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Enemy at the Gates
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
James Horner

Co-Orchestrated by:
J.A.C. Redford

Co-Produced by:
Simon Rhodes

Sony Classical

Release Date:
March 6th, 2001

Also See:
Red Heat
Courage Under Fire
The Perfect Storm
Apollo 13

Audio Clips:
1. The River Crossing to Stalingrad (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (151K)

3. Vassili's Fame Spreads (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (260K)
Real Audio (161K)

10. Betrayal (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (151K)

12. Tania (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Regular U.S. release.


Enemy at the Gates

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Buy it... if you are a devoted collector of James Horner's scores who unequivocally forgives the composer for his re-use tendencies.

Avoid it... if you'd prefer not to hear pieces of music by Mahler, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich, among several blatant reprises of material from Horner's own career, repackaged into a frightfully unoriginal listening experience.

Enemy at the Gates: (James Horner) Director Jean-Jacques Annaud's career is littered with historical dramas that attempt to tell personal tales against the backdrop of difficult, true circumstances. His broad depictions of the battle of Stalingrad in World War II are quite effective in realizing the scope of the desperate fight between Germany and Russia on the Eastern front, though his insistence in rooting the picture in an ongoing duel between two sharp shooters and a love triangle on the Russian side caused an inevitably depressing conclusion reached only after sour action and character scenes that failed, for many critics and audiences, to engage the viewer. The film's grim portrayal of the horrors of Stalingrad is no picnic, and neither is James Horner's score. Horner has handled his fair share of serious, dramatic work for the war genre in his career, though his efforts in the several years prior to Enemy at the Gates had tended to sway closer to the realm of heartfelt family affairs. In the previous year, The Perfect Storm was devoid of any kind of epic, historical scope and How the Grinch Stole Christmas was dismissed as merely average by many of Horner's collectors, and for good reason. With Enemy at the Gates in 2001, however, Horner collaborated with Annaud once again (their early The Name of the Rose is still a curiosity for both men) to resurrect a sense of momentum and brutality not heard since Courage Under Fire. While his war epics are no doubt a tougher listening experience for casual Horner fans, Enemy at the Gates is a score of such an enormous magnitude that it may be of interest simply because of the sheer volume of massive sound that prevails for much of its length. As a companion to a film detailing the horrors of war, it is an appropriately charged effort of immense orchestral intensity, choral outbursts, and very few moments of respite from a perpetually turbulent atmosphere. Ultimately, though, the score would be best known for the criticism aimed at Horner due to his many seemingly obvious "borrowings" from both classical composers and, to an even greater degree, his own works.

The general tone of Enemy at the Gates is impressive in its alternation between desperate solitude and terrifying battle, shaking the walls with volumes of marching bombast not heard many times in his career. At the same time, though, Horner has seemingly let the romanticism of pride and love slip through the cracks in this work. With such a bittersweet romantic side story, the film caused many to expect the use of a melodramatic theme of superb elegance. Indeed, in contrast to the countless cues of suspense or outright war, Horner does provide a meandering and thoughtful love theme for the Tania character in Enemy at the Gates, but it encompasses so little dedicated time in the first half of the score that it easily becomes washed away. The mass majority of this score toils with the frightful environment of the battlefield, and, more specifically, Horner makes extensive use of his curling four-note motif from many scores of the past to signal danger. For Enemy at the Gates, Horner takes this motif and blasts it repeatedly, almost with unrelenting malice, until you reach such a point that you cannot really tolerate it anymore. The tension in the string section of the orchestra is domineering, often building to lengthy crescendos of loud and unwavering dissonance. The suspense in this score is a different variation of that which made the just previous Thirteen Days by Trevor Jones such an effective score. In that Jones work, there is a distinct sense of nobility throughout its unease. In Enemy at the Gates, Horner drops any notion of hope and produces a brooding and dark score of despair. Appropriate for the story it is, but it's extremely unsettling on the album. This sense of gravity makes Horner's more romantically elegant scores (such as Legends of the Fall) very attractive, but without any sense of sweeping beauty, the music here is devoid of any alluring characteristic. Even in the more lovely performances of Tania's theme, as in "Betrayal," Horner overlays the danger motif continuously, and the slight discord in his string layers continues an environment of marginal dissonance that keeps the score rooted in despair.

