The Prince Of Egypt

Hans Zimmer

Rating: 7.7

Hans Zimmer, perhaps the most criticized film composer ever, is known for his overbearing use of deep orchestral bass, loudly mixed synthesizers, and his obvious lack of classical training. Many have said that his music is so constantly 'big' in its efforts that no extra weight is left for moments that must soar above the others. While all these observations are true with many of his works, there is a kind of scoring in which Zimmer is completely at home: the animated musical. Along with The Lion King, The Prince Of Egypt shows Zimmer at his best.

An animated musical Old Testament Moses story is a very interesting concept, and the story line offers the composer many emotional moments. For the most part, Zimmer does an excellent job. Unfortunately, the album release of the music shows just how badly pop music has infiltrated film music, a trend that we can hope is now on its way out. On the very first track we hear Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston singing the pop version of "When You Believe", a song to be heard later in the film as a part of the story. I don't need to say much about this track. Only that it does exactly what one would expect, with its predictably repetitive synths and drum loops. Enough said.

"Deliver Us" shows us what this album really is about. Stephen Schwartz provides good lyrics, and the Zimmer Schwartz collaboration works very well together. This musical synopsis of the Hebrew's situation, as well as the beginning of Moses' story, all works together quite well in an epic Broadway style. In "All I Ever Wanted" Zimmer shows intelligent theme usage by employing the theme to be more fleshed out later in "The Plagues". A very convincing portrayal of Moses and the emotional conflict within him is created by these two songs. The weight of his choice between God and the Hebrews, or the life he had known as an Egyptian prince forms a very strong musical identity.

Brian Stokes Mitchell performs the track "Through Heaven's Eyes" outstandingly, his voice carrying all the identity of the character he plays in the movie. It is perhaps the most 'fun' track on the album. "When You Believe" is the obvious effort to make it onto a radio station. But, despite this, it fits the mood quite well in the form it takes on this track, and the orchestration preserves continuity with the rest of the score. Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky perform well together, and their harmonies weave through each other nicely. The one exception to the standard of quality among the songs is "Playing With The Big Boys", which is quite boring and unimaginative both lyrically and musically.

As for the score, Zimmer incorporates melodies from the movie songs on the album into his instrumental framework very well. "Goodbye Brother" displays excellent scoring, and a very believable climax is managed. Synths and such are appropriately avoided, and the orchestra is allowed to fly unfettered. "Death Of The First Born" features a solo cello, performing a mournful melody, and is an appropriate follow-up to "The Plagues". Choral textures are employed frequently to give a larger, more epic effect. Perhaps the best Zimmer decision on the whole album was employing the vocals of Israeli singer Ofra Haza. In an interview with Film Score Monthly, Zimmer said, "I have always loved Ofra Haza and asked for her. If I ask hard enough, I get it, and she was the first person we cast. She is tremendous and recorded 13 of the foreign translations as well." Her inflections, ornamentation and tone lend authenticity to the atmosphere. After a very impressive and long orchestral build, her vocals provide the climax for "The Burning Bush", a track that displays the best of the best when it comes to Zimmer's orchestral scoring.

The album ends very disappointingly, and, among the four pop songs that make up the end, the listener is left with absolutely nothing memorable, unless it is the enormous cast of artists that was assembled for "Humanity", which include, among many others, dc Talk, Amy Grant, Jars Of Clay, and Toby Keith. Still, nothing interesting is ever attained, and the album is most certainly ended on the wrong note.

The five pop songs included really are nothing less than a disaster for what could otherwise have obtained a very high rating. Still, these can be removed, and should be in order to preserve the continuity of the listening experience. The score and songs heard in the movie are definitely among Zimmer's finest works, and are alone worth the price of the album.

-Colin Thomson

Track List:

The Prince Of Egypt (When You Believe)
Deliver Us
The Reprimand
Following Tzipporah
All I Ever Wanted
Goodbye Brother
Through Heaven's Eyes
The Burning Bush
Playing With The Big Boys
The Plagues
Death Of The First Born
When You Believe
Red Sea
Through Heaven's Eyes
River Lullaby
I Will Get There (A Cappella)

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