Montage: Great film composers and the piano

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COMPOSERS: Broughton,Davis,Desplat,Giacchino,Williams & Newman
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Montage: Great film composers and the piano
WORKS: Works by Broughton, Giacchino, Davis, Desplat, Williams & Newman
PERFORMER: Gloria Cheng (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907635

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Inviting renowned film composers to compose solo piano works for you may seem an attractive proposition, especially if the pianist is based in Los Angeles like Gloria Cheng. She first presented the current collection in the film capital in November 2013. Aside from this CD, this year will also bring a documentary film charting the project’s progress. If only many of the musical results gathered here weren’t so dispiriting.

Freed of the need to illustrate or evoke a mood, Bruce Broughton and Don Davis go the abstract and arid route, with unrewarding results. Michael Giacchino in Composition 430 manages a faintly charming childhood valentine; but John Williams’s Conversations (at 19 minutes the longest work) too accurately fulfils his own description of ‘minor musings’. Alexandre Desplat also disappoints, though at least his dreamlike L’Etreinte, written for Lang Lang, varies the landscape with its French personality. Randy Newman’s Family Album, paying homage to members of his distinguished film family, boasts perky wit and the popular touch. But none of this programme really deserves repeated listening, even with Cheng’s consistent artistry as she tosses off music too often made from small grey gestures, wishful thinking, and a bottle of diluted Prokofiev.

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Geoff Brown