality 7
Music Selection 8
Composition 9
CD Length 8
Track Order 7
Performance 9
Final Score 8/10


Real Audio Clips




James Horner
James Horner


Quick Quotes

"For a score that is so heavy on the dramatic contemplation, Iris is only somewhat effective at building a personality, and it is that lack of aspiration or distinctive rhythm or instrumentation that causes it stand as a solid, though unrewarding listening experience."

Christian Clemmensen - Filmtracks Reviews Iris


Music Composed and Conducted by James Horner
Orchestrated by James Horner
Produced by James Horner and Simon Rhodes
Performed by Joshua Bell (violin solos)
Released by Sony Classical Records - January 8, 2002

In the face of increasing fan-criticism in late 1990's, James Horner released two of his best dramatic scores:  To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday and The Spitfire Grill - both in 1996.  Each score contained some of James Horner's most poignant work, but The Spitfire Grill turned out to be a unique gem which still shines brightly in his repertoire.  Of course it must be said that the composer employed portions of The Spitfire Grill in later projects, but he never fully returned to the folk-like beauty of that particular score...until now.  James Horner returns to the beautiful ways of The Grill for Mirimax's release of Iris - the life story of writer/philosopher, Iris Murdoch.

The critically-acclaimed film covers the raucous years of youth and the prolific author's struggle with Alzheimer's disease at the twilight of her life.  Accompanying the story, as it flashes back and forth between the early and later years of Murdoch, is James Horner's emotional score.  The headline element of Iris is the addition of violinist Joshua Bell, but the entire orchestra's performance of Horner's dramatic score are hardly less inspiring. 

Languishing behind the spotlight of Horner's concurrent project of A Beautiful Mind, Iris has not gotten the widespread attention it is certainly due.  As A Beautfiul Mind really hangs on the performance of vocalist Charlotte Church, with a handful supporting themes and motifs well worn by Horner before, Iris is of a higher quality overall.  The somewhat unimaginative track titles do not do the music contained therein justice; however, the liner notes do make up for the track titles as there are brief descriptions of the scenes each piece covers.

Joshua BellOne thing James Horner has mastered is getting the very best talent available; be it a Joshua Bell, Charlotte Church, Annie Lennox, of Harlem Boys Choir, yet refraining from overusing them.  As with A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13 or Glory, Horner utilizes the virtuoso talents of Joshua Bell sparingly, yet when Bell is heard, there is no mistaking him or his talent.

The soundtrack begins with a lively performance of the main titles in Part 1 which features Joshua Bell and full orchestra exchanging scintillating performances of the main theme.  Part 3 begins off in an unassuming fashion with strings, harp and woodwinds but flows on, once again, feature Bell's solo performance of the main theme.  In addition, Part 3 has very light synthesized vocals and a bit of piano chording, not heard from Horner before.  Marathon in length, Part 5 reaches 11:00 minutes and could well function as a suite representing the entirety of Iris.

While the majority of Iris reflects lighter and loftier emotions, things a take notably dark turn in Part 6.  It is here that Horner further distinguishes Iris from most of her predecessors.  Instead of relying solely upon his tried and true thematic vehicles to create tension, Horner writes some riveting music that will remind one of nothing he's done before.  Still he remains true his style and technique.  Yet another lengthy track, Part 7, also features this same, dark, music, but quickly transitions into yet another serene performance of the main theme.  Horner's work here helps to undergird the contrasting, on-screen images of a dying Iris Murdoch and the one that was once so full of vim and vigor in her youth.

Iris is a true pleasure to listen to start to finish and while it doesn't quite match the magic of The Spitfire Grill, it remains a high quality effort that the devoted Horner-fan is sure to enjoy.  Sony Classical presents nearly 50 minutes of music, which, in this case, is just the right amount.  Despite the track lengths being disproportionate, if listened to straight through, Iris provides a relaxing, even mesmerizing, listening experience.  Whether it is because he is given more creative license or for some other reason, it is quite clear that these smaller, screen-gems continue to bring out the best in composer James Horner.

Check out Sony Classical's Official Iris Site for more information.


Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Part I 3:42  *****
2 Part 2 3:24  ***
3 Part 3 4:46  ****
4 Part 4 4:35  ****
5 Part 5 11:00  ****
6 Part 6 6:41  ****
7 Part 7 10:57  ****
8 Part 8 4:47  ***

Total Running Time


Iris (Soundtrack) by James Horner

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
A Beautiful Mind



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