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Section Header
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Herbert Spencer

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

Intrada Records

Release Date:
October 16th, 2007

Also See:
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Audio Clips:
2. Reunion in Italy (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

6. Gloria (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

7. Monsignor (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

10. At the Forum (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Limited release only, with 3,000 pressed copies valued at about $20 each.



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Sales Rank: 367968

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Buy it... if you desire every last, fleeting piece of John Williams majesty from the most memorable time in his career, a score of individual melodramatic highlights without a cohesive personality.

Avoid it... if you would be surprised to hear Williams collect a score's components in haste and apply three completely unrelated themes to a terrible film that could have used a dose of the composer's knack for capturing the true spirit of a tale.

Monsignor: (John Williams) A project destined for failure, Monsignor was a 1982 adaptation of a 1975 French novel about a corrupt priest at the Vatican whose dealings in love and organized crime force the religious hierarchy to intervene. While such an outrageous view of the Vatican, shot almost entirely in Rome, seemed like an idea ripe for box office-spurring controversy, Monsignor suffered so many ills in its production that it was generally mocked and has since been long forgotten. The most prominent detriment to the film was the insertion of actor Christopher Reeve into the role of the priest, his attempt to shake the Superman label never successful throughout the 1980's and early 1990's. Reducing itself to the level of an average crime story completely incapable of competing with similar themes as the Godfather franchise, Monsignor could not muster enough genuine dramatic gravity to make audiences care about a priest who already had some significantly alienating personality flaws to begin with. The project also revealed itself to be one of difficulty for composer John Williams, who was otherwise in the midst of the most successful period in his career. His commitments to the Boston Pops and the challenging duo of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Return of the Jedi afforded him only six weeks in the summer of 1982 to write and record his score for Monsignor. Perhaps sensing the disaster that awaited the film's final cut (which impressed Twentieth Century Fox so little that the studio moved it from its prime December release slot to an October dumping to clear it out of the system), Williams scratched together a score that seems improvised by his standards. A very short effort considering the extensive length of his surrounding assignments, Monsignor would drop a significant portion of Williams' music in conclusive post-production editing, reducing its placement in the film to less than thirty minutes and marginalizing its already suspect identity. This final usage of music should have come as no surprise, for Williams' score is little more than three hasty themes pasted together in an incongruent whole that has its strong parts individually but understandably suffers as a whole. The instrumentation is familiar to the early 1980's period of hits for Williams, utilizing the services of the London Symphony Orchestra with accent performances by harpsichord and trumpet. Also representative is the style; every moment of Monsignor, despite structural congruency problems, is distinctly saturated with the composer's general sound. That should place it well above 1981's awkward Heartbeeps for many Williams collectors.

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Indeed, Monsignor is literally the sum of three completely unrelated themes, switching between them when necessary for obvious variations and never placing the ideas in any confrontational stance with each other. The title theme is one of romantic tragedy, rooted with Mediterranean sensibilities that fit the locale. Evolving from a solo trumpet lamentation in "Theme from Monsignor" (the end credits) and "Monsignor" (the opening title) to an uncertain harpsichord capitulation in "Forgotten Vows" (a nude scene, of course), this theme eventually flourishes with the full ensemble in "At the Forum." Despite its lack of use in the picture, this cue is the score's highlight, not only extending the theme's inherent melodramatic progressions to excruciating full ensemble expressions, but also featuring two simply gorgeous solo piano ramblings that carry over directly from E.T.. If only the remainder of the score exuded the same sense of passion, then Monsignor could have been among Williams' most poignant. Unfortunately, the rest of the score is occupied by a very obvious original source-like piece and a borrowing of material from another Williams work to simply fill space. The former is a Latin mass heard in "Gloria" and reprised in strictly orchestral colors in "Santoni's Compassion." While impressive (and an important piece without other sound layers in the film), "Gloria" is perhaps a bit overrated in its liturgical, pipe organ majesty. The final theme is one that Williams borrowed from an unfinished concert work meant for the Boston Pops. The "Esplanada Overture," known from his official 1983 concert debut of the piece, is used as a flighty representation of carefree adventure in Monsignor. Its lofty tone sounds completely out of place in this score, from "Reunion in Sicily" to "The Meeting in Sicily," and it is perhaps no surprise that this piece was only minimally heard in the final version of the film. The boisterous personality of this piece would have more in common with New England fishing expeditions or even the universe of Harry Potter than the tale of Monsignor. Singular cues include a restrained solo horn piece in "Audience with the Holy Father" (as generic a Williams cue as possible) and "Appolini's Decision," which concludes with the score's only suspenseful material of metallic, dissonant tone. Overall, Monsignor has plenty of good ingredients but no sense of cohesion. It truly does, therefore, sound like a rush job by the maestro. The score was the last post-Star Wars Williams score released on CD, with the heavily rearranged LP contents pressed to that medium by Intrada Records in 2007. While not deserving of its Razzie award nomination (unlike Heartbeeps), the score is one to appreciate for its rousing individual highlights rather than its effective whole. *** 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 338,226 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.94 Stars
Smart Average: 2.98 Stars*
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 37:58

• 1. Theme from Monsignor (3:24)
• 2. Reunion in Italy (1:32)
• 3. Forgotten Vows (4:10)
• 4. The Meeting in Sicily (3:52)
• 5. Audience with the Holy Father (3:40)
• 6. Gloria (5:10)
• 7. Monsignor (2:10)
• 8. Appolini's Decision (3:12)
• 9. Santoni's Compassion (4:57)
• 10. At the Forum (5:15)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive information about the score and film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Monsignor are Copyright © 2007, Intrada Records. 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 8/12/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.