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Section Header
The Russia House
(1990)
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

Principle Solos by:
Branford Marsalis
Michael Lang
John Patitucci

Vocals by:
Patti Austin

Label:
MCA Records

Release Date:
December 11th, 1990

Also See:
The Vanishing
Basic Instinct
Total Recall
Forever Young
The Edge
Sneakers

Audio Clips:
4. Training (0:27):
WMA (177K)  MP3 (218K)
Real Audio (136K)

7. Bon Voyage (0:33):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (263K)
Real Audio (164K)

8. The Meeting (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

17. The Family Arrives (0:35):
WMA (224K)  MP3 (280K)
Real Audio (174K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release.

Awards:
  None.









The Russia House
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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.



Goldsmith
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.

Not always are the solo bass and electronics geared towards suspense, though. The third element of Goldsmith's score is the reasonably sized string section, which is added to provide a whimsical effect for the grand, romantic performances of the title theme (this could also just be a smaller string ensemble simply mixed over itself... it doesn't matter either way). During these moments, the electronics cease their systematic beats and blossom into chimes and twinkles. No better of an example exists than the finale of the film, when the dream-like "The Family Arrives" sequence provides a false sense of hope at an otherwise doomed finish to the story. During these elegant performances of Goldsmith's cherished theme, the sax, strings, and piano rotate in their pronouncement of the theme, with all three together occasionally blowing the listener away with stunning aural beauty (such as "Bon Voyage"). Over half of the score, though, consists of the suspenseful underscore previously mentioned, with the bass and electronics leading the way. Goldsmith throws in two more elements during these sequences. First, some very light percussion, crisply recorded, keeps the film moving at a pre-set tempo. To do this, Goldsmith integrates the clicking of a metronome (the device by which instrument performers set their tempo in practice) right into the scheme of the recording. Only a snippet of traditional jazz band percussion is used, such as the light cymbal tapping during the faster rhythmic opening to "Training." Assessing the need for a slight Soviet influence on the score, Goldsmith also composes for the duduk and balalaika, the former being an Armenian instrument that will sound, to the common American ear, like a low, fluttering woodwind instrument. These elements are combined well with Goldsmith's American jazz, leading to a very smooth and listenable hour of music. The duduk is employed in a creative way so that it almost sounds as though it's a naturally lower progression of the sax, increasing both instruments' emotional range at moments like the end of "The Meeting." Cues that merge these woodwind sounds, as well as the metronome and synthetics, with some slight improvisation from the lead trio (such as in "Crossing Over") are a delight.

In sum, Goldsmith's music for The Russia House is the type that you wish you could hear every time you go into an upscale bar. It is friendly, yet mysterious. It is smoky, yet crystal clear. It is vibrant, yet lulls you to a different place. Its recording quality is so crisp that Marsalis' sax bounces off the walls with remarkable clarity. The monotony of its underwhelming construct is compensated for by the sheer talent of its performers and the constant sense of movement that Goldsmith's rhythms use to maintain your interest. In these regards, The Russia House is the ultimate "homework score," a description used by career students who have spent countless hours researching and writing to this music. The vocal version of Goldsmith's theme, performed in the song "Alone in the World" by Patti Austin, melts wonderfully into the center of the album. The song's arrangement and instrumentation by Goldsmith is consistent with the surrounding underscore. Aside from the recognizable Goldsmithian electronics and some minor key bass string movements teasing later development in Basic Instinct, this score is like nothing composed by any other major film composer in the last twenty years. Other composers have tried to score films with the same emphasis on jazz, but none has succeeded with the same class and sense of style as Goldsmith accomplished. To that end, traditional Goldsmith fans might not warm up to The Russia House at first. But it has become a legend within the film score industry, a favorite score for several leading composers still working today, with similar praise extended from fans all over the world. Goldsmith's love affair with the final track of The Russia House (the ultimate highlight of the album, for which he allowed the trio of jazz musicians to improvise over seven minutes of material, leading to an enjoyably snazzy conclusion for the album) that he would reprise the sound almost identically in his underrated 1993 score for The Vanishing (though curiously out of place and not as crisp in sound). He would also touch upon the basics of the style at the end of 1997's The Edge.

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Even on its addictively attractive album, however, The Russia House still caused frustration for Goldsmith himself. Not only was his theme unwanted for no less than two films, but the MCA album, as presented, was unwanted by the composer as well. It's a classic example of how many composers wish to maintain control over the presentation of their works outside of their intended film use. Perhaps the ultimate irony of Goldsmith's quest to narrow down the length of the album for The Russia House is that neither of the other two scores featuring versions of its themes (Alien Nation and The Vanishing) would receive commercial albums, both relying instead on bootlegs and eventual Varèse Sarabande club treatment. Goldsmith disapproved of the MCA Records album because it presented the mass of the music from the film intact. Many people will argue alongside Goldsmith that The Russia House would make a fantastic 30-minute album. But MCA, in this case, got it right. There are nuances in this score that make every moment one of intrigue. If you cut out all of the duduk ethnicity and bass string suspense, you'd be left with the dozen renditions of the love theme, and one of the great aspects of the score in its entirety is its ability to bring one of those lush thematic statements at just the right moment of lonely despair. Many reviewers will be deterred by the length of the album, overlooking the profound impact that an understated score like this can have on its film, and many fans will comment that the score is simply too depressing to enjoy on a bright sunny afternoon. But elegance comes in many forms, and the music from The Russia House, while perfect for the shadows of midnight despair, is a score that anyone (and especially a Goldsmith enthusiast) should be able to appreciate at any hour. The score came during a fantastic year for film music, but while John Barry's Dances With Wolves, Danny Elfman's Edward Scissorhands, and Basil Poledouris' The Hunt for Red October, among others, drew more public attention, the quality of The Russia House exceeds all of them. The difference is style. *****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.25 (in 137,784 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 4.31 Stars
Smart Average: 4.03 Stars*
***** 3297 
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   Goldsmith/Russia House Documentary
  Willie Gluckstern -- 1/6/13 (11:57 a.m.)
   Documentary about Russia House score
  Willie Gluckstern -- 8/12/08 (11:23 a.m.)
   Best [bleep!] by Goldsmith *NM*
  Sherlock -- 3/15/08 (4:22 p.m.)
   Wonderful score
  Faith in Christ -- 8/14/04 (11:30 p.m.)
   Re: As depressing as Requiem for a Dream?
  dagwill -- 8/14/04 (5:03 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: 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 and Quotes:  


The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. Sean Connery is not really playing the sax himself in the film.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from The Russia House are Copyright © 1990, 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 12/13/96 and last updated 5/8/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.