Michael Nyman

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover [Original Soundtrack]

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For this, his seventh soundtrack for director Peter Greenaway, Nyman deftly orchestrates a mix of strings, horns, and voices to produce another of his fetching and romantic minimalist backdrops. The opening "Memorial" is the highlight of the lot and drives along with stuttering saxophones, an insistent string arrangement, elegiac brass solos, and the soaring vocals of soprano Sarah Leonard (Leonard would be featured on a large part of the Prospero's Books soundtrack). The piece was originally inspired by a 1985 Belgian soccer match tragedy, in which 39 Italian fans were killed. Nyman utilized a death march in his earlier Greenaway collaboration, Drowning by Numbers, and revives the scheme to great effect here for what would become the main theme of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Nyman contrasts the piece's climatic quality with two relatively sedate yet brooding numbers. There's also a rousing performance of his "Miserere" (performed by the London Voices choir) and a violin and piano paraphrase of the same piece to add to an already solid soundtrack. Nyman is again aided by his crack band, which includes such standouts as violinist Alexander Balanescu and tenor saxophonist John Harle. Along with the soundtracks to The Piano and Prospero's Books, this is an essential title in the Nyman catalog.

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