This is a soundtrack that is so hauntingly beautiful that it brings tears to your eyes, especially if you see the movie.
Composed by James Horner, and played by the London Symphony Orchestra and Choristers of Westminster Abbey, it is a certain caliber of music that just demands respect, and most of all an attentive ear.
Some songs are light and festive, others dark and somber, but all of them have a life of their own, and tell a story that is timeless.
The soundtrack is from the movie "Braveheart", a tale of the Scottish hero, William Wallace, and his struggle for freedom for his people from England's oppression. The movie, which is directed by Mel Gibson, has taken this little known figure into the limelight and romanticized him for all time. The true William Wallace might not have been so deserving of this role, but regardless it is a touching story, that is sure to strike a cord in your heart.
The music beautifully complements the film, and without it, would seem wet and a little depressing. But when you hear the Scottish bagpipes and you see the rolling moors, it makes you want to die for your country as well.
I have worn out two copies of this cd, and would highly recommend it to any classical music enthusiast.
Considered as one of James Horners all-time classics, Braveheart is a sweepingly romantic score that has endeared itself to many film-goers and film score fans for years now. Mel Gibsons epic re-telling of the historical Scottish patriot Williams Wallace, who challenged the rule of the English and waged a war against them in the pursuit of freedom in 1314, has become a classic that revealed Mel Gibsons talent as both actor and director, though not really leaving that much space for historical authenticity. Winning five Oscars in 1995, including Best Picture and Best Director, for many film score fans the Academy missed out on their most important award, the Best Score. In 1995 Horner was nominated for both Braveheart and Apollo 13, both representing some of the best work he has ever created for the movies. Instead, the votes were split and Luis Bacalovs Mediterranean fluff for Il Posino went on to win the award and left many people bewildered and fighting over which of the two is the better one. For Horner, 1995 was a very fruitful year with his sweeping Legends of the Fall appearing in late 1994, followed closely by the childrens film Casper, the dramatic retelling of Apollo 13, the animation Balto, the still unreleased Jade and finally the junglish Jumanji (a score best forgotten). Braveheart appeared in between this sudden burst of creative energy by combining many elements from its immediate partners and making for one of Horners most memorable creations todate. The immense fame of the score has more than outsold all the other soundtrack albums he made for MCA (that is Casper, Balto and Apollo 13) and it has continued to sell well in the years that followed. Whether this is the result of the films popularity is open for debate but no one can dispute that the score is an immensely enjoyable listen in and out of the films context.
Horner has always had a soft spot for Celtic and Scottish music and Braveheart was a great opportunity for him to indulge in this ethnicity. The score is filled with the typical Scottish feel of bagpipes and lush melodies, and these combined with the scenery really create the perfect soundworld to depict the Scottish moors. Although Horner doesnt use real bagpipes, his use of the Irish Uillean pipes as opposed to authentic Scottish bagpipes gives him more in the range of harmonic versatility while still sounding real enough to pass most ears. To complement these ethnic elements Horner composed an achingly beautiful and romantic love theme that is a direct descendant of the music he wrote for Legend of the Fall, and conversely it is this element that has made Braveheart one of Horners most popular scores ever. This theme makes its first appearance in the cue A Gift of a Thistle and continues to make subtle appearances throughout the first half of the score, mostly performed by the Uillean pipes and woodwinds. Towards the middle of the score the theme gets more passionate, though, with the increasing use of full orchestral performances in For the Love of a Princess, Betrayal & Desolation and The Princess Pleads for Wallaces Life that fledge out the theme to its most memorable heights. As to Horners employment of action music, he opted to create a more eerie soundworld by the almost barbaric use of percussion (mostly deep drums and different light tapping instruments) and electronic drones. The Braveheart action music is indeed interestingly subtle, mostly because there are no cymbals and snare drums, but this doesnt take any of the power away; it actually makes the music more unnerving such as in the cues Attack on Murron and The Battle of Stirling, an effect he later reused in The New World.
