John Adams’ 2005 opera explores the personal and moral issues surrounding the invention of the atomic bomb. Captured live in concert, it has colossal power and conviction. At its center is Gerald Finley’s commanding performance as Robert Oppenheimer, a scientist wracked by doubts. Having sung it at the premiere and many times since, he produces a magnificently characterized creation. Julia Bullock, Brindley Sherratt, Samuel Sakker, and Andrew Staples are all superb in supporting roles and Adams himself draws virtuoso playing from a truly galvanized BBC Symphony Orchestra. A major recording of a modern operatic classic.
Maurice Jarre wrote the central musical motif of his score for Doctor Zhivago, "Lara's Theme," in a few minutes in a hotel, amid a frantic five-week rush to score the 197-minute movie. That theme made the Doctor Zhivago soundtrack album one of the biggest selling soundtrack of the 1960s, a considerable feat when one reckons in the competition from A Hard Day's Night, Never on Sunday, A Man and a Woman, Exodus, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The rest of Jarre's score is more in the realm of lushly textured Russian-themed mood music, filled with dark male choruses, folk and folk-like themes, and dense orchestrations, sort of faux-Tchaikovsky. The stereo separation is used to good effect, and the music as a whole forms a kind of romantic/exotic travelogue as much as a dramatic sketch of the movie's action.