On Green Shores, Distant Lands, Farms and Rivers: Mike Matessino Talks ‘Far and Away’ and ‘The River’

Exclusive podcast interview with soundtrack producer Mike Matessino on his restoration work for two lesser-known scores from John Williams’ filmography

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto and Tim Burden

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Listen on Podbean, Apple Podcasts and Spotify

Year 2020 is proving to be a challenging one for the entire world, with virtually all countries dealing with the devastating effects of the Coronavirus crisis, which caused major disruptions in many of the world’s habits and activities.

Because of such uncertainty flowing through the lives of many, we at The Legacy of John Williams felt it was necessary to give fans and admirers of the Maestro’s music a small relief to celebrate his great artistry and the joy he continues to gift to millions of people around the world. So, here we are to present a special podcast episode with an interview with soundtrack producer extraordinaire Mike Matessino on his work on the two most recent expanded releases from John Williams’s distinguished filmography.

Far And Away is a newly-expanded 2-disc set from La-La Land Records of John Williams’s stirring score for Ron Howard’s 1992 lavish romantic epic starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as two young immigrants traveling from the green shores of County Galway, Ireland, to the United States of America. John Williams delivered a magnificent, powerful symphonic score rich with traditional Irish textures (featuring the legendary Irish folk ensemble The Chieftains, as illustrated in our previous podcast episode). The music travels and evolves along with the characters of Joseph and Shannon on their journey to the United States, becoming more and more “American” as the story progresses. The new edition (released by La-La Land Records at the beginning of March) is remastered and produced by Mike Matessino with his usual detail and expertise, presents the complete film score recording in chronological order, plus a collection of alternates and unused cues, expanding the original soundtrack album by more than 30 minutes. Completing the release is stunning artwork by Jim Titus and in-depth liner notes by Matessino.

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Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Ron Howard’s Far and Away, featuring a powerful score by John Williams (© 1992 Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment)

The second release discussed in the interview is the remastered expansion of John Williams’s score for The River (1984). Directed by Mark Rydell and starring Mel Gibson (in his first American role), Sissy Spacek and Scott Glenn, the film tells the story of a farming family struggling with the crisis happening in rural Tennessee at the beginning of the 1980s that saw many farmers forced to seek employment in steel factories, pitting them in opposition to striking mill workers. The grim realism of the film is addressed in the score by Maestro Williams, but it’s counterbalanced by lyrical cues infused with his characteristic symphonic Americana style, but also rich with chamber-like, folk-inspired passages for solo flute and guitar (foreshadowing some of the writing of later scores such as Rosewood, War Horse, or even Lincoln), adding a touch of bluesy character in the love theme on solo trumpet. The score is a lovely testament of the fruitful collaboration between Mark Rydell and the composer, which also includes The Reivers (1969), The Cowboys (1972), and Cinderella Liberty (1973).

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Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson as Tom and Mae Garvey in Mark Rydell’s The River (© 1984 Universal Pictures

The original 1984 MCA soundtrack release presented a strong 37-minute program featuring a meld of original film cues and pieces arranged and re-recorded purposefully for the album. The new expanded edition, produced by Matessino and released on Intrada Records, presents the remastered original soundtrack album, plus the complete score as recorded for the film, including a handful of alternate cues, offering more than 20 minutes of unreleased music.

In this conversation, Mike talks about the specifics of his work on Far and Away and The River, offering background information about the whole remastering process and the production of both releases, plus commenting on John Williams’s own creative journey for these films. Once again, radio presenter/film music concert producer Tim Burden co-hosts the long and engaging conversation, where several topics beyond the two released are also discussed.

Despite the challenging times we’re going through, we hope you’ll find some joy and relief listening to this episode as much as we had recording it.

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John Williams during an interview from 1984

Order Far and Away – 2-CD Limited Edition Original Soundtrack on lalalandrecords.com: https://lalalandrecords.com/far-and-away-limited-edition-2-cd-set/

Order The River – Expanded Edition on intrada.com: http://store.intrada.com/s.nl?it=A&id=12150

Special thanks to Michael V. Gerhard and Matt Verboys (La-La Land Records), and Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson (Intrada)

List of musical excerpts featured in the episode:

. “Joseph’s Dream” from Far And Away
. “The River” from The River
. “Oklahoma Territory (Film Version)” from Far And Away
. “The Big Match” from Far And Away
. “Fighting for Dough” from Far And Away
. “The Land Race” from Far And Away
. “Shannon is Shot” from Far And Away
. “Joseph and Shannon” from Far And Away
. “The Land Rush” from Cimarron (Music by Franz Waxman)
. “The Barn / Running Away” from Far And Away
. “Donnybrook Fair (Based on ‘Blowing Off Steam’ from Far And Away)” from Across the Stars (Anne-Sophie Mutter, solo violin)
. “Back from Town” from The River
. “The Ancestral Home” from The River
. “Young Friends Farewell” from The River
. “The Kids Separate” from The River
. “Leaving Home” from The River
. “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” Symphonic Suite
. “The Pony Ride” from The River
. “Main Title” (Film Version) from The Eiger Sanction
. “The Hotel” from The River
. “End Credits (Alternate)” from Far And Away