Highlights are aplenty, but there are a few tracks that stick out most memorably. For the Love of a Princess is by far the cue most people will remember from the score with its most complete performance of the love theme that rises to a passionate climax in the best possible manner. The cues Wallace Courts Murron and The Secret Wedding are Horner at his very subtly romantic best that are simply a pleasure to listen to. The lengthy Sons of Scotland and Betrayal & Desolation are further examples of the symphonically building movements that Horner enjoys writing and is perhaps better at it than any other film composer at the moment. And finally the last three tracks (The Princess Pleads for Wallaces Life, Freedom/The Execution/Bannockburn and End Credits) are simply magnificent, the entirety of the music elevating itself to a completely new level of spirituality and grandness. These three cues are a perfect testament to Horners sense of drama and skill as a composer. But as much as Braveheart is one of Horners best known scores, it is also one of his less original. Horner is infamous for his self-quoting and this has caused many complaints from people. Whether you like it or not, Horner just can't stop re-using themes, motifs and orchestrations from his previous scores, often with practically no attempt to hide it, and this unoriginality has been getting worse ever since Titanic. Many of the scores most memorable aspects have been recycled from scores like Legends of the Fall, Willow, and Glory, but as much people complain about his self rip-offs, Braveheart is remarkably free of any such criticisms. The reasons for this are a little cloudy, but I suppose people are willing to let Horner pass on this one account for the music has been such a great influence for many. The heavy romanticism also help make Braveheart a very enjoyable album as a whole and this will make people want to close their ears for this one time.
The original soundtrack album runs for a generous 78 minutes and contains all the important music from the film. Horners albums are usually very generous due to being recorded outside of the US (such as here where the score is performed by the fantastic London Symphony Orchestra) and also they often suffer from it. On many instances the pure mass of music can get very tedious in places where the musics only purpose is to provide underscore for dialogue. This can get very tiresome on its own, but luckily Braveheart is remarkably free of any such detriments. The album is a very entertaining package and makes for a very pleasant listen (apart from the Uillean pipes that are not to everybodys taste). Due to the immense popularity of the score an expanded 2-CD album was released in 1997, called More Music from Braveheart. However this proved to be somewhat of a purpose defeated. The new music consisted of a few new cues, a handful of bagpipe songs and the entirety was basically spoiled by inserting dialogue over almost everything on the album. I dont know who wants to listen to dialogue when they buy a soundtrack album, I for one would like to listen to the music. If I wanted to listen to dialogue, Id watch the movie. Therefore it is better to simply get the original soundtrack album and forget the 2-CD set since it is really nothing more than an attempt to cash in on the success of the originals great popularity. Braveheart is a must have for any serious film music fan and could also work well for anyone wanting to get into film scores, even though it must be admitted that there are better Horner scores available.
Amazon sticker price is at £5.97.
1. Main Title (2:51)
2. A Gift of a Thistle (1:38)
3. Wallace Courts Murron (4:25)
4. The Secret Wedding (6:33)
5. Attack on Murron (3:00)
6. Revenge (6:24)
7. Murrona Burial (2:14)
8. Making Plans/Gathering the Clans (1:52)
9. Sons of Scotland (6:20)
10. The Battle of Stirling (5:57)
11. For the Love of a Princess (4:07)
12. Falkirk (4:04)
13. Betrayal & Desolation (7:48)
14. Mornays Dream (1:16)
15. The Legend Spreads (1:09)
16. The Princess Pleads for Wallaces Life (3:38)
17. Freedom/The Execution/Bannockburn (7:24)
18. End Credits (7:15)
Produced by James Horner
Music Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by James Horner
Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra and Choirsters of Westminster Abbey
Chorus Master: Martin Neary
Featured instrumentalists: Tony Hinnigan, James Horner, Eric Rigler, Mike Taylor & Ian Underwood
Music Recorded and Mixed by Shawn Murphy
Music Editor: Jim Henrikson
Assistant Music Editors: Christine Cholvin and Joe E. Rand
Recorded at EMI Abbey Road, London
Decca Records, 1995 (448 295-2)
© berlioz, 2004/2005/2007
Performer London Symphony Orchestra, music composed and conducted by James Horner
Released 1995 on London.
