THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Music composed by John Debney, conducted by Nick Ingman 
Label: Sony Music / Integrity Music
Catalog:
Sony 92046
Year: 2004
Tracks:

1. The Olive Garden
2. Bearing The Cross
3. Jesus Arrested
4. Peter Denies Jesus
5. The Stoning
6. Song Of Complaint 
7. Simon Is Dismissed 
8. Flagellation / Dark Choir / Disciples 
9. Mary Goes To Jesus 
10. Peaceful But Primitive / Procession 
11. Crucifixion 
12. Raising The Cross 
13. It Is Done 
14. Jesus Is Carried Down 
15. Resurrection 

Total Time: 54:09
Rating:


Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha

 

In the fall of 2003, there were rumors that James Horner would be the composer for the ambitious Mel Gibson's filming of Christ's final period in life. The rumors proved to be false, and very soon the speculations about who would end up scoring The Passion of The Christ started. The announcement of John Debney's name was a real surprise, since the composer was better known for comedic scores like Bruce Almighty and Elf than for more serious pieces of work. But in the past Debney already wrote for other film genres, like the swashbuckler Cutthroat Island (a favorite of mine), the dark End of Days and the forgettable The Scorpion King. Despite the merits of Debney's work on these films, they admittedly didn't help him to establish as a composer requested for high profile or, in this case, also polemic projects.

But now this fact belongs to the past. After Debney scored Passion's trailer (a beautiful piece not included on the CD), Gibson hired him for the film, co-produced the album with Debney and even sang with the chorus! Thanks to the "multitask" Mel, Debney did a great job with this score and I smell an Academy Awards nomination here. An 80-piece London orchestra plus The London Voices flawlessly perform the music. Listening to this score I just wonder about the kind of music Horner could have written, or even Gladiator's contributor Lisa Gerrard in Debney's place. By the way I could say that many parts of this score sound like a "darker Gladiator", but the fact is, Debney is not Zimmer or even Gerrard. He is better than both are so his music is richer in symphonic colors and harmonies.

It's obvious the director Mel Gibson's needs for a score with abundance of ethnic feel, and the composer delivered what he had been asked for, with some bonuses. A large variety of timbres come from ethnic and period instruments like duduk, erhu and an ancient Armenian guitar called oud, but there are nice bamboo flute solos as well, choral arrangements and even electronic instruments, which are very heavy on the bass. Also, Debney employs the talents of vocalist/lyricist Lisbeth Scott from The Scorpion King, who created the Aramaic chants. Sometimes the music is deeply symphonic, intense and very somber. Many of the pieces are, as the film requires, quite dark and brooding, but at certain moments they are very lyrical as well.

What really knocks me out in this score are the beautiful strings, and above all the choral work. The best performances by the choir include "Bearing the Cross" and "Resurrection". This is not a thematic score, since we don't have a main theme or motifs for each character, just few recurrent melodic elements that come back a few times. Nevertheless, variations from the trailer melody are heard in "Peter Denies Jesus" and at the end of "Resurrection". This track is just outstanding, with its pounding percussion rhythm and intense chorus. Another highlights include "Jesus Is Carried Down", the emotional "Peter Denies Jesus" and the most beautiful track of the album, the lengthy "Crucifixion", with its lovely, melodious flute.

Finally, just a few words about the music of The Passion of The Christ in comparison with Jeff Danna's The Gospel of John. As the films that serve, their scores offer two different visions about the same subject or character. Where Danna's work is full of lyricism and romanticism, Debney's score is intense, passionate and painful. In other words, both scores reflect their films perfectly well and have great qualities and merits. Anyway, in the end The Passion of The Christ appeals me most with its passion and agony. And I really hope that with this work John Debney, at last, will be recognized not only as the composer of comedies like Cats and Dogs, or the conductor for Varèse Sarabande's re-recording of classic scores, but also as a very resourceful talent and one of the most capable composers in Hollywood nowadays.

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