French film composer Georges Delerue was a master of understatement whose resumé is one of the most impressive to be found among any composer working in the cinema; he scored more than 270 features and TV films, 35 TV series, and 125 short films, in addition to a small amount of conventional concert music. To cover all of those bases, Delerue had no compunction about recycling music he had written before, and CD releases of his work have been so numerous it can be difficult to know where to begin in exploring it. LTM has done well in hitting some of the key high points in compiling its Georges Delerue: Four Original Film Soundtracks. This is taken from the authentic soundtrack music for four key Delerue titles; Jean Luc Godard's Le Mépris (Contempt, 1963), Alain Cavalier's film noir L'Insoumis (The Unvanquished, 1964), François Truffaut's Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent (Two English Girls, 1971), and finally a symphonic suite drawn from the score of Truffaut's Jules et Jim (1961).
Le Mépris is a seminal item; it is widely regarded as Delerue's best score and remains so famous that one of its cues, "Camille," turned up in the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's film Casino (1995), made some three years after Delerue died. As was Delerue's usual working method, he didn't write a lot of music for Le Mépris; what he did produce was keyed to specific scenes in the picture and then sparingly used elsewhere. Le Mépris has been collected several times on various soundtrack CDs, including an especially nice one from Universal Music France in its Écoutez le Cinéma! Series. But even that incarnation doesn't include as many cues as this LTM release; what is usually missing is "Winter," Delerue's oddly postmodern recomposition of the Largo from Antonio Vivaldi's concerto "L'inverno" from The Four Seasons. Delerue may have been an inveterate recycler of his own cues, but he did not often reinvent the works of other composers; this is like Vivaldi reimagined by a Rameau wearing a tailored Busoni suit rather than a wig. The score to Le Mépris forms a link between the lush and mysterious mood music of Bernard Herrmann and contemporary film composers such as Wojciech Kilar and Richard Robbins. Delerue produced an uncharacteristically large number of cues for Truffaut's failed Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent; L'Insoumis is notable in that Delerue is called upon to contribute some café-styled background music for the cue marked "Mort de Thomas," it's totally unlike what, say, Nino Rota might have produced for the same situation.
Filmmakers hired Delerue because they were aware of his sound and specifically wanted that for their picture; as a result, whole discs of his work can sound rather the same. While this LTM release might not entirely avoid that trap -- for the most part, the sheer beauty of Delerue's scores helps to carry the day anyway -- Georges Delerue: Four Original Film Soundtracks is a convenient and, to some degree, comprehensive sample of what Georges Delerue was all about.