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As Varèse Sarabande Label Turns 40, Composers Celebrate a Harmonious Partner

“It’s one of the true pioneering enterprises in our business,” says composer Alan Silvestri about the preeminent film music label, Varèse Sarabande, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Silvestri won a 2001 Grammy for instrumental composition for his theme for “Cast Away,” a movie that has very little music and was an unlikely candidate for a soundtrack album … until Varèse producer Robert Townson proposed a Silvestri greatest-hits CD that would lead off with “Cast Away.” “Talk about the adventurousness and passion of Bob Townson and Varèse,” Silvestri adds. “There was no other way anyone was ever going to hear that music outside of the movie.”

Silvestri is just one of many composers who praise the label that has long promoted their work. Lee Holdridge met Varèse principals Chris Kuchler and Tom Null in 1978, and “was impressed by their dream, although I could not understand how they would be able to make it as a viable commercial company,” he says. “Much to my surprise and delight, they soon released some of my early soundtracks and concert works.”

Holdridge later met “a shy young Robert Townson,” who now oversees the soundtrack releases. “The unifying factor of the company and of all these individuals was their in-depth knowledge of, and passion for, the music they released,” he says. “This became the fire from which this major artistic and very unique label grew.”

Scottish composer Patrick Doyle recalls that it was Henry Mancini who suggested he call Townson about a release for Doyle’s “Dead Again” score in 1991. That was the first of many Varèse albums of Doyle scores, as well as his symphonic piece “Impressions of America.” “Since then, he’s become an incredible champion, not only of my work but other people’s work,” says Doyle.

Brian Tyler (“Fast Five,” “Power Rangers”), who has about 25 albums on the Varèse label, notes that “as a lifelong fan of film music, Varèse Sarabande has enriched my music collection for decades. They changed the game and continue to push forward. As a film score fan, I am thankful for Varèse, and as a composer I count myself lucky enough to have many of my soundtracks released by them.”

Notes “House of Cards” composer Jeff Beal: “As composers, the afterlife and branding of our work around the world has become increasingly celebrated, and Varèse has been an essential part of that equation.” Now preparing his 12th album for the label, Beal says, “Bob Townson’s passion and commitment for media music spills over into many areas, including concerts around the world, which in turn help celebrate and preserve our music.”

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