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Section Header
Far and Away
(1992)
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Performances by:
The Chieftains
Enya

Label:
MCA Records

Release Date:
May 26th, 1992

Also See:
Hook
Jurassic Park
Schindler's List
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Presumed Innocent

Audio Clips:
1. County Galway, June 1892 (0:25):
WMA (166K)  MP3 (202K)
Real Audio (125K)

9. The Big Match (0:26):
WMA (163K)  MP3 (198K)
Real Audio (123K)

12. Joseph's Dream (0:26):
WMA (163K)  MP3 (198K)
Real Audio (123K)

15. The Land Race (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (236K)
Real Audio (147K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release.

Awards:
  None.









Far and Away

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Sales Rank: 24249


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Buy it... if you're passionate about highly lyrical and gorgeously melodic scores, especially if they can make a splash with some boldly orchestral adventure along the way.

Avoid it... if other composers' incorporation of uilleann pipes, pan flutes, penny whistles, and The Chieftains into less applicable settings has poisoned you to even the best that John Williams can muster with those elements.



Williams
Far and Away: (John Williams) In an age when few films were shot in the expansive 70mm format, Ron Howard's Far and Away was a welcome return to the glorious cinematography of Hollywood's great epics of yesteryear. When combined with the expansive score by John Williams, the film was an engaging and beautiful visual and aural experience. Unfortunately, audiences also had to contend with a contrived script and unconvincing performances by lovebirds Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It may look and sound great, but Far and Away doesn't make much practical sense for the era, moving in predictable narrative directions built seemingly only for convenient Hollywood endings. None of these problems seems to have bothered Williams, whose first collaboration with Howard would prove to be among the best that Howard would ever have (although multiple classics would result from Howard's work with James Horner, including Willow and Apollo 13). Williams had explored darker stylistic territory in the late 1980's, writing several inconsistent, intimate scores that were worlds away from his monumental fantasy and adventure works earlier in the decade. With 1991's Hook, however, came a rediscovery of Williams' more exciting action work, and Far and Away would roll to the top of film music's quality charts the following year. The film provided Williams with an opportunity to write for several genres at once; the story obviously has a significant Irish tilt, and Williams embellishes upon the ethnic elements with substantial beauty in Far and Away. It would also be one of the first Western scores in a long time for Williams, whose endeavors in the genre during 1970's were often more unusual in tone than the straight forward kind of frontier adventure that you hear in this film. Finally, there's a hint of the period in Williams' incorporation of a scherzo to elevate the classicism of the score in a few parts.

It was typical for the composer to invite a soloist or noteworthy group to perform for his scores in the 1990's, and it's no surprise that The Chieftains would fit perfectly with this film. Unlike subsequent appearances by the group in film scores (all the way through James Newton Howard's The Water Horse), Williams' use of the group is both relevant to the topic of the film and integrated with his orchestral ensemble. That ensemble is also joined by uilleann pipes, pan flutes, and penny whistle for the more lyrical ethnic passages (sometimes courtesy of Horner's usual performers), and the only remaining creative instrumental use relates to a brief synthesizer augmentation at the outset of "Leaving Home." Aside from handling both the ethnic and adventure genres with outstanding precision, Far and Away is an overwhelmingly successful score because of Williams' normal knack for generating several enticing themes for various situations in the film. Far and Away has no less than three major themes and an equal number of supporting motifs, each majestic in their application to the ensemble and solo performances. Some, in fact, could rival the recorder solos in Schindler's List. The first theme is the most haunting element of the score; perpetually rising and falling in each of its parts, Williams' idea for the Irish homeland is truly beautiful. Opening "County Galway, June 1892" with grace on penny whistle and extending to equally elegant performances by pan flutes in the first moments of both "Leaving Home" and "Joseph's Dream," this theme receives fewer full ensemble performances. It's understandably rare in its appearances as the film's story transforms into an American one, but it's intoxicating during each usage. The second theme is an overarching representation of both the love story and the journey the leading couple takes. It is, in short, the primary idea for Far and Away, and its performances span a range from the same solo ethnicity applied to the Irish theme to magnificent ensemble explosions that would run through the momentous finale of the score.