Horner does manage to tie up one loose end from twelve years prior in his career, even though that topic remains one of controversy. For a long time, film music fans were baffled by the march at the beginning and end of his 1988 flop Red Heat, which featured an adult male and female chorus performing a Russian anthem that sounded much unlike anything else that Horner had recorded since. In short, the reason for this unlikely style was because the piece was pulled by Horner from Sergey Prokofiev's "The Philosophers." That oddity is expanded upon significantly in Enemy at the Gates, with multiple outbursts of a similar Russian choral element over the same the two-note alternations of the bass strings that accompanied the theme's usage in Red Heat. These forceful, fully choral cues in Enemy at the Gates are among the very best of its war-torn material. The lengthy "The River Crossing to Stalingrad" introduces these wordless performances with resolve, and "Vassili's Fame Spreads" includes a momentous choral outburst with pounding timpani and resounding power. By the more romantic, final cues in the film, starting with "Betrayal," the chorus becomes a beautiful, humming accompaniment to the orchestra. The highlight of the album's presentation of the score is its final three tracks. The simple and yet elegant romanticism of love of person and country is sweeping in these performances. Granted, some of it is repetitive within the score; the use of Tania's theme in those conclusive cues is almost unceasing, with little in the way of redemptive variations to distinguish one final flourish from the remainder of the similar performances. Even with this romance taking shape late in the score, however, Horner never ceases to remind you of the unease of the story by leaving very few bars of this material completely harmonious. The end of the album simply fades away into a dreary and bleak darkness, much the antithesis of Glory's prideful ending. The last bars of Enemy at the Gates make you feel as though you're about to walk into a Russian winter without hope or future, bringing the album around in a full circle.

Horner's somewhat predictable work for Enemy at the Gates has proven to satisfy those who appreciate nearly everything the composer has written. There is definitely a reason for that appeal, though, that also happens to strike down the work for many other listeners. It is a score that is so badly tainted by its blatant re-use issues that even some casual Horner fans may find themselves revisiting the score only infrequently. The sequences of Enemy at the Gates that borrow motifs from Horner's previous efforts are so numerous that they are indeed quite distracting throughout the work. The seven-note rip of the snare that originally defined Glory is put to extensive use, as is the snare combined with a tolling chime, which was a staple of Apollo 13. The distinct blasts of the four-note danger motif on brass are right from the pages of the old Star Trek scores and, of course, Willow. There is an entire section in "Betrayal" (at 7:30 with full choir) and "Tania (End Credits)" that is lifted from the sinking cues of Titanic (which itself dated back to Apollo 13). The bass strings often strike one note below key to signify the Russians, just as Horner did in Red Heat. The Tania theme has much in common with both Balto and John Williams' famous Schindler's List; while some listeners credit the latter connection to a common reference to Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8, the similarities between the alternating opening progression are really not that strong (given that they're only part of a cascading effect in Mahler's piece that doesn't form a strong motif of its own in that setting). Williams, of course, claims that his theme was inspired by a Jewish folk song. Horner has a more difficult time explaining himself in this situation, because while the theme is only fragmented early in the score, its fully fluid performances in "Betrayal" and "Tania (End Credits)" are so reminiscent of Schindler's List that it will indeed bother many casual listeners (and not just those finely tuned ears who hear such borrowing in every Horner score). At least he didn't make the situation any worse by employing a solo instrumentalist to perform the theme.

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Smaller techniques in the score will also strike any Horner collector as being familiar. This is nothing particularly new for the composer, though the scope of his transgressions in Enemy at the Gates when it comes to classical music is more troublesome for other listeners. Complaints through the years have been aimed at this score for its similarity to music by Mahler, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and even, quite strangely, Philip Glass. While each of these references could be argued on their individual merits, the very fact that Horner's score suffers from such a quantity of complaints is the more problematic issue. Some of the composer's collectors won't care about these connections, and for such folks, the composer does at least add one new element to all of this mix to keep this score distinct. In this case, the somewhat redeeming element is the full adult chorus, which is indeed quite impressive compared to the composer's usual boys choir from previous works. Also new in this score is an uneasy sense of dread that makes Courage Under Fire seem like a walk in the park. And yet, so overbearing is the music that its first nine tracks on album fail to evoke any kind of emotional response from the listener. Not until the final three tracks does this score really engage you, and by then, over 50 minutes have already elapsed. Even though Sony Classical was known at the time for pumping out the majority of Horner's scores at lengths that tested the abilities of the compact disc, Enemy at the Gates would have made a much stronger 40 to 50-minute album. If the plethora of unlistenable crashes and tightness of strings in this album's first 50 minutes don't deter you, then the obvious connections to the composer's previous works might. Either way, this listening experience is impossible to recommend as an unconditionally enjoyable one, despite the extremely attractive concluding 25 minutes. This is a score that Horner collectors need to evaluate in the film itself before making a blind purchase. Let the continuing controversy over the score's blatant lack of originality serve as clear notice that Enemy at the Gates is indeed a flawed work. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.19 (in 187,962 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.52 Stars
Smart Average: 3.4 Stars*
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 76:40

• 1. The River Crossing to Stalingrad (15:14)
• 2. The Hunter Becomes the Hunted (5:53)
• 3. Vassili's Fame Spreads (3:40)
• 4. Koulikov (5:13)
• 5. The Dream (2:35)
• 6. Bitter News (2:38)
• 7. The Tractor Factory (6:43)
• 8. A Sniper's War (3:25)
• 9. Sacha's Risk (5:37)
• 10. Betrayal (11:28)
• 11. Danilov's Confession (7:13)
• 12. Tania (6:53)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Enemy at the Gates are Copyright © 2001, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/14/01 and last updated 1/3/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.