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2002 Chinese

2003 Japanese

2004 American

Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Tan Dun

Co-Produced by:
Grace Row

Performed by:
China Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus

Itzhak Perlman

KODO Drummers of Japan

Labels and Dates:
Sony Music Soundtrax (Hong Kong)
(December 11th, 2002)

Sony Music (Japan)
(July 21st, 2003)

Sony Classical (America)
(August 24th, 2004)

Also See:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Audio Clips:
2004 U.S. Album:

1. Hero: Overture (0:33):
WMA (218K)  MP3 (271K)
Real Audio (168K)

3. Warriors (0:28):
WMA (179K)  MP3 (225K)
Real Audio (140K)

4. Gone with Leaves (0:31):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (248K)
Real Audio (154K)

11. Farewell, Hero (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (259K)
Real Audio (161K)

The 2002 and 2003 albums were commercially released around the world and were only available to Americans as imports. The 2004 Sony Classical album is a regular U.S. release. All the albums were released by various divisions of Sony Music.



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Buy it... if you have always been lured by the exotic appeal of Far East romanticism and would thus be enticed by a massive and more accessible expansion of Tan Dun's sounds for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Avoid it... if you detest monotonously mono-thematic film scores and did not find anything remotely enjoyable or interesting in that previous Dun score, for the underlying style here is largely the same.

Hero: (Tan Dun) The most successful domestic grossing venture in the history of Chinese films at the time, Zhang Yimou's Hero was the natural progression of styles from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon into an even bigger and more lavish production. The former film, interestingly, never performed very well in China because of Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat's accented Mandarin dialogue, but additional dubbing in Hero solved the problem and led the film not only to wild success in China, but abroad as well. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe in 2002 in their respective foreign film categories, but it was curiously never fully distributed in the West. Much of the cast and crew for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon returned the next year for Hero, with the addition of international action star Jet Li as the nameless hero at the heart of the film. Set in China during the reign of the King of Qin (the emperor 2,200 years ago who united modern-day China and built the infamous wall), three assassins have vowed to dispatch the new emperor and one hero (Li) steps up to defend him. The lone warrior succeeds in killing all three of the assassins through different techniques of swordplay and passion. Like its predecessor, Hero suspends reality by combining the martial arts craft with magical and logic-defying movements, taking every setting and packing it with even more exaggerated and unrealistic characteristics. Composer Tan Dun won nearly every conceivable award for his music for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000, surprisingly defeating Hans Zimmer's Gladiator in the year of that film score's popular reign, and with his name and work extended into the international spotlight, Dun returned to expand upon the same general sound for Hero. Like the first film, he assembled an immense quantity of performance talent for the project, recording with the China Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, the KODO Drummers of Japan, the Ancient Rao Ensemble of the Changsha Museum, soprano You Yan, and guqin (lute) performer Liu Lu, with sessions recorded in China, Japan, and New York. Whether or not your ears are tuned to enjoy the resulting sounds of these diverse musicians, the sheer magnitude of the assembled performances and their intriguing tones should merit the curiosity of any film score collector, regardless of cultural upbringing.

Fortunately for the Western ears in particular, the style of Hero is more attainable to grasp than that of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Dun did not necessarily alter Hero for that specific purpose, but the more warlike nature of this second score causes the brass and percussion to be more recognizable than the dominant string material typically heard in Dun's writing. The base romanticism in the string section still exists, and serves as the hypnotic heart of this score as well. Perlman's violin performances function very similarly to Yo Yo Ma's in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with his style of performance altered to fit the slurring nature of historical string writing for the region. Dun is extremely loyal to his title theme, which may, in the end, be the most pronounced weakness of this score (as well as the previous one), and if the romanticism of this theme in all of its emotional variants does not touch your soul, then you could in for a very long listening experience. But the composer does offer the refreshing passages of war dedicated to huge armies, and in cues such as "Warriors" and "At the Emperor's Palace," the KODO Drummers are paired with magnificent single-note blasts of deep brass on key (the trombone players certainly exerted themselves in this one), and the fight sequences predictably rely heavily on block-busting and stick-tapping percussion to maintain their rhythmic steam. Still, despite the overwhelming power of the music for the Emperor's scenes, Dun's romantic treatment of his title theme prevails. The drums are always present in the score, but for the theme they perform quietly below the chorus for a uniquely Eastern and enticing treatment of an otherwise typical orchestral theme. There are no individual standout cues; consistency is one of the trademark aspects of Dun's work for these films. Pronounced performances by the soprano and lute player are limited, however, and may have served the score better had they been used in a greater capacity. Also of curious note is the seeming omission of any special musical identity for each of the three charismatic assassins, leaving the music always firmly rooted in the passion that the nameless hero feels for his country. Overall, Hero is a pleasant and more readily enjoyable score than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with a few militaristic cues of bombast tempered by 45 minutes of beautiful treatment of the score's primary theme. The non-American versions of the Hero album, released in 2002 and 2003, contain a vocal rendition of the theme performed by Faye Wong in Chinese Mandarin as a bonus track. On any product, Hero is a safe place to start when introducing yourself to Dun's music. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 Track Listings (2002/2003 International Albums): Total Time: 59:13

• 1. Hero: Overture (4:21)
• 2. For the World - Theme Music (4:19)
• 3. Warriors (3:44)
• 4. Gone with Leaves (3:28)
• 5. Longing (4:20)
• 6. At Emperor's Palace (3:58)
• 7. In the Chess Court (4:02)
• 8. Love in Distance (4:54)
• 9. Spirit Fight (4:32)
• 10. Swift Sword (3:36)
• 11. Farewell, Hero (3:00)
• 12. Sorrow in Desert (2:33)
• 13. Take Me Home (1:16)
• 14. Above Water (1:45)
• 15. Snow (1:06)
• 16. Yearning for the Peace (3:30)
• 17. Hero (Theme Song) - performed by Faye Wong (4:49)

 Track Listings (2004 U.S. Album): Total Time: 54:29

• 1. Hero: Overture (4:22)
• 2. For the World - Theme Music (4:20)
• 3. Warriors (3:44)
• 4. Gone with Leaves (3:28)
• 5. Longing (4:20)
• 6. At the Emperor's Palace (3:58)
• 7. In the Chess Court (4:03)
• 8. Love in Distance (4:55)
• 9. Spirit Fight (4:33)
• 10. Swift Sword (3:37)
• 11. Farewell, Hero (3:00)
• 12. Sorrow in Desert (2:33)
• 13. Home (1:16)
• 14. Above Water (1:45)
• 15. Snow (1:06)
• 16. Yearning for the Peace (3:30)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The 2004 American album's insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Hero are Copyright © 2004, Sony Music Soundtrax (Hong Kong), Sony Music (Japan), Sony Classical (America). 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 8/24/04 and last updated 9/23/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2004-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.