|Album Title:||The Hunchback of Notre Dame Original Soundtrack|
|Cartoon Title:||The Hunchback of Notre Dame|
|Composer:||Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz (lyrics)|
|Release Date:||June 21, 1996|
|Purchase at:||Amazon, Amazon MP3, iTunes|
|01. The Bells of Notre Dame||Paul Kandel, David Ogden Stiers, Tony Jay & Chorus||6:25|
|02. Out There||Tony Jay and Tom Hulce||4:25|
|03. Topsy Turvy||Paul Kandel & Chorus||5:35|
|04. Humiliation||Score with Chorus||1:39|
|05. God Help the Outcasts||Heidi Mollenhauer & Chorus||3:43|
|06. The Bell Tower||Score||3:04|
|07. Heaven’s Light/Hellfire||Tom Hulce, Tony Jay & Chorus||5:22|
|08. A Guy like You||Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Mary Wickes & Mary Stout||2.54|
|09. Paris Burning||Score with Chorus||1:54|
|10. The Court of Miracles||Paul Kandel & Chorus||1:27|
|11. Sanctuary!||Score with Chorus||6:01|
|12. And He Shall Smite the Wicked||Score with Chorus||3:29|
|13. Into the Sunlight||Score||2:09|
|14. The Bells of Notre Dame (Reprise)||Paul Kandel & Chorus||1:09|
|16. God Help the Outcasts||Bette Midler||3:28|
Review: Probably one of the more controversial titles in the Disney pantheon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame impressed critics with its grandiose and darker than usual subject matter. Seeking to echo these themes, Alan Menken (who has won eight Academy Awards from scoring Disney films), created a soundtrack with songs that were more dramatic and certainly darker than Disney scores prior.
The first track, “The Bells of Notre Dame”, serves as exposition for its audience. It’s one of my favourite pieces, with the charismatic Clopin, leader of the gypsies, telling the tale of Judge Frollo’s murder of Quasimodo’s mother and the boy’s subsequent adoption. Its tone is light at first, but then descends to a haunting, thrilling chorus of Latin verses which grow to a majestic climax. Clopin’s voice returns in an airy form to set the theme for the film by asking, “Who is the monster and who is the Man?” He then finishes the song with an incredible falsetto that starts the film perfectly.
The Bells of Notre Dame
Throughout the soundtrack, the songs explore and play on the themes of darkness and light. “Topsy Turvy” plays as intended, with lyrics that let loose by throwing everything out of place amidst a jangling jig. It’s a fun piece, with only a slight hint of menace in the celebrations. “Out There” has Frollo gravely lecturing Quasimodo of the dangers of the world outside, but when Frollo leaves, Quasimodo sings of heading out into the world and experiencing its joys. The song is uplifting and conveys the innocent hope perfectly to the listener. Helps that veteran Tom Hulce produces a magnificent performance as Quasimodo and is envied among many a struggling baritone. Furthering this juxtaposition of darkness and light is the song “Heaven’s Light, Hellfire.” Amidst light bells, Quasimodo sings of meeting Esmeralda (whom he calls an angel) and expresses his wish to see her again. In Frollo’s “Hellfire” piece, these bells turn into a mournful prayer of confession, which serves as the counterpoint to his torment and lust for Esmeralda. This motif occurs again several times in other parts of the soundtrack.
It’s not all drama in the score. God Help the Outcasts offers a quiet moment where Esmeralda asks for aid for the gypsies who Frollo hunts. It’s a lilting plea for the people others have forgotten and is really quite beautiful even if the Bette Midler version in the soundtrack, though sung very well by the songstress, doesn’t capture the agony and beauty of the film version.
The soundtrack features another pop song: Someday by All-4-One. It’s corny, but very catchy as All-4-One take it in their stride with a poignant delivery via exquisite harmonies. There’s also A Guy Like You, which is the soundtrack’s weakest song and probably just Menken’s need to include a show piece in a children’s film. While comical, the song just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the pieces.
The main stars in this score however, are the instrumentals. Tense strings and horns in Humiliation play a mockery of Out There, and are thoroughly heart-rending in the scene where Quasimodo is attacked by the vicious mob. The Bell Tower, with motifs from God Help the Outcasts and Someday, features airy bells accompanying lush strings, perfectly conveying Quasimodo’s innocent yearning for Esmeralda.
Paris Burning, Sanctuary and And He Shall Smite the Wicked, all have the strong Hellfire motif, paired with pulsating brass and that awe-inspiring chorus. Sanctuary, the longest piece of the instrumental tracks, has the bulk of the tension and danger carried through the chorus and pipe organ. This is tail-ended by the heralding of trumpets as the heroes arrive to save the day. And He Shall Smite the Wicked reprises the chants in The Bells of Notre Dame as Quasimodo battles Frollo for the last time. The piece is slower, but with the pipe organ in the background, much more definite.
Into the Sunlight runs the finale of the film, with the strings playing the Out There motif before moving into a reprise of The Bells of Notre Dame, where Clopin this time asks, “What makes a monster and what makes a Man?” This question is left up in the air, but the question seems to answer itself as the darkness yields to the light once the ringing bells, the blaring brass and that sumptuous chorus all combine into a more hopeful version of Hellfire, and a triumphant, glorious end.
The Bells of Notre Dame (Reprise)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is perhaps my favourite of the Disney movie soundtracks, aside from possibly the Beauty and the Beast. Though a couple of songs detract from the feel of it, the chorus arrangements are stunning and the daring behind a soundtrack like this is definitely worth the respect it garners.
And now if you would excuse me, I’m going to try and sing Out There again.