In the same year, Steven Spielberg managed to hit both the financial and more importantly the artistic high point of his career to date. The big financial winner was of course Jurassic Park
, but I'm sure that in 100 years time, it will be his now classic Schindler's List
that will survive as one of the best films made during the 1990's - at the very least. It gained Spielberg a long overdue Oscar for best director and with that, John Williams
won his fourth for original score and third for a Spielberg directed movie. Unlike those previous efforts (all classic scores), Schindler's List
is in some ways barely recognisable as John Williams
. The bold, high impact scoring is almost entirely absent - even compared with some of the more serious films Williams has scored, nothing quite prepared people for just how sensitive and beautiful Williams' score would be.
The theme from Schindler's List
now seems a staple on those classical music from the movies type compilations as a token entry from an actual original score as opposed to an already existing composition. It's not hard to hear why though; the heart breaking simplicity of the melody sensitively rendered on solo violin with a chamber orchestra backing (strings and woodwind) conveys musically everything Spielberg set out to achieve in his film. This is touching music without sentiment, possibly one of the most difficult things of all. The main theme is used as a starting block for many of the other cues. It is sometimes quoted, but often inverted and adjusted in an almost theme and variations type way. Another stand alone highlight is Remembrances which uses less striking intervals, but still retains the same classical, yet ever so slightly folk like quality.
While the melody and style of the main theme inspire much of the score, there are a few notable asides. The lengthy Schindler's Workforce uses an almost minimalist style with a repeated phrase that evolves with subtle shifts in mood. The way it is written evokes the monotony of working in a large factory, but the occasional and almost surprising forays into major chords suggests the small amount of thanks the Schindler Jews must have felt for being able to work in even the worst factory job over the horrors of being in a concentration camp. Although Itzhak Perlman receives a high billing, his playing only graces a few tracks, the playing on which is of course stunning. However, Giora Feidman also contributes a clarinet solo and that contributions should be no less highly regarded. I suppose the beauty and pathos of a violin in the hands of a virtuoso like Perlman is a more haunting experience than almost any other solo instrument.
Williams takes a good deal of inspiration for the music from Jewish folk music and melodies - rightly so, of course - which when attached to his poignant compositional approach is a perfect combination of drama and cultural resonance. Schindler's List
, for its story of a small beacon of good amid unimaginable horror, is still often depressing and upsetting viewing. Likewise, Williams' score is so beautiful, but so intense that it may not be an album to take out very often, but is worth it just to recall what a brilliant and versatile composer Williams really is. An outstanding and classic score that should grace any lover of brilliant, beautiful and superbly performed music.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad