THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
Music composed by Jeff Danna, conducted by Nicholas Dodd 
Label: Varèse Sarabande
Catalog:
302 066 530 2
Year: 2003
Tracks:

1. For God So Loved The World 
2. I Am The Bread Of Life 
3. The Road Through Samaria 
4. Mary Washes Jesus' Feet 
5. Here Comes Your King 
6. Pilate's Dilemma 
7. The Lamb Of God 
8. Jesus And Nicodemus 
9. You Will Not Find Me 
10. The Prayer 
11. Solomon's Porch 
12. One Of You Is A Devil 
13. The Betrayal 
14. What Is Truth? 
15. The Ruler Of This World 
16. Jesus At The Temple 
17. Cast Your Nets 
18. Follow Me
Total Time: 52:55
Rating:


Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha

 
I'm only in my mid-forties, but in terms of biblical films you may call me a "dinosaur". When I heard about this genre of movies, the titles that come to my mind are classics like The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur and King of Kings, all of them large-scale movies with scores of epical proportions. In musical terms, this means that I think about the genre related to the music of legendary composers like Alfred Newman, Miklos Rozsa and Elmer Bernstein in my mind. By the time being, for the 2003/2004 season the genre is getting a revival, when no one else but Jesus Christ himself is starring two lengthy productions - Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ and Philip Saville's The Gospel of John.

The first to hit the screens is this The Gospel of John, and in contrast with Gibson's film, which represents Christ's last moments on Earth in a realistic and even violent way, this Canadian/British production avoids graphic images and focuses on the teachings of the Messiah. In such a way, this is a more contemporary and modern vision of Christ, and this approach ought obligatorily to be reflected in the soundtrack. The musical score for The Gospel of John was created by composer/pianist/guitarist Jeff Danna, whose film work includes scores for movies such as O, Green Dragon and Kids Stay in the Picture, the controversial documentary about the famous Hollywood executive, Robert Evans.

Since the movie carries a modernized way to see and understand Christ and his teachings, Danna intelligently avoids the classic musical treatment featured in the old epic movies. Consistently with his own style, the composer created a mostly intimate score, with lots of strings although with historical accuracy for the era. Danna and orchestrator/conductor Nicholas Dodd made an extensive research about the music and the instruments that existed at the time of Christ's life, and the results have been highly satisfactory. The score was performed by The Philharmonic Orchestra of London, augmented by a dozen instruments from ancient Roman culture, and recorded in a church. This blend of the ancient Middle-East sounds with a Western large orchestra is sometimes striking, to say the least.

Danna's elegant and delicate approach is best represented by the tender string motif for Jesus, the main theme of the score. However, some of the album highlights - "Mary Washes Jesus' Feet" and "Follow Me" - feature the French soprano Esther Lamandier singing Christian chants in Aramaic - the language of Jesus - in operatic proportions. Besides this more intimate and melodic side of the score, which privileges simple but beautiful harmonies, there are some powerful, percussive elements in Danna's music. There is a drum-driven theme best heard in "Jesus at the Temple" (powerful brass), "Pilate's Dilemma" and "Betrayal". Anyway, the strongest moments of the score come from its gentle, tender and sometimes somber moments, that start already with the first cue, "For God So Loved The World".

The Gospel of John provides a soaring and richly-textured musical accompaniment to the timeless story of the mission of early Christianity, and is a great achievement for Jeff Danna’s body of work. It perfectly matches the images that Saville placed in the screen, and even being a significant departure from the music of the old epics, the score actually sounds biblical. A remarkable combination of the historical and the modern.

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