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The Russia House
Album Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

Principle Solos by:
Branford Marsalis
Michael Lang
John Patitucci

Vocals by:
Patti Austin
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MCA Records
(December 11th, 1990)
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Regular U.S. release.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you can avoid becoming clinically depressed by Jerry Goldsmith's most painfully stylish and beautiful career score.

Avoid it... if bittersweet scores for jazz trio, small orchestra, and snazzy synthetic rhythms are too sparse in construct to inspire you.
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WRITTEN 12/13/96, REVISED 5/8/07
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The Russia House: (Jerry Goldsmith) If a single film and score could define the word "bittersweet" better than any other, The Russia House would be the champion example. The potentially explosive adaptation of John LeCarre's novel needs no introduction to the concepts of depression and oppression, and despite the story's famously distraught conclusion, audiences were seemingly unprepared for either the gloom of the film or the distorted and confusing ending of the adaptation. The film fell short of all expectations at the time, though the lead performances by Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer were well enough praised. The espionage story was the first major American production ever to be shot on location in the former Soviet Union, with a sharp, somewhat technological edge driving its fear factor. Perhaps the most critical element of The Russia House is its extremely memorable score by Jerry Goldsmith, a score with about as much frustration and depression built into the circumstances of its creation as the story of The Russia House itself. Goldsmith first conjured the beautiful theme for this film in 1987 for Wall Street, but when he left that film due to creative differences with the filmmakers, he adapted the theme into his electronic score for Alien Nation the following year. Being that the 1988 alien/cop drama was so wretchedly awful, however, Goldsmith wasn't particularly disappointed when his score was completely rejected from the finished product. His bold and longing love theme for Alien Nation was realized in that film's cue "The Wedding," but never did it truly take flight until it was altered slightly (improving its romantic flow in three places) and handed to an accomplished jazz trio for The Russia House in 1990. Goldsmith's approach to the genuine locale was countered by an interestingly American approach to scoring the visuals, infusing a slight edge of old-style noir into the picture. He took a chance by composing an almost exclusively jazzy score, building off of the Barley (Connery) character's performance of the saxophone in the film.

To address the concept of espionage, and not to mention Connery himself, Goldsmith inserts a slight touch James Bond's mechanical instrumentation, making restrained, but smart use of his library of synthetic rhythm-setters. To address the danger of the romance, he offers us a glimpse of the ominously nervous strings that we would eventually hear in full for Basic Instinct. The most surprising aspect of the score for The Russia House is its simplicity in instrumentation and repetition. It's hard to imagine how a score of this minuscule size and scope could be so overwhelming in its appeal. That might say something about Goldsmith's raw talent, and perhaps it speaks to three years of development on the concepts. His base elements are simple; a jazz trio handles the majority of the themes and underscore, with saxophone performances by Branford Marsalis (both scripted and improvised) that are nothing short of spectacular. Never once does he quiver unintentionally or even slightly miss a note. Perfection is bliss. Michael Lang is equally renown for his fabulous piano performances, and he delicately establishes an elevated level of classy bar room atmosphere for Marsalis' sax. The bass, performed by John Patitucci, has a larger role in the score, not only providing a rhythm for the other two jazz performers, but also handling a large portion of the underscore. It is during these sequences with the bass that Goldsmith utilizes his electronics to his fullest. With his knowledge of synthesized integration having matured since the experimental days of Legend and Hoosiers, Goldsmith's electronics are almost identically appealing in both the concurrent 1990 releases of Total Recall and The Russia House. The James Bond aspect of the spy tale called for the presence of mechanized subterfuge, and thus, the use of Goldsmith's wide array of synthesized sounds keeps a consistent rhythm set throughout the score. Most of these sounds are common, light, upper-range, chime-like keyboarding from Goldsmith's library, though the incorporation of a "release of air" effect is unique to this score.

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Average: 4.29 Stars
***** 3,287 5 Stars
**** 1,100 4 Stars
*** 424 3 Stars
** 299 2 Stars
* 227 1 Stars
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Goldsmith/Russia House Documentary
Willie Gluckstern - January 6, 2013, at 10:57 a.m.
1 comment  (762 views)
Documentary about Russia House score
Willie Gluckstern - August 12, 2008, at 10:23 a.m.
1 comment  (2188 views)
Best [bleep!] by Goldsmith *NM*
Sherlock - March 15, 2008, at 3:22 p.m.
1 comment  (1759 views)
Wonderful score
Faith in Christ - August 14, 2004, at 10:30 p.m.
1 comment  (3084 views)
Horrible Score!
John - August 13, 2004, at 8:38 p.m.
1 comment  (3194 views)
Wrist-slitingly depressing.   Expand >>
dagwill - July 8, 2004, at 6:11 a.m.
5 comments  (4906 views)
Newest: August 14, 2004, at 4:03 a.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 61:34
• 1. Katya (3:57)
• 2. Introductions (3:12)
• 3. The Conversation (4:13)
• 4. Training (2:01)
• 5. Katya and Barley (2:32)
• 6. First Name, Yakov (2:53)
• 7. Bon Voyage (2:11)
• 8. The Meeting (3:59)
• 9. I'm With You (2:39)
• 10. Alone in the World - performed by Patti Austin (4:09)
• 11. The Gift (2:34)
• 12. Full Marks (2:27)
• 13. Barley's Love (3:24)
• 14. My Only Country (4:34)
• 15. Crossing Over (4:13)
• 16. The Deal (4:09)
• 17. The Family Arrives (7:38)

Notes Icon
The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. Sean Connery is not really playing the sax himself in the film.
Copyright © 1996-2018, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Russia House are Copyright © 1990, MCA Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/13/96 and last updated 5/8/07.
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