November 14, 2009

The Music of Star Trek Performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

I am a Star Trek fan and have been for long as I can remember. I as not alive for the original series, but I remember watching it on reruns and renting VHS tapes from the local video store, I remember my father taking me see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn on the big screen, the first one seen at the cinemas. I could not be termed a Trekkie or a Trekker, I do not believe I am that devoted, but I always make sure to watch the show and see the films when I can. However, there is something else that Trek is notable for in my development as an entertainment fan. The music. The theme is memorable, catchy, and helped make score music stand out for me, along with the likes of Star Wars, Superman, and Indiana Jones. That appreciation and love for the music makes this CD very enjoyable. It is something of a greatest hits compilation for the series. On top of that, there are slight differences of interpretation in these recordings, played by an orchestra other than the original and conducted by different artists.

The album is comprised of sixteen tracks, covering all eleven feature films and five television series (the animated series is excluded). The organization is chronological, first leading us through the features followed by the television series. The selections are heavily weighted towards closing credits, with seven of eleven feature selections being the close, which makes sense as that is where the main theme and motifs of the film are generally revisited. This mans we get to hear the classic theme many times throughout with slight variations as they ultimately breakdown into the other themes. It is also interesting to fully comprehend the impact that James Horner had on the entire series, in addition to writing the new theme for the original film, that would go on to be the the theme for The Next Generation.

I cannot say I have heard any music I have known to come from the City of Prague Philharmonic, although I am sure that I have. They are certainly a collection of world class musicians with their A-game on display. If you listen closely, you will notice that none of the music sounds just like the soundtrack, although I would be hard pressed to tell you exactly where. It is more of a feel thing. Listening is great, and I really enjoy this release, not having any of the other score releases (well, except for Michael Giacchino's for the new Star Trek). The one definite example of something sounding different is the theme for the original television show, that has been rearranged considerably in this setting, and to be clear, that is not a bad thing.

This music covers a wide range of emotions. There is a blend of fervent action, heartfelt sweetness, and everything in between. While the music does span a wide range of sounds, is it is one thing it is not subtle. This music is big, bombastic, and wants you to know it is there. Once you press play, you will be taken on a journey though the history of the franchise and all it has to offer. You will hear the development of the theme, and the different elements that composers have brought.

Highlights of this collection include:
  • Star Trek - The Motion Picture "End Titles" by Jerry Goldsmith: This track gives you the now classic theme that has lived on in various versions through everything that would come after it.
  • Star Trek II - The Wrath of Kahn "End Titles" by James Horner: This may be my favorite on the disk. There is something huge and heroic to the themes here, it soars high and carries with it the hopes of the fans who had just witnessed the death of a beloved character.
  • Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home "End Titles" by Leonard Rosenman: This film closes with a selection that fits in perfectly. It is different, yet captures a different voice in a film that achieved the main stream success not seen in most of the others.
  • Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country "End Titles" by Cliff Eidelman: This film plays out like a finale of sorts, which it was as we would never see the entire original cast together again. The music reflects a certain finality over the closing credits.
  • Star Trek - First Contact "End Titles" by Jerry Goldsmith: The first full feature with the Next Generation cast closes with a track that brings the shows theme to life in a big way before settling down to revisit other key passages from the film.
  • Star Trek "Hella Bar/Enterprising Young Man" by Michael Giacchino: This is a wonderful score and this track demonstrates a new voice on the landscape, while the Goldsmith/Horner influence of earlier films still shines through. It nicely captures the past while having its eyes firmly set on the future.
  • Star Trek TV theme by Alexander Courage: To make this work for an orchestra, it had to be adapted, and it works very nicely here.

Bottomline. If you are a Trek fan, you will want to get your hands on this. If you like film music, but aren't necessarily a fan of Trek, you will want to check this out, the music is very good. Of course, I would like to get some of the full scores, but as far as collections go, this one is very good.

Highly Recommended.


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