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  Anna and the King by George Fenton

This King Won't Sing
Review by Christopher Coleman

 

Anna and the King by George Fenton

Anna and the King
8/10

Anna and the King by George Fenton

 

 

Category

Score

Originality 9
Music Selection 9
Composition 9
CD Length 8
Track Order 9
Performance 10
Final Score 9/10

 

Real Audio Clips

 

Track 7 - The Rice Festival

 

 


Composer 
George Fenton

 

Quick Quotes

"The year ends once again with one of the best. The holiday season of score releases has been very generous in 1999, providing a number of high quality albums by many of Hollywood's biggest composers. The best of the entire lot, however, is George Fenton's Anna and the King...For George Fenton collectors, Anna and the King meets and exceeds your standards of excellency in anticipating the path of his career. If you don't own a Fenton score, now is a good time to test the waters; this is certainly one of the very best by any composer this year." *****

Christian Clemmensen - Filmtracks Reviews Anna and the King

 

 

Conducted and Produced by George Fenton
Orchestrations by Geoffrey Alexander and Jeff Atmajian
Released by LaFace Records December 1999

The holiday season of 1999 was blitzed by a host of noteworthy movies with accompanying noteworthy scores.  Among them is George Fenton’s score to the highly anticipated film Anna and the King.  The film takes a  different approach to telling the story of Anna from the Roger and Hammerstein’s musical classic.  Similarly, the score takes on a more authentic approach with orient-flavored woodwinds, percussions, and strings.  

Gaping at the preview trailer back in May of 1999, I took note of the stunning music used (I later found out to be Kitaro’s score for the 1993 film of Heaven and Earth) and could only hope that the film’s composer would meet such levels of emotion.  Fenton delivers! The film is much more dramatic than the musical and while this King won't sing, it still sounds good - thanks to Fenton.

This score released by LaFace Records unfortunately begins with highly marketable pop-end-credits-tune produced by Babyface.  I say “unfortunately,” simply because of its order of appearance.  These cuts usually fit best at the end of the CD.  It is a decent song, built from the tried-and-true top-forty formula of the nineties.  The melody of this pop song is derived from the main theme in Fenton orchestral score.  By now, film score fans should have accepted the fact that a pop tune played over the end credits is a given for most highly marketed films.    In any event, one might hope to keep such tracks relegated to the easily skipped final track.

George Fenton has surely demonstrated his talent for the romantic drama with his work for films like Dangerous Beauty and Ever After.  With Anna and the King, he raises his level expertise by a  notch or two.  The Golden Globies have already taken note of it and the Academy is likely to as well.  

Some might say this score never reaches full-flight, but it can also be said that this score never becomes overbearing or predictable which usually leads to infrequent insertions into the CD player.  Fenton captures a myriad of emotions from the gorgeous, The Rice Festival (track 7),  to the heartbreaking Flowers on the Water (track 11), to the menacing Rajah Attack (track 8) .  All the while, Fenton does not evoke the “I’ve heard this before” listener reaction.  Nearly every track features the distinct sounds of the Chinese violin, the huqin, played by Tiffany Yi Hu.  A true joy to listen to.

The dramatic element is increased a great deal in this film compared to the musical version and these changes provide Fenton with the opportunity to put some punch into the score.  Much more serious elements in the film warrant much more serious, rather intense, music which serves to offset the more sentimental tracks nicely.  Tracks such as Chowfa's Death (track 14), and The Bridge (track 17) are prime examples.

Also, found within the score are two tracks that are purely European, a waltz, "I am King.  I Shall Lead," and a polka, Anniversary Polka.  Each of these tracks provide an interesting diversion without crossing the line of musical interruption.

George Fenton has truly done a marvelous job with this score.  With the pressures of the famous musical, The King and I, on both film director and composer, the product produced could have been much less original.  What will the audience remember if this King isn't singing?  Well, at the very least,  film music fans won't soon forget this effort from Fenton. 


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track Title Time

Rating

1 *How Can I Not Love You?
 (Joy Enriquez)
4:34  ***
2 Arrival at the Palace  6:00  *****
3 Meeting the Children 1:32  ***
4 Tuptim 1:32  ****
5 Letter of the Week 1:38  ***
6 The House 1:38  ***
7 The Rice Festival 4:23  *****
8 Rajah Attack 0:58  ***
9 Anniversary Polka 3:20  ***
10 "I am King.  I Shall Lead" 2:28  ***
11 Flowers on the Water  4:22  *****
12 Moonlit Beach 1:42  ****
13 Betrayed 1:52  ***
14 Chowfa's Death 1:28  ***
15 The Execution 4:19  ****
16 Anna Returns 3:44  ****
17 The Bridge 6:42  ***
18 "I Have Danced with a King" 6:17  ****
 

Total Running Time

59:01  
 

Referenced Reviews
Heaven and Earth 

 
 

 

 

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