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CD: Defiance (2008) Capsule Review FAQ
Review Rating:   Very Good
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Sony Classical

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December 9, 2008

Tracks / Album Length:

15 tracks / (48:18)


Composer: James Newton Howard

Special Notes:

Comments :    

James Newton Howard’s makes excellent use of a large orchestra for his brooding, dour score for Defiance (2008), and the few overt electronic elements don’t disengage the listener from the film’s WWII period.

Part of the score’s success stems from the prominence of Joshua Bell’s violin solos, and hard bow strokes add an extra urgency throughout the score. What’s perhaps surprising – but respectfully appropriate – is Howard’s decision not to stick with a grand sound scheme, given the story involves armed combat at several junctures. By going against convention and emphasizing a short lament, the listener is glued to the characters, although the lack of more diverse theme variations tends to make the album a bit repetitive after the midpoint.

Howard likes long bass tones which he easily reformulates from something mournful – as in “Make Them Count” – or something kinetic, like pulses and textures for suspense scenes such as “The Bielski Otriad,” with a folk rhythm laid out by singed electronics, and throbbing, subdued percussion that precedes a rugged orchestral denouement with thundering timpani, brass, and pirouetting string figures.

While not a lengthy score, Defiance is a potent poem about sadness, heroism and human struggle.


© 2009 Mark R. Hasan

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