Film Score Friday: Film Music of Hans Zimmer & The Music of James Horner

Silva Screen records has done a wonderful job in recent years of putting out “best of” releases of music by absolutely legendary composers. The latest addition to this library are two new releases showcasing a living legend and a modern master, James Horner and Hans Zimmer. The Horner collection is an update to Silva’s original release, adding in some of his more recent scores, Avatar and The Karate Kid, while the Zimmer collection is a second volume focusing mainly on his work in the 2000’s.

These collections are particularly intriguing to film score fans as all of the music is performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The tracks on these albums are new recordings that are arranged for the Orchestra, essentially creating “covers” of the classic musical pieces we have come to know and love.

Like pop or rock songs, covers can be a mixed bad. Sometimes a new perspective on a song can take it from good to amazing, while other times the magic can be lost in translation.

Thankfully, The City of Prague Philharmonic has a long history of successful re-recordings of classic music and these sets are more proof of their ability to recapture the soul of the music they play. While it isn’t all perfect, there are several tracks that they might have even improved with their new renditions.

The Hans Zimmer collection in particular is a perfectly smooth listening experience. Some of these tracks have had constant play in my iPod for years, allowing me to know all of the small details that make a certain track it’s own. For the most part these new versions are worthy of their originators, with several tracks actually being better.

The best example of this can be found on the track from the film Madagascar, the music on this disc has a subtly different quality to it that actually makes the main theme far more cinematic then the music that actually played in cinemas.

The collection is not all perfect, however. The track “Drink Up Me Harties” from the film Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End is a valiant effort, but ultimately falls way short of Zimmer’s original. To be fair though, the original might be one of the single greatest tracks he has ever written.

Also not living up to the original is the oldest track on the discs, one of the better score moments from The Lion King is represented here in a track that is almost perfect, but misses the mark somewhere and ultimately sounds like a hollow version of something greater. Of course, that said, it is still a beautiful performance by The City of Prague Phil, so it is still a very good track.

The Horner collection actually almost perfect. Not all of the tracks sound exactly like their originals, but I do not think there is a single track on this collection that is not worth listening too. Horner has been responsible for some truly iconic music, and to the credit of The City of Prague Phil, two of the most well known scores are perfectly represented here.

One of the most beloved entries in all of the Star Trek pantheon is Wrath of Kahn, and the rendition of the main theme on this set might be my favorite recording of it ever, and Horner’s most well known score, Titanic, has a note perfect score track that makes me want to dig for my original score release from ’97. There is also a version of My Heart Will Go On, but more on that in a bit.

One of the other things I adore about the Horner collection is having tracks from some of his lesser celebrated scores from my youth. The one-two punch of music from Willow and The Land Before Time alone makes this set worth owning.

Three Favorite Tracks:

The Pacific by Hans Zimmer: The Main Titles from the recent HBO mini-series is a beautiful, self contained track that captures all of the better qualities of Hans Zimmer’s works. Nobility, strength and courage are all on display in this track. The City of Prague Phil’s version of the theme is actually a little bolder, which works perfectly for a single track on a best of album. Emphasizing all of the better parts while adding in some more “oomph” gives this track all the fuel to soar as one of the better tracks in either collection.

The Land Before Time by James Horner: There are better tracks on the Horner collection. Some are note perfect renditions of their cinematic partners, while others are improved listening experiences, but there is just something wonderful about this track. Maybe it has to do with the lack of general availability of this music, or perhaps just some garden variety nostalgia, but what ever the case, this music just thrills me. Cementing this track as one of my favorites is the fact that I have listened to it so many times and not once have I stopped the track mid way.

Madagascar by Hans Zimmer: There is some truly spectacular music on the Zimmer collection, but for some reason I keep coming back to this short, but sweet track. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this might be the most improved single track, or maybe it’s because it is a short, sweet package of audible brilliance. Whatever the reason, I can’t stop listening to this track, it is wonderful.

Least Favorite Track:

My Heart Will Go On by James Horner: I know all of the music in today’s review is essentially a “cover,” but I just can’t get over how much I didn’t like this version of Celine Dion’s iconic song from Titanic. The voice of Ms. Dion is powerful and is full of deep emotion that comes through in the singing, this track is sung by Helena Blackman has about as much emotion as Hal 9000 singing Daisy. It is just a poor version of a great song.

In all, both collections are worth getting if you don’t already own most of this music. For the burgeoning film score fan, or the modern film music fan on the go, these collections provide a nice entry into the worlds of two giants of film composing.

Total Score for Film Music of Hans Zimmer Vol. 2:

4 out of 5

Total Score for The Music of James Horner :

4.5 out of 5

 

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