27 Jun

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

By  Robert Walton
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(André Previn)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There are very few tunes that make me cry. Sometimes Mahler or Farnon unleash a mini ‘Niagara’ in me, but Previn’s utterly sublime theme of total tranquility from the 1961 film “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” has all the elements to produce a similar reaction. Even the melody is crying out to be heard! For me it evokes some of man’s finest qualities: hope, joy, kindness, unselfishness and of course love. It’s like a religious experience. Only music can truly convey such feelings. Previn possesses a natural gift to tug at your heartstrings. The old romantic!

The story is about the lazy good-for-nothing grandson of an Argentinian beef tycoon who eventually finds his manhood as a member of the French resistance during World War 2. Sounding like the love theme from a big biblical movie, the first time I heard it I went into an emotional state from which I didn’t move until the music stopped. Like David Raksin’s Laura, it gives the impression of being based on a single fragment and then developed. It just grabbed me and there was nothing I could do about it. I was totally hooked!

I presume that’s how the Love Theme from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was born. Later Alan and Marilyn Bergman came up with a great lyric for Barbra Streisand entitled More In Love With You. (Incidentally Laura’s lyricist, Johnny Mercer had once encouraged Alan to become a songwriter). Without words, this poignant Previn tune remained comparatively unknown until Streisand included the song on her 2003 “Movie Album” finally giving it the recognition it deserved. And violinist Itzhak Perlman’s recording didn’t do it any harm reaching an even wider audience. Although André eventually got fed up with writing film music, he must have been pleased with this one. Don’t forget he’d come a long way since “Challenge To Lassie”.

In the bridge, the music moves on to a completely new level of film writing with a nod to atonality, but still making musical sense. Schoenberg by stealth perhaps! Clear evidence of venturing into tuneless territory in the style of the man who broke all the rules. After all, André and Arnold once played table tennis together in Los Angeles, so something must have rubbed off! If you’re interested in learning more about atonality, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a good way to gently ease yourself into it. More and more music lovers have found the effort worthwhile. Certainly Percy Faith’s brilliant arrangement does it full justice. It only confirms my view that André Previn is without doubt the world’s most multi-talented musician.

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
Love Theme by Percy Faith’s Orchestra
is available on the Guild CD ”Non-Stop to
Nowhere” (GLCD 5206).

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Read 1160 times Last modified on Monday, 27 June 2016 12:35

1 comment

  • William Zucker posted by William Zucker Tuesday, 28 June 2016 02:55

    Once again, Robert gave a description of a selection that I am quite unfamiliar with, so I decided to have a listen to find out what he is referring to.

    I found this to be quite pleasant; nothing in it, however, that would cause me to emote to the point of quickly having to grab a tissue to wipe any tears. To be sure, there are musical selections that will elicit such a reaction from me, but these are very subjective, and I would presume to say, different for all listeners even if there may in some cases be some points of contact in that regard. I do not experience such a reaction in this case.

    The music could certainly be described as romantic in its own manner, with a section in the middle that is far distant from any traditional harmonic language. The whole aspect of it made me think, quite rightly, that it is excerpted from a film sound track, and as such, is quite different from anything I would habitually associate with Percy Faith, and this would include two of his own compositions of a reflective nature such as "Music Until Midnight" and "Contrasts;" the latter piece in particular typifying Faith for me at his absolute best in that regard.

    Andre Previn was indeed a multi-talented figure, but we must not forget Leonard Bernstein in that respect either, even though his connection with light music was even more tenuous than that of Andre Previn.

    I should point out that in an album featuring an orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra, with selections intended to depict various colors, composed by a variety of figures including Victor Young, Alec Wilder, Nelson Riddle, Jeff Alexander, Elmer Bernstein and Billy May, the final selection in the album, representing the color Red, is a fiery affair composed by Andre Previn, and in truth, this was my first introduction to his work.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.