Review: The Three Musketeers (1993)

Composer: Michael Kamen

Label: A&M Records / Hollywood Records

Catalogue Nr.: 540 190 2

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The 1993's version of The Three Musketeers directed by Stephen R. Herek is Disney's shamelessly cheesy take on Alexandre Duma's classic novel. The film was a solid adventure flick at best with an enjoyable cast even though several big name stars like Brad Pitt or Gary Oldman reportedly turned down roles in the film. But even with Pitt or Oldman the Musketeers-film would not have been able to compete with Spielberg's Jurassic Park-dinosaurs that were on a rampage in the very same year. That's one reason why the film was forgotten very quickly but it still did quite well at the box office if you look at the mighty competitors the film had to face.

The score:

Herek's regular composer of choice was actually David Newman who had been busy with three comedies in 1993 and was unavailable for The Three Musketeers, so this film became the first collaboration between composer Michael Kamen and director Stephen Herek before both would strike gold with Mr. Holland's Opus only two years later. Kamen's score for the musketeer-film is oddly bearing some slight similarities to the latter effort and shines with the same quality. It certainly ranks among the composers best works for the adventure genre right along with his score for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991) though it bears a much more elegant orchestration with several hints to the classical period sound cleverly embedded into the adventurous composition.

For the title song "All For Love", Kamen united the three musketeers of popular music: Rod Steward, Sting and his long-time collaborator Bryan Adams. The song itself is nothing really special despite that it features vocals of all three artists but it clearly contains Kamen's main theme of the score that will get some glorious orchestral performances later on. The first score track, "The Cavern Of Cardinal Richelieu (Overture - Passacaille)" opens dark with choral chants in Latin and fanfares which gives the music a religious feeling. The feeling of the arrangement is slightly reminiscent of something from Kamen's score for The Dead Zone (1983).

The main theme unfolds it's full glory in "D'artagnan (Galliard & Air)". It is best described as a kind of light-hearted though very complex western theme. There is a 4-note figure in the theme which slightly reminds me of Max Steiner's "As Time Goes By" but the similarity is not really big enough to be distracting. The elegant baroque sound of the 17th Century is all evident in the orchestration with harpsichord and whirling trumpet fanfares. In fact, Kamen resembled the time period perfectly without getting lost in the idea. This is how an entertaining adventurous score for a before-our-time setting should sound like and it can be seen as the score's biggest accomplishment (such great music easily puts clumsy stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean to shame).

Playful classical tones for woodwinds are heard at the beginning of "Athos, Porthos & Aramis (Courante)" which goes into a slow but glorious variation of the main theme before a very interesting suspense passage with harpsichord and orchestra begins which gets more and more dramatic. You have to admire Kamen for the fact that he keeps the classically inspired sound even during the suspense stuff which makes these passages sound very interesting on CD. The last half of the cue has more romantic tones to offer which rise to a powerful "Amen" from the choir. However, that wasn't the best yet because Kamen really starts the firework with "Sword Fight (Bransle)". It is a playful action cue and it is these moments in which the composer equals John Williams because the arrangement is so complex and powerful that you can't help but get excited about it.

"King Louis XIII, Queen Anne & Contance - Lady In Waiting" is a rather subtle melancholic piece in which Kamen perfectly captures the emotions in his writing for woodwinds, harp and flute. The cue is a nice break from the dramatic adventure music which continues in "The Cardinal's Coach (Estamoe)". The cue has highly dramatic and fast-paced string writing which will pump up the adrenaline without becoming wallpaper-action music. "Cannonballs (Rigadoon)" begins rather subtle and suspenseful but the main theme explodes powerful during the second half of the cue. Melancholic sounds for oboe can be heard in "M'Lady DeWinter (Lament)" with a dark orchestral outburst at the end which contains some string performances that are slightly reminiscent of Kamen's Die Hard scores.

The last score track is another action cue with dramatically dark tones for strings and horns. Elegant romanticism takes over in the second half with a gentle variation on the main theme for solo oboe and a nice fanfare of the main theme's 4-note ends the score very powerful.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 91%

Score as heard on CD: 89%

TOTAL: 90%

 

The presentation:

There are two albums, one from A&B Records and one from Hollywood Records though both have the same content. The 38 minutes of score are arranged as a lengthy suite and therefore are not presented in film order. Nevertheless, the sound quality is excellent and the arrangement makes a nice listening experience. A minus are the extremely small track names and times printed on the back which are almost impossible to read. The booklet contains no liner notes.

Presentation by the Label: 59%

 

Summary:

The Three Musketeers is a very excellent and complex adventure score by Michael Kamen which never descents into wall-paper music as it is the case with many recent action/adventure scores. The orchestration elegantly resembles the time period of the 17th Century. There were so many other film music masterpieces in 1993 (Schindler's List and Jurassic Park, to name only two) that Kamen's Musketeers-score became an overlooked gem in his discography. Now, after the passing of this great composer, it stands as a priceless evident for his magnificent talent.

 

Tracklisting:

 

01.  All For Love (04:36)
02.  The Cavern Of Cardinal Richelieu (Overture - Passacaille) (02:55)
03.  D'Artagnan (Galliard & Air) (03:17)
04.  Athos, Porthos & Aramis (Courante) (05:21)
05.  Sword Fight (Bransle) (03:18)
06.  King Louis XIII, Queen Anne & Contance - Lady In Waiting (Gavotte) (05:03)
07.  The Cardinal's Coach (Estamoe) (04:41)
08.  Cannonballs (Rigadoon) (03:27)
09.  M'Lady DeWinter (Lament) (04:14)
10.  The Fourth Musketeer (Concert Royaux)
(05:20)

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