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  • Composed by Laurent Eyquem
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 61m

Starring Bill Campbell, Angus MacFadyen and Peter Fonda – and Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln – Copperhead is the third of director Ron Maxwell’s film series exploring the American Civil War following Gettysburg and Gods and Generals.  Focusing on Northern Democrats who were opposed to Lincoln, the movie was surprisingly savaged by critics for its over-earnest tone, and was very little-seen in its limited theatrical release (I imagine it will find more of an audience at home).

Randy Edelman and John Frizzell received much praise for their scores for the director’s previous movies; for Copperhead he has turned to a relative film music newcomer, young French composer Laurent Eyquem (whose name will I imagine become even more garbled in pronunciation than his compatriot Alexandre Desplat’s).  Eyquem has responded with a lush, beautiful score that contains no shortage of the passion and drama that many of the film’s reviews accused it of lacking; should it be heard by enough people, I am sure it will signal the start of a very successful career for the clearly-talented composer.

Laurent Eyquem with Copperhead director Ron Maxwell

Laurent Eyquem with Copperhead director Ron Maxwell

The score’s main title which opens the disc is a lush, beautiful piece highlighted by piano and fiddle solos that will appeal to all fans of James Horner’s Legends of the Fall or Rachel Portman’s romantic scores.  A beautiful melody is placed in a gorgeous orchestral setting; it’s heart-melting stuff.  If I were being especially harsh then I’d say that the thing that stops it getting quite to the level of say Legends of the Fall is that, gorgeous though it is, the melody just isn’t as memorable; but of course, I’m not a harsh man, so I won’t say that.

A brief ray of sunshine follows in “Sunday Morning”, a lovely little piece full of the joys of spring.  Later, “Enlistment” is another piece of joyous Americana (reminding me of Randy Newman at his most rambunctious, of all things).  It’s not all fun though of course, and Eyquem handles the darker side of things with a great deal of care and maturity – “A Poor Beggar in this World / The Mill” begins as a tragedy-laden piece for solo piano, brilliantly evocative, before the orchestra swells and the composer somehow manages to push things even further into the realm of the tragic while carefully avoiding melodrama.  The piece’s central melody serves as the score’s secondary theme and is immediately developed further in “The World Turned Upside Down”, in which it is passed between various soloists around orchestral treatments; it’s simply beautiful music.

Copperhead is a uniformly lovely score – one that’s a pleasure to sit and listen to.  Perhaps its relative uniformity of tone would have been better-served by a slightly shorter album, but that’s a minor complaint here, really; and the pair of source cues included in the programme serve as a nice complement to Eyquem’s beautiful music.  I suspect the composer wasn’t on the radar of many people; this score should certainly serve to put him there and I eagerly await future landmarks in what could turn into a very successful career.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Craig Richard Lysy (Reply) on Sunday 20 October, 2013 at 16:33

    I just love this score James, and his subsequent effort , Winnie Mandela is also wonderful – hope to see a review.

    All the best.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 20 October, 2013 at 19:28

      You’re right, Craig. I like Winnie Mandela even more than Copperhead. I haven’t been as excited about a new film composer since Alexandre Desplat.

  2. Jeff R (Reply) on Sunday 20 October, 2013 at 22:50

    James, I bought this score on faith because it was attached to a Ron Maxwell film and I know the scores for Gettysburg and Gods and Generals were both awesome. Even though he used a different composer, I was not disappointed, and you are right, it is a beautiful score. Great website my friend, I usually agree with your soundtrack reviews and have purchased many based on your recommendations. Keep up the good work.

  3. KK (Reply) on Saturday 4 January, 2014 at 17:34

    Great review James. I felt this was a much stronger score than Winnie Mandela (which was a decent work at that). Eyquem is definitely a composer to look out for.

    I was just listening to this last night, and I kept getting thrown off by a specific woodwind melody that sounded just like the Shire theme, especially when taken by a solo clarinet (ex. Sharp Shooters On the Ridge). I just found that amusing :p