Czech Film Orchestra And Choir
Unlike his popular score for 2002's The Hours, which was intimate and performed by a small ensemble, the music Philip Glass came up with for The Illusionist is quite opulent. Its old-world ambiance befits Neil Burger's movie, a suspenseful period piece set in 1900 Vienna, but the score, performed by the Czech Film Orchestra, easily stands on its own as well. Glass's trademark waxing and waning is present of course-the most Glass-esque tracks include "The Orange Tree" and "The Secret Plot" (in which delicate brushed drums drive the beat against a dull pounding echo). But most rewarding is finally hearing non-stereotypical actions/suspense cues: "The Accident," "A Shout from the Crowd," "The Search" or "The Chase" make you wish Hollywood thought outside the box more often, and called Glass instead of the usual go-to guys when in need of a composer for big-budget action flicks.
Music From The Film The Illusionist features an original score by acclained modern minimalist composer Philip Glass. Glass' renowned restrained, yet elegant style has captivated audiences around the world for years. "The soundtrack to The Illusionist is a driving force to the movie," comments director Neil Burger. "There are many scenes and sequences without dialogue and it falls to the music to tell the story." Glass recorded the original score with a large orchestra, which results in an emotionally driven and epic soundtrack.
Glass' sophisticated music has been featured in numerous movies throughout his career, earning him many awards and critical praise.
In many ways "The Illusionist" is not a typical Philip Glass soundtrack. There are certain tracks which, if heard out of context, even devoted Glass fans might not recognise as their favourite composer. Yet on closer inspection, Glass's unmistakeable mark is most definitely present. The title track "The Illusionist" illustrates this point. It starts with very dramatic chords in the strings - the sound is unusual although the chord progression itself would be expected of Glass. Then an accompaniment of alternating notes begins: again this is typical of Glass but so common in film music (Glass having helped to bring the concept of minimalism to film scores) that it is not out of the ordinary, and then a thematic arpeggio figure begins which is again not immediately recogniseable as Glassian until its harmonic progression becomes apparent. The track finishes as it starts in dramatic fashion with a further unusual feature - an accelerating crescendo.
This opening track sets the scene for the whole soundtrack in many ways - bold and dramatic at times, though adding both mystery and romance. The trademark Glass features are present, though they are generally held in restraint so that there is far more variety and colour than in some of his concert pieces, and the number of obvious repetitions and variations are kept short. The result then becomes very filmatic, moving in tandem with the story, the action and the mood. Tracks "Do You Know Me?", "The Locket", and "The Orange Tree" introduce a number of new ideas while expanding upon the already presented thematic material with a number of variations. Again the music is largely led by the strings, while adding colour with minimal piano, percussion and wind to the mix. Combinations like these make for extremely pleasing music, leaving the bold and dramatic for key plot moments and allowing the subtlety of the Glassian variations to drive the story.
"The Sword" is another interesting piece. Despite being the shortest track on the entire soundtrack (just over 30 seconds in length), it has that inexplicable magic aura that many Glass scores possess. "The Sword" reflects an important pivotal moment in the movie, so it adds a sense of dread to the purring strings with menacing brass and other quivering wind instruments. "Meeting in the Carriage" (with the urgency of a dangerous relationship) and particularly "Life in the Mountains" (with its wide arpeggios reflecting the vista on screen) are both purely romantic, with the latter returning to the exposition of the opening track as the significance of various events in the film fall into place