Not unlike Maurice Jarre’s “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago (1965), James Horner’s love theme from Titanic - “My Heart Will Go On” - was a piece so monstrously popular that it became a tune adored by millions, beaten to death by endless radio play, and gave Celine Dion a legion of fans, and perhaps millions more wishing the song would be put on a 20-year no-more-play moratorium.
Time (and a period of needed silence) have been more kind to the theme as well as Horner’s score, because it reveals the composer’s uncanny knack for writing powerfully dynamic orchestral music that glides easily from romantic to punchy action. His theme adaptations and periodic reiterations throughout the score are dramatically sound, and far less repetitive than the best-of collections which tend to overwhelmingly favour the vocal and piano version. Those collections offer a different listening experience, but in terms of a still potent score, Horner’s lovely orchestrations ad reliance on melody and harmony ensure the innately old fashioned (and ludicrously improbable) romance in Titanic still works.
James Cameron’s 3-hour film wouldn’t have flowed so well without a strong score to keep audiences tuned in when lengthy and melodrama filled up most of the pre-iceberg crash scenes (which is more than half of the film). Horner’s flair for modernism – slow-burning fugues, cascading piano hits, anvil strikes, and rising brass – are equally important in bridging the gap between period décor and modern audience sensibilities, and while people may have devoured the romantic entanglements of its three prime characters, Horner’s modernism ensured Cameron’s riveting grasp of montage and grand action scenes didn’t alter the film’s tone.
Sony’s monster 4-CD set features the original 1997 soundtrack album (72 minutes), plus the Back to the Titanic follow-up CD released a year later which, like the Decca CDs for Horner’s Braveheart (1995) also offered score on the first released, and source + suite material + additional score + blended dialogue bits on the second CD. As to how many will prefer the mixed-in dialogue probably depends on how devoted the fans are; those wanting the score proper will still stick with the first CD.
The other two CDs in what’s billed as the Collector’s Anniversary Edition include the separately released disc Gentlemen, It has been a privileged playing with You tonight featuring chamber versions of popular period songs used in the film; and Popular Music from the Titanic Era with original period recordings of songs such as “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Oh! You Beautiful Doll.”
Sony’s monster set is nicely mastered and should keep fans busy for about 4 hours, but for ardent fans there still remains the unreleased cues which have yet to enjoy a commercial release. One suspects Horner (and perhaps rightly so) feels the original album says everything necessary about the film, but what’s left to fully satisfy fans is a 2-disc set with unedited film versions. Perhaps that one’s slated for the 110th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, or the eventual Blu-ray release of Cameron’s epic.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan