Alex North

Cheyenne Autumn

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One of the boldest and most ambitious soundtracks ever used in a John Ford movie, Alex North's score for Cheyenne Autumn is poignantly Copland-esque -- it is highly melodic but has a distinct autumnal mood. As composer and conductor, North generates numerous achingly lyrical passages -- played primarily by the reeds and winds, supported by the strings (especially the cellos and basses) -- that illuminate this score, interspersed with grimly serious martial sections dominated by the brass and horns. It's some of the finest orchestral writing in North's output, and elements of it -- especially in the pieces "Indians Arrive" and "Friend Deborah/Waiting for Supplies" -- utilize thematic material that North would explore more fully, and in a very different idiom, in his unused score of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and in The Shoes of the Fisherman. The mastering is clean and sharp, and a little on the bright side -- one would want to hear a little more depth in a modern CD -- but it's difficult to complain about this release, given the sheer unlikelihood of its existence. And the music does get excellent support in the packaging, which includes very thorough annotation.

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