Enemy at the Gates

Sony Classical (0696998952225)
Sony Classical (4988009244112)
Sony Classical (5099708952228)
Movie | Released: 2001 | Format: CD, Download

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# Track   Duration
1.The River Crossing to Stalingrad15:14
2.The Hunter Becomes the Hunted5:53
3.Vassili's Fame Spreads3:40
5.The Dream2:35
6.Bitter News2:38
7.The Tractor Factory6:43
8.A Sniper's War3:25
9.Sacha's Risk5:37
11.Danilov's Confession7:13
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Enemy at the Gates - 08/10 - Review of Andreas Lindahl, submitted at
It's been quite some time since James Horner scored a really big, epic film - a genre that almost always garantees that Horner will deliver a remarkable score. Some of the composers' best scores have been written for large scale dramas, such as Braveheart, Titanic and Legends of the Fall, so it is somewhat of an understatement to say that a lot of people have been looking forward to his music for Jean-Jacques Annaud's World War II drama, Enemy at the Gates.

Performed by a large orchestra, with an unusually big percussive section - apart from the standard set of timpani, Horner makes use of the sound of the anvil, bells, snare drums and other instruments - and full choir, this score is exactly what I expected it to be when it comes to sound. The choir lends the music both a very beautiful quality - something achieved with the help of soft strings and woodwinds - but also an air of drama and power, together with the dark brass and aggressive percussion.

But, with Horner being the type of composer he is, the score for Enemy of the Gates isn't the experience of original music it could, and perhaps should, be. Horner's notorious four note motif is used quite a lot, especially in the action cues, performed by trumpets. And the scores' main theme is clearly based on the Schindler's List inspired motif heard in Apollo 13 and Titanic. This bothered me quite a bit the first time I listened to the score - I thought about Schindler's List every time the theme was used - but after having listened to the score a couple of times, the theme grew on me and started to get a life of its own. Horner truly turns the theme into something unique. And now I just love it. It is without doubt one of my favorite themes by Horner and it is really hard not loving it when performed by the entire orchestra and choir. Sure, the resemblence to John Williams' theme for Schindler's List is there - and the anti-Horner people out there will surely be happy to tear the entire score to pieces based on this fact - but it is important to remember that what makes the Schindler's List theme easy to recognise is a really simple musical idea.

The soundtrack can roughly be divided into two parts. The action, which opens the CD, and the drama and romance closing it. The highlight of the action part is without doubt the opening cue, "The River Crossing to Stalingrad". Being over fifteen minutes long, this piece opens with high, soft strings, similar to the very beginning of the opening music for Braveheart, followed by a soft statement of the main theme, before tense action music takes over the entire stage, complete with bold brass fanfares, pounding timpani and anvil and racing strings. While this is excellent action music, my favorite parts of this score are the more emotional moments - the four last cues especially. Although based almost entirely on the main theme, and therefore quite repetetive, these tracks builds towards a wonderful, emotional final with a gorgeous rendition of the main theme, performed by the orchestra and supported by balalaika and soft, wordless choir. This is classic Horner and really, really good.

And what is even better is the total absence of songs. Not even an End Credit song, which means that Horner once again is able to close the score in a natural and much better way.
Enemy at the Gates - 04/10 - Review of Tom Daish, submitted at
Enemy at the Gates is directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud whose previous credits include The Name of the Rose which was scored by James Horner and Seven Years in Tibet which was blessed with one of John Williams' finest scores of the past decade. Presumably Annaud was unable to arrange for Williams to score Enemy at the Gates (given his comments in the liner notes for Seven Years in Tibet I suspect he must at least have asked Williams) and so the task falls to James Horner. The film about a pair of snipers didn't do terribly well at the box office despite starring Joseph Fiennes and Jude Law together with a lot of hype and decent reviews. However, it seems ripe for a thoughtful, potent and dramatic score.

There are some scores about which it's difficult to try and draw any strong feelings and Enemy at the Gates has proved particularly troublesome. First of all it's James Horner, so some similarity with his previous work or worse, the work of someone else, is fairly inevitable. However, the similarity between the main theme to that of Schindler's List is close to the point of almost being shameful. I believe, but am not entirely certain, that Williams' melody is based on a Jewish folk melody and so Horner could legitimately claim to be doing the same, but unfortunately Williams got there first and frankly did a much better job. The other most important motif is the four note villain motif from Willow which as a threatening fantasy motif is quite appropriate, but for a serious drama, seems just a little over the top.

The opening few tracks are, unfortunately, the highlight of the album and feature some splendid and thrilling brassy moments, even if the overall effect is perhaps a little over the top. The addition of the chorus, notably during the Russian march of Vassili's Fame Spreads is definitely over the top, although thoroughly rousing on CD. The problem of overly long James Horner albums has almost reached broken record stage now and Enemy at the Gates would certainly have been better with a little pruning. Ultimately the length of the album and the similarity between so much of it leads to the problem of it seeming like and endless succession of similar episodes without any real progress. Perhaps it is more coherent alongside or with a retrospective knowledge of the film, but as stand alone music rather grinds on a little, particularly during the last third which almost becomes particularly tiresome.

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