For a long time now I have always had the opinion that James Horner had reached his peak in composing and creating original sounding themes and melodies. In fact I have gone as far as to give some of his scores negative reviews in the past saying that they were repetitive and sounded like many other soundtracks that he has produced. FOR THE GREATER GLORY, is for me a breath of fresh air, or maybe it is simply a return to the James Horner I knew and loved from a few years ago. This score has a richness, an inventiveness and an emotion which I have not heard in Horner’s work since the days of KRULL, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, or WILLOW and although it contains many of the usual Horner musical trademarks i.e. growling brass, strident and fully emotive strings underlined by various percussive elements; on this occasion the composer does not wear them out or over use them. He instead utilizes them and interweaves them with romantic and patriotic themes which tug at the heart strings and at times make the hairs on your arms stand up. Horner’s music is expansive and lush for most of the score but he also creates some fine Mexican sounding compositions which can be fully appreciated in track 3, ”We’re Cristeros Now”, which is overflowing with strumming guitars, choir, brass and wistful, tumultuous strings.
The opening track sets the musical scene perfectly, “Entre la Luz y el Pecado”, begins with a lone church bell which chimes maybe twice before we hear the emotive and distinct vocals of Clara Sanabras, which I can only describe as being perfectly haunting and, for me evokes the sound of Portuguese vocalist Dolce Pontus who many collectors might know via her work with Ennio Morricone. I say that Sanabras’ vocals are distinct but in reality I think that they are quite simply stunning and beautiful and get straight to the listener’s soul. Horner underlines the vocal performance with strings which are both sensitive and dark in their sound. The mood of the composition seems to meander between light and dark, sombre and romantic as the theme builds and the string section reach a crescendo which adds so much emotion to the piece. This atmosphere alters again and the sound achieved becomes darker and a little more sinister. Horner introducing percussion and brass and then from nowhere a choir is heard briefly adding a flicker of light to the gloom and interrupting all but – for a while – the brooding and menacing atmosphere being created.
Track 2 “The Death of Padre Christopher”, is a lengthy Horner ten minute cue filled to the brim with a plethora of Horner musical inventions as the composer brings together choir, solo female voice and almost every section of the orchestra in a riveting and highly affecting composition. Again, Clara Sanabras seems to steal the show with her haunting vocals towards the end of the cue but Horner’s trademark brass, in the form of growling stabs and faraway sounding horns combined with expansive strings, plaintive woodwinds and martial timpani also make their mark. This is probably the best James Horner score I have heard in a long while and, as I have said, although it does contain many of Horner’s stock sounds it is a lavish and extremely emotional work.