What a film eh? When Gibson made Braveheart, he effectively summed up Scotlands enduring grievances against the English in one three-hour epic of a movie. But the film wasnt without its flaws. Not least of which are its sheer historical inaccuracies, was filmed in Ireland and the lead character, William Wallace, was played by an Australian with a weird take on the highland brogue.
However, the same cannot be said for the soundtrack. An extraordinary piece of scoring that not only perfectly captures the romance and heroic tragedy of the film but can stand as an orchestral piece in its own right.
Despite the medieval setting of the story, James Horner has made sparing use of contemporary instruments, preferring to let the orchestra take the load. But where Uilleann pipes, Bodhran drums and whistles are used, they add a depth to the music that would have been lost otherwise if they had been used less sparingly. There is no danger of Horner getting caught in the hey nonny nonny and highland clichés here.
This is music that was made for myths and legends such as this. In fact, Horner has created a piece of music that could quite easily be used as the soundtrack to the past thousand years of Scotlands turbulent and violent history. The old spirit of the highlands oozes from every groove (metaphorically speaking). It matches Gibsons visual creation pound for pound, complementing perfectly the overall sadness and futility of the movie and the story it tells
The Braveheart soundtrack tells us of events long past and deeds long forgotten, of long lost heroes, huge swords, kilts and lone pipers playing as the mists swirl from the glens. The Red Deer looks on. It evokes times of an intense passion that we have long since lost.
Even if you havent seen the film (and if not, why not? Where have you been?), the music conveys a sense of time that is so powerful that if you close your eyes you can clearly imagine the unruly hordes of Scots gathered, looking to pick a fight with the heinous English. Whats more, the soundtrack allows us to forget that the real Wallace was possibly nothing more than a cattle thieving, murdering thug.
But well leave that point for the historians to ponder, shall we!
Ive seen this album on the shelves filed under Classical, Soundtracks and New Age. New Age? Well yes. With the Braveheart soundtrack, Horner has made the genre his own in one epic swoop. When compared to the twee, inane noodlings of so-called new age composers and artists, Braveheart towers above them. Although the subject matter is not particularly spiritual, the music has an undercurrent of spirituality that is quite entrancing. It has the lot, harps, pipes, choirs and the orchestra. Giving a blend that evokes a landscape that Tolkien himself wouldve approved. But above all, the Braveheart soundtrack has a power that is lacking from many of the new age offerings we see today.
The only thing lacking here are sleeve notes. It would be interesting to have got an insight into how they went about scoring the piece. Also, Im sure there would have been enough music left over for a second disc of extras.
But this is a small criticism.
If you need to take time to quietly ponder and contemplate, then the Braveheart soundtrack is the album to have quietly playing on the death decks whilst doing so. I know if I need to spend time with my own thoughts, this is invariably the album that I reach for.
For musically enhanced navel gazing, you cannot beat it.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Main Title [Braveheart] - James Horner
2 A Gift of a Thistle [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
3 Wallace Courts Murron [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
4 The Secret Wedding [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
5 Attack on Murron [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
6 Revenge [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
7 Murron's Burial [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
8 Making Plans/Gathering the Clans [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
9 'Sons of Scotland' [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
10 The Battle of Stirling [Braveheart - Original Sound Track] - Choristers of Westminster Abbey, London Symphony Orchestra, James Horner
11 For the Love of a Princess [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
12 Falkirk [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
13 Betrayal & Desolation [Braveheart - Original Sound Track] - Choristers of Westminster Abbey, London Symphony Orchestra, James Horner
14 Mornay's Dream [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
15 The Legend spreads [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
16 The Princess pleads for Wallace's Life [Braveheart - Original Sound Track]
17 'Freedom'/The Execution Bannockburn [Braveheart - Original Sound Track] - Choristers of Westminster Abbey, London Symphony Orchestra, James Horner
18 End Credits [Braveheart - Original Sound Track] - Choristers of Westminster Abbey, London Symphony Orchestra, James Horne