In the midst of quite a few of James Horner's most magnificent sci-fi/fantasy works produced in 1983 (Something Wicked This Way Comes, Krull, and Brainstorm) he wrote one of his most quietly elegant and somber dramatic film scores.Testament is only around 30 minutes long, but it certainly makes an impression, not unlike the score album for Brainstorm, released the same year. James Horner uses intricate elements, in Testament, to surround the listener in a bleak though alluringly graceful soundscape.
Testament is made up of three notable themes, amongst some occasional harmonic 'meandering'. Opening the album, 'Main Title' introduces the listener to the pitch perfect french horn solo that indicates the gravitas of the film's nature. Its role is as a bookend, not appearing frequently within the film's score, but just enough to keep us grounded to the proceedings. This sort of musical idea would stylistically influence Horner's later score to the uplifting Field of Dreams, amongst others.
The second theme, which I would call the 'family theme,' is one of Horner's loveliest and most charming but sadly short-lived themes. It is first featured in track 2, on flute, in a lilting and optimistic fashion. It gets a bit of a workout later in the lengthy track 6, 'Carol Consoles Liz/Carol Says Goodbye to Neighbor', which deftly hands the theme off from french horn to clarinet. The theme then helps to close out the score, appearing in the finale cue. Track 6 also introduces us to the third theme which may be considered the 'mother/son' theme, since the prominent cue to really define the melody is track 8,'Carol Bathes Scottie'. The theme is a simplistic quasi-lullaby performed with flute, piano and cello, which is really quite outstanding. Out of the three main themes, this melody in particular gets the chance to mature and shine, since it later returns as a brief, yet stunning choral round in track 11, 'Hiroshi Hands Teddy to Carol/End Credits'. It is quite simple to draw the conclusion that this is a precursor to the large scale, emotionally charged choral mark achieved in Horner's 1988 score to The Land Before Time. In this score, the choir actually plays quite an integral part, though the ensemble does not appear until about halfway through the album, in'Mother and Daughter Talk', the vocals add that extra bit of dramatic and ethereal 'oomph', much like the solo french horn moments, giving the work the reflective seriousness and human quality that Horner was clearly seeking to achieve.
If you are a Horner completist, I encourage you to add this admirable, dramatic film score to your collection. If you are not a huge fan of James Horner, it is still recommended if you are intrigued to hear one of the composer's more original and entertaining family drama scores (without synth/electronic elements or saxophone). Though the run time is short, this is a score that has a definite identity, a sort of weight that it carries with it. This music does not come across boring, though it is melancholy and meditative. The sound quality is crisp and clear, the composition itself is impeccable, and the themes are interesting, if not somewhat memorable. However, be forewarned, because of the fairly dismal subject matter, this is probably not a film score that you will return to frequently.