Les Miserables - The Complete Symphonic Recording

Symphonic International Cast

Relativity, 1990

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp


Every musical is forced to achieve a delicate balance between the music and the visual imagery being presented onstage. A perfect musical achieves both of these noble goals simultaneously; however, most musicals are not perfect, and thus choose to sacrifice the full integrity of one for the majesty of the other.

A musical that favors the imagery of bright costumes and elaborate sets (think The Lion King) makes for an excellent movie. A musical that favors the music and opts for a simper visual tone is a soundtrack worth owning. Les Miserables is definitely the latter type, and the soundtrack makes for an excellent addition to any music lover’s collection.

The affectionately nicknamed Les Mis, based on the epic novel by Victor Hugo, is a tale of the redemption of the former criminal Jean Valjean, Prisoner #24601, framed against the backdrop of the revolution of the lower class in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 France. The soundtrack, however, like any good one, tells the story far better than I can, letting the music command the plot, rather than the speaking parts (of which there are few in comparison to many musicals.)

The cast present on the International Cast Recording is a marvelous one. Gary Morris makes an excellent Valjean, a worthy substitute for the part originally played by Colm Wilkinson, while Philip Quast steals every song he appears in as the sinister Javert, commanding the music with a rich baritone. Other characters, such as Michael Ball as Marius, Debbie Byrne as Fantine, and Tracy Shayne as Cosette, are all solid choices for their parts. The only questionable choice to me was that of Kaho Shimada as Eponine, whose voice sounds more whiney than convicted, and whose Japanese accent is painfully evident during her solo on “On My Own.”

But the stars here are the members of the Philharmonic Orchestra of London who brilliantly carry the production throughout this album. Gorgeous strings and rich brass are present in almost every song and sometimes threaten to even overshadow the beautiful voices of the cast members, though when you are poised for such a moment to occur, it seems that the singer always delivers the next note perfectly, and the balance is once again achieved.

“The People’s Musical” is at its best with epic numbers like “At The End Of The Day,” “One Day More,” “Finale,” and the famous “Do You Hear The People Sing.” Such songs are guaranteed to raise the hair on your arms and to be stuck in your head long after having finished the soundtrack.

Solo efforts such as “Bring Him Home,” “I Dreamed A Dream,” and “Who Am I” are all superb performances as well, forcing you to sit back and simply appreciate the quality of the performer’s voice accompanied brilliantly by the orchestra.

Les Mis is a must-have soundtrack for any fans of musicals, or music for that matter. The minor flaws, like Shimada’s accent or the argument that past cast members could have played the part better than the ones present here, are not enough to distract from the intensity of the music. With the musical no longer showing on Broadway, your only regret upon finishing the soundtrack is that you cannot immediately go buy tickets to the production.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Daniel Camp and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Relativity, and is used for informational purposes only.