I came to this DVD preparing myself for a letdown. I came away from it delighted with the experience.
At first, my fears appeared to be well founded. I wasn't terribly impressed with the orchestral suites Maurice Jarre prepared from the music to "Ryan's Daughter" and "A Passage to India", which started off the program. I have always thought of Jarre as a pretty visionary film composer, but the music in the first two suites was coming across as fairly pedestrian -- easy, simple themes and pretty ordinary, even old-fashioned orchestration. I was getting worried.
Things started to look up a bit with the suite from "Dr. Zhivago", although even here I felt the music was lacking in scope and power -- which actually made sense since the film is really just a simple, intimate story about human relationships, although set against a pretty dramatic background. The music was also lacking in balalaikas. You'd have thought they could scrounge up a few, at least.
But then Jarre played a sequence designed to show what a film score does -- the wordless bicycle/temple sequence from "A Passage to India" where the heroine is "attacked" (not really) by a horde (not really) of monkeys. Outstanding music and great presentation! Then a suite of music from "Lawrence of Arabia", one of the greatest film scores ever written, closed the show and certainly did not disappoint.
The real treat to the DVD is the commentary track by Jarre, who discusses both the music in some detail and some of the background behind it during the film's production. Anyone who is a fan of David Lean's films and likes watching films with commentary tracks will not want to miss Jarre's comments on this DVD. He shares great, fascinating information about the films, the music and the process.
This is also true of a 35-minute interview with Jarre, also included on the DVD. It's fantastic. For example, he explains the situation behind the crediting of Sir Adrian Boult as conductor of the score on the "Lawrence" film credits, but not on the original soundtrack album. Turns out it was a scam by producer Sam Spiegel to get film subsidies from the British government! Boult did not conduct the film score at all. This is just one of the interesting pieces of information that comes out in the interview.
Note that the video quality is poor -- filmed on video in 1992, with all the inherent lack of sharpness you would expect. But this is not a fatal flaw.
After listening to the commentary track and interview, I got a lot more pleasure out of the "Ryan's Daughter" and "Passage to India" music that hadn't appealed to me as much the first time around. This DVD is definitely a winner for anyone interested in David Lean's films or Maurice Jarre's music!