BEOWULF is a massive work from Alan Silvestri, and of his big scores it's the best listening experience since THE MUMMY RETURNS and arguably his greatest work since JUDGE DREDD. One hears similarities to parts of MUMMY, DREDD, VOLCANO, and THE ABYSS, but BEOWULF is more lyrical than any of them. In it, Silvestri absolutely succeeds in convincing that he's evoking a time distant and primal.
Right out of the gate, the "Beowulf Main Title" combines Silvestri's familiar pounding tympani with one of his most interesting deep-voiced melodies - the kind he normally does with his trademark powerful brass but which is here presented on synthesizer. It's built off a flatted 6th mode with a 3rd that shifts major and minor while a mixed choir interjects a simple and aggressive 2-note motive. In tracks 3 and 7, Robin Wright-Penn, to (again synthesized) "harp" accompaniment, plaintively and understatedly sings the ancient-sounding "Gently As She Goes" and "A Hero Comes Home". They're touching and beautiful performances. Silvestri returns to these melodies repeatedly, expanding and combining them, swelling them with orchestra and choir. In track 11, "He Has a Story to Tell", he gently deconstructs the "Hero" melody so that it sounds almost as if it were from CONTACT. All three themes get a full workout throughout this 45 minute score which seems less like a series of filmic episodes than a cohesive single work - a kind of choral symphony. BEOWULF may be the most mature work of Silvestri's career.
And, the pop version of "Hero" which closes the disc is an exhilarating encore. Not only is it gorgeously scored, but Idina Menzel can really sing! She goes straight for the notes and hits them dead-on and without over-vibrato. She also clearly enjoys the melody just as it is and does not use it as a vehicle for self-indulgent showing off.