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Recordings

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Soundtrack)
06 Apr 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Film music has become a sort of refuge for some music lovers turned off by the work of those serious music composers who have turned increasingly away from attempting an encounter with a broader public, retreating into an insular word of academic composition.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Soundtrack)

State Choir Latvia, Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle (cond.)

EMI Classics 0946 3 79233 2 0 [CD]

$13.99  Click to buy

At least in a film score, one can still hear snatches of melody, even if lacking in further development. However, just as the world of “serious music” isn’t producing composers like Dimitri Shostakovich or Samuel Barber these days, the world of film music lacks an Elmer Bernstein, a John Barry. There are good composers out there, in both worlds - but that final touch of inspiration and originality has gone missing.

Which brings us to the soundtrack for the film version of Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume, which relates the creepy story of a man born with no body odor. He becomes fascinated with scents, and his career as a creator of perfume soon develops into a serial killer’s obsessed pursuit of the perfect aroma. One will have to employ some detective skills, probably employing a magnifying glass, to identify the composer of the film’s score on the front, or even back, cover of the CD. In fact, the credit goes to composers, for the film’s director, Tom Tykwer, also took on the role of scorer, with the “collaboration of his two musical associates, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil,” as the booklet essay declares. Other than the film’s title, the primary cover credit goes to the Berlin Philharmonic, under the leadership of Simon Rattle.

What we have here, then, is a world-class orchestra performing relatively simple music, both in harmony and rhythm. Often short phrases are repeated over slowly altering chords. A wordless chorus haunts many of the tracks, with two adult female sopranos (Chen Reiss and Melanie Mitrano) and one boy soprano (Victor De Maiziere) contributing their own wordless spookiness. For over seventy minutes and 18 tracks, a mood of subtly threatening lusciousness prevails, with no fast music to speak of. Think of it as Bernard Hermann meets Vangelis.

To have Rattle and the Berlin Phil perform this music brings to a mind a gorgeous Maserati purring at 25 miles per hour, gliding interminably through residential streets, encumbered with stop signs every couple of blocks. Gorgeous to look at, in other words, but a waste of effort, not to mention gasoline.

With DVDs so easily available and affordable, exactly why anyone would want an audio-only version of this type of film score confuses your reviewer. But for anyone who would like some insistently eerie yet sensuous background music for an evening of, well, romance, perhaps this is just the disc. Hit “repeat.”

Chris Mullins

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