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The Soloist by Dario Marianelli

The Soloist

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The Soloist (Soundtrack) by Dario Marianelli

The Soloist
Composed by Dario Marianelli
Decca Records (2009)

Rating: 8/10

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“In the case of DARIO MARIANELLI and THE SOLOIST, we have something unique; a much different experience than his elegant, original works of the past, but ultimately, no less enthralling.”

Voice Over, Beethoven!
Review by Christopher Coleman

By the close of 2008, THE SOLOIST had been on a number of “most anticipated” lists for the better part of a year. I counted myself among those who were eagerly awaiting this film. Oddly, a last minute decision was made to push the release date back from the heart of the award-qualifying-rounds of 2008 and into the comparative obscurity of the second quarter of 2009. The film would star Robert Downey Jr. and with his performance in the mega-hit, IRON MAN, he had become a major box-office draw again. Jamie Foxx’s newfound bankability and the ever-enthralling direction of Joe Wright added further reason to have such expectations. Add to this another opportunity for composer DARIO MARIANELLI, fresh off his Oscar winning score for ATONEMENT, to wow audiences with another  graceful composition, and THE SOLOIST was poised to please on just about every level a film can.

With all of this going for it, THE SOLOIST faced some inherent difficulties that films of this type generall do. First the portrayal of someone with a mental/emotional challenge can easily tip into the well-worn spaces carved out after films like RAINMAN or FORREST GUMP; weakening their story's emotional power or rendering unintentionally comical.  It’s a difficult line to walk; to give an honest portrayal without offending members of the audience. THE SOLOIST certainly bumps that line from time to time, but manages to keep itself unspotted from the world of parody. From a film-music perspective, there is another challenge for a film centered around the subject of music itself…especially classical music.

In such instances, those looking for something fresh-off-the-pen of their favorite composer, can have those hopes dashed in a way, as the respective soundtrack often ends up being solely comprised of classical greats of yester-era. Of course, compiling these classics as the representing soundtrack makes complete sense, but are seldom favorites of soundtrack collectors. On occasion; however, a composer is still needed for this sort of film. Whether his/her music actually makes it onto the soundtrack is another story. In the case of DARIO MARIANELLI and THE SOLOIST, we have something unique; a much different experience than his elegant, original works of the past, but ultimately, no less enthralling.

What is so different about THE SOLOIST? Well, upon first listen, you, like me, might find the score a rather bland concoction of slices of Beethoven. With successive listens; however, Marianelli's work becomes an delicately detailed work which finds its foundations in the works of Ludwig von Beethoven. This particular story almost made it impossible to go any other direction, but from that foundation, DARIO MARIANELLI builds something especially engaging. Taking portions of some of these great works, Marianelli crafts a musical personality for the film and its central character, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). He gives Ayers a representative theme crafted from Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131, Mvmt. i. On Decca's soundtrack, we first hear this in "Paper Mache World" (3) as a curious, solo vocal begins the piece before moving into string accompaniment. This idea returns often but in various permutations: an accordion duet in "Accordion's Interlude" (10) and lead by cello, augmented by male vocals, in "The Voices Within" (12). Careful inspection will find this idea also hiding amidst some of the darker moments of the film like "Falling Apart" (7).

Moving beyond Ayer's theme, DARIO MARIANELLI employs several other powerful, Beethoven compositions. After the Ayers theme, the next most prominent feature is found in "Crazy About Beethoven" (2) and "Four Billion Years" (8) where Marianelli carefully arranged portions of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). In "Pershing Square" (1) we find a slightly-off kilter, violin performance of String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132, Mvmt. iii. and a tranquil performance again in "A City Symphony" (4). The sublime "Sister" (13) is a segment of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Op. 56, Mvmt. ii. Sonata for Cello & Piano, Op. 102, No. 1, Mvmt. i is found in the later half of "This is My Apartment" (5). After the a quick Bach-diversion found in "Cello Lesson" (14) (ie. Bach´s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, I. Prelude), the soundtrack and film concludes with the ultimately satisfying Symphony No. 9, Op. 123, Mvmt. iii.  It's one thing to simply employ the existing works of Beethoven as film score, but quite another to adapt and arrange them so that they provide a new voice for a very specific character.  It has to be close to classical-sacrilege, but Marianelli has pulled it off...and managed to, I'm sure, keep Mr. Beethoven quite stationary on his back.

DARIO MARIANELLI musically mimics what the film does so well visually. He and Joe Wright, help us to enter Nathaniel Ayer's ironic world of conflict, confusion, yet of beauty and harmony as well. From Joe Wright, we hear the voices in his head and see the colors of music in his minds eye. From Marianelli, we hear the real world performance of Nathaniel's violin or cello, frought with imperfections.  At the same time, we also hear the magnificent symphonic pieces from Beethoven as Nathaniel hears them in his own heart and mind. Again, Marianelli brings in real-world sound design into one of his tracks, "A City Symphony," as he did in ATONEMENT. This time we hear the sounds of, what Nathaniel would call "life's symphony" instead of the centerpoint of the 2008 Oscar winner, the rhythmic typewriter.  It's inclusion is another mark for his creativity and composing intelligence, which continues to help separate his works from so many others.  I'd have to guess that adapting of the works of Beethoven was much tougher than writing all original music for the film. I'm certain that had DARIO MARIANELLI chosen to go that route, we would have heard solid effort in its own right, but what he has done for THE SOLOIST is, while not as immediately engaging as some of his other works, even more clever. Unfortunately, given the amount of pre-existing music utilized, I doubt it will qualify for an Oscar nomination. Be that as it may, Marianelli's work for THE SOLOIST is deserving of more than a few listens and plenty of recognition.

Rating: 8/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Pershing Square 0:48  ***
2 Crazy About Beethoven 2:01  ****
3 Paper Mache World 1:33  ****
4 A City Symphony 3:41  ****
5 This is My Apartment 1:54  ****
6 There is No Escape 1:36  ****
7 Falling Apart 1:10  ****
8 Four Billion Years 2:53  ****
9 Nathaniel Breaks Down 5:31  *****
10 Accordion Interlude 2:07  ***
11 The Lord's Prayer 3:12  ****
12 The Voices Within 2:09  ****
13 Sister 5:34  ****
14 Cello Lesson 2:27  ****
15 Mr. Ayers & Mr. Lopez 11:10  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 48 minutes  





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