Memoirs Of A Geisha

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Sony Classical, 2005

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


John Williams, the most famous and successful film music composer of the last 30 years, continues to write large orchestral scores well into his mid-70s, with 2005 having been one of the busiest years of his career. Aside from providing the soundtrack that year to Star Wars: Episode III -- The Revenge Of The Sithmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , War Of The Worlds and Munich, one of his most intriguing scores in many years was for Memoirs Of A Geisha.

Though known and sometimes criticized for his leanings towards bombast, Memoirs Of A Geisha sees Williams stretch himself artistically in unexpected directions. Honestly, aside from the re-occurring “Sayuri’s Theme,” which acts as a vintage example of his heavy use of easily identifiable leitmotivs, the score is stylistically very uncharacteristic for him and a creative triumph.

Those wary of Williams’ trademark loud, unforgettable fanfares cementing their place in the consciousness of pop culture will instead find a subtle, forlorn approach throughout this album that never abandons the mysterious shroud of Eastern romanticism that it envelops you in. Driven by an inspired combination of world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s soulful, melancholy delivery, equally world reknowned violinist Itzhak Perlman’s aching, weeping passages (particularly on the hauntingly gorgeous “The Chaiman’s Waltz”) and frequent use of classical Japanese instruments such as shamisen, biwa and shakuhachi give the music a fascinating color and dreamy atmosphere that marries two very different worlds with some of the most elegant melodies Williams has yet penned.

Unlike many film scores that lose some of their purpose and potency when heard separately from the film in question, the music of Memoirs Of A Geisha stands tall as an artistic orchestral work all on its own.

Memoirs Of A Geisha is without doubt an ambitious triumph for John Williams, who proves with this release that even this late into his career he is still evolving as a composer, and was fully deserving of the Golden Globe (and Oscar nomination) he was awarded for this effort.

Rating: A

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