Home > Reviews > AN AMERICAN RHAPSODY – Cliff Eidelman


anamericanrhapsodyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

I’ve waited three long years to type this sentence. Cliff Eidelman is back. The TV movie Witness Protection notwithstanding, it’s been a lean three years away from the scoring circuit for this extremely talented 34-year-old composer, whose career seemed to have completely stopped in its tracks. After bursting onto the scene in 1991 with his score for Star Trek VI, and enjoying six or seven years of comparative success, Eidelman suddenly stopped getting hired, despite him applying to score dozens for movies and narrowly failing to make the cut at the final hurdle. His last album of music was from the family drama One True Thing, in 1998 – until now.

An American Rhapsody, directed by Éva Gárdos, is a coming-of-age drama based on the true story of a young American/Hungarian girl searching for her roots. Scarlet Johansson stars as Suzanne, born in a small town the Hungarian countryside, whose parents Margit (Nastassja Kinski) and Peter (Tony Goldwyn) dream of escaping from totalitarian regime of the 1950s to start a new life in America. When an opportunity finally presents itself, Margit and Peter take their chance and flee to Vienna, but circumstances cause them to leave the infant Suzanne with loving foster parents Teri (Zsuzsa Czinkóczi) and Jeno (Balázs Galkó). Having finally reached Los Angeles, Margit and Peter begin to make a new life for themselves and their elder daughter Maria (Mae Whitman), and plan ways to get Suzanne to join them. However, Suzanne has come to love her life in her rural idyll – and when she is uprooted and transported to sunny California, the young girl finds that she is facing more problems there than she ever encountered back home.

Cliff Eidelman started writing the score to An American Rhapsody over two years ago, and it has taken this long for the film to find a distributor and for the soundtrack to be released. Musically, Eidelman has revisited the stately tones he first affected in Triumph of the Spirit back in 1989 – although, on this occasion, the music seems less jumbled. Whereas Triumph seemed overly-elaborate and too eager to impress, this score is simpler and less flamboyant, but still maintaining its emotional core and its sense of purpose. It is the mark of an older, more mature composer who is less reliant on showy orchestrations and big fanfares, and as a result is a stronger and more satisfying score.

Still, there are bound to be people who find An American Rhapsody slow and tough-going. This is NOT Star Trek VI or Christopher Columbus and, much as I like those landmark works myself, I feel that Eidelman’s true musical strength lies in his depictions of subtle human emotions. The opening cue, ‘The Iron Fist’ is a dark and brooding lament for Hungary itself – a country which, at the time, was suffering under the oppression of Communism, the escape from which forms the core of the story. Recapitulations of the Iron Fist theme, in ‘A Heartfelt Goodbye’, ‘The Escape’ and ‘There Was An Iron Fist’, effectively illustrate the perpetual hardships faced by the Hungarians during that period in history.

The soaring Americana theme heard in ‘Eyes Set Toward America’, ‘Suzanne Arrives in America’ and others offers the musical glimmer of hope that drives Margit and Peter. These cues, in which the music rises and swells majestically, are undisputed album highlights, while the gentle folk textures, performed on expressive fiddles and violins in ‘Hungarian Child at Play’ and with woodwind-led dream-like delicacy in ‘Remembering Another Life’, highlight yet another side to Eidelman’s talent.

Much of the rest of the score is filled with shifting tones, soft piano melodies and gentle string textures. In description, this does not sound a particularly interesting lot, but Eidelman somehow manages to make each of them fascinating and appealing. The music rises to a series of lovely crescendos, especially in ‘The Old House’, ‘A Loving Return’, ‘Journey Back Home’ and the all-encompassing end credits cue ‘An American Rhapsody’, and indulges in an appealing piano waltz theme in ‘Vienna’. The CD is rounded out by three traditional Hungarian songs arranged and performed by the Magyar folk group Ando Drom, whose lead singer, Márta Sebestyén, performed the ethnic vocals on Gabriel Yared’s Oscar-winning score The English Patient.

I sincerely hope and pray that An American Rhapsody ushers in a second shot at a career in film music for Cliff Eidelman, and that his enforced three-year hiatus was just a blip on the radar. At the time of writing (August 2001) Eidelman does not have any upcoming films on his list of credits, nor has his name been associated with any films in production. I sincerely hope this changes. As has been said many times before, Cliff Eidelman has too much to offer to be left sitting on the film music shelf.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (The Iron Fist) (2:45)
  • Hungarian Child at Play (1:01)
  • A Heartfelt Goodbye (2:14)
  • Struggling for the Baby (1:49)
  • The Old House (1:52)
  • The Escape (1:28)
  • Eyes Set Toward America (1:30)
  • Vienna (2:06)
  • Baby Left Behind (2:14)
  • Aftermath (2:28)
  • Suzanne Arrives in America (1:59)
  • Remembering Another Life (3:06)
  • A Loving Return (1:16)
  • The Family Tragedy (2:21)
  • There Was An Iron Fist (2:30)
  • Never Forget (1:01)
  • Journey Back Home (1:52)
  • Where I Belong (2:35)
  • An American Rhapsody (3:37)
  • Sino Moi (traditional, arranged by Nikola Parov and Márta Sebestyén, performed by Márta Sebestyén) (5:44)
  • Phari Mamo (traditional, arranged by Jeno Zsego, performed by Ando Drom) (4:57)
  • Jaj Istenen (traditional, arranged by Jeno Zsego, performed by Ando Drom) (4:08)

Running Time: 55 minutes 09 seconds

Milan 73138-35955-2 (2001)

Music composed and conducted by Cliff Eidelman. Orchestrations by Cliff Eidelman. Recorded and mixed by Armin Steiner. Edited by Lesley Langs. Album produced by Cliff Eidelman

  1. Don
    September 17, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    where can I get sheet music for the song vienna by cliff eidelman?

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