The primary theme is no less attractive than the Irish theme, often following it on pan flute (in "County Galway, June 1892" and "Leaving Home"), and extending to further woodwind flourishes in the middle of "The Reunion" and "End Credits." It would prove orchestrally victorious in the last few cues, as the race for Oklahoma territory proves fruitful for the couple. A third theme is designated specifically for that race, with a rousing introduction in the middle of "Joseph's Dream" and slowly building in momentum as the land grab draws near. As with most of the performances of this brassy, timpani-pounding adventure theme, the title theme is usually waiting for a boisterous entry at the end. Interestingly, this theme would serve mostly as a transitional marker for other motifs, experiencing its only other full performances in the "End Credits." The action material would often meander in directions of its own, quickly referencing other ideas. One such reference comes near the start of the spectacular "The Land Race," a cue that rolls with all the excitement of Williams' later Star Wars prequel action cues and remains one of the most exhilarating single compositions of his career. The theme referenced near its outset is a more ambitious ethnic one aimed specifically at The Chieftains for its major performances. Heard fully in "The Fighting Donellys" and the outset of "End Credits," the same wild, Irish spirit would be applied to "Fighting for Dough." Another singular idea that Williams conjures for Far and Away is a scherzo heard in "Blowing Off Steam" and in a quick interlude in the "End Credits;" it's a comical extension of the almost identical style heard in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Several other smaller motifs loosely weave in and out throughout Far and Away, but Williams' nearly constant references to all of the above major themes and motifs dominate the soundscape. Each of the themes, and especially the first two, is so lyrical that they transfer much of the harmonic magic from the previous year's Hook into Far and Away, causing an extremely satisfying album.

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Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Far and Away is Williams' ability to state Irish instrumentation and performance emphasis both in the proper ethnic context and in such a fashion that these elements contribute to the score rather than define it. Many Irish-laden scores tend to irritate listeners, especially in how James Horner sometimes slathers them on an orchestra like a muddy lard. But Williams finds the right balance, even going so far as to brilliantly combine The Chieftains with the orchestra in the "End Credits" suite for a rousing two minutes that even detractors of the performing group could enjoy. The use of Enya's "Book of Days" seemed like a logical extension of the ethnicity at the time (and the "Far and Away" lyrics are, of course, appropriate), and nobody can argue that the song wasn't among her best during that flourishing era in her career. This album's version of song is a different and superior mix to that which appeared on her compilation album, "Shepherd Moons." It hasn't aged as well as Williams' score and it's better placed amongst her own material, but there's a certain amount of sentimentality that accompanies its soft tones here. As an overall listening experience, Far and Away does take a while to gain some steam on album. Aside from the two lyrical performances of the main themes on pan flutes and a couple of entries from The Chieftains for fighting scenes, the first half of the score has some minimalistic meandering of slight thematic exploration in the kind of percussive way that Presumed Innocent and Jurassic Park would also feature. Only a few eruptions of dissonance in two middle passages interrupt an otherwise consistently gorgeous series of thematic expressions. There is also intensity in the action material that would mirror the ambitious tones of Jurassic Park, a sound certain to please fans of the composer's scores from the early 1980's. Compared to those other efforts, Far and Away is an often overlooked or underestimated score. The failure of the film likely dealt this music a poor hand, though the score stands as the very best written by any composer in 1992. As Williams has steered away from this kind of blatant melodic exposition in his later years, Far and Away is a constant pleasure to revisit. *****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 336,805 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 4.1 Stars
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   Just revisited this classic
  thw -- 3/21/09 (10:12 p.m.)
   love it
  David Lounsberry -- 11/19/08 (11:32 a.m.)
   Re: Burning the Manor House (Track #5)
  S.Venkatnarayanan -- 11/18/08 (10:40 p.m.)
   Excellent score
  Sheridan -- 9/24/06 (7:12 a.m.)
   awesome
  Nick -- 8/3/06 (1:26 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 67:12


• 1. County Galway, June 1892 (1:55)
• 2. The Fighting Donellys* (2:18)
• 3. Joe Sr.'s Passing/The Duel Scene (4:41)
• 4. Leaving Home (1:55)
• 5. Burning the Manor House (2:43)
• 6. Blowing Off Steam (1:31)
• 7. Fighting for Dough* (2:02)
• 8. Am I Beautiful? (3:38)
• 9. The Big Match (5:56)
• 10. Inside the Mansion (4:24)
• 11. Shannon is Shot (4:06)
• 12. Joseph's Dream (3:08)
• 13. The Reunion (3:50)
• 14. Oklahoma Territory (2:12)
• 15. The Land Race (4:56)
• 16. Settling with Steven/The Race to the River (4:08)
• 17. Joseph and Shannon (3:14)
• 18. Book of Days - performed by Enya (2:53)
• 19. End Credits* (6:35)

* original score tracks featuring The Chieftains




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert contains a note from the co-producer and screenwriter of the film regarding the inspiring location of the production and, to a lesser extent, the score.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Far and Away are Copyright © 1992, MCA Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com 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 9/24/96 and last updated 1/5/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.