Music from the Twilight Saga for Chamber Orchestra
by C. Burwell, H. Shore, A. Desplat
Music from the Twilight Saga for Chamber Orchestra
Music from the Twilight Saga for Chamber Orchestra Composed by C. Burwell, H. Shore, A. Desplat
Promotional Release (2010)
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“For the average
film score collector, [this release] will give you a meaningful and
even sampling of the music from the Twilight Saga.”
Team Compilation or Team Original?
Review by Helen San
MUSIC FROM THE TWILIGHT SAGA FOR CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (MTSCO) is a new
compilation produced by the label BSX Records (owned by Buy Soundtrax, a
retail outlet catering to hardcore soundtrack fans). Right away, you know
this album is made for die-hard fans. But in this case, it is geared more
toward die-hard fans of the Twilight Saga, known as “twihards”. Yes, you
heard right. They’re called twihards.
In case you’ve been living on a deserted island, the Twilight Saga is a
series of films based on four books (TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, ECLIPSE, and
BREAKING DAWN) about a young woman named Bella and her love triangle
between a vampire named Edward and a werewolf named Jason. The triangle is
crux of the legend, with Twilight fandom splitting into two factions: Team
Edward and Team Jason. There have been four movies so far, with one more
to go. There is one movie per book except for the fourth book. BREAKING
DAWN is split into two films (a la HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS),
with PART 1 released in November 2011, and PART 2 to be released in
The scores for the four released movies are as follows:
1) TWILIGHT by CARTER BURWELL
2) NEW MOON by ALEXANDRE DESPLAT
3) ECLIPSE by HOWARD SHORE
4) BREAKING DAWN, PART 1 by CARTER BURWELL.
(BREAKING DAWN PART 2 will also be by CARTER BURWELL.)
The story is filled with adolescent angst, lovelorn torment, and
bittersweet pining. It is a perfect recipe for the kind of beleaguered,
romantic melancholy CARTER BURWELL likes to compose. Indeed, twilighters
apparently agreed and petitioned for CARTER BURWELL to return to the
franchise after the project went to DESPLAT and SHORE for the second and
third films respectively. I have to agree that while DESPLAT’s and parts
of SHORE’s music were more melodious and easier to listen to, BURWELL’s
pain-filled score resonated much better with the emotional core of the
saga. It works better in the film. It works better on album to evoke the
memories and essence of the Saga.
Book and movie-wise, I am nowhere near being a twihard, or even a regular
twilighter. However, as a film music enthusiast, I have found the music
compelling enough to spend good money on all four of the original Saga
scores. The new titles of the compilation match the originals, track for
track. So I was well able to compare this album to the previous works.
Selecting the most romantic tracks from the first three films (TWILIGHT,
NEW MOON, and ECLIPSE), classical pianist and composer DAN REDFELD
re-orchestrated and rearranged it for a chamber orchestra. I think the
intention behind the chamber orchestra idea was to make the music more
personal, romantic, and intimate. One thing that did work to add
personality was including a rapturous harmonic vocalise by soprano Kristi
Holden in some of the cues. The rest might have worked, if the small
string section and piano hadn’t repeatedly overwhelmed the rest of the
instruments. It felt, instead, a little like loud, in-your-face intimacy.
More importantly, it lost the original, grander soundscape. It lost the
complex emotional layers beyond mere romance (such as doubt and suspense).
I expected this loss from the more sophisticated orchestral material of
Desplat and Shore. But the loss was felt keenly even with the somewhat
simpler compositions of Burwell. There is simply no competition between
MTSCO and the original albums. Hands down, the originals win.
The one exception was “Jacob’s Theme” (17). In the original ECLIPSE album,
Jacob’s theme was found in a track called “Jacob Black,” which was a
subdued and quiet piano solo. In the new arrangement, it was exquisitely
performed by both strings and piano. Another improvement, in a sense, is
“Wedding Plans” (18). The original “Wedding Plans” tacked a song at the
end of SHORE’s cue. The new performance gave us a score-only version. As
matter of fact, all three SHORE tracks on MTSCO did an excellent job
representing the best of SHORE’s ECLIPSE.
The selection of music for the compilation was pretty on target. They
featured all the main and best themes such as BURWELL’s “Bella’s Lullaby”
(1), DESPLAT’s “New Moon” (10), and SHORE’s “Jacob’s Theme” (17). Sure,
they didn’t pick some of my favorite BURWELL action cues, but “Skin of a
Killer” would have been disturbingly out of place on a romance-centered
compilation. They really did find all the right tracks, and the best
tracks, to put the heart and soul of the Twilight Saga in a bottle.
In distilling the Saga to its musical essence, the album reveals an
unexpected pattern. It is hard to compare music by three different
composers with very distinctive styles and see any similarity. But when
you select the core tracks and have them all performed by the same small
orchestra, there is a consistency and continuity I hadn’t heard before in
the original albums. I can hear the emotions of conflicted love and
apprehensive hope behind the same whining violins and wistful piano. I can
hear DESPLAT and SHORE, in their own way, following the mood set by
BURWELL; there is probably no stronger temp track for sequels than the
first movie. The new arrangements provide a nearly seamless listening
experience of three very disparate styles, which would not be possible by
piecing together the original tracks.
The last advantage of this album is three new cues (one per composer) not
on the original scores. A more upbeat and percussive rendition of
BURWELL’s “Bella’s Lullaby” is added as a bonus track: “Bella's Lullaby
(How Bella Got Her Groove Back)” (20). “The Meadow” (9) is a higher
pitched version of DESPLAT’s “New Moon” theme, with a gorgeous piano
phrase at the beginning. Although this phrase is very short (seconds
long), it is not easily accessible on the NEW MOON album. Its inclusion
here is a delight, especially for devotees. “Finale (Jacob’s Theme
Reprise)” (19) is likewise a more fleshed out version of SHORE’s Jacob’s
theme. All three themes are truly outstanding, so any expanded versions
are a treat.
A couple of final notes: my rating for each cue has been biased by my
opinion that I have heard better versions elsewhere. The ratings for the
same cues on the originals would be much higher. Also, I want to note that
though Burwell’s score is more dissonant and earns a lower rating as a
listening experience, it has a stronger emotional fit on screen that is
not reflected well by the ratings themselves.
I heartily recommend buying all the original albums over this compilation.
Then make a playlist using MTSCO’s track titles, because BSX really did
strike gold in their selections. But if you can afford it, buy this
compilation as well--for the better version of “Jacob’s Theme,” the
truncated “Wedding Plans,” and the three new versions of the core themes.
Is this compilation worth getting if you are not crazy about Twilight
and/or Carter Burwell’s doleful atonality? I think so, especially if you
aren’t going to buy any original albums. DESPLAT’s “New Moon” theme is a
must-have that belongs in the Epic Love Theme Hall of Fame, with or
without vampire/werewolf love triangles. SHORE’s best tracks are also
found on MTSCO. For the average film score collector, MTSCO will give you
a meaningful and even sampling of the music from the Twilight Saga.
Stuck Here Like Mom
In Place of Someone You Love
Dinner with the family/ Edward at Her Bed
New Moon by Alexandre Desplat
The Meadow: Theme...New Moon (for piano and